Our Nation's Largest Corporations in the Early 1800's (Banks Dominate!)

April 16, 2012 No Comments »

Bank Of United StatesThere was a fascinating piece on NPR’s money blog the other day highlighting “the 10 largest Corporations in 1812.

In it Richard Sylla, an NYU professor, discusses the rise and fall of entire industries throughout the relatively brief history of the US as well as the governmental involvement in one particularly dominant industry dating back to the days of our founding fathers.

What was particularly interesting for us to learn, and perhaps already obvious to some, was that when you consolidated the list of the biggest corporations in the early 1800′s into the top 20, it was nearly ALL banks (19 out of 20) besides one exceptional fur-trading company.

And if you think there is too much involvement (financially) in the banking industry today by the federal government, you’d have been outraged at the level of involvement some two-hundred-fifty years ago. In fact, Alexander Hamilton the first US Secretary of the Treasury, was the instrumental key in creating the largest US bank in history – the Bank of the United States. From the very beginning this bank was an odd hybrid of public and private ownership, with a 20 percent stake owned by the federal government, according to Sylla.

Top 20 Companies 1812:

  1. Bank of the United States
  2. Bank of America
  3. State Bank
  4. Bank of Pennsylvania
  5. City Bank of New York
  6. Farmers Bank of Virginia
  7. Philadelphia Bank
  8. Manhattan Company
  9. American Fur Company – Only Non-Bank!
  10. Boston Bank
  11. Union Bank of the City of New York
  12. State Bank of North Carolina
  13. Bank of Virginia
  14. City Bank of Baltimore
  15. Mechanics Bank in the City of New York
  16. Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Bank
  17. Merchants’ Bank in the City of New York
  18. Bank of Baltimore
  19. Farmers Bank of Maryland
  20. Union Bank

Oh how we’ve diversified! Top 10 US Companies in 2012:

  1. Exxon Mobile
  2. Apple Inc.
  3. Microsoft Corp.
  4. IBM
  5. Chevron Inc.
  6. Google Inc.
  7. Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
  8. General Electric Co.
  9. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  10. AT&T Inc.

As of April 2012, only two banks reside in the top 20: Wells Fargo (13) and JP Morgan Chase (15).


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