Ford Motor Company World Headquarters
Ford Motor Company World Headquarters by Steve Shotwell (CC BY-SA)

30 of the Oldest Companies in America

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Ford Motor Company World Headquarters
Ford Motor Company World Headquarters by Steve Shotwell (CC BY-SA)

Earning Their Way For A Century (or More)

Companies come and go, but a few have been able to survive — and even thrive — over the long haul, usually with some twists and turns along the way. Here’s a look at some of the big business names that have managed to negotiate at least 100 years.


Related: Companies That Changed American Culture for Better or Worse

State Farm Insurance Building ("Fire Building"), Downtown Bloomington, Illinois. Bloomington Central Business District, National Register of Historic Places.
State Farm Insurance Building ("Fire Building"), Downtown Bloomington, Illinois. Bloomington Central Business District, National Register of Historic Places. by A mcmurray (CC BY)

1922: State Farm

You know the jingle, but did you know that the company was founded by G.J. Mecherle, a former farmer and insurance salesman, in Bloomington, Illinois, as an auto insurance company serving Illinois farmers? The firm expanded steadily during its first 20 years, introducing lines including life and fire insurance. It was the No. 1 auto insurance company in the country by 1942 and the top homeowner’s insurance company by 1964. After 100 years, it’s still going strong. It was the top company for private passenger auto insurance in 2021 with 33% of all written premiums, according to the National Association of Insurance Companies.


Related:Iconic Companies Founded the Year You Were Born

The White Castle restaurant at Queens Boulevard and 57th Avenue near Queens Center in Elmhurst, Queens.
The White Castle restaurant at Queens Boulevard and 57th Avenue near Queens Center in Elmhurst, Queens. by Tdorante10 (CC BY-SA)

1921: White Castle

Other hamburger chains may be bigger, but this fourth-generation family owned company invented the concept of the fast-food hamburger when founder E.W. “Billy” Ingram opened his first location in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921, selling small square burgers — “sliders” — for 5 cents. Fast Food Magazine called Ingram the “grandaddy of the hamburger” in 1957, crediting him with starting the fast-food industry.


Related:33 Things You Didn’t Know About White Castle

Pep Boys store, 28210 8 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, Michigan
Pep Boys store, 28210 8 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, Michigan by Dwight Burdette (CC BY)

1921: Pep Boys

Car ownership was on the rise and a group of Navy buddies — Emanual “Manny” Rosenfeld, Maurice “Moe” Strauss, Moe Radavitz, and W. Graham “Jack” Johnson — each invested $200 to open an auto parts store in West Philadelphia. The chain expanded and added service and repair operations that now service millions of vehicles each year.


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Eddie Bauer Store Canada
Eddie Bauer Store Canada by bargainmoose (CC BY)

1920: Eddie Bauer

At the ripe old age of 20, outdoorsman Eddie Bauer started his first venture in Seattle, selling and stringing tennis rackets, before opening Bauer’s Sport Shop the following year. The brand’s patented goose down-insulated jackets followed in 1936 after Bauer suffered hypothermia on a fishing trip; the design was later adapted for use by the U.S. Army Air Corps. The retailer is now owned by Spiegel.

Boeing 737-8 MAX N8704Q at Farnborough Airshow 2016
Boeing 737-8 MAX N8704Q at Farnborough Airshow 2016 by pjs2005 (CC BY-SA)

1916: Boeing

William E. Boeing, who had already made a fortune in timber, pursued his interest in aviation with the production of two seaplanes in a boathouse on Washington’s Lake Union. With the sale of the planes, he incorporated Pacific Aero Products, which he renamed Boeing Airplane the next year. What followed was a long list of commercial and military aircraft as well as space products such as satellites, spacecraft, the Lunar Rover, the space shuttle orbiter, and the International Space Station.

L. L. Bean Store, Manchester, CT.
L. L. Bean Store, Manchester, CT. by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

1912: L.L. Bean

Maine’s Leon Leonwood Bean began selling an innovative hunting shoe he’d designed the prior year. After an early setback — 90 of the first 100 pairs were returned when they came apart — he learned from his mistakes and eventually provided the shoes for an Arctic expedition in 1921. By 1927, the L.L. Bean catalog was launched, paving the way to wider success.


Related: Stores With Comfortable Clothes That You Can Wear for Years

IBM Bangalore Manyata
Wikimedia Commons

1911: IBM

Incorporated as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. — a combination of the Tabulating Machine Co., Computing Scale Co. of America, and International Time Recording Co. — the company that would officially become International Business Machines in 1924 “manufactured and sold machinery ranging from commercial scales and industrial time recorders to meat and cheese slicers, along with tabulators and punched cards,” the company says. That’s a far cry from today’s work in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and data security.

Whirlpool Corporate Headquarters in Benton Harbor Placemaking Photos by Michigan Municipal League
Wikimedia Commons

1911: Whirlpool

Founder Lou Upton obtained the rights to patents for a manual washing machine he thought could be electrified, Investopedia.com says, forming Upton Machine in 1911. The name was changed to Whirlpool in 1949 and the company continued to grow through the acquisitions of brands such as Maytag and KitchenAid, reporting sales of about $22 billion in 2021.

Warren - General Motors Technical Center
Warren - General Motors Technical Center by ajay_suresh (CC BY)

1908: General Motors

People forget how many automakers popped up in the early part of the 20th century. General Motors was formed as a holding company for many of those early nameplates including Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Oakland (which later became Pontiac), Ewing, and Marquette as well as Reliance and Rapid trucks, according to Britannica. Chevrolet was added in 1918 and TheStreet.com says the operation became the largest automaker in the world by 1931. Its lines today include Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac.

UPS van
Flickr Public Domain

1907: UPS

It’s hard to believe that the world’s largest package delivery service started when Seattle teenagers Claude Ryan and Jim Casey opened American Messenger with a $100 loan. “Their first employees ran errands and made deliveries on foot or by bicycle,” Britannica says. They adopted the United Parcel Services name in 1919 and by 1975 the company was serving every address in the continental United States.

Kellogg's factory on Airways Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee
Kellogg's factory on Airways Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee by Thomas R Machnitzki (CC BY)

1906: Kellogg’s

A dozen years after W.K. Kellogg’s creation, the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Co. launched, changing to the more familiar Kellogg’s name in 1909, and incorporating in 1922. Today, the company known for its Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, and Rice Krispies (not to mention Pop Tarts, Cheez-It crackers, and Eggo waffles) is one of the most valuable food brands in the world.


Related: 30 Things You Didn't Know About Your Favorite Childhood Cereals

Ford Motor Company World Headquarters
Ford Motor Company World Headquarters by Steve Shotwell (CC BY-SA)

1903: Ford

Henry Ford built his first vehicle — the quadricycle — in 1896 and by 1903 began his own company with 12 investors. “The company had spent almost all of its $28,000 cash investment by the time it sold the first Ford Model A on July 23, 1903,” the company says on its website. “But by Oct. 1, 1903, Ford Motor Co. had turned a profit of $37,000.” It would go on to sell 15 million Model Ts by May 1927, revolutionizing the industry and manufacturing methods of the time.


Related: Muscle Memories: 15 Ford Cars That Defined a Generation

Probably a Harley-Davidson VRSCA V Rod, model year unknown.
Probably a Harley-Davidson VRSCA V Rod, model year unknown. by ChickenFalls (CC BY-SA)

1903: Harley-Davidson

Founded by William Harley and the Davidson brothers (Arthur, Walter, and William) in a shed in Milwaukee, the iconic motorcycle company has survived its share of ups and downs over the years including manufacturing tens of thousands of units for military use in two world wars, tariff battles, and a restructuring in 2020. Up next? Electrek says the company’s new Del Mar S2 electric motorcycle sold out in 18 minutes this year. (Fun fact: The company’s ticker symbol is HOG.)


Related: The Most Legendary Harley-Davidsons (and 5 Duds)

3M
3M by Gerard Stolk (CC BY-NC)

1902: 3M

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing was founded in Two Harbors, Minnesota, on Lake Superior as a small operation intent on mining corundum, which was used at that time to make sandpaper and grinding wheels. When it found anorthosite instead, the company switched gears and pressed on, eventually building a global firm and a staple of the Fortune 500.

CocaCola Truck in Toronto
Daxus/istockphoto

1892: Coca-Cola

This global company’s humble beginnings go back to 1886 when Atlanta pharmacist Dr. John Stith Pemberton concocted a syrup for a carbonated soda fountain drink. “Thinking that ‘the two Cs would look well in advertising,’ Dr. Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, suggested the name and penned the now famous trademark ‘Coca-Cola’ in his unique script,” the company says on its website. The company now boasts 200 brands worldwide including Dasani water, Barq’s root beer, Minute Maid, and Schweppes.


Related: Fun and Little-Known Facts About Coca-Cola

General Electric sign on GE Administration Building, Schenectady, New York
General Electric sign on GE Administration Building, Schenectady, New York by Chuck Miller (CC BY-NC-ND)

1892: General Electric

Formed when Thomas Edison’s Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston merged in 1892, GE is now a multinational company with operations in power, renewable energy, aviation, and health care. It went public in 1896 “as one of the 12 companies listed on the newly formed Dow Jones Industrial Average,” CompaniesHistory.com says.

Carhartt store in Sydney, Australia
Carhartt store in Sydney, Australia by Charlie Brewer (CC BY-SA)

1889: Carhartt

Hamilton Carhartt began making bib overalls in a Detroit loft with two sewing machines and a small electric motor, growing a business with products that eventually became trendy with buyers outside the blue-collar trades. It now has operations in the United States, Mexico, and Europe with more than 5,300 employees worldwide.

Kraft Foods Headquarters in Northfield, Illinois
Wikimedia Commons

1876: Kraft Heinz

The merger of Kraft Foods and Heinz in 2015 created one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, bringing more than 200 brands under one roof including Oscar Mayer, Maxwell House, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, and Velveeta. Pittsburgh-based Heinz traces its roots back to 1876, and Chicago-based Kraft got its start in 1905.

Jack. Rocks.
Jack. Rocks. by Caitlin Regan (CC BY)

1866: Jack Daniel’s

After learning the art of whiskey making from a preacher and an enslaved man, Nathan “Nearest” Green, Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel opened a distillery, later bringing Green on as his head distiller. His Old No. 7 brand won a gold medal at the 1904 world’s fair and —after Prohibition — the brand picked up steam. It was bought by Brown-Forman in 1956 and continues today as a subsidiary.

Norfolk Southern Railway - 9397 & Union Pacific Railroad - 9566 diesel locomotives
Norfolk Southern Railway - 9397 & Union Pacific Railroad - 9566 diesel locomotives by James St. John (CC BY)

1862: Union Pacific Railroad

Abraham Lincoln signed legislation forming this company, begun with the idea of building a rail system west of the Missouri River at the same time the Central Pacific Railroad of California began building east from Sacramento. Today, the freight hauler has 32,452 miles of track and 32,000 employees.

Macy's Department Store - New York - USA
Wikimedia Commons

1858: Macy’s

The iconic retailer began when Rowland H. Macy opened a dry goods store in New York City that grew through a dizzying number of mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures to its current three key brands — Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Bluemercury — which employ about 90,000 people in 726 locations. And yes, Virginia, don’t forget about the annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

BNSF Locomotives, Meacham Airport, Fort Worth
BNSF Locomotives, Meacham Airport, Fort Worth by Steven Martin (CC BY-NC-ND)

1849: BNSF Railway

The company traces its roots to the founding of the Aurora Branch Line that operated between Aurora, Illinois, and western Chicago. But it was the merger between the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and Burlington Northern Railroad in 1995 that created today’s company — which shortened its name in 2005 and was bought by Berkshire Hathaway in 2010.

Three wheels on each hub enables this tractor to work wetter land.
Three wheels on each hub enables this tractor to work wetter land. by Madereugeneandrew (CC BY-SA)

1837: John Deere

Vermont-born blacksmith John Deere started a farm-equipment empire when he developed a plow that would shed the sticky soil of Midwest fields, allowing farmers to get more work done without stopping frequently to clean it. He moved the growing business to Moline, Illinois, in 1848 to build a factory that could turn out 1,000 plows a year, incorporating as Deere & Co. in 1868. The company is well-known now for its tractors and agricultural equipment.

Yuengling Brewery, Pottsville, PA
Yuengling Brewery, Pottsville, PA by Joseph (CC BY-NC-SA)

1829: D.G. Yuengling & Sons

Pottsville, Pennsylvania, is home to America’s oldest brewery, established when David G. Yuengling set up shop there after arriving from Wuerttemberg, Germany. Now in its fifth generation of family ownership — with a sixth in the wings — the company continues to expand its market, recently adding Texas to its 22-state distribution footprint.

Harper Collins Publishers Publishing offices in Westerhill Business Park, Bishopbriggs.
Harper Collins Publishers Publishing offices in Westerhill Business Park, Bishopbriggs. by Stephen Sweeney (CC BY-SA)

1817: HarperCollins Publishers

Brothers James and John Harper opened a small printing shop in New York City in March 1817, eventually forming Harper & Row through a merger with textbook publisher Row, Peterson & Co. in 1962. News Corp. bought Harper & Row in 1987 and Collins in 1989, forming the HarperCollins global brand, the company says. It publishes about 10,000 new titles a year.

Citigroup Center and 540 West Madison, Chicago
Citigroup Center and 540 West Madison, Chicago by Tony Webster (CC BY)

1812: Citigroup

Chartered days before the War of 1812 began, City Bank of New York was later rewarded with a national charter and Federal Depository status for helping the country fund the new war effort. Today’s company was formed in 1998 in a merger between Citicorp and Travelers Group, creating a financial services holding company that works with consumers, corporations, governments, and institutions, Investopedia says.

Colgate-Palmolive Factory
Colgate-Palmolive Factory by Balmain (CC BY)

1806: Colgate-Palmolive

The diversified company that makes cleaning products, personal care products, and pet foods dates its origins to William Colgate’s starch, soap, and candle business in New York City. It’s been selling toothpaste since 1873, first offering it in a collapsible tube in 1896. It merged with Palmolive-Peet in 1928 but didn’t officially include the other brand in its name until 1953.

Quiksilver, Reuters, Chase, JP Morgan Chase building New York
Quiksilver, Reuters, Chase, JP Morgan Chase building New York by Ben Sutherland (CC BY)

1799: JPMorgan Chase

Consolidation in the banking industry allows this company to trace its roots to The Bank of The Manhattan — the second commercial bank in New York City after Alexander Hamilton’s Bank of New York. Other combinations along the way include The Chase Manhattan Bank, Bank One, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Chemical Bank, The Bear Stearns Cos. Inc. — not to mention J.P. Morgan & Co., established in 1871.

Jersey City: Dixon Mills
Jersey City: Dixon Mills by Wally Gobetz (CC BY-NC-ND)

1827: Dixon Ticonderoga

Joseph Dixon’s early experiments with graphite evolved into a business in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1827. An increased demand for pencils during the Civil War led to the invention of a machine that could produce 132 per minute. After the acquisition of the Ticonderoga, New York-based American Graphite Co., the now ubiquitous yellow Ticonderoga pencil was introduced. The company is now a subsidiary of the Italian FILA Group.

Converging Skyscrapers
Converging Skyscrapers by Steve Harris (CC BY-NC)

1752: Caswell-Massey

This luxury fragrance and bath-and-body products company got its start two decades before the American Revolution as an apothecary in Newport, Rhode Island, and boasts the first fragrance created in America. “It was also worn by our founding father George Washington, who discovered it at our Apothecary shop in the 1780s,” the company says on its website.


Related: Oldest General Stores in America