Written By: Eliza Berman

In 1891, Asa Candler bought a company for $2,300. That price tag in today’s dollars is closer to $60,000, but still, not a bad deal for a business that would gross a profit of more than $30 billion in 2014. During the early years, Candler focused his efforts on building his brand, offering coupons for free samples and distributing tchotchkes with the company’s logo on them. The aggressive marketing paid off. By 1895, a glass of [f500link]Coca-Cola[/f500link] could be found in every state in America.

By the time Henry Luce purchased LIFE Magazine in 1936, Coca-Cola was just years away from producing its billionth gallon of its trademark soda syrup. The pages of LIFE bubble with Coke ads, the first one appearing in 1937, and many issues included multiple invitations to “add zest to the hour” and take “the pause that refreshes.”

But LIFE was not only a purchaser of Coca-Cola advertising. LIFE’s photographers were also capturing the growing ubiquity of that Spencerian Script the looping, cursive font of Coke’s logo in places as far-reaching as Bangkok and the Autobahn. During the 1930s, the company had begun to set up bottling plants in other countries. But when General Eisenhower sent an urgent cable from North Africa in 1943, requesting that Coca-Cola establish more overseas bottling plants in order to boost soldiers” morale, the wheels were set in motion for rapid international expansion. Wartime saw the addition of 64 foreign plants to the existing 44, and post-war growth continued steadily.

The photos here depict not just the way Coke began to blend into international surroundings by the late 1960s, half of the company’s profits would come from foreign outposts but also the wide array of American locales and subcultures the brand was penetrating. Led by company president Robert Woodruff, whose term began in 1923, Coca-Cola’s vigorous marketing efforts found footholds for the brand from segregated country stores to New York City’s Columbus Circle to roadside stands in Puerto Rico.

Of the dozens of slogans Coca-Cola has had over the years, the one it debuted in 1945 was certainly aligned with the global domination the company had set its sights on. “Passport to refreshment” was not just a clever pun, but a sign of things to come.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Coca Cola, 1938

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

HEAT WAVE

Coca-Cola, 1944

Marie Hansen The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Frenchman considers Coke's allure in 1950.

A Frenchman considers Coke’s allure in 1950.

Mark Kauffman The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Coke truck makes its rounds in 1950 France.

A Coke truck makes its rounds in 1950 France.

Mark Kauffman The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Coca-Cola is on sale at Jimmie's Trailer Camp on U.S. 1, outside Washington, D.C., in 1938.

Coca-Cola sign, 1938

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A French Coca-Cola truck pauses on its route in 1950.

Coca Cola truck, 1950

Mark Kauffman The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Coca-Cola road sign beckons on the Autobahn between Munich and Salzberg, Germany, 1947.

Coca Cola sign 1947, Germany

Walter Sanders The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Coca-Cola throws shoulders for a space among competing brands in 1938.

Coca Cola, 1938

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Thai billboard makes a suggestion in 1950.

Coca Cola, 1950

Dmitri Kessel The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Summer Days on Cape Cod, 1946

Summer Days on Cape Cod, 1946

Cornell Capa The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A drugstore boasts both Cokes for sale and the name of the then-first lady in Puerto Rico in 1943.

Coca Cola 1943

THOMAS D. MCAVOY

Boy selling Coca Cola from roadside stand., 1936

Boy selling Coca Cola from roadside stand., 1936

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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