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The Founding Fathers of Branding: America’s Oldest Brands

Running a business is not an easy feat, and one made even more difficult by the pandemic and economic fallout that has followed. In general, only half of all companies survive long enough to surpass the five-year mark, let alone past their 200th birthday. That’s why we feel it’s worth it to take a look back at some of the first brands ever founded in the U.S. that are still going strong today.

If you’re a marketing expert, or simply a customer, you’re probably already familiar with these brands and their current positioning. But do you know how they started, and how far they’ve come? Here’s a little history lesson for you…

King Arthur Baking Co. (1790)

The household-name flour company, originally named Sands, Taylor & Wood Co., began by distributing imported European flour for bakers in the U.S. It wasn’t until a century later that the brand came out with its own American flour. With additional ventures such as King Arthur Baking School, the Baker’s Hotline, and the King Arthur Cafe, Bakery & Store, the brand underwent a light rebrand in 2020, re-introducing themselves as King Arthur Baking Co. with an updated mission statement.

JPMorgan Chase (1799)

Originally known as Manhattan Co., the bank was founded by Aaron Burr as the second commercial bank in NYC. Initially a venture designed to fund city infrastructure, the bank began by backing waterworks projects for the city and went on to become one of the principal investors in the development of the American railroad in the 1800s, which helped solidify its strength and staying power as a contemporary bank.

HarperCollins Publishers (1817)

Now one of the industry’s “Big Five” publishers, HarperCollins started off in Manhattan as J. & J. Harper, named for its two founding brothers. The book publishing company expanded into magazines and periodicals in 1850, including its famous publication Harper’s Bazaar, which is still on newsstands and read online today. The company has published some of the U.S.'s most revered authors, like Agatha Christie, Aldous Huxley, and Mark Twain, and has since gone international.

Brooks Brothers (1818)

Known as the oldest clothing retailer in the U.S., Brooks Brothers is the brand behind some of the first American-made, off-the-rack men’s suits, with this staple enduring as the brand’s trademark alongside their iconic two-button polo. By bringing refined, high quality menswear to America’s middle class, Brooks Brothers remains a go-to retailer and continues to produce the vast majority of their products within the U.S.

Harley-Davidson (1903)

Perhaps the most classically American brand of all, Harley-Davidson has come to stand for some of the U.S.’s national values of freedom and power. With the first Harley Davidson product being a motor small enough to fit on the back of a bicycle, the brand grew quickly into developing motor bikes and other motorcycle accessories, such as boots, jackets, and helmets, which are popular even among non-bikers. In recent years, the brand has even developed a fully-electric motorcycle called the Livewire, proving their versatility within the biking world.

Think your brand has what it takes to reach the ranks of these companies? We’re here to help you build the strongest version of your brand! Get in touch with our team of experts today!


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