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Some of the most well-known companies today are relative youngsters compared to other household names that have provided products and services to customers for centuries. Yes, centuries.
While large revenues do not automatically translate into a business that will live in infamy (AOL, anyone?), longevity means that a company has weathered wars, depressions, recessions and slumps — and still managed to maintain a high quality offering and position itself in the market to stand the test of time.
Here's a brief history of 19 American companies that were all started more than 150 years ago, and are still thriving today.
This perfume and soap company was started by Dr. William Hunter as an apothecary shop in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1752. Hunter served his distinguished clientele living in the nearby "cottages, " supplying their "medicinals" as well as their perfumes and personal care products, according to the company's website. George Washington gave a bottle of "Cologne Number 6" to the Marquis de Lafayette, and Lewis and Clarke took its products on their cross-country trek. Today, Caswell-Massey is owned by a private investment group and is based in New Jersey, with a store in New York City.
The Hartford Courant (1764)
The Connecticut-based newspaper was established in 1764 by printer Thomas Green as the "Connecticut Courant" and is known for being America's oldest newspaper in continuous publication, according to its website. In fact, the Courant's slogan to this day is "older than the nation." The publication boasts some impressive historical moments, too. According to the Courant's website, George Washington placed an ad in the paper, Mark Twain once tried to buy stock in the paper, and Thomas Jefferson sued the publication for libel and lost. The paper was also run by one of the country's first woman publishers, Hannah Watson, in 1777. Today, the Hartford Courant is owned by the Tribune Co., and boasts a daily circulation of 120, 000.
Baker's Chocolate (1765)
The chocolate company was founded just outside Boston in 1765 by a Harvard-educated doctor named James Baker and an Irish immigrant named John Hannon, according to The Bostonian Society. Hannon made his first recorded chocolate sale in 1772, but in 1779, Hannon embarked on a journey to the West Indies to buy cocoa, but never returned, leaving Baker to take over the business. In 1780, the company began making its first Baker's branded chocolate, and eventually expanded their line of products from unsweetened chocolate to cocoa powders, sweet chocolate, candy-making chocolate and flavored chocolate bars. Today, the company is owned by Kraft but continues to sell a wide range of Baker's branded products.
The tool company, which today makes everything from garden hoses and reels to professional hand tools, was started by a blacksmith, Captain John Ames, in Massachusetts in 1774. According to the company's website, its shovels were used in numerous landmark events, including the groundbreaking for the B & O Railroad in Baltimore; the building of the transcontinental railroad; the search for California gold in the 1840s; the installation of the Statue of Liberty; Admiral Byrd's exploration of Antarctica; the building of the Hoover Dam; the creation of Mount Rushmore; and the construction of the interstate highway system. Today, Ames is owned by Griffon Corp., a management and holding company, and is based in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
King Arthur Flour (1790)
King Arthur Flour was founded in 1790 in Boston by Henry Wood, but it wasn't until 1896 that the company got its name. Initially, Wood's business — then known as the Sands, Taylor & Wood Co. — started by importing European flour for use by bakers in the United States, and a century later, the company introduced its own American flour at the Boston Food Fair, according to the company's website. King Arthur Flour's headquarters have since moved to Norwich, Vermont, and now, more than 200 years later, you can still buy King Arthur Flour in stores.
Originally formed in Pennsylvania in 1792 as INA (Insurance Co. of North America), Cigna was the first marine insurance company in the United States, according to the company's website. In 1982, INA merged with the Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., also known as CG, which was formed in 1865, to become Cigna. The company, headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut, is still the nation's oldest stockholder-owned insurer.
Dixon Ticonderoga (1795)
If you've ever had to fill out an exam with a No. 2 pencil, Dixon Ticonderoga should be a familiar name. The graphite-pencil company started out all the way back in 1795, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Dixon Ticonderoga formed during a merger between the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. and the Bryn Mawr Corp., and started making pencils in the 1830s. The company's headquarters were in Jersey City, New Jersey, for more than 100 years, but the company is now based in Lake Mary, Florida. You can find out more about the history of the company on its website.
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