THROWBACK THURSDAY: Oldest US Companies Still in Business

{Excerpted from Business News Daily online}

Here’s a brief history of American companies that were all started before 1800 and are still thriving today.

This perfume and soap company was started by Dr. William Hunter as an apothecary shop in Newport, Rhode Island. 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. 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 by printer Thomas Green as the Connecticut Courant and is America’s oldest newspaper in continuous publication; the Courant‘s slogan to this day is “Older than the nation.” According to the its website, George Washington placed an ad 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.

The chocolate company was founded just outside Boston 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. Today, the company is owned by Kraft but continues to sell a wide range of Baker’s branded products.

King Arthur Flour was founded 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. 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. 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.

If you’ve ever had to fill out an exam with a No. 2 pencil, Dixon Ticonderoga should be a familiar name. 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 are now based in Lake Mary, Florida.

Bourbon was born in the 1770s when corn farmers of the Kentucky region of Virginia distilled their excess crop into a sweeter whiskey, according to Jim Beam’s website. In 1795, history was made when distiller Jacob Beam sold his first barrel of whiskey, called “Old Jake Beam Sour Mash,” from the family distillery, which was known as “Old Tub.” The company didn’t change its name to Jim Beam until 1943, named after Colonel James B. Beam, the fourth generation of the Beam family to take over the distillery. In 2005, the company sold its 10 millionth barrel of whiskey.

The largest bank in the U.S. had meager beginnings as The Manhattan Company, according to company history. Founded by Aaron Burr, it was the second commercial bank in New York City. It began as a venture to lay waterworks for the City of New York, and the charter for the group included a clause that allowed Burr to operate it as a bank after the waterworks project was completed. Through dozens of mergers, it became JP Morgan and a principal investor in the railroad in the 1800s and today operates in many industries besides banking.