50 Surprising Facts About American Companies and Their History – Part 2

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26Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments invented the silicon transistor, the semiconductor, the transistor radio, and TTL chips. They’re also 199nd (as of 2019) on the Fortune 500 list, with a worth of $100 billion, and only 3% of their annual revenue comes from the calculators they are usually associated with.


27. Breakfast wasn’t regarded as the most important meal of the day until an aggressive marketing campaign by General Mills in 1944. They would hand out leaflets to grocery store shoppers urging them to eat breakfast, while similar ads would play on the radio.


28. Colgate-Palmolive bought a Chinese toothpaste brand called Darkie in 1985. The name was changed to Darlie but is still sold in China as Black Person Toothpaste.


29. VISA and MasterCard both started as not-for-profits and only turned in for-profits in 2006-2008.


30. In 1971, Nike paid a college student $35 for the “swoosh” logo she designed. In 1983, Paul Knight sent her a golden Swoosh diamond ring, with an undisclosed amount of Nike stock as thanks.


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31Kellogg

During the Great Depression, W.K. Kellogg structured his cereal plant to work four six-hour shifts instead of three eight-hour shifts, providing employment for more people.


32. In 1951, MGM owed the dog who played Lassie $40,000 in back pay. Not planning any more Lassie movies, MGM instead gave the rights to the Lassie trademark to the dog’s trainer, who spun it off into a TV show that ran for 19 seasons.


33. The graphics company Nvidia is named after the Latin ‘invidia’, which means ‘envy’. This is also the reason why they use the color green, as in “green with envy.”


34. In 1975 Procter & Gamble released the super-absorbent and long-lasting 'Rely' Tampon brand, marketed under the tagline “It Even Absorbs the Worry.” However, because women left the tampon in so long, the bloody tampon was the perfect environment to culture bacteria, causing an epidemic of Toxic Shock Syndrome.


35. The Post-It note was created by employees at 3M during their own “permitted bootlegging” time, a company-sanctioned time in which employees could work on their own side projects.


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36Pepsi

In the 1940s, Pepsi saw African Americans as an untapped niche market. Pepsi adverts portrayed them in a positive light, in a time with racial segregation, in spite of facing threats from KKK. Pepsi’s market share increased by the 1950s and African Americans were 3 times more likely to buy Pepsi than Coca-Cola.


37. In the 1960s, General Electric designed a system that could bring an astronaut from orbit to the Earth’s surface in an emergency. The system consisted of a plastic bag that would be filled with polyurethane foam, a small deorbit rocket, and a parachute. It could fit into a suitcase.


38. Union Pacific train operators once faced a real-life "trolley problem" when 30 of its cars broke loose during a switching operation and headed at high speed without breaks toward downtown Los Angeles. They decided to derail them on a side track, destroying two homes and injuring 13 people.


39. The Kodak Company used a 13-month calendar from 1924 to 1989 and George Eastman pushed for its worldwide acceptance. It was a 28 day per month calendar.


40. In 1982 Xerox management watched a film of people struggling to use their new copier and laughed that they must have been grabbed off a loading dock. The people struggling were Ron Kaplan, a computational linguist, and Allen Newell, a founding father of artificial intelligence.


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41Activision

Programmers for Atari in the late 70s went to the CEO of the company asking for royalties and their names be included in the boxes. When he turned them down they went and formed their own company, Activision.


42. In 1930, two brothers created the first car radio which was called a “motorized victrola” which they shortened to Motorola.


43. The Band-Aid was invented in 1920 by Johnson & Johnson employee Earle Dickson for his wife Josephine, who frequently cut and burned herself while cooking.


44. Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Trivago, Travelocity, and Orbitz are all owned by the same company, Expedia Inc.


45. In 1965, Honeywell tried to sell a $10,000 ($75,000 in today's dollars) “Kitchen Computer” with a built-in cutting board. It included a two-week course on how to use it. They sold none.


46Kellogg

The Kellogg’s cereal company has a royal warrant, in part because they make some of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite breakfast cereals.


47. The term ‘soap operas’ originated from daily 15 minute programs on the radio and were so-called because they were sponsored by soap companies, such as Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble. Soap operas were specifically engineered to appeal to women with the intention of increasing the sale of soap.


48. Halliburton once tried to patent patenting.


49. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) was founded in 1902 when five men believed they had secured a valuable corundum mine. They later realized their mineral holding was entirely anorthosite, a mineral devoid of corundum and useless to their venture.


50. The FedEx logo has won over 40 design awards and was ranked as one of the eight best logos in the last 35 years. The white arrow in the logo was an intentional design choice, created by blending two different fonts together.

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