America's Oldest Companies
When Kodak filed for bankruptcy last month, it was the beginning of the end of an era for the 132-year-old company. It had been one of many iconic American companies, including IBM, Proctor & Gamble and Tiffany, which not only passed the century mark, but continue to thrive. You may think these are some of the most long-lived companies in America, but in fact, they're merely middle-aged compared with some of the nation's oldest firms still in operation. Some, in fact, are older than the nation itself.
Here's a brief history of some of the nation's oldest and most enduring companies.
<b>Caswell-Massey (1752) </b>
The still-thriving perfume and soap company was started by Dr. William Hunter as an apothecary shop in Newport, R.I., in 1752. He served his distinguished clientele living in the nearby "cottages," supplying their medicinals as well as their perfumes and personal care products, according to the company's website. George Washington gave a bottle of "Cologne Number 6" to the Marquis de Lafayette, and Lewis and Clarke took its products on their cross-country trek. Today, Caswell-Massey is owned by a private investment group and is based in New Jersey.
<b>Baker's Chocolate (1765) </b>
The chocolate company was founded just outside Boston in 1765 by an Harvard-educated doctor named John Baker and an Irish immigrant named John Hannon. In 1779, Hannon embarked on a journey to the West Indies to buy cocoa, but never returned. In 1780, the company began making its first branded product, a chocolate to sweeten drinks. Today, the company is owned by Kraft but continues to sell a wide range of Baker's branded products.
The tool company, which today makes everything from garden hoses and reels to professional hand tools, was started by a blacksmith named Captain John Ames in Massachusetts in 1774. According to the <a href=”http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/38-how-to-build-your-business-website.html”>company's website</a>, its shovels were used in numerous landmark events, including: the groundbreaking for the B & O Railroad in Baltimore; the building of the transcontinental railroad; the search for California gold in the 1840s; the installation of the Statue of Liberty; Admiral Byrd's exploration of Antarctica; the building of the Hoover Dam; the creation of Mount Rushmore and the construction of the interstate highway system. Today, Ames is owned by Griffon Corporation, a management and holding company, and is based in Camp Hill, Pa.
<b>Jim Beam (1795)</b>
Bourbon was born in the 1770s when corn farmers of the Kentucky region of Virginia distilled their excess crop into a sweeter whiskey. History was made when distiller Jacob Beam sold his first barrel of whiskey in 1795. In 1965, the company sold its millionth barrel of whiskey. Today, it is run by the seventh generation of the Beam family.
<b>Crane and Co. (1799)</b>
From Paul Revere to the Queen of England, the world's most notable historical figures have used Crane papers. In 1770, Stephen Crane took over Massachusetts’ first paper mill. Since then, the company has provided high-end 100-percent-cotton paper for both personal and business uses and has supplied paper to the U.S. Treasury to print money since 1879. It is still owned by the same family.
When you think DuPont, you probably think of an <a href=”http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/318-study-innovation-vital-but-many-companies-fall-short.html”>innovative, modern company</a>. But in fact, DuPont was founded in Delaware in 1802 by a Frenchman with an expertise in making gunpowder. 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.
When you think Colgate, you probably think toothpaste. But actually, Colgate started in 1806 in New York City selling soaps and candles. Palmolive, the company with which Colgate eventually merged, is almost as old. It started in 1864 in Milwaukee. The company debuted its "Colgate aromatic toothpaste in jars" in 1873.
You can still buy Pfaltzgraff dinnerware in department stores today, but its roots go back to the early 1800s, when the Pfaltzgraff family immigrated to the United States and set up a small potter's wheel and kiln on their modest 21-acre homestead in York County, Pa., according to the company's website. The earliest Pfaltzgraff market was defined to be "as far as you can get with a horse and a wagon and then get back home the same day." In 2005, Pfaltzgraff became part of Lifetime Brands, which owns Farberware, KitchenAid, Cuisinart and others.
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