Founded When? The Oldest Companies in the U.S.
By Marci Martín, www.businessnesdaily.com
Some of today’s most well-known companies are relative youngsters compared to other household names that have provided products and services to customers for centuries. Yes, centuries. While large revenues do not automatically translate into a business that will live in infamy (AOL, anyone?), longevity means a company has weathered wars, depressions, recessions and slumps—and still manages to maintain a high-quality offering and position itself in the market to stand the test of time.
Here’s a brief history of U.S. companies that were all started more than 150 years ago, and are still thriving today.
The Hartford Courant (1764)
The Connecticut-based newspaper was established in 1764 by printer Thomas Green as the Connecticut Courant and is known for being the U.S.’ oldest newspaper in continuous publication, according to its website. In fact, the Courant’s slogan to this day is “older than the nation.” The publication boasts some impressive historical moments, too. According to the Courant website, George Washington placed an ad in the paper, Mark Twain once tried to buy stock in the paper, and Thomas Jefferson sued the publication for libel and lost. The paper was also run by one of the country’s first woman publishers, Hannah Watson, in 1777. Today, the Hartford Courant is owned by the Tribune Co., and boasts daily circulation of 120,000.
The tool company, which today makes everything from garden hoses and reels to professional hand tools, was started in Massachusetts in 1774 by a blacksmith, Capt. John Ames. According to the website, the company’s shovels were used in numerous landmark events, including the groundbreaking for B&O Railroad in Baltimore; building of the transcontinental railroad; searching for gold in California in the 1840s; installation of the Statue of Liberty; Adm. Byrd’s exploration of Antarctica; building Hoover Dam; creation of Mount Rushmore; and construction of the interstate highway system. Today, Ames is owned by Griffon Corp., a management and holding company, and is based in Camp Hill, Pa.
Originally formed in Pennsylvania in 1792 as INA (Insurance Co. of North America), Cigna was the first marine insurance company in the U.S., according to the company’s website. In 1982, INA merged with Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., also known as CG, which was formed in 1865, to become Cigna. The company, with headquarters in Bloomfield, Conn., is still the nation’s oldest stockholder-owned insurer.
Dixon Ticonderoga (1795)
If you have ever had to fill out an exam with a No. 2 pencil, Dixon Ticonderoga should be a familiar name. The graphite-pencil company started out way back in 1795, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Dixon Ticonderoga formed during a merger between Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. and Bryn Mawr Corp., and started making pencils in the 1830s. The company’s headquarters were in Jersey City, N.J., for more than 100 years, but are now based in Lake Mary, Fla. You can find out more about the history of the company on its website.
Jim Beam (1795)
Bourbon was born in the 1770s when corn farmers in the Kentucky region of Virginia distilled their excess crop into a sweeter whiskey, according the Jim Beam website. In 1795, history was made when distiller Jacob Beam sold his first barrel of whiskey, called “Old Jake Beam Sour Mash,” from the family distillery, which was known as “Old Tub.” The company did not change its name to Jim Beam until 1943, named after Col. James B. Beam, the fourth generation of the Beam family to take over the distillery. In 2005, the company sold its 10-millionth barrel of whiskey, according to the website. Today, it is run by the seventh generation of the Beam family, Frederick Booker Noe III.
JP Morgan Chase (1799)
The largest bank in the U.S. had meager beginnings as the Manhatten Co., according to company history. Founded by Aaron Burr, it was the second commercial bank in New York City. It began as a venture to lay waterworks for the City of New York, and the charter for the group included a clause that allowed Burr to operate the group as a bank after the waterworks project was completed. Through dozens of mergers, it became JP Morgan and a principal investor in the railroad in the 1800s, cementing its place in history, and still operating in many industries besides banking today.
When you think DuPont, you probably think of an innovative, modern company. But in fact, DuPont was founded in Delaware in 1802 by E.I. du Pont, a Frenchman with an expertise in making gunpowder. In 1804, du Pont built his first powder mill on the Brandywine River, using bark from willow trees for charcoal to create black powder, according to the company website. Since then, the company has made everything from dyes and sweater fibers to film for Hollywood movies. Today, it holds trademarks on everything from Corian countertops to Teflon and Kevlar.
Colgate was not always a toothpaste company. Colgate was actually started by William Colgate in 1806 in New York City, and the business sold soaps and candles, eventually introducing perfumes in 1866, according to the company website. The company then debuted, in 1873, its “Colgate aromatic toothpaste in jars.” In 1928, Colgate merged with soap company Palmolive, which was originally founded in 1864 in Milwaukee. Colgate now has sales of more than $15 billion and sells its products in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, according to its website.
This bank was originally founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York, run by company President Samuel Osgood. The bank opened with $2 million in capital. In 1865, the bank joined the U.S. national banking system and was renamed the National City Bank of New York. In 1894, it became the largest bank in the U.S., according to the company website. National City Bank opened its first foreign branch in Buenos Aires in 1914. After several name changes throughout the years, the company merged with Travelers Group in 1998 to become Citigroup, the company we know today.
Who would have thought the U.S.’ oldest firearm maker first became known for its commercial typewriter? That is the humble beginnings of Remington, founded by Eliphalet Remington in Ilion, N.Y. One of his sons forged a gun barrel of his own, and after having it rifled, placed second in a local shooting competition using it. He began to make gun barrels on demand, and the company is still doing that today, innovating new performance standards at the Rock, the company’s state-of-the-art research & development facility.
Brooks Brothers (1818)
Brooks Brothers is the oldest clothing retailer in the U.S., dating back to 1818—the same year Congress decided the U.S. flag should have 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, according to the company website. The very first Brooks Brothers store, formerly known as D.H. Brooks & Co., opened in New York on April 7. In 1849, the company introduced its first ready-made suits, and in 1896, Brooks Brothers released its original button-down polo shirt. The company now has more than 250 retail and factory stores in the U.S. as well as more than 250 locations internationally, according to the website.
Pabst Brewing Co. (1844)
The first brewery in Milwaukee started as Empire Brewery and then Best & Sons, named after its founder Phillip Best. When Best died in 1889, his daughter’s husband, Frederick Pabst, took over and changed the name. For more than 200 years, Pabst Blue Ribbon has been the brewery’s most famous beer. By the way, the “blue ribbon” does not refer to awards, but instead to the blue ribbon that was tied around the bottle’s neck to separate it from its competitors. The brewer, however, has won awards, including 2015 Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival.
—Additional reporting by Adam C. Uzialko.