The Dow Jones Industrial Average, today’s primary indicator for the well-being of the stock market in the United States, was created in the 1880s as a daily newsletter put out by financial reporters Charles Dow and Edward Jones. Their company, Dow Jones & Co., produced the Customer’s Afternoon Letter, a recap of the day's events on the stock market.
That first newsletter in 1883 contained the average stock prices for a grouping of 12 businesses: 10 railroads and two industrial companies. The original index was reconstituted into the Dow Jones Rail Average (changed to the Dow Jones Transportation Average in the 1970s to be more inclusive of modes of transport), while a new stocks index called the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was added in 1896 to cover 12 non-railroad companies. Dow Jones & Co.’s indexes were essential reading for investors at the time, who had trouble finding reliable information about a company’s finances without that information being corrupted or hidden by the companies themselves. Today, the Transportation Average is the oldest stock index still in use, second only to the DJIA.
Dow Jones & Co. turned its newsletter into a newspaper in 1889 and called it the Wall Street Journal. The company published its first official Industrial Average May 26, 1896, with a value of 40.94, meaning the average share price of the 12 companies on the index was $40.94. Today, the DJIA contains 30 companies and eclipsed the 27,000 mark for the first time in 2019.
Stacker compiled a list of the 12 original companies that appeared in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) from Investopedia. Along with each slide, you’ll find each company’s history prior to being added in 1896, and what happened since that day. Some of the original Dow Dozen lasted only a few years, either falling victim to changes in the market or the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which put an end to a couple of these companies.
Only one of those on the following list still exists under the same name today and remains the only company to be included in the Dow for 100 consecutive years. Keep reading to find out the 12 original companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and what happened to them.
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The American Cotton Oil Company traces its roots to a trust established in the 1880s by a group of Texas and Arkansas cotton mill owners looking to regulate the price of seed. An antitrust lawsuit in Louisiana forced the trust to be dissolved, and the American Cotton Oil Company was born. It would remain on the Dow Jones Industrial Average until 1901.
American Cotton Oil was absorbed in 1929 and the name changed to Best Foods in 1931. Best Foods merged with Corn Products Company in 1958, before split into Ingredion and Bestfoods in 1997. In 2000 Unilever purchased Bestfoods, which also includes the Skippy Peanut Butter and Knorr Soups brands, for $24.3 billion.
Henry Havemeyer was a third-generation sugar refiner when he founded the American Sugar Refining Company in 1891. The company was created when Havemeyer’s Sugar Trust, a conglomerate of the top refiners, was ordered to be broken up by the New York State Court in 1890. The resulting American Sugar Refining Company used the name Domino Sugar beginning in 1900 and remained on the DJIA until 1930.
Domino Foods took the name Amstar in 1970 and sold in 1988 to Tate & Lyle, which would rename itself the Domino Sugar Corporation. American Sugar Refining purchased the company in 2001, and still operates today as Domino Foods, the largest marketer of sugar in the U.S. The New York City Domino Sugar factory, which was rebuilt following a fire in 1882, continued to refine sugar until it closed and reopened as Domino Park in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section in 2018.
The American Tobacco Company was founded in 1890 by James Buchanan Duke, who combined five major cigarette producers under one name. Duke had helped revolutionize the tobacco industry in the 1880s by introducing mass production to his family’s business, and the resulting American Tobacco Company controlled nearly 90% of the cigarettes produced in the U.S.
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By 1907, American Tobacco had bought up nearly 250 competitors when the federal government filed an action against it under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. In 1911, on the same day that Standard Oil lost its antitrust suit, the Supreme Court ordered that the American Tobacco Company be dissolved. The company’s assets were split among three existing tobacco companies, including R. J. Reynolds, and created a new American Tobacco Co., which rejoined the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1924, where it remained until 1985.
The Chicago Gas Company formed in the mid-19th century. It spent just two years on the Dow Jones before it was absorbed—and replaced on the index—by regional competitor Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company in 1898. Peoples fell off the Dow Jones in 1915, despite the index expanding from 12 to 20 companies.
Peoples Gas constructed a pipeline from Texas to Chicago in 1932 that allowed natural gas to be used for industrial purposes for the first time. By 1962, it could heat every home in Chicago and continued expanding with the acquisition of North Shore Natural Gas the following year. Integrys Energy Group purchased Peoples in 2007 and still operates in Illinois today as a subsidiary of Wisconsin-based WEC Energy Group, which bought Integrys in 2015 for $9.1 billion.
The Distilling & Cattle Feeding Company was organized in Illinois in 1887 as a trust by a group of local distilleries, which would become known as the Whisky Trust. At its peak, the Whisky Trust produced more than 90% of the nation’s alcohol. Just a few months after debuting on the Dow, it was reorganized as American Spirits Manufacturing after it was deemed a monopoly by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1895.
American Spirits Manufacturing would return to the Dow in 1934 as National Distillers following the lifting of Prohibition, where it remained until 1959. The business expanded into chemical and metals manufacturing during that time and sold the spirits portion of the company to James B. Beam Distilling in 1987. The chemicals aspect of American Spirits would be renamed as Quantum Chemicals in 1988, which would merge with Hanson to create Millennium Chemicals. It remains one of the world’s largest producers of titanium dioxide.
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A merger in 1892 between Thomas Edison’s Edison General Electric Company and the competing Thomson-Houston Company produced General Electric. Edison, who had invented the light bulb in the years prior, would step away from the boardroom and return to the laboratory, founding GE’s central laboratory in Schenectady, N.Y., in 1900. Mergers played significant roles in GE’s expansion, taking it from an electricity company to one with investments in a wide range of businesses.
Since its founding, GE has been among the largest and most innovative companies in the U.S., responsible for introducing the modern train engine, the microwave oven, radio, and television. Branching into financial services in the 1980s would prove profitable until the Great Recession, prompting GE to sell off its financial services arm and return to its industrial roots. GE would bow out of the Dow Jones shortly in 1898 and again in 1901 but would rejoin in 1907 and become the only company to spend 100 years on the index before it was removed again in 2018.
Laclede Gas Light Company was set up by the Missouri legislature in 1857 with a goal of lighting the streets of St. Louis and providing its residents with access to natural gas. Named for French explorer Pierre Laclede, who founded the city of St. Louis, Laclede began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1889. After debuting in the Dow Dozen, Laclede acquired or merged with a handful of other power and gas companies around the city before falling off the Dow Jones index in 1899.
The completion of a natural gas pipeline from Louisiana to St. Louis in the early 1930s and World War II use of coal by-product toluol in TNT, helped the Laclede Gas Company continue to grow. It acquired St. Louis County Gas Company in 1950 and changed the name of the business to Laclede Gas. In 2001, the company became the Laclede Group, followed by a name change to Spire in 2017, and today is the eighth-longest continuously traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.
Founded in Philadelphia in 1772, the conglomeration of smaller lead smelters didn’t officially adopt the name National Lead Company until 1891. Twenty-five lead mining companies joined forces to form the National Lead Trust to compete with larger manufacturers while eliminating competition between members. Public concern over trusts saw it dissolve and reemerge as the National Lead Company in 1891.
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In 1907, the National Lead Company unveiled its most successful brand, Dutch Boy Paint, and while it was removed from the Dow Jones in 1916, the National Lead Company released a corresponding Dutch Boy picture book for children to help ease public concern over lead’s safety in 1923. On April 15, 1971, the company officially changed its name to NL Industries, and in 1980 sold the Dutch Boy brand to Sherwin Williams, who still produces the brand.
Henry Villard set up North American as a holding company in the 1890s in New Jersey with an eye toward railroads and electric utilities. Villard, a journalist and financier, had previously served as president of both the Northern Pacific Railway (1881-84), and Edison General Electric, the precursor to GE. North American had the shortest run of the Dow Jones’ original 12, lasting just three months on the index.
The North American Company reentered the Dow Jones in 1928 when it expanded to include 30 businesses but was again replaced in 1930 by Johns-Manville. The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 banned utility companies from engaging in unregulated activity and gave the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the power to regulate and break up electric holding companies. The North American Company sued the SEC in the U.S. Supreme Court but lost its bid to remain solvent on April 1, 1946.
The Sewanee Mining Company was formed in 1852 in Tennessee before financial setbacks prompted a series of mergers in 1886 and renaming to the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TCI). Operations, which had been controlled by both sides at one point during the Civil War, were moved to Birmingham, Ala., where TCI bought up several local coal mines, as well as the Bessemer Rolling Mill Company, its first step in producing finished steel products.
Rapid expansion and changing management brought with it many problems for TCI in the early 20th century: labor problems and poor maintenance chief among them. The financial Panic of 1907 sent TCI stock tumbling, when U.S. Steel, led by banker J.P. Morgan, agreed to purchase a controlling interest with assurances from President Theodore Roosevelt the deal didn’t violate antitrust laws. U.S. Steel, which was the nation’s first billion-dollar company, joined the Dow Jones in 1901 upon its formation, where it remained until 1991, taking the name USX Corporation in 1986.
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Organized in 1893 in New York City, the United States Leather Company comprised 60 businesses that joined to create one of the largest corporations in the world at the time. Focused on producing tanned leather to be used for the soles of shoes, the Leather Trust, as it would be known, was formed to push back competition from tanneries around Chicago’s meat-packing district and secure necessary hemlock for the tanning process.
A number of factors led to the decline in leather in the early 1900s and eventually the dissolution of the United States Leather Company in 1952. Decreased access to hemlock bark, pollution, and advancements in transportation that decreased shipping costs meant tanneries were no longer tethered to nearby bark sources. U.S. Leather was removed from the Dow Jones in 1905 and became the only member of the original Dow Jones 12 to completely dissolve.
The United States Rubber Company was founded in 1892 by nine rubber manufacturers in and around Naugatuck, Conn. One of those companies, the Naugatuck-India Rubber Company, was originally owned by Charles Goodyear, who pioneered the process of vulcanization in 1844. United States Rubber Company remained on the Dow Jones Industrial Average until it expanded to 30 business in 1928 and was dropped.
The United States Rubber Company would bring the first sneaker to market in 1916, the Keds Champion, which is still available today. It would team up with four other manufacturers in the early 1940s to create synthetic rubber after supplies from Southeast Asia had been cut off at the start of World War II. In 1961, the company reorganized under the name Uniroyal, merged with the Goodrich Corporation in 1986, before selling its North American interest to Michelin in 1990 for $1.5 billion. The World’s Largest Tire, which doubled as a Ferris Wheel during the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, still bears the Uniroyal name in Allen Park, Mich.
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