This is my 100th story so it has sentimental value since I am not a writer by training. When I accepted a BloggingStocks position I was not sure I would be able to work it into my schedule, much less whether anyone would even care about what I had to say. But so far, so good.
I wanted my 100th post to have some meaning so I have decided to write about companies that have withstood the test of time. We are rapidly closing in on 2007 and United Parcel Service will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. In 2007 the cumulative histories of these five diversified companies will total 692 years of business success. Most of the histories have been gathered from other sites which I have included for those who want to learn more.
United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE:UPS) Started in 1907.In 1907 there was a great need in America for private messenger and delivery services. To help meet this need, an enterprising 19-year-old, James E. (Jim) Casey, borrowed $100 from a friend and established the American Messenger Company in Seattle, Washington. According to accounts given by Jim there were quite a few messenger services already in the Seattle area, some of which he had worked for in the past.
That initial name was well-suited to the business pursuits of the new company. In response to telephone calls received at their basement headquarters, messengers ran errands, delivered packages, and carried notes, baggage, and trays of food from restaurants. They made most deliveries on foot and used bicycles for longer trips. Only a few automobiles were in existence at that time and department stores of the day still used horses and wagons for merchandise delivery. It would be six years before the United States Parcel Post system would be established.
Johnson & Johnson: (NYSE:JNJ) Started in 1885
The development of the first ready-made, ready-to-use surgical dressings by Johnson & Johnson in the mid-1880s marked not only the birth of a company, but also the first practical application of the theory of antiseptic wound treatment. A new product, based on a new surgical concept, led to a dramatic reduction in the threat of infection and disease, which claimed an appalling number of post-operative victims.
The story begins with the discoveries of Sir Joseph Lister, a noted English surgeon, who identified airborne germs as a source of infection in the operating room. He called them, with grim aptness, the "invisible assassins." Medical science was beginning to understand, however imperfectly, the need for greater care in protecting the wound area. Yet, this concept of myriad living organisms, unseen and deadly, remained beyond the grasp of many surgeons in the 19th century who were doubtful or even contemptuous of Lister's work.
Robert Wood Johnson concluded there ought to be a better way. Mr. Johnson joined with his two brothers, James Wood and Edward Mead Johnson, who had formed a partnership in 1885. Operations began in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1886 with 14 employees on the fourth floor of a small building that once was a wallpaper factory. In 1887 the company was incorporated as Johnson & Johnson. With few hospitals in the United States in 1887 large enough to use Lister's methods of antisepsis, Johnson & Johnson entered the surgical dressings industry.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) Started in 1875
The history of AT&T is in large measure the history of the telephone in the United States. AT&T's roots stretch back to 1875, with founder Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone. During the 19th century, AT&T became the parent company of the Bell System, the American telephone monopoly. The Bell System provided what was by all accounts the best telephone service in the world. The system broke up into eight companies in 1984 by agreement between AT&T and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Anheuse-Busch Companies, Inc. (NYSE:BUD) Started in 1860
In 1864, Adolphus Busch joined the fledgling brewery that would later become Anheuser-Busch.
While the company´s early years were demanding, Adolphus Busch proved up to the challenge. His keen vision, bold initiative, marketing savvy and passionate commitment to quality were his legacy to those who followed, and the high standards he established have been adhered to by each succeeding generation.
Today, Anheuser-Busch produces the two best-selling beers in the world, Budweiser and Bud Light, operates 12 breweries in the United States and additional operations around the globe. This timeline highlights some key dates in the company's over 150 year history.
CitiGroup Inc.: (NYSE:C) Started in 1812
Founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York by a group of New York merchants, the bank's first head was Samuel Osgood, who had been the U.S.'s first Postmaster General. Subsequently, ownership and management of the bank was taken over by Moses Taylor, a protégé of John Jacob Astor and one of the giants of the business world in the 19th century. During Taylor's ascendancy, the bank functioned largely as a treasury and finance center for Taylor's own extensive business empire.
In 1865 the bank joined the U.S.'s new national banking system and became The National City Bank of New York. By 1894, it was considered one of the largest banks in the United States, and in 1897, it became the first major U.S. bank to establish a foreign department. In 1913 it was the first contributor to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
National City became the first U.S. national bank to open an overseas banking office when its branch in Buenos Aires, Argentina was opened in 1914. Many of Citi's present international offices are older; offices in London, Shanghai, Calcutta and elsewhere were opened in 1901 and 1902 by the International Banking Corporation (IBC), a company chartered to conduct banking business outside the U.S., at that time an activity forbidden to U.S. national banks. In 1918, IBC became a wholly-owned subsidiary and was subsequently merged into the bank. By 1919 the bank had become the first U.S. bank to have $1 billion in assets.
Citigroup was rebannered in 1998 creating a comapny with a very broad range of financial services under one umbrella. It has 275,000 employees working in more than 100 countries and territories.
Surviving the test of time:
What do these five companies have in common? All provide a basic service or commodity that has never gone out of style. They all have had strong management teams from their inception and they have traditionally promoted a culture of business ethics and customer satisfaction believed to be extroardinary. They have been able to manage cash flow and debt efficiently. They have attracted a dedicated workforce. They have evolved with the times, embracing change, not fearing it, and manged to remain leaders in their respective industries.
There are many more worthy companies I could have added to the list. If you would like to extend the list and share your thoughts I encourage you to do so in the comments section. Depending on the level of interest I may do a follow-up story.
Interested in reading more? Check out my other posts for Blogging Stocks here.
Disclosure: I own shares of JNJ and UPS. I have owned AT&T and BUD. I am not alone, they are all among the most widely held stocks.
Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the vice president for design and research of an architecture & planning firm.