Brief descriptions of important companies and corporations in the history of American business.
Wallace Abbott, a physician and drugstore owner, discovered a novel plant-alkaloid-based delivery system for medicine that improved its effectiveness. On the basis of his discovery, he founded the Abbott Alkaloidal Company in 1888. As the popularity of his methods increased, Abbott incorporated the company and expanded his sales force. In 1904, the company was renamed Abbott Laboratories and began researching synthetic medicines. Abbott’s first synthetic drug, an antiseptic called Chlorazene, was used widely during World War I. Abbott’s research-based approach and aggressive acquisitions led to numerous breakthroughs in subsequent decades. For example, the company introduced the sedative Nembutal (pentobarbital) in 1930 and the anesthetic Pentothal (thiopental sodium) in 1936. After the discovery of penicillin in 1924, Abbott became first manufacturer of the drug in the United States. In 1946, Abbott became the first company to devote a research lab to radiopharmaceuticals. This work made it a world leader in the diagnosis of thyroid disorders. In 2008, the company operated in 130 countries and its annual revenues exceeded $25 billion.
After brothers John, Paul, and Bill Amos founded Aflac as American Family Life Assurance of Columbus in 1955, they sold insurance policies door-to-door for three years. In 1958, they introduced a supplemental cancer insurance policy that covered expenses not included in traditional comprehensive insurance policies. Aflac also began marketing products to groups and companies. In 1973, the company incorporated, and it expanded operations to Japan the following year. During the 1980’s, Aflac diversified its holdings by purchasing a variety of media organizations that bolstered its annual revenues. A growing market share in Japan, collaborative policies with other American service providers, and supplemental coverage for Alzheimer’s disease and other ailments helped Aflac reach $4 billion in assets by 1992. During the late 1990’s, Aflac increased its brand recognition with the introduction of the Aflac duck in a humorous television advertising campaign that employed celebrities such as Yogi Berra and Chevy Chase. Fortune magazine has frequently listed Aflac among America’s Most Admired Companies and its One Hundred Best Companies to Work for in America.
Now based in New York City, AIG, or the American International Group, was founded in Shanghai, China, in 1919 by Cornelius Vander Starr. It was the first foreign insurance company to sell its services to the Chinese. Its success in Asia led to its expansion into European and Latin American markets. Starr’s successor, Hank Greenberg, took the company public in the United States in 1969. By the early twenty-first century, AIG employed more than 100,000 people in 130 different countries and had more than $110 billion in annual revenues. The company is a major underwriter of commercial and industrial insurance in the United States. It also offers a variety of financial services, mutual funds, and other investment products. AIG owns the International Lease Financing Organization, the largest aircraft leasing company in the world, and sponsors the Manchester United soccer team in England’s Premier League. At the beginning of 2008, AIG ranked as the eighteenth-largest publicly held company in the world. Toward the end of that year, however, the company suffered a massive liquidity crisis at the same time other major financial institutions were threatened with collapse and had to rely on a huge government bailout to stay afloat.
In 1888, Charles Martin Hall founded the Pittsburgh Reduction Company after he helped discover a process for smelting aluminum a lightweight metal found in abundance in the United States but one that had previously been difficult to extract profitably. After opening his first aluminum-processing plant in 1891, Hall rapidly expanded his operations. In 1910, he renamed his company the Aluminum Company of America, which was later shortened to Alcoa. The company researched new production methods of and applications for aluminum. Orville and Wilbur Wright used aluminum parts manufactured by Hall in the plane they flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, and aluminum became an integral part of the burgeoning aircraft and automobile industry. The outbreak of World War II led to new innovations by Alcoa as the United States armed itself, and the company had a virtual lock on American aluminum production until the 1950’s. Alcoa extended its operations to Australia, eastern Europe, and Asia in subsequent decades. In the early twenty-first century, it ranked as the world’s third-largest producer of aluminum, with more than 100,000 employees in forty-four countries and large market shares in the aerospace, defense, construction, transportation, and packaging industries.
Allergan began as a small ophthalmological supplies store founded by Garvin Herbert, Sr., above his Los Angeles drugstore in 1948. Herbert released his first product, an antihistamine eye drop, two years later. During the 1960’s, Allergan invested in the emerging contact lens market by marketing a hydrating solution for hard lenses, and it continued to earn a large market share with the advent of soft lenses during the 1980’s. As the company’s sales slumped during the 1990’s, Allergan shifted its focus to specialty pharmaceutical products. In 1991, it purchased Oculinum at that time, the only producer of the botulinum A toxin sold under the name Botox. An antiwrinkle agent and a treatment for ailments such as migraines and muscular and neurological disorders, Botox became the company’s best-selling product. Meanwhile, Allergan also entered the breast-implant market under the Natrelle brand name and developed the gastrointestinal surgical procedure Lap Band to treat obesity.
Allstate originated as a direct-mail automobile insurer. Its founder, Carl Odell, pitched the idea of direct-mail insurance sales to the president and chief executive officer of Sears, Roebuck, and Company in 1930. The following year, the Sears catalog began selling insurance policies under the name Allstate Insurance Company. Four years later, Allstate opened its first sales office in a Sears store in Chicago. The post-World War II economic boom brought rapid growth to the company. In 1952, the company introduced its first personal injury policy. Fire, personal theft, and homeowner’s insurance services were added by 1957. Diversification and expansion of insurance and financial services marked the company’s operations during the 1960’s and 1970’s. After Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Florida and parts of the Gulf Coast in 1992, Allstate made costly payouts in claims settlements that led in 1995 to its separating from Sears, which had owned an 80 percent stake in the company. Nevertheless, it finished the decade strong, holding nearly 12 percent of home and automobile insurance policies in the United States. In 2008, it ranked as the second-largest property and casualty insurer as measured by premiums in the United States.
Altria traces its roots to a small tobacco shop opened in London, England, by a man named Philip Morris in 1847. Philip Morris & Company was incorporated in New York in 1902. It quickly became the largest producer and manufacturer of tobacco products in the United States. In 1919, a group of American investors purchased the company and reincorporated it in Virginia. The reorganized company introduced the Marlboro brand of cigarettes in 1924. During the 1950’s, the company created an international division and purchased holdings in Australia and across Europe. Initially focused on tobacco manufacturing, it diversified its holdings between 1988 and 2003, when it officially changed its name to Altria. It purchased Kraft Foods, Nabisco, and the Miller Brewing Company. Altria produces dozens of brands of cigarettes in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and its Marlboro brand popularized by the successful Marlboro man marketing campaign started during the 1950’s has been the world’s best-selling cigarette brand since 1972.
Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon became one of the earliest electronic commerce sites when it went online the following year to sell books on the Internet under the name Cadabra.com. That name was soon abandoned for Amazon.com, and the company enjoyed early success during the midst of the dot-com boom that ended in 2001. Its slow but steady growth helped the company survive while other technology-based, fast-growth companies failed. At the end of 2002, Amazon had its first profitable quarter. Afterward, it continued to improve its net profits by introducing additional products and creating international sites. Bezos added music CDs, DVDs, clothing, consumer electronics, cookware, and consumer electronics, among other goods, and introduced an innovative shipping strategy that allowed consumers to get free shipping on all products in exchange for monthly membership fees. Amazon has also created partnerships with companies such as Borders and Target to operate their retail Web sites. In 1999, Time magazine featured Bezos on its cover in recognition of his success in popularizing online commerce. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Amazon joined Standard & Poor’s 500 index in 2005 and operates its online megastores in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and China.
America Online began as a small game downloading company during the early 1980’s that catered to Atari 2600 computer console owners. Among the company’s early online innovations were a graphical chat room (1986), an interactive fiction series (1988), and the first large-scale multiplayer role-playing game (1991). The company adopted the name America Online in 1991 and built a “walled garden” on the Internet, which offered subscribers an organized online community and e-mail services through its proprietary software. In contrast to other providers such as Prodigy and Compuserve, AOL targeted consumers unfamiliar with computers and built a subscriber base of more than 30 million with regional offices around the world. By the late 1990’s, AOL began allowing open access to the Internet, but the number of subscribers fell as more Internet provider options became available. The company merged with Time Warner in 2001, but AOL subsequently dropped to just more than 10 million subscribers and the value of its stock dropped more than $200 billion. In 2005, Google purchased a 5 percent share in AOL after speculation of further buyouts and joint ventures, and AOL has since shifted its focus toward content diversity and advertising-driven operations.
American Express was created by the merger of three express mail services owned by Henry Wells, William George Fargo, and John Butterfield. The company originally focused on express mail and package delivery. In 1891, American Express began selling money orders for international travelers. This service would later help thousands of American travelers who were trapped in Europe at the outset of World War I. In 1958, American Express began issuing its first charge cards. The company later evolved a tier system with cards that targeted specific market segments. It issued its first Gold Card in 1966 and its first Platinum Card in 1984. As these cards were charge cards, they required their holders to pay their balances in full each month. The Optima card, introduced in 1987, became the first American Express credit card, allowing clients the option of paying all or part of their balances. American Express has also marketed a series of cards designed specifically for small-business owners and corporations. During the 1980’s, the company added a full selection of financial services to its portfolio, including investment products and asset management. By the early twenty-first century, the company was one of the largest credit, financial, and travel service providers in the world.
William and Frederick Havemeyer of England opened their first sugar refinery in New York in 1807. Less than a decade later, their refinery was producing nearly 9 million tons of sugar annually. In 1828, the Havemeyers’ sons took over production and purchased several local refineries to consolidate control of the sugar market. The company adopted the name American Sugar Refining Company in 1891 and, at the time, produced an estimated 1,200 tons of refined sugar each day. Investment in new technology and the inability of smaller companies to compete allowed the company to secure nearly 100 percent of the sugar market across the United States. The company later survived numerous attempts by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress to curb its control of the sugar market. In 1900, the company adopted the name Domino Sugar. Federal litigation attempted to break up the company in 1910, but a ruling in 1921 stated that the company’s control of the sugar market did not constitute a monopoly. Domino thrived during the Great Depression and the economic boom of the post-World War II years, but the creation and popularity of artificial sweeteners and health concerns about excess consumption of refined sugar caused its profits to decline by the 1980’s. At that time, Tate & Lyle purchased the company. Tate & Lyle has continued to operate the company as a subsidiary focused on research and development of new applications of artificial sweeteners in products as diverse as cake frosting, sports drinks, and salad oil.
American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (AT&T) is the largest provider of telecommunications services, including local and long-distance calling, data services, and wireless technology, in the United States. It was founded in 1983 as the Southwestern Bell Corporation one of the original Baby Bells following an antitrust suit against AT&T Corporation, but its roots lay in the birth of telecommunications services in the United States during the late nineteenth century. In 1995, Southwestern changed its name to SBC Communications and acquired several regional carriers, including Pacific Telesis and Ameritech. SBC entered the Dow Jones Industrial Index in 1999. After its purchase of AT&T Corporation in 2005, the company focused primarily on extending its wireless and broadband Internet market share.
Founded in 1890, the American Tobacco Company became one of the original twelve companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896 and controlled most of the tobacco production in the United States until antitrust litigation split the company into several smaller ones in 1911. The dissolution created R. J. Reynolds and Lorillard, and allowed the American Tobacco Company to continue its operations on a smaller scale. During the 1970’s, American Tobacco began to acquire several nontobacco products. In 1986, the company changed its name to American Brands, with American Tobacco continuing as a subsidiary until the 1990’s, after which the company sold its tobacco holdings to competitors.
Originally founded as a small brewery in St. Louis, Missouri, Anheuser-Busch became the largest brewery and distributor in the United States and one of the largest in the world based on revenues. Eberhard Anheuser purchased the brewery in 1860. His son-in-law, Adolphus Busch, became a partner in 1869 and took control of the company after Anheuser’s death in 1880. Among the company’s numerous industry innovations were pasteurization and bottling. The company introduced its signature beer, Budweiser, in 1876, and by 1951, it was the largest beer maker in the United States. An international subsidiary began operations in 1981. Anheuser-Busch also produces the Busch, Michelob, and Natural Light brands of beer, as well as colas and malt liquor beverages. Anheuser-Busch announced in 2008 a merger with European beverage giant Inbev. Annual revenues for Anheuser-Busch reached nearly $17 billion. Revenues after the Inbev merge are expected to surpass $36 billion, making the company the largest brewer and distributor in the world.
An agricultural conglomerate specializing in processed grains and seed oils, Archer Daniels Midland operates nearly three hundred plants worldwide. Founded in 1902 by George Archer and John Daniels as a linseed processor, the company acquired the rival Midland Linseed Oil Company in 1923, also the year it was incorporated. ADM showed steady growth in the decades that followed as it diversified operations into areas such as processed ingredients for foods, nutritional products, animal feedstocks, beverage production, and biofuels such as ethanol. The company drew criticism in 2001 for its sale of wheat to Cuba, following passage of a U.S. law permitting the sale of food and medicine to the otherwise trade-embargoed nation. ADM has also been criticized for benefiting from substantial government subsidies on agricultural products. Capitalizing on a growing interest in alternative fuels, ADM announced in 2008 a partnership with Bayer CropScience and Daimler AG to explore the potential of the jatropha plant as a new biofuel source. ADM employs more than 27,000 people worldwide and had about $44 billion in revenues in 2007.
Philip and Herman Armour founded their namesake company in 1867 in Chicago. By 1880, they had transformed Chicago into the hub of all slaughtering and meatpacking operations in the United States. The Armour brothers built an empire on meat and animal-related products, with business interests in the production of everything from glue to hair brushes to pharmaceuticals. The company took a staunchly antiunion stance. Working conditions were grim, wages were low, and accidents were frequent. Novelist and labor activist Upton Sinclair drew on his experiences in Chicago to explore labor conditions among immigrant populations, particularly in the meatpacking industry. During the 1920’s, the Armour family sold its stake in the company amid slumping revenues. The company closed its Chicago slaughterhouse in 1959, but prospects improved on the strength of its Dial brand of soap, introduced in 1948. Made in part from animal by-products, the soap became a best seller during the 1950’s. Over the next several decades, the company changed ownership as divisions were spun off or made public. It adopted the name Dial Corporation in 1991 and was purchased by Germany-based Henkel KGaA in 2004. Its popular Armour brand of potted and processed meats was sold to Pinnacle Foods Group in 2006.
Avon grew out of a marketing ploy by David McConnell, a door-to-door book salesperson, who found that his sales increased when he included a free bottle of perfume with each order. Soon, the perfume became more popular than the books, and the California Perfume Company was born in 1886. By 1928, the company incorporated in New York with offices in Quebec achieved $2 million in sales. The company adopted the Avon Products name in 1939. During the 1950’s, the company introduced its successful “Avon calling” advertising campaign, as its direct-marketing campaign fueled by cadres of Avon saleswomen brought annual revenues above $55 million. Avon continued to prosper, with $3 billion in sales in 1979 and about 1 million direct-sales agents. The company’s largest emerging markets are in China and Russia, where products are largely sold in retail stores rather than door-to-door or via catalogs. In 2005, Avon opened a $100 million research and development complex in New York. Its products largely target female consumers, but a line of products for men promoted through its M catalog and product line have begun earning larger market shares. Annual revenues exceeded $9 billion in 2007.
Bank of America is the largest U.S. commercial bank in terms of deposits and market capitalization. The company has its roots in the Bank of Italy founded by Amadeo Giannini in 1904. Giannini purchased the Bank of America, Los Angeles, and adopted part of the name in 1929. He attempted to make it a nationwide bank under his holding company, Transamerica Corporation, but the insurance and banking aspect were separated in the 1950’s. Banking regulations prevented the bank’s expansion beyond California until 1980. BankAmerica Corporation was created in the 1960’s to own Bank of America and its subsidiaries. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the company made a number of acquisitions, some more successful than others. In 1998, Bank of America was acquired by North Carolina’s NationsBank, although the acquisition was structured as a merger. At the time, it was the largest banking merger in history. During the financial crisis that struck the mortgage and financial markets in 2008, Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch, making it the world’s largest financial services company.
The partnership of William Barnes and Clifford Noble began with the opening of their first bookstore in New York City in 1917, but its roots extend back to William’s father, Charles Barnes, who founded a book printing company in 1873. Leonardo Riggio purchased the company in 1971 and began a decades-long expansion, first into the discount book trade through the acquisition of the B. Dalton bookstore chain and later into larger retail locations and online book sales. The company publishes inexpensive reprints, special classics collections, and formerly out-of-print titles. The company’s other book-related subsidiaries include Scribner’s bookstores, Sterling Publishing’s how-to imprint, and SparkNotes, an educational publisher. Barnes & Noble is the largest retail book company in the United States, with more than $5 billion in annual revenues.
An alternate in wrestling for the 1960 Olympic Games, Rocky Aoki would make a larger mark in the restaurant industry with the opening of his first Benihana restaurant in 1964 in New York City. The restaurant’s teppanyaki-style service featured an iron griddle around which guests sat to eat. Mixing Japanese cuisine with theatrical presentation, Aoki’s restaurant eventually caught on, becoming a pop culture phenomenon during the late 1960’s and 1970’s. The company went public in 1982, though Aoki continued to operate some stores independently. In 1995, all Benihana restaurants were merged into Benihana, Inc. Aoki died in 2008, but the company continues to operate in twenty-five states, the District of Columbia, and throughout Central and South America.
Berkshire Hathaway was founded in 1955 by a merger between the Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates (originally founded in 1839) and the Hathaway Manufacturing Company, which dated to 1888. Until 1960, the company operated fifteen manufacturing plants. In the wake of several plant closures, Warren Buffett purchased a controlling interest in the company in 1962 and expanded the focus from manufacturing to insurance by acquiring the National Indemnity Company and the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO). The last of the company’s textile operations ended in 1985 as Buffett began using insurance operations to generate capital for investments. The company has earned a reputation for stability under Buffett’s management. Its Class A stocks have never been split and remain the highest-priced stocks on the New York Stock Exchange.
Richard Shultze entered into a partnership in 1966 to sell automobile and home stereo equipment at a store called Sound of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. He bought out his partners and introduced additional home appliances in 1982. A year later, he changed the company’s name to Best Buy. By 1987, the company had gone public and earned a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Its earnings broke the $1 billion mark by 1992. The company acquired several subsidiaries, including the Canada-based Future Shop chain in 2001 and the twenty-four-hour computer support service Geek Squad in 2002. Best Buy opened its first store in China in 2007 and had expanded to Mexico in 2008. A Fortune 100 company and the leading consumer electronics retailer in the United States, Best Buy has annual revenues of more than $30 billion.
Founded by David Cook in 1985, Blockbuster capitalized on the boom in film rentals during the 1980’s at a time when most rental companies were small-scale businesses. Cook opened his first store in Dallas, Texas, using computer software to track inventory. By 1987, Cook had left the company, and a new team of investors spearheaded a move to expand nationally. In 1994, Blockbuster reached a merger agreement with entertainment giant Viacom, and three years later brokered a revenue-sharing agreement with major film studios. However, by the late 1990’s, the company faced new forms of competition from the success of video on demand and the rise of Internet competitors such as Netflix. Blockbuster introduced game rentals in 2002 and an online subscription and mail-order service similar to Netflix in 2004. In the wake of flagging profits, the company purchased Movielink, a video-on-demand service, in 2007. The company operates more than 7,800 outlets worldwide, with annual revenues of more than $5 billion.
The Boeing Company was founded in 1916 as Pacific Aero Products Company. It introduced its first aircraft, the B&W seaplane, that same year. Boeing’s innovative 247 model was built in 1933. The revolutionary design was the first to introduce several technologies, including cantilevered wings and retractable landing gear that would later become standard on passenger aircraft. Five years later, Boeing released the 307 Stratoliner, the first passenger plane to feature a pressurized cabin. Boeing continued to deliver innovative aircraft, first to the military during and after World War II, and later to the commercial sector. In 1958, Boeing introduced the 707 model, the United States’ first commercial jet airliner. The 747 model debuted in 1970 and transformed long-distance passenger air travel by improving range and capacity. Boeing contributed heavily to the Apollo space program during the 1960’s and remains a leading defense contractor. The company’s annual revenues top $66 billion; it ranks first among global manufacturers in revenue as well as orders and deliveries.
Bristol-Myers was founded in 1887 when William Bristol and John Myers purchased the ailing Clinton Pharmaceutical Company. Bristol-Myers had early success with a mineral salt concoction called Sal Hepatica and Ipana toothpaste, the first toothpaste to include a disinfectant. During World War II, the company mass-produced penicillin for the U.S. Armed Forces. Over the next several decades, the company acquired several subsidiaries until, in 1989, Bristol-Myers merged with the Squibb Company, founded in 1858, which had first specialized in penicillin production and in 1975 introduced a breakthrough drug, Capoten (captopril), for the treatment of high blood pressure. The merger made Bristol-Myers Squibb one of the leading global pharmaceutical research and development firms. The company has revenues of nearly $20 billion annually and employs more than 40,000 worldwide.
The Campbell Soup Company was founded in 1869 by fruit merchant Joseph Campbell and ice-box manufacturer Abraham Anderson as the Anderson Campbell Preserve Company. The partnership dissolved in 1877, and Campbell focused the company’s attention on the manufacture of condiments and a beefsteak tomato soup, which became one of the company’s most successful products. The company introduced condensed soup in 1897. With the help of illustrator Grace Wiederseim Drayton, the company maintained a successful marketing campaign that featured the Campbell kids for nearly twenty years. The company’s soups became an integral part of American culture, even becoming the subject of a pop art painting by Andy Warhol. Campbell Soup’s main products and its Pepperidge Farms and V8 brands are sold in 120 countries, and the company maintains annual revenues of more than $7 billion.
Chevron has its roots in the Pacific Coast Oil Company, which discovered oil in the Pico Valley in Los Angeles in 1879. The company was first known as Standard Oil of California, formed after the breakup of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. In 1933, the company was granted a concession to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia, where it discovered the world’s largest oil field in Gawahar. The company maintained operations in Saudi Arabia until 1988, when the Saudi government acquired full ownership. In 1984, Standard Oil of California merged with Gulf Oil. The name Chevron was adopted following the merger. In 2001, Chevron acquired Texaco and its subsidiaries in Europe and South America. With active operations in 180 countries, Chevron employs an estimated 60,000 workers and ranks as one of the world’s six largest oil companies with total assets of more than $148 billion.
Walter Percy Chrysler reorganized Maxwell Motor Company in 1925 to form the Chrysler Corporation. The company began producing and selling a Chrysler car that sold 19,960 units during its first year. By 1928, Chrysler had added Plymouths, DeSotos, and Dodges to its line, targeting low-, medium-, and high-income purchasers, respectively, and becoming the second-largest automaker in the world, behind General Motors. Chrysler dropped to third in the 1950’s, when it was overtaken by Ford. In 1979, on the verge of bankruptcy, it appealed to the U.S. government for emergency funds, which it received. In 1998, Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler and formed DaimlerChrysler. In August, 2007, the Chrysler group was sold to Cerberus Capital Management, and it was renamed Chrysler LLC. In 2008, Chrysler, suffering from a precipitous drop in sales due to a change in consumer preferences and a credit crisis, again appealed to the U.S. government for emergency loans to stave off bankruptcy. In December, President George W. Bush announced that $17.4 billion in emergency loans would be made available to keep Chrysler, as well as General Motors and Ford, out of bankruptcy; however, the loans were provided on condition that the automakers make major concessions and organizational changes by March 31, 2009, to demonstrate that they could return to profitability.
The Circuit City chain of retail consumer electronics stores grew out of Samuel Wurtzel’s Virginia-based Wards Company electronics stores. Wurtzel adopted the Circuit City name in 1984 and began a rapid expansion across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. During the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the company operated 650 superstores across the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as 850 retail outlets across Canada. In November, 2008, the company announced it would close 155 stores and eliminate up to 17 percent of its workforce due to flagging sales and a failure to compete with other discount consumer electronics retailers. Later in the month, it filed for bankruptcy protection. In January, 2009, the company announced it was going out of business.
Citigroup was formed by the merger of Citicorp and the Travelers Group in 1998, but its history stretches back to the City Bank of New York, first chartered in 1812. Following several mergers and acquisitions over the course of more than a century, the company was renamed Citibank in 1976. By 1984, Citibank had become the largest commercial bank in the United States and the largest provider of credit and charge cards worldwide, with operations in 90 countries. Following the merger with Travelers Group, Citigroup acquired the world’s largest financial services network with operations in 107 countries and 12,000 offices worldwide. In the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, in which the company sustained dramatic losses, Citigroup became the recipient of a substantial government bailout. It continues to employ more than 300,000 people worldwide and retains more than $2 trillion in assets.
The Colgate-Palmolive Company has its roots in early nineteenth century New York, when William Colgate a soap and candle maker by trade opened a factory under the William Colgate Company name to manufacture and market starch, soap, and candles. The company introduced individually wrapped scented soaps in 1841 and toothpaste in 1873. Meanwhile, the B. J. Johnson Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had developed a soap made of palm and olive oils in 1898 that would eventually become the world’s best-selling soap. In 1928, the Palmolive-Peet company purchased Colgate. The company became Colgate-Palmolive in 1953. The company introduced its Fab brand of laundry detergent in 1947 and its Palmolive dishwashing liquid in 1966, one of its most successful products. In 1968, Colgate-Palmolive reformulated its toothpaste brands to include fluoride. The company’s other holdings include Soft Soap and Mennen, as well as the Hills brand of pet products. Colgate-Palmolive operates in more than 70 countries and employs more than 36,000 workers.
Founded in 1969 by Jeffrey Wilkins as an in-house computer processing service provider for Golden United Life Insurance Company, CompuServe was an early innovator of Internet technology. It became the first company to offer electronic mail services for personal computer users in 1979. The following year, the company offered the first real-time online chat service. During the 1980’s, CompuServe expanded to markets in Japan and Europe to provide networking solutions to corporate clients. CompuServe expanded rapidly during the 1990’s, providing a personalized portal to the World Wide Web. Increased competition during the 1990’s made revenues decline. In 1998, with a subscriber base of more than 2 million users, CompuServe became a wholly owned subsidiary of rival Internet provider America Online.
In 1984 while he was a student at the University of Texas, Michael Dell founded a computer company he called PC’s Limited. He hoped to market IBM-compatible personal computers made from stock components directly to consumers, and his gamble paid off. Sales during his company’s first year topped $73 million. In 1988, the company changed its name to Dell and began expanding into the international market. In 1996, Dell began selling computers through its company Web site. Four years later, it surpassed Compaq as the largest seller of personal computers in the United States. Two years later, Dell moved into the television, handheld computer, network server, and storage markets. The company’s Internet sales during the late 1990’s helped fuel the expansion of electronic commerce, but a loss of market share in the 2000’s to companies such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard inspired a shift away from the company’s pioneering direct-sales approach. Dell improved its sales later in the decade by selling its products in discount retailers such as Wal-Mart. Dell currently ranks thirty-fourth in the Fortune 500 with more than $60 billion in revenues.
The first products offered by Dow Chemical, founded in 1902, were bleach and potassium bromide. In its first two decades, the company rapidly diversified its production with the introduction of various agricultural chemicals, dyes, and magnesium metals. Dow built its first magnesium extraction plant in 1941, becoming the first company to produce magnesium from seawater. Profits soared during World War II with the manufacture of lightweight magnesium aircraft parts. The company expanded to Canada in 1942 and Japan ten years later. The company’s sales topped $1 billion in 1964, largely on its growing plastics production. During the Vietnam War, Dow was the sole provider of napalm for the United States military. It also produced the defoliant dioxin, named Agent Orange, in plants in New Zealand and the United States. Aggressive acquisitions and joint ventures during the 1990’s saw the company expand its international operations. Dow operates in 175 countries and has annual revenues of more than $53 billion. It is the second-largest chemical manufacturer by revenue in the world behind BASF.
DuPont was founded in 1802 as a gunpowder mill by Eleuthre Irne Du Pont and remained the major American supplier of gunpowder throughout the nineteenth century. DuPont acquired several smaller chemical companies but was forced to divest some of its holdings following antitrust litigation. In 1914, the company acquired substantial shares of General Motors, and Pierre S. Du Pont helped make General Motors one of the leading automobile manufacturers in the world. In 1957, DuPont was forced to give up its holdings in General Motors under the Clayton Antitrust Act. DuPont researchers discovered neoprene in 1928 and nylon in 1935. In subsequent years, researchers also developed Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene). In 1943, DuPont built the Hanford plutonium plant used in the Manhattan Project. During the 1960’s, the company’s continued research into synthetic materials produced Kevlar, a main component in body armor for law enforcement and the military. DuPont acquired the Conoco petroleum company in 1981. It divested Conoco in 1999 and announced that it would pursue research into plant-based synthetic materials instead of petroleum-based products. The company employs an estimated 60,000 workers worldwide and ranks second among global chemical companies by market capitalization.
Edison International got its start in the population boom that hit Los Angeles during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1909, Southern California Edison acquired several early electric companies in California to extend its generation and distribution facilities. The company more than doubled its capacity in 1917 with the acquisition of H. E. Huntington’s Pacific Light & Power Company and the Mount Whitney Power & Electric Company. The oil embargo of the 1970’s led the company to make investments in alternative energy sources during the 1980’s, including the construction of a wind turbine installation near Palm Springs, California. Deregulation during the 1990’s opened California markets to outside competition, and a rise in energy demand in 2001 precipitated a statewide energy crisis in California that left the company under the threat of bankruptcy. Edison recovered in subsequent years to stand at number 205 on Fortune magazine’s top five hundred companies, with more than $13 billion in revenues.
Born Florence Nightingale Graham in Toronto, Canada, Elizabeth Arden reinvented herself with a new name and career in New York City, where she opened the first of her many cosmetic salons in 1910. Arden introduced several innovations in the cosmetics industry. Among her earliest products were the facial cream called Venetian Cream Amoretta and the facial lotion called Arden Skin Tonic. By 1929, Arden had opened salons in several countries, and her products became synonymous with glamour and exclusivity. Her celebrity clients included British royalty, American first ladies, and some of the biggest film stars in Hollywood. Following Arden’s death in 1966, the company was purchased first by the Eli Lilly Company in 1970 and then by Unilever in 1990. Under the ownership of Unilever, the company was part of a portfolio that became the second-largest cosmetics and perfume company in the world. When sales flagged, French Fragrances purchased the Elizabeth Arden brand in 2001.
Before its bankruptcy in 2001, Enron was a leading energy company with claimed revenues of more than $100 billion. The company traced its roots to the Northern Natural Gas Company, founded in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1932. Following a company reorganization in 1979, the company became a holding of Internorth and later adopted the name Enron. The company’s headquarters were relocated to Houston, Texas, under Kenneth Lay’s tenure as chief executive officer. Enron operated a coast-to-coast network of lucrative gas pipelines and managed electricity distribution to the Pacific Southwest. From 1996 to 2001, the company was named Fortune magazine’s Most Innovative Company. The first signs of financial misdealings were reported in August, 2001. Enron had excluded much of its debt on its financial statements and overvalued many of its legitimate holdings. Following its bankruptcy, the company adopted the name Enron Creditors Recovery Corporation and functions as a holding company to liquidate any remaining company assets.
In 1904, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the breakup of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil into thirty-four separate companies, two of which were Jersey Standard and Sacony (or Standard Oil Company of New York). Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, Jersey Standard became Exxon in 1972, and Sacony began operating under the name Mobil Oil in 1966. The companies merged in 1999. The oil giant operates a vast portfolio of global operations that include the exploration, refining, and sale of gasoline and petroleum-based products. Based in Irving, Texas, ExxonMobil produces more than 4 million barrels of oil per day and has the equivalent of 75 billion barrels in reserves. The company and all of its competitors faced increased criticism beginning in 2005 about the steady rise of gasoline prices and its billions in annual profits. ExxonMobil still has legal action pending over the devastating Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill that flooded Alaska’s Prince William Sound with 11 million gallons of oil. Punitive damages remain pending, but ExxonMobil’s profits have never been higher. It ranks first in the world in net income, with more than $40 billion in profits in 2007.
Wally Amos pioneered the boutique bakery business with the Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie Company. An aggressive advertising campaign and Amos’s skill at self-promotion turned his small Sunset Strip cookie shop in Hollywood, California, into an international phenomenon. By the mid-1980’s, sales had flagged and the company endured several changes of ownership. Keebler purchased the Famous Amos brand in 1998 and continues to market the cookies in retail grocery stores and vending machines. Amos left the company during the early 1990’s and was prohibited from using the Famous Amos name. He founded what would become the Uncle Wally’s Muffin Company in 1994 and marketed fat-free muffins to retail and club grocery chains. Amos re-established connections to the Famous Amos brand when Keebler invited him back to help promote the product following their purchase of the company. Famous Amos cookies remain a brisk seller for the Kellogg Company, which purchased Keebler in 2001.
The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Company, more commonly known as Freddie Mac, was created in 1970 by a charter from the U.S. Congress to end the monopoly of the secondary mortgage market by the Federal National Mortgage Association. Freddie Mac is a government-backed corporation that acquires mortgages on the secondary market and sells them to a group of investors. The company earns its profits by charging a fee for its guarantee that the principal and interest on the loans will be paid regardless of whether the borrower satisfies the terms of the loan. The purchase of secondary loans allows lending institutions to free up capital for primary and first-time home mortgages. Freddie Mac prospered through the 1990’s and the early 2000’s. Fortune magazine ranked it twentieth in its list of the top two thousand public corporations in 2007, but a decline in the home mortgage market in 2008, spurred on by the proliferation of subprime home loans threatened company assets. On September 8, 2008, it was placed under the conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
General Mills traces its roots to a large mill opened by Cadwallader Washburn in 1866 and officially adopted the name of General Mills in 1928 after the merger of several regional mills. The merger made General Mills the largest flour miller in the world, with milling operations in sixteen states. James Ford Bell led the company through the Great Depression, a period of slow but steady growth for General Mills. The company’s mechanical division spurred expansion with the development of its Betty Crocker appliance brand during the 1940’s. General Mills made substantial contributions to the war effort during the 1940’s and the burgeoning space race during the 1960’s through its development of specialty packaged foods. In 1970, General Mills acquired the Red Lobster restaurant chain. Its restaurant division later introduced the Olive Garden chain before divesting its restaurant holdings in 1995. General Mills holdings include more than one hundred popular brands, such as Pillsbury, Hagen-Dazs, Green Giant, Wheaties, and Cheerios. A Fortune 500 company, General Mills employs nearly 30,000 workers worldwide with annual revenues of more than $13 billion.
Owen Roberts Cheatham founded Georgia-Pacific as the Georgia Hardwood Lumber Company in 1927. During the next two decades, the company acquired numerous sawmills and lumber facilities across the United States. In 1957, Georgia-Pacific entered the pulp trade with acquisitions in Oregon and built a diverse product line that made it one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of tissue, pulp, packaging, paper, building products, and related chemicals. Among its popular consumer goods brands are Quilted Northern tissue paper, Brawny paper towels, and the Dixie brand of disposable plates and cups. The company sold four of its uncoated-paper mills to Canadian paper company Domtar in 2001. Four years later, Georgia-Pacific was acquired by Witchita, Kansas-based Koch Industries, a private corporation, at a cost of $21 billion. Georgia-Pacific employs 55,000 people worldwide at more than three hundred locations in North America, South America, and Europe.
Named after Charles Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanized rubber, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company was founded by Frank Sieberling in 1898. The company’s first factory opened in 1898 in Akron, Ohio, where it produced tires for bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Beginning in 1901, Goodyear partnered with Henry Ford to supply tires for the burgeoning automobile industry. The first of the company’s famous Goodyear blimps appeared in 1925 and became one of the most recognizable marketing tools in the world. Goodyear expanded operations internationally during the 1930’s and acquired rival manufacturer Kelly-Springfield in 1935. The company built Corsair fighter planes for the United States military during World War II. By 1984, company sales exceeded $10 billion. Restructuring during the 1990’s saw massive layoffs, but the company remains a leading supplier of tires for automobiles, trucks, race cars, and heavy machinery, with nearly $20 billion in annual revenue.
German immigrant Henry John Heinz founded his namesake company in 1869 as a condiment delivery service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, under the name Anchor Pickle and Vinegar Works. Its first product was grated horseradish. Following his bankruptcy in 1875, Heinz reorganized the company and introduced what would become its trademark product, tomato ketchup. In 1892, he introduced the slogan 57 Varieties, which would become the company’s signature marketing slogan. In 1905, the company opened its first overseas factory in England, where it soon began producing its Heinz Baked Beanz brand, which remains a best-selling brand throughout Great Britain. The company went public in 1946. During the next two decades, it acquired several subsidiaries, including Starkist Foods, Ore-Ida Foods, and Weight Watchers International. During the 1990’s, the company acquired the Budget Gourmet line of frozen packaged meals and divested itself of its Weight Watcher holdings. The company has more than $10 billion in annual revenues and sells its products in more than fifty countries, with an estimated 650 million bottles of its iconic tomato ketchup sold worldwide every year.
Founded in 1919, Halliburton is a leading American oil exploration and drilling company with operations in nearly seventy countries. Aggressive expansion during the 1920’s and 1930’s led to the company’s opening operations in Mexico, South America, and Asia. During the Gulf War in 1991, Halliburton subsidiaries provided logistical support to the United States military in the oil fields of Iraq. In the 1990’s, Halliburton began operations in Russia and became the first foreign country to set up operations in mainland China. The company has been the subject of numerous controversies, from charges of no-bid contracts in Iraq to allegations of having a spotty environmental record. Despite legal challenges, the company continues to employ an estimated 55,000 employees worldwide and has annual revenues of more than $15 billion.
Hallmark is a privately owned greeting card company based in Kansas City, Missouri. Founded in 1910 by eighteen-year-old Joyce Hall, the company began as a small family operation that by 1915 specialized in Valentine’s Day and Christmas cards. In 1928, Hall and his brother Rollie adopted the name Hallmark (the company would formally adopt that name in 1958) and began producing greeting card lines for a variety of holidays and occasions. Sponsorship for a National Broadcasting Company (NBC) telecast in 1951 led to a recurring series of made-for-television films under the series name Hallmark Hall of Fame. In 2001, Hallmark launched its own cable channel. The company employs about 18,000 workers worldwide and earns annual revenues of more than $4 billion.
Hewlett-Packard was founded by two Stanford University graduate students, William Hewlett and David Packard. Between 1940 and 1990, the company focused on the production of electrical testing equipment and large-scale computer hardware. The company’s first computer, which it called a desktop calculator, was created in 1968. The company later rejected a proposal by company employee Steve Wozniak, who offered them a first look at the Apple I personal computer he designed while working for Hewlett-Packard. The company introduced a line of inkjet computer printers during the 1980’s and continued to expand its computer line during the 1990’s. In 1999, Hewlett-Packard divested of all noncomputer holdings by spinning off the Agilent Company, which carried on its production of semiconductors and scientific instruments. In 2002, Hewlett-Packard merged with former rival Compaq. The company acquired Electronic Data Services in 2008. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Hewlett-Packard is the largest worldwide seller of personal computers with revenues of more than $118 billion.
Home Depot was founded in 1978 outside Atlanta, Georgia, as a one-stop retailer for construction and home improvement products. The combination of inexpensive tools and construction materials, as well as the introduction of home improvement educational programs, helped invigorate an industry that was previously dominated by professional contractors. The company went public in 1981 and began rapid expansion that saw the opening of its one hundredth store in 1989. Home Depot entered the Canadian market in 1994 with the acquisition of the Aikenhead retail chain. The company expanded to Mexico in 2001 with the purchase of Total HOME, and to China in 2006 with the acquisition of the Home Way, a twelve-store retail chain. Home Depot remains the largest home improvement retail chain in the United States and the country’s second-largest retailer overall, behind Wal-Mart.
Hughes Aircraft was founded in 1932 by Howard Hughes, Jr., as an offshoot of the Hughes Tool Company. Its first aircraft, the H-1 Racer, was built in 1935 and brought the company its first public notice. Hughes built the ill-fated H-4, or Spruce Goose, a prototype all-wood transport aircraft, which never proved viable and later became a tourist attraction in Long Beach, California. The years during and following World War II saw the company’s fortunes rise as a major airline component manufacturer and defense contractor. In 1948, Hughes opened its Aerospace Group, which focused on advanced avionics and air-to-air missile guidance systems, and which remained the basis for aircraft missile systems until the 1980’s. Other subsidiaries included helicopter manufacturer Kellett Aircraft and the Hughes Space and Communications Company, which developed the first geosynchronous communications satellite in 1963 and the lunar probe Surveyor I and the Pioneer Venus probe in 1978. In 1985, Hughes Aircraft was acquired by General Motors, which sold off most of its subsidiaries to the Raytheon Corporation in 1997.
Intel Corporation was founded in 1968 as Integrated Electronics, a manufacturer of semiconductors. In the 1970’s, it became a manufacturer of computer memory storage devices. Competition from foreign and American companies led Intel to focus primarily on the manufacture of microprocessors and related hardware for the growing personal computer market during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Its products included network cards, graphic memory cards, and the x86 series of microprocessors, which became the standard chipset for the majority of personal computers. Among its more successful product lines is the Pentium brand of microprocessors. A longtime rival, and then partner, of Microsoft, Intel began a collaboration with Apple in 2006, which saw the introduction of its x86 processor in Apple’s line of personal computers. Later product lines have focused on flash memory devices, computer motherboard chipsets, and wireless technology. The company employs more than 80,000 employees worldwide and exceeds $38 billion in annual revenues.
The largest paper and pulp manufacturer in the world, International Paper was founded in 1898 by the merger of seventeen independent paper mills. Rapid expansion during the early 1900’s soon made the company a leading supplier of newsprint in the United States and a major exporter of paper to South America and Europe. Until the 2000’s, the company controlled millions of acres of timber land in Canada. In 1951, the company established a research laboratory in Mobile, Alabama, and began to diversify its manufacturing. International Paper acquired several international manufacturers beginning during the 1980’s, including Germany’s Zanders Feinpapiere and France’s Aussedat Rey. In addition to its extensive line of paper and pulp products, the company is also the leading supplier of paper cups and plastic lids for major U.S. fast-food chains. With headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, International Paper employs more than 50,000 workers worldwide and has more than $22 billion in annual revenue.
Founded by James Cash Penney in 1902, J. C. Penney began as a discount retail chain operating as the Golden Rule chain of shops. It incorporated under the name of J. C. Penney in 1913, after which it began aggressive expansion. By 1941, the company operated 1,600 stores. During the 1960’s, J. C. Penney began offering mail-order catalog sales. It acquired the Thrift Drug Store chain in 1969. When Sears, Roebuck ended its catalog sales in 1993, J. C. Penney became the largest catalog retailer in the United States. In 1998, the company began Internet sales. Although flagging store sales led to the closure of dozens of retail locations after 2001, Internet sales began to rise, exceeding $1 billion in sales by 2005. The company has relied heavily on the marketing of exclusive fashion brands to help compete with discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Among these private brands are the Sephora perfume line, St. John’s Bay, and the American Living brand, designed by Ralph Lauren.
Founded by Robert Wood Johnson and his brothers, Johnson & Johnson was founded on the research of Joseph Lister, a pioneer of antiseptic surgery. Robert Wood Johnson manufactured the first sterile surgical dressings in 1885 and incorporated the company, along with three brothers, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1887. During the early 1900’s, the company introduced several innovative personal healthcare products, including dental floss, Band-Aid brand adhesive strips, and female sanitary napkins. The company introduced the first U.S. prescription birth control pill in 1931. Johnson & Johnson became a publicly traded company in 1944 and expanded into Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, with a growing emphasis on pharmaceutical research and manufacturing. The company’s best-known products include the Tylenol brand of medications, Johnson’s baby powder and oils, the Neutrogena skin care line, and Acuvue contact lenses. The company acquired Pfizer’s consumer healthcare division in 2006. Johnson & Johnson controls some 250 subsidiaries whose products are sold in 175 countries.
Founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson as the Negro Digest Publishing Company, after the name of its first publication, Negro Digest, the firm later became the Johnson Publishing Company and released additional publications targeting the African American community. Ebony magazine was created in 1945 and Jet magazine appeared in 1951. Under Johnson’s leadership, the company maintained interests in the insurance industry, where Johnson got his start in business, and later branched out into the fashion, cosmetics, and book publishing sectors.
JPMorgan Chase & Company was formed in 2000 with the merger of J. P. Morgan Company and the Chase Manhattan Corporation, two of the oldest financial institutions in the United States. The company built its more than $2 trillion in assets through aggressive acquisitions in successive years, including the incorporation of Bank One and Bear Stearns companies to the company’s growing list of subsidiaries. J. P. Morgan’s company history stretches back to nineteenth century industrialist J. P. Morgan, while Chase Manhattan was first formed by merger in 1955. The company manages one of the largest capitalized hedge funds in the world, controlling an estimated $34 billion in assets. During the financial crisis of 2008, the company purchased the ailing Washington Mutual, previously one of the largest holders of consumer mortgages.
The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company was founded in 1906 by Will Kellogg, brother of John Harvey Kellogg, who operated a natural foods and health sanatorium. The company’s toasted corn flake breakfast cereal was invented by the Kellogg brothers in 1894 and soon became a staple breakfast food. The company adopted its current name in 1922. Despite amassing a vast fortune, Kellogg remained committed to philanthropy and to the welfare of his employees. He ran his factories on a thirty-hour workweek until the 1940’s and created the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in 1934 with an endowment in Kellogg Company stock of $66 million. The Kellogg Company continues to manufacture many of the most popular breakfast and snack foods. It acquired the Keebler brand in 2001, as well as several other breakfast and snack food companies, including the Cheez-It, Morningstar Farms, and Famous Amos brands, and earns nearly $12 billion in annual revenues.
Levi Strauss and Company made its first pair of blue jeans, then called “waist overalls,” in 1873. Bavaria-born Levi Strauss founded a dry goods store in San Francisco, California, and formed a partnership with Nevada tailor Jacob Davis to manufacture sturdy trousers that would withstand the rigors of the California mining camps. Strauss purchased the denim fabric from a mill in New Hampshire and Davis invented the company’s trademark rivets designed to strengthen stress points on the jeans. In 1912, the company introduced its first nationally distributed product, Koveralls, a one-piece play suit for children. A rise in the price of cotton during the 1920’s and the Great Depression of the 1930’s slowed company sales and expansion. Lady Levi’s were introduced in 1934, its first product designed for women. The 1960’s saw the company’s expansion into Asia and Europe, where the company opened its first official international stores in Spain in 1983. Endorsements by musicians and the company’s sponsorship of the 1984 Summer Olympics helped strengthen Levi’s already growing popularity as an emblem of American culture. The company remains one of the most successful clothing manufacturers in the world.
Macy’s was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy in 1858. Its flagship department store was built in New York City. The store was expanded during the 1920’s and 1930’s and designed in the Art Deco style. It has since become a National Historic Landmark. The company went public in 1922 and subsequently began expanding with semi-autonomous regional stores in the Midwest and on the Pacific Coast. Macy’s acquired several smaller chains during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Following an unsuccessful bid to buy the Federated Department Stores in 1988, Macy’s acquired Federated’s Bullocks and I. Magnin divisions. In 1992, Macy’s filed for bankruptcy, and new management restructured the company by divesting several underperforming divisions. Two years later, Macy’s agreed to a merger with Federated, which later adopted the name Macy’s for all of its department store chains. In 2005, Federated acquired the May department store chain and two years later adopted the name Macy Group and maintained the Macy’s and Bloomingdales company names. Macy Group continues to operate more than eight hundred stores nationwide.
Marshall Field & Company traces its roots to a small dry goods store founded by Potter Palmer in Chicago in 1852. Palmer sold the company to twenty-one-year-old Marshall Field. Following the store’s destruction in the Great Fire of 1871, Field began to rebuild at the corner of State Street. As business began to grow during the 1880’s and 1890’s, the store began to expand until it occupied nearly a full city block in downtown Chicago. The store’s neoclassical design became a city landmark, and what began as a humble dry goods store became a luxury department store catering to the city’s elite. Customer lounges provided out-of-town visitors the opportunity to book hotel rooms, send and receive cables and telegrams, and arrange further transportation. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Marshall Field opened several additional branches in Chicago and throughout Illinois. Further acquisitions saw the company expand operations with several discount retailers. In 1982, Marshall Field was acquired by British-American Tobacco. It was later divested and purchased by the Dayton Hudson Corporation in 1990. Dayton Hudson adopted the Marshall Field name until its acquisition by Macy’s in 2005.
Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates in 1975. Its initial focus was the development and sale of BASIC computer language interpreters for the Altair computer. Microsoft introduced its Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) in 1985 and began its conquest of the personal computer software market. The company went public in 1986 and introduced the Microsoft Office Suite in 1989, through which it earned a majority market share over rival Novell’s WordPerfect software. In 1995, Microsoft began to address the burgeoning World Wide Web by introducing its online Microsoft Network (MSN). Two years later, it introduced its Internet Explorer Web browser, which quickly outstripped its principal rival Netscape. The company integrated its business and personal computing applications with the release of its Windows XP operating system in 2001. Strategic licensing agreements with computer manufacturers helped Microsoft extend its market share and earn record profits. Its closely integrated software later led to several antitrust disputes in the United States and the European Union. Largely on the success of its operating system and office productivity suite, Microsoft maintains a virtual monopoly on personal computing software, earning more than $60 billion in annual revenues and making its founder, Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Founded in 1845 as the Nautilus Insurance Company, it became the New York Life Insurance Company in 1849. Among the company’s insurance innovations were the introduction of guaranteed cash values for policies and the payment of cash dividends to policyholders. It was also the first insurer to offer policies to women at the same rates as it charged men. New York Life also became the first insurer to issue policies to people with disabilities in 1896. The company introduced group insurance during the 1950’s and began to diversify in the postwar period. During the 1980’s, New York Life acquired the Mackay Shields Financial Corporation and began marketing mutual funds. In 1987, the company purchased Sanus Healthcare Systems, one of the largest health care companies in the United States. Additional diversification, including the introduction of New York Life Investment Management, helped the company increase revenues during the early 2000’s. The company remains one of the largest life insurers and financial institutions in the world.
Nike was founded in 1964 under the name Blue Ribbon Sports by University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman and one of his track stars, Phil Knight. It initially operated as a distributor for the Japanese brand of Tiger track shoes, and early sales were made out of the back of a car at regional track meets. The company began selling its own products in 1971 with the introduction of a football shoe, called Nike, which featured the trademark “swoosh” insignia. The company adopted the Nike name in 1978. Early innovations included the development of the waffle sole designed to better grip urethane track surfaces. Nike went public in 1980 and began to diversify its product line. The company’s iconic advertising slogan Just Do It was introduced in 1988. Its sponsorship of athletes such as basketball star Michael Jordan and golf phenomenon Tiger Woods helped secure its growing reputation as the leading athletic shoe manufacturer in the world. Nike acquired Converse, which manufactures the popular Chuck Taylor brand, in 2003. The company also manufactures sportswear, athletic equipment, and accessories, and operates a chain of retail stores under the Niketown name. The company has more than $18 billion in annual revenue and remains one of the most recognized brands in the world.
Owens Corning was founded in 1938 when the Corning Glass Works and Owens-Illinois formed a partnership to manufacture glass fiber. Owens Corning was spun off as in independent company three years later. The company’s trademark Fiberglas earned more than $2 million in sales in its first year of operations. Owens Corning received lucrative contracts during World War II producing insulation and fireproof materials for aircraft and ships. The company expanded in the postwar years with the introduction of housing insulation and related products. The company went public in 1952. During the 1960’s, Owens Corning manufactured glass-fiber-reinforced plastic, which the company marketed as a replacement for steel underground storage tanks because of its noncorrosive qualities. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Owens Corning expanded its operations to Europe and the Middle East. In 1990, the company fought off a leveraged buyout but amassed enormous debt in the process. Owens Corning also faced litigation for its use of asbestos in its products. Resurgent sales marked its operations through the late 1990’s, but Owens Corning was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2000. It emerged from bankruptcy six years later and continues to manufacture a variety of goods, including building supplies and composite materials used in the automotive and communications industries.
Pan American was the leading international air carrier in the United States, from its founding in 1927 to its collapse in 1991. It began operations as a foreign airmail carrier. In 1928, Pan Am flew its maiden international passenger flight between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba. Partnerships with existing South American airlines and the development of larger and better-equipped aircraft, including the Sikorsky clipper aircraft, allowed Pan Am to extend operations throughout the 1930’s. It began transpacific passenger service in 1934 and transatlantic service in 1939. During World War II, many of the airline’s aircraft were pressed into service in support of the military. A new crop of planes were acquired in the postwar years, including the new Boeing 377 and the DC-6. Pan Am continued acquiring the most sophisticated aircraft. It was one of the first airlines to fly the Boeing 747 in 1966 and adopted it for regularly scheduled flights in 1970. Having enjoyed an enduring reputation as the most experienced international air carrier, the company fell on difficult times beginning with the energy crisis in 1973. Pan Am’s acquisition of National Airlines further imperilled its weakening financial health. Two terrorist attacks, first a hijacking in 1986 in Pakistan and then the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, further damaged the company’s image. Pan Am filed for bankruptcy in 1991, and Delta Airlines purchased most of its assets. The company formally ceased operations in December, 1991.
Parker Brothers was founded by George S. Parker and his brothers in 1888. The company’s earliest board games were based on significant current events. Klondike was inspired by the Alaskan gold rush, and War in Cuba was based on the Spanish-American War. The company enjoyed brisk profits as board games grew in popularity. In 1935, Parker Brothers released what would become its best known and most successful board game, Monopoly, which has been rendered in numerous international editions. In successive decades, the company introduced such future classic games as Risk and Clue. Parker Brothers remained a family-owned company until 1963, when it was purchased by General Mills. Later products included the first Nerf ball and electronic versions of classic Parker Brothers titles. The company became a division of Hasbro in 1991. In its 120-year history, Parker Brothers published more than 1,800 games, many of which remain in production.
Pepsi was invented by pharmacist Caleb Bradham in 1898. The combination of kola nut, vanilla, and rare oils was an instant hit. What was originally known as Brad’s Drink was renamed Pepsi-Cola, and Bradham began looking for ways to market it. In 1902, he began manufacturing Pepsi on a larger scale in a back room of his pharmacy. The following year, he moved operations into a nearby warehouse. Bradham initially sold his product as syrup, then introduced bottled Pepsi in 1904. He also began to sell franchises that saw the expansion of Pepsi sales to twenty-four states by the end of 1910. Bradham’s company went bankrupt during the Great Depression and was later purchased by candymaker Charles Guth, who reformulated the original formula. The company changed ownership again in the 1940’s. It adopted the name PepsiCo following its merger with Frito Lay in 1965. In 1975, Pepsi introduced its Pepsi challenge in a push to compete with Coca-Cola that was dubbed the Cola wars. PepsiCo acquired several nonbeverage companies, including the fast-food chains KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. It divested its restaurant holdings in 1997. The company also purchased Tropicana in 1998 and Quaker Oats in 2001. In 2005, Pepsi surpassed archrival Coca-Cola in market share for the first time. PepsiCo, which also manufactures Mountain Dew, distributes products worldwide and has annual revenues of more than $40 billion.
Radio Shack was founded in 1921 by Theodore and Milton Deutschmann as a retailer of Ham radio equipment. The company began mail-order sales during the 1940’s and introduced its own product line of consumer electronics under the brand name Realist in 1954. Poor sales during the 1960’s drove the company to the brink of bankruptcy, but the small retail chain was purchased by the Tandy Corporation, a leather goods retailer, in 1962. Radio Shack regained profitability throughout the 1970’s, particularly with the introduction of the TRS80 computer, one of the first mass-produced personal computers, in 1978. Increased competition led the company to drop its line of computers during the early 1990’s. Radio Shack continues to produce its own consumer electronics lines, including audio and video equipment, under the Presidian, Accurian, and Optimus brand names. Layoffs and restructuring marked much of the company’s operations during the early 2000’s, but the company continues to operate retail stores across the United States and in Europe and South America.
Founded by Thomas Stemberg in 1986, Staples has since become the world’s leading retailer of office equipment and supplies. The company went public in 1989 and began aggressive expansion across North America, Europe, South America, and Asia during the 1990’s. Following an unsuccessful bid to acquire rival Office Depot in 1997, Staples launched a successful Internet sales operation in 1998. Despite flagging sales during the early 2000’s, the company continued to expand its foreign market share with stores in India in 2007 and the acquisition of the Dutch office supply giant Corporate Express the following year. Staples operates more than two thousand retail stores in twenty-seven countries, with annual revenues of $27 billion.
The first Starbucks store opened in Seattle, Washington’s Pike Place Market in 1971. It originally sold only coffee beans and brewing equipment. In 1983, the company began selling brewed coffee, espresso, and related beverages. In 1987, the company was purchased by entrepreneur Howard Schultz, who had created the Il Giornale coffee bar chain in 1985. He rebranded the Il Giornale chain as Starbucks and began a program of rapid expansion. By 1992, he had opened 165 stores and taken the company public. Starbucks opened its first store in Tokyo in 1996 and acquired the sixty-store United Kingdom-based Seattle Coffee Company in 1998. The following year, Starbucks acquired the music label Hear Music and began in-store music CD sales. Starbucks also created the film company Starbucks Entertainment in 2006. In the same year, Starbucks partnered with Apple to promote iTunes online music sales. At the height of its success, Starbucks was opening a new store every working day. Market saturation ultimately led to store closures and layoffs in early 2008, but the company continues to operate more than 15,000 locations worldwide, employing an estimated 270,000 workers.
State Farm Insurance was founded in 1922 by George Jacob Mecherle as a mutual automobile insurer wholly owned by its policyholders. By the 1930’s, the company had expanded operations to Canada. State Farm became the leading automobile insurer in the United States in 1942 a position it has held ever since. The company added fire and casualty insurance in 1935 and homeowner’s insurance in 1955. A struggling musician named Barry Manilow wrote the jingle for the company’s new advertising slogan, Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There, in 1971. The company added banking services in 1998 through its bank-certified agents, whereby customers could access financial services through their insurance agents, the Internet, through direct mail, or through a call center. State Farm ranks in the top fifty Fortune 500 companies with annual revenues of more than $61 billion and is one of the largest mutual property and casualty insurers in the world.
Target Corporation has its roots in the Dayton Dry Goods Company founded by George Dayton in Minneapolis in 1902. The first Target discount store opened in Minnesota in 1962. Dayton’s experiment in discount retail sales performed poorly in its first five years, but sales steadily grew, and by 1967 Dayton had taken the chain public. Initial expansion focused primarily on midwestern states, but Target began operations on both coasts in 1982 with the acquisition of the popular discount chain FedMart. The company changed its name from the Dayton Hudson Corporation to Target Corporation in 2000. By 2005, the company operated nearly 1,400 stores and had topped $52 billion in annual sales. That same year, Target opened its first store in Bangalore, India, with plans for further expansion throughout India. The company operates three chains: Target stores, Target Greatland general merchandise superstores, and SuperTarget stores. It employs an estimated 366,000 employees and has annual revenues of more than $63 billion.
Texas Instruments traces its roots to the Geophysical Service, a seismic exploration company active in the petroleum industry and founded in 1930. The company became Texas Instruments in 1951, having spent more than a decade building electrical and guidance systems for the United States military. During the 1950’s, Texas Instruments purchased a license to produce semiconductors and would later revolutionize the emerging electronics industry. Among its early innovations were the first silicon-based semiconductor and the first transistor radio, both in 1954. Further discoveries in microprocessor technology produced applications that would be vital to the emerging computer industry and a wide variety of consumer electronics, military and industrial engineering, and wireless technology. Today, the company’s principal focus is semiconductors. It regularly ranks among the top ten semiconductor producers in the world. Texas Instruments also continues to produce its popular line of consumer and scientific calculators. The company has more than 30,000 employees and annual revenues of more than $13 billion.
3M was founded in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company to mine stone to make grinding wheels. It struggled through its first decade to secure steady markets for its mining and industrial goods. In 1916, the company opened its first research and development laboratory and launched a stream of new products, including a variety of adhesive tapes and acoustic suppression materials. By the 1950’s, 3M had expanded operations throughout North America, Europe, and Australia, and produced an increasingly diverse product line, from board games and traffic signals to the popular line of Post-It Notes, magnetic data storage devices, and one of the earliest digital audio recording devices. 3M operates sales offices in two hundred countries and has annual revenues of nearly $25 billion.
Time Warner was created when Time, Inc., purchased Warner Communications in 1990 for $14 billion. Time had built a magazine publishing empire through its flagship magazine, launched in 1921, and the introduction of several others, including Fortune in 1930, Life in 1936, and Sports Illustrated in 1956. In 1974, Time launched the Home Box Office (HBO) cable television network. Warner Communications traced its roots back to the Warner Bros. film studio founded in 1923 and renamed Warner Communications in 1971. Time Warner acquired the Turner Broadcasting System in 1996. The company consolidated its position as the leading media conglomerate with the acquisition of America Online in 2001. Time Warner is one of the world’s largest media and entertainment conglomerates with holdings that include cable news and entertainment channels, publishing subsidiaries, comic book publishers, and major recording labels.
The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, gave the Union Pacific Railroad one of two corporations named in the bill the task of building the first transcontinental American railroad. The Union Pacific broke ground the following year and joined the Central Pacific at Promontory Summit in Utah to complete the cross-country line in 1869. Union Pacific continued to expand throughout successive decades, acquiring several subsidiary lines, but mounting debt and overextension sent the railroad into receivership in 1893. Portions of the line were purchased by Edward H. Harriman, who later acquired other segments and returned the company to profitability. During both world wars, the Union Pacific moved equipment and troops across the country, but following World War II, a boom in car sales and the development of an interstate highway system led to a drop in passenger train travel. The company discontinued passenger service in 1971 but remains a leading transportation company with tracks operating in twenty-three states.
United Airlines, a subsidiary of UAL Corporation, regards pioneering airman Walter Varney as its founder. Boeing Air Transport purchased Varney’s airmail service and adopted the name United Aircraft and Transport Company in 1929. The Air Mail Act of 1934 prohibited common ownership of air transport manufacturers and passenger airlines, and Boeing’s company was broken into individual companies, one of which became United Airlines. In 1961, United merged with Capital Airlines to become the world’s largest commercial passenger airline with a network offering countrywide service. United began international service in 1983 with the purchase of Pan American Airways. Labor disputes plagued the company during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Two of the four flights hijacked on September 11, 2001, were United Airlines flights. That year, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and sought financial backing from the private sector. United Airlines scaled back operations in 2008 because of a sharp rise in fuel costs, but it remains one of the largest airlines in the world, offering more than three thousand flights daily to destinations in more than two hundred countries.
The United Parcel Service got its start in 1907 as the American Messenger Service, a neighborhood delivery service in Seattle, Washington. Employees worked out of a basement and made deliveries including food from local restaurants on foot or on bicycle. The company purchased its first delivery vehicle a Model T Ford in 1913. Before the creation of the U.S. Parcel Post, the company’s largest client was the post office. In 1919, the renamed Merchants Parcel Post extended operations to Northern California. It opened offices in Los Angeles in 1922 and became the United Parcel Service. Also that year, the company began offering scheduled daily pickups. By the 1950’s, the company moved beyond retail delivery service to offer direct service to public and private customers. The company made a short-lived attempt to provide air delivery service in 1929. In 1953, UPS resurrected its delivery service to the East and West coasts via cargo holds of regularly scheduled domestic flights. Dubbed Blue Label Air, the service offered second-day deliveries to all fifty states by 1978. Ten years later, UPS acquired its own air fleet and began next-day air service. The company operates more than 1,000 facilities in 120 countries and delivers more than 15 million packages daily. Strategic partnerships with companies such as Wal-Mart have allowed UPS to branch out into logistics services, making it a leader in global supply chain management. UPS, known as the Big Brown Machine, has nearly half a million employees and earned more than $49 billion in revenues in 2007.
United Technologies was founded in 1929 as the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation, through the merger of two Boeing aircraft and transport companies and several smaller companies. In the wake of the Air Mail Act of 1934, which prohibited joint ownership of aircraft manufacturers and passenger airlines, United Aircraft broke into three separate companies: United Aircraft, Boeing, and United Airlines. United Aircraft continued under this name until 1975 and focused principally on aerospace and defense-related engineering. Renamed United Technologies in 1975, the company entered a period of aggressive expansion. It acquired Otis Elevator and Carrier Refrigeration during the 1970’s and branched out into commercial fire and security services in 2001. Other acquisitions include aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand, and the commercial and military helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. A major defense contractor for the U.S. government, United Technologies produces the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as well as other military aircraft and missile systems.
San Antonio, Texas-based Valero is a Fortune 100 company with more than $90 billion in annual revenues. The largest refining company in the United States, Valero ranks as one of the country’s largest gasoline retailers, with more than 5,000 stations in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Founded in 1980, the company developed out of the Coastal States Gas Corporation and focused on natural gas production. Valero purchased its first refinery in 1981 in Corpus Christi, Texas, and began refining three years later. In the next two decades, it acquired refineries in Louisiana, New Jersey, and California. With the acquisition of Connecticut-based Premcor in 2005, Valero became the largest U.S. oil refining company, with a total daily output of nearly 3.3 million barrels. Its fast growth has flattened, but revenues remain high.
Verizon descends from the Bell Atlantic Corporation, one of the Baby Bell companies created in 1983 following a governmental antitrust case against American Telegraph and Telephone (AT&T). The company became Verizon in 2000 with the acquisition of GTE in one of the largest mergers in U.S. business history. Verizon built a nationwide network for its wireless telephone and broadband Internet technology. Although market share for its wireless services grew steadily, competition from AT&T as well as cable companies offering bundled Internet and home telephone services saw profits in household telephone services shrink. Verizon acquired MCI in 2006 and currently ranks as the second-largest telecommunications company in the United States, with nearly $100 billion in annual revenues.
Walgreen Company began as a neighborhood drugstore founded by Charles Walgreen, Sr., in Chicago in 1901. A combination of efficient service and savvy marketing quickly made the drugstore a success in Chicago’s South Side, and the Walgreen Company opened four additional stores by 1915. The Great Depression did not seriously affect the company, which by that time had opened nearly six hundred stores in thirty-three states. The company became the first drugstore to advertise on the radio in 1931. Walgreen continued to expand during and after World War II, even opening a not-for-profit pharmacy in the Pentagon that earned a commendation from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Expansion during the 1990’s included an Internet- and satellite-based system linking all stores to track inventory and patient records. Walgreen opened its six thousandth store near New Orleans in 2007 and averages 425 new stores each year. In a bid to compete with rival CVS, Walgreen took steps in 2008 to enter the health care services market with Take Care centers at four hundred of its stores.
Founded in 1923 by Walt Disney and his brother Roy, the fledgling company was called the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and secured a contract for a series of live action and animated cartoons. The company became the Walt Disney Studio in 1926, and its progress over the next several decades was marked by innovations in animation and the creation of some of the most beloved characters in film and cartoon history. In addition to animated films, Disney branched out into live-action films with the creation of Touchstone Films in 1984 and the acquisition of Miramax in 1993. Michael Eisner took the helm in 1984 and presided over a period of rapid expansion. A failed hostile takeover attempt by Comcast in 2004 led to Eisner’s ouster, but the company’s diversification of services and a string of global hit films have created steady growth. Disney’s eleven theme parks, network and cable channels, including ABC and ESPN, and its consistently popular theatrical releases have positioned the Walt Disney Company as one of the largest global corporations in the world.
Washington Mutual was founded in 1889 as a building and loan company in the wake of a devastating fire that nearly destroyed the city of Seattle, Washington. Its amortized home loan, introduced in 1890, helped bolster Seattle’s growing population and helped it rebuild after the fire. The company grew an impressive 68 percent through World War I. It financial strength allowed it to acquire other institutions that had lost stability with the advent of the Great Depression, beginning with the Continental Mutual Savings Bank in 1930. Washington Mutual was an early member of the first shared automated teller machine (ATM) network, called the Exchange, and helped introduce the first pay-by-phone program during the 1970’s. In 1983, Washington Mutual became a capital stock savings bank and one of the largest financial services and consumer lending organizations in the United States. In 2008, Washington Mutual faced losses from a growing home mortgage crisis. In September, it failed and was merged into JPMorgan Chase.
Henry Wells and William George Fargo founded Wells Fargo during the midst of the gold rush in San Francisco, California, in 1852. They opened offices in mining camps and the new cities that sprouted up around the camps to purchase gold and provide banking services. During the 1860’s, the company opened a stage coach line and began shipping express mail, goods, and financial transactions across the country. By the turn of the century, Wells Fargo had operations in six thousand locations and had built a reputation for quick, reliable services. Following the nationalization of all express transportation routes during World War I, Wells Fargo shifted focus to its banking services. Fueled by several mergers and acquisitions, it opened new branches across northern California during the 1960’s and expanded statewide during the 1980’s. Wells Fargo became the first major financial institution to offer Internet banking services in 1995. Norwest purchased the company in 1998 but kept the Wells Fargo name. The bank boasts nearly six thousand branches and 23 million customers.
Founded in 1911 as the Upton Machine Company by the Upton brothers, Whirlpool has become the largest producer of home appliances in the world. Its flagship product, a motor-driven wringer clothes washer, quickly became a best seller, and Upton machines were added to the Sears catalog under the brand name Allen in 1916. The company adopted the name Whirlpool in 1950 and sold its first top-loading washing machine that year. After acquiring RCA’s line of cooking ranges, Whirlpool successfully marketed its RCA Whirlpool Miracle Kitchen in 1957 to television audiences across the United States. Annual revenues surpassed the $2 billion mark in 1978 as Whirlpool acquired several new companies in the United States and Europe. In 2006, the U.S. Justice Department approved Whirlpool’s acquisition of the Maytag Corporation, making it the largest appliance maker in the world. The company markets its products under brand names including Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, and Amana in nearly every country in the world.
Founded in 1980 through a merger of Austin, Texas-based Safer Way Natural Foods and the Clarksville Natural Grocery, Whole Foods Market targeted a growing trend toward healthy and organically grown foods. The company nearly failed in 1981 when Austin was struck by a flood that destroyed the fledgling store’s entire stock of products. With the help of investors and friends, the store reopened in less than a month. By 1988, Whole Foods had opened stores in Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans. It expanded to the West Coast in 1989. Expansion was stimulated by the company’s acquisition of several other natural food chains across the United States. Whole Foods Market opened its first store in Canada in 2002, and two years later, it expanded to the United Kingdom with the purchase of the Fresh & Wild chain. The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the company’s acquisition of its principal rival Wild Oats Market in 2007, but the merger was ultimately approved. The company ranks consistently among the world’s most socially conscious businesses, according to Harris International’s annual corporate rankings, for its focus on organic foods and the measures it has taken toward environmentally sound practices.
F. W. Woolworth’s was one of the earliest five-and-dime stores, which sold goods at low, fixed prices that undercut larger competitors. The first store, opened in 1878 in Utica, New York, failed in its first year, but a second store in Pennsylvania thrived. Several new branches were opened by 1910. That year, owner Frank Woolworth initiated the construction of the Woolworth Building in New York City. Completed in 1913, it was the tallest building in the world until 1930 and served as the company’s headquarters. Woolworth incorporated the company in 1911 and brought together several chains of stores, including friendly rivals, with which he had established collaborations. The company introduced lunch counters in many of its stores. One of them in Greensboro, North Carolina, became the site of a famous civil rights sit-in when a group of African Americans were refused service in 1960. The company expanded during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and Woolworth purchased Kinney Shoes and Foot Locker as independent subsidiaries. A failure to compete with larger discount chains and an increased focus on athletic goods led to a significant decline during the late 1980’s. In 1997, Woolworth’s closed its U.S. stores and adopted the name Venator. Two years later, the company left the Woolworth’s Building and changed its name to Foot Locker.
Xerox began as a small photographic paper supplier called the Haloid Company in 1906. It licensed the new technology of electrophotography, developed by Chester Carlson, in 1947 and began a decade of research and development. The company changed its name to Haloid Xerox in 1958 and produced its first plain-paper copy machine, the Xerox 914, the following year. Xerox also created the first desktop photocopier in 1963 and the first laser printer in 1969. During the 1970’s, the company founded a research and development center in Palo Alto, California, and developed several key computer components, such as the mouse and the graphical user interface (GUI). In 1973, the company produced a minicomputer called the Xerox Alto but saw no commercial sales potential. Apple bought the rights to the user interface and adapted it for use in its Apple Macintosh personal computer in 1984. During the 1990’s, Xerox produced a number of digital office solutions incorporating photocopying and digital printing in a computer network environment and shifted its focus toward document management technology. The term “xerox” has become synonymous with the word “photocopy,” and from its early roots as a paper supplier, the Xerox Corporation built a global document management firm with operations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
Jerry Yang and David Filo created the Yahoo! search engine while they were graduate school students in engineering at Stanford University. High traffic on the search engine led Yang and Filo to incorporate as Yahoo! in 1995, and the company expanded its services over the next four years to include Web mail, news, games, and other consumer services. The company was one of the few Internet start-ups to survive when the dot-com bubble burst in 2001. In the next few years, Yahoo! formed strategic partnerships with telecommunications companies to expand into broadband services and acquired several other search engines and Web technologies in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The growing popularity of its rival search engine Google and the advent of Google Mail, or G-Mail, curbed the growth of Yahoo! It had negotiated a potential merger with Microsoft for several years, but a friendly takeover bid in early 2008 was ultimately rejected. A second, unsolicited bid for purchase by Microsoft was also rejected later in the year, just as the company announced plans for a possible advertising collaboration with Google. Amid criticism from shareholders, Yang stepped down as chief executive officer in 2008.