GeneralHistory

American brands that have been around for longer than you thought

The United States has had a strong sense of innovation and entrepreneurship since before it was even established as a country, and it’s still home to many iconic and world-famous brands. Many of these companies have been able to stand the test of time, soldiering on through things like depressions, recessions, wars, and technological advancements aplenty.

But just how long have some of the country’s biggest brands been around? From chocolate companies to upscale outfitters and even breweries, here are some American brands that have been around for longer than you thought.

Baker’s Chocolate

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Founded: 1765

If you bake, then you’re probably familiar with Baker’s Chocolate, which produces sweetened and unsweetened chocolate squares that are often called for by name in recipes for everything from cookies to German chocolate cake.

But what you may not know is that this company actually precedes the Declaration of Independence! Baker’s Chocolate was founded in the Boston area in 1765 by two partners: James Baker and John Hannon. It was the first known chocolate company in the U.S.

After Hannon left for a sourcing trip to the West Indies and never returned, it became Baker’s business by default. Soon after, the company was branded Baker’s. Eventually, the product line expanded to include unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, confectioners’ chocolate and flavored chocolate.

The products remain popular on grocery shelves today and remains branded “Baker’s Chocolate,” but the company is now owned by Kraft.

Brooks Brothers

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Founded: 1818

Brooks Brothers has been a destination for Americans for over 200 years. Originally known as D.H. Brooks & Company, the upscale outfitter opened its first New York City store on April 7, 1818.

As a brand, Brooks Brothers has had a bigger impact on American fashion than you may realize. For example, they are credited with introducing ready-made suits to American customers way back in 1849. They also created the iconic Polo® Button-Down Oxford, which the company website refers to as “the most imitated item in fashion history.”

If you wear Brooks Brothers clothing, you’re in good company. Notable customers have included Cary Grant, Andy Warhol, Fred Astaire, Stephen Colbert, and 40 U.S. presidents.

These days, they’re easy to find, with more than 250 locations in the U.S. and more than 250 additional locations overseas.

Heinz

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Founded: 1869

The H.J. Heinz Company (or just Heinz, for short) has been serving its famous “57 varieties” since well before ketchup was commonplace on restaurant tables. The company has been around for 150 years.

Founded by an enterprising young man named Henry John Heinz in 1869 in Pittsburgh, the company was first famous for selling pickles and horseradish. An 1870s business panic forced company restructuring, but by the 1900s, Heinz had recovered and had become the nation’s largest producer of pickles, vinegar, and, yes, ketchup.

The company went on to expand globally: These days, Heinz ketchup is practically ubiquitous, and its products are standard in grocery stores across the world. In 2013, Heinz was purchased for $23 billion, and in 2015, the brand was merged with Kraft to form the Kraft Heinz Company, which is currently the fifth largest food company in America and Canada.

Coca-Cola

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Founded: 1886

America has been enjoying a Coke and a smile since way before you were born. Coca-Cola’s storied history began all the way back in 1886 when Atlanta pharmacist John S. Pemberton began tinkering with recipes for a non-alcoholic soft drink to sell at area soda fountains. He created a syrup that was sold and gained popularity around Atlanta.

A partnership was formed around Coca-Cola, and eventually one of the partners, Asa G. Candler, bought out the brand. It was at this point that Coca-Cola began to expand. Once the beverage began to be bottled in the 1890s, it caught on like wildfire, eventually going on to become a nationwide and then worldwide sensation.

These days, Coca-Cola company’s products are consumed at a dizzying rate: more than 1.9 billion drinks per day.

Long live American brands!

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Many of America’s most beloved brands have roots that date back a century or more. From food and beverage to innovative apparel, these companies are shining examples of American business ethics and inventiveness.