The Oldest American Businesses

When looking at the history of U.S. businesses, you find that they all started out small in the land of opportunity, but endured generations of change to become the oldest American businesses. It's fun to think that some of these companies are so old that their founders of were once referred to as "Robber Barons". As business grew in America, so did these companies.

Business Established

All of these U.S. Businesses still have a strong hold in the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange).

One of these is Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company, now known as U.S. Steel, and on the stock market page, you can find it listed as simply X. This company was founded by Andrew Carnegie as the Carnegie Steel Company in the 1870's. In the 1890's, this company became the most profitable and largest in the world and was sold to J.P. Morgan's U.S. Steel in 1901. U.S. Steel has had a name change along the way; renamed USX Corporation in 1991, it did go back to United States Steel Corporation in 2001. There are three operating segments of U.S. Steel®; the European market (USSE), Flat-rolled Products (Flat-rolled), and Tubular Products (Tubular). U.S. Steel is still running strong and has its hand, not only in the American industry, but also just completed the acquisition of Lone Star Technologies Inc.®, on June 2007.

Where would the history of American business be without the benefit of the railway? How would anything have gotten anywhere without it? Northern Pacific Railway was financed by the firm of Jay Cooke in 1870. After he was forced into bankruptcy, George Stephen and Douglas Smith bought the railroad for pennies on the dollar, where they finished building the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is listed as BNSF on the NYSE, and is still a railway; only the name was changed to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation. Another tycoon, Collis Potter Huntington, founded not only one railroad but two. In 1861 he founded Central Pacific Railroad which ran the transcontinental railroad, but he also led and developed the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1868. Both railroads were taken over by Union Pacific Railroad® in 1996 and are listed as UPC on the NYSE.

As much as you may not like smoking, the American Tobacco Company® has been around since 1890, founded by J.B. Duke, and merged with many tobacco manufacturers. It is listed as FO (Fortune Brands®) on the NYSE and is now a common stock.

Standard Oil is next on the list, with co-founders John D. and William Rockefeller, Henry Morrison Flagler, Samuel Andrews, and a silent partner Stephen V. Harkness. It is notable to mention that in less than 2 months, Standard Oil absorbed or destroyed most of its competition in 1872. Now named BP Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust®, it is listed as BPT on the NYSE.

One of the strongest, most notable, visionaries in the history of American business cannot be ignored, Henry Ford. In 1903, he kicked off the Ford Motor Company® recognized as F on the NYSE.

Not too many would think that barbed wire would take a part in the history of American business, but in 1876, John Warne Gates started the Southern Wire Company, which eventually was sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 and became part of the U.S. Steel Conglomerate. He also was the founder of the Texaco oil company in 1899 which merged into the Chevron Corporatio®n in 2001, NYSE: CVX

The last one on the list would be J.P. Morgan, who founded one of the oldest financial services firms in the world. J.P. Morgan Chase® is listed on the NYSE as JPM. A leader in the industry, not only in the history of business organizations, but also in the international business, this financial institution was founded in 1799.

All these businesses have important parts to play in the history of US Businesses. Without the railroads, goods could not have traveled coast to coast. Steel is needed for buildings,cars, laying the tracks for the railroad, and so much more. Cars are used all over the world, thanks in part to Mr. Ford. Barbed wire was for the cattlemen of our nation. Without financing, none of this would have happened. Each of these businesses has contributed to the success of our nation. Without them, we would not be who we are today.

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