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Biggest company from the year you were born

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    Biggest company from the year you were born

    America has long best fascinated by titans of industry and the companies they reign. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, Andrew Carnegie’s eponymous steel company, and Steve Job’s legacy at Apple are just a few of the endeavors that have captivated the country by dominating their respective fields. While the means they employ to grow their companies can vary—product and process innovations, tactful risk-taking, or questionable monopolistic tactics—one thing can not be denied: these businesses show an impressive staying power that can last decades or even centuries.

    To help understand the massive companies that sit at the top of the U.S. economy, we looked to Fortune 500 archives for the largest companies by revenue for every year from 1955 to today, picking out the top five for each year. Read on to discover which companies were topping the list the year you were born, as well as the successes and pitfalls facing these companies in every year—from new car models to record-breaking mergers to huge union strikes, we’ve got it all.

  •  Lars-Goran Lindgren Sweden // Wikipedia
    2/ Lars-Goran Lindgren Sweden // Wikipedia

    1955 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $9.82 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $5.66 billion)

    3. U.S. Steel (Revenue: $3.25 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $2.96 billion)

    5. Esmark (Revenue: $2.51 billion)

    The inaugural Fortune 500 in 1955 was lead by major firms representing all areas of industry: General Motors, Jersey Standard (a predecessor to Exxon), U.S. Steel, General Electric, and consumer conglomerate Esmark.

    General Motors put out the 1955 Chevrolet, the first successful Chevy with an optional motoramic V8 engine.  This model was hugely successful for Chevrolet, and was heralded as the “car of the future.”

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    3/ Alden Jewell // Flickr

    1956 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $12.44 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $6.27 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $5.59 billion)

    4. U.S. Steel (Revenue: $4.10 billion)

    5. Chrysler (Revenue: $3.47 billion)

    Chrysler, which made the top five seven times from 1956-2005, introduced its first model with tail fins in 1956.  Such tailfins, common on many car models in the late 40’s and 50’s, were meant to stabilize cars by placing the center of pressure further to the rear, but many consumers were just as likely to buy them because they looked really flashy.

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    4/ Wikicommons

    1957 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $10.80 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $7.13 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $4.65 billion)

    4. U.S. Steel (Revenue: $4.23 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $4.09 billion)

    1957 was the year of General Motors’ ‘57 Chevy Bel Air, widely known as an auto icon. This model built on the ‘55 Chevy with a new dashboard, the relocation of air ducts to the headlight pods, a lower stance, and the famous ‘57 tailfins.

  • Unknown // Wikipedia
    5/ Unknown // Wikipedia

    1958 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $10.99 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $7.83 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $5.77 billion)

    4. U.S. Steel (Revenue: $4.41 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $4.34 billion)

    In 1958, Exxon Corporation fueled a landmark in American air travel: Pan American Airlines successfully navigated its first Boeing 707 flight from New York to London, with an airplane powered by Mobil aviation fuel.

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    6/ Joe Haupt // Wikipedia

    1959 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $9.52 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $7.54 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $4.13 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $4.12 billion)

    5. U.S. Steel (Revenue: $3.47 billion)

    General Electric, a solid runner-up for biggest company in this year’s #4 spot, released its P807A transistor radio in 1959. It looked slick, with gold finishings on the grill and dial, but could be bought at the (then pretty low) price of $20.

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    7/ Paul Maddams // Flickr

    1960 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $11.23 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $7.91 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $5.36 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $4.35 billion)

    5. U.S. Steel (Revenue: $3.64 billion)

    1960 saw a “wonderful new world of Fords,” ushered in with a famous commercial that combined American exceptionalism with the fantasy of cars falling from space.

  • Tino Rossini // Wikipedia
    8/ Tino Rossini // Wikipedia

    1961 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $12.74 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $8.03 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $5.24 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $4.20 billion)

    5. U.S. Steel (Revenue: $3.70 billion)

    In 1961, General Motors produced a car inspired by a shark.  William L. Mitchell, VP of the GM Styling Staff, turned a Mako shark he caught off the coast of Florida into the “Mako Shark” experimental corvette, featuring a supercharged engine and iridescent blue paint scheme.

  • Ronald Reagan Library // Wikipedia
    9/ Ronald Reagan Library // Wikipedia

    1962 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $11.40 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $8.44 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $6.71 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $4.46 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $3.32 billion)

    1962 marked the end of the tenth and final season of General Electric Theater, an American anthology series with different stars each week.  This show was sponsored by General Electric's Department of Public Relations, and hosted by none other than Ronald Reagan.

  • U.S. Navy // Wikipedia
    10/ U.S. Navy // Wikipedia

    1963 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $14.64 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $9.54 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $8.09 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $4.79 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $3.93 billion)

    In 1963, Humble (recently acquired by Jersey Standard's parent company) invented 3-D seismic technology that revolutionized the way Exxon searched for oil and gas resources around the world. This technology would come to the forefront of oil exploration when paired with computer imaging advances in the 1980s.

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    1964 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $16.49 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $10.26 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $8.74 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $4.92 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $4.35 billion)

    1964 was the year of the Ford Mustang - one of the fastest-selling cars in history, and a cultural icon to this day. This model was the first of the “pony cars:” inexpensive, sporty two-seaters with long hoods.

  • PANYNJ PORTfolio // Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
    12/ PANYNJ PORTfolio // Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

    1965 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $17.00 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $10.81 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $9.67 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $4.94 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $4.50 billion)

    New York City hosted the World’s Fair from April 1964 to April 1965.  This fair was a showcase of American consumerism and space age technology, remembered fondly by baby boomers as a hallmark of peace and prosperity before the Vietnam War.  General Motors, Ford, General Electric, and Mobil all had exhibits at the fair; Ford unveiled the Mustang, while GE showcased its scientists and engineers with photos projected in a Hall of Mirrors.  But the most popular exhibit was GM’s: visitors rode the Futurama, a “ride to the future” featuring scenes of exotic locations to which travel would soon theoretically be possible.

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    13/ Sicnag // Flickr

    1966 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $20.73 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $11.54 billion)

    3. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $11.47 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $6.21 billion)

    5. Chrysler (Revenue: $5.30 billion)

    1966 was another successful financial year for General Motors, but the company faced some legal trouble in the form of a Supreme Court case; a local court found evidence that General Motors was promoting its interests through a conspiracy of the Losor Chevrolet Dealers Association in the summer of 1960, violating the Sherman Act.  The case was decided in favor of the United States (against General Motors) on April 28, 1966.

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    1967 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $20.21 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $12.24 billion)

    3. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $12.19 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $7.18 billion)

    5. Chrysler (Revenue: $5.65 billion)

    Chrysler had a drop in sales in 1967, but still kept its revenue high enough to maintain its #5 spot on the Fortune 500 list. Its flagship model during this year was the New Yorker, a model Chrysler produced from 1940 until 1996 - the longest-running American nameplate.

  • Robert Skolmen // Wikipedia
    15/ Robert Skolmen // Wikipedia

    1968 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $20.03 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $13.27 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $10.52 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $7.74 billion)

    5. Chrysler (Revenue: $6.21 billion)

    General Motors opened its new New York City General Motors Building in 1968. This building, located on 5th Avenue facing Central Park, is now one of Manhattan’s most recognizable skyscrapers.

  • Chevrolet // Wikipedia
    16/ Chevrolet // Wikipedia

    1969 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $22.76 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $14.09 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $14.08 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $8.38 billion)

    5. Chrysler (Revenue: $7.45 billion)

    In 1969, Apollo 11 took to the moon, and General Motors took to the streets, with a new class of “experimental urban cars” designed to increase fuel efficiency.  These three models were small and supposedly aerodynamic - take a look at this promotional video and decide for yourself if you’d ever want to buy one.

  • Bill Wrigley // Wikipedia
    17/ Bill Wrigley // Wikipedia

    1970 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $24.30 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $14.93 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $14.76 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $8.45 billion)

    5. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $7.20 billion)

    The first seatbelt law was put in place in 1970 in Victoria, Australia; this law mandated that seatbelts were compulsory for all drivers and front-seat passengers. Meanwhile, in the American auto industry, Ford introduced three-point, self-adjusting and retracting lap- and shoulder-belts, similar to those in our cars today.

  • Lothar Schaack // Wikipedia
    18/ Lothar Schaack // Wikipedia

    1971 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $18.75 billion)

    2. Jersey Standard (Revenue: $16.55 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $14.98 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $8.73 billion)

    5. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $7.50 billion)

    In 1971, IBM’s CEO, Thomas J. Watson Jr., retired as a result of a heart attack. The company was then run by someone outside of the Watson family for the first time since 1916, but it still had some success with powerful products such as the IBM System/370 Model 195 computer and computers that helped run Mariner 9, the first spaceship to orbit Mars.

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    19/ Ike Vern // Wikipedia

    1972 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $28.26 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $18.70 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $16.43 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $9.43 billion)

    5. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $8.27 billion)

    Jersey Standard, a descendant of the venerable Standard Oil Company founded in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller Sr., officially became Exxon Corporation in 1972.

  • The Car Spy // Wikipedia
    20/ The Car Spy // Wikipedia

    1973 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $30.44 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $20.31 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $20.19 billion)

    4. General Electric (Revenue: $10.24 billion)

    5. Chrysler (Revenue: $9.76 billion)

    General Motors introduced the company’s first car seats in 1973. These seats were first marketed as “Child Love Seats: seats for those you want to protect.”

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    1974 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $35.80 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $25.72 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $23.02 billion)

    4. Chrysler (Revenue: $11.77 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $11.58 billion)

    1974 was Chrysler’s first year above #5 on the Fortune 500 list… but it was also their last year on the list. After 1974, even though their sales remained high, the company just wasn’t quite successful enough to reach those top rankings. Maybe this commercial featuring dramatic shots of a bald eagle and a voiceover by Richard Basehart was just too much for the American public to handle.

  • Department of State // Wikipedia
    22/ Department of State // Wikipedia

    1975 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $42.06 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $31.55 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $23.62 billion)

    4. Texaco (Revenue: $23.26 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $18.93 billion)

    In 1975, Exxon took the top spot - beating out General Motors for the first time with a staggering $15 billion increase in revenue from the previous year. This was also the year that Rex Tillerson, now President Trump’s Secretary of State, joined the company as a production engineer.

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    1976 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $44.86 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $35.72 billion)

    3. Texaco (Revenue: $24.51 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $24.01 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $20.62 billion)

    Texaco’s earnings were hurt by decreased production of crude oil and increased US income taxes, but the company still managed to increase profits by almost 5% and hit #3 on the Forbes 500 list - the highest spot it has managed in 50 years. Maybe their success is because Texaco was “working to keep [America’s] trust.”

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    24/ IFCAR // Wikipedia

    1977 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $48.63 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $47.18 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $28.84 billion)

    4. Texaco (Revenue: $26.45 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $26.06 billion)

    General Motors made a risky decision in 1977 as the company downsized its biggest cars, from its luxury Cadillacs to its more affordable Chevrolets. The move paid off, though: Cadillac DeVille series, in particular, sold over 200,000 models, more than all of Ford’s luxury Lincoln series combined.

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    1978 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $54.96 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $54.13 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $37.84 billion)

    4. Mobil (Revenue: $32.13 billion)

    5. Texaco (Revenue: $27.92 billion)

    In 1978, General Motors was back on top and continuing its big changes, with new models including a silver 25th anniversary Corvette and a downsized Chevrolet Malibu.

  • Peabody Energy, Inc. // Wikipedia
    26/ Peabody Energy, Inc. // Wikipedia

    1979 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $63.22 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $60.33 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $42.78 billion)

    4. Mobil (Revenue: $34.74 billion)

    5. Texaco (Revenue: $28.61 billion)

    A 1979 memo about the potential impact of fossil fuel combustion on CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, recently exposed by a group of investigative journalists from Columbia Journalism School, demonstrates that Exxon executives were aware of the implications of the oil business on global climate change. The company has since been accused of hiding these implications from the public in order to continue turning a profit.

  • Bull-Doser // Wikipedia
    27/ Bull-Doser // Wikipedia

    1980 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $79.11 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $66.31 billion)

    3. Mobil (Revenue: $44.72 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $43.51 billion)

    5. Texaco (Revenue: $38.35 billion)

    General Motors was back in the #2 spot in 1980, and facing some challenges. The 1980-1985 X-Body cars, a new class of models intended to bring four-wheel drive models into the mainstream auto industry, faced so many customer complaints that they saw more recalls than any other group of GM models.

  • Divulgacao Petrobras // Wikipedia
    28/ Divulgacao Petrobras // Wikipedia

    1981 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $103.14 billion)

    2. Mobil (Revenue: $59.51 billion)

    3. General Motors (Revenue: $57.73 billion)

    4. Texaco (Revenue: $51.20 billion)

    5. Chevron (Revenue: $40.48 billion)

    In 1981, General Motors was the only non-oil company in the top five. This was a big year for oil companies not leading the Fortune 500 list, as well: Du Pont (#15) bought out Conco (#14) for $7.3 billion, in what was at that time a record-breaking merger.

  • WClarke // Wikipedia
    29/ WClarke // Wikipedia

    1982 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $108.11 billion)

    2. Mobil (Revenue: $64.49 billion)

    3. General Motors (Revenue: $62.70 billion)

    4. Texaco (Revenue: $57.63 billion)

    5. Chevron (Revenue: $44.22 billion)

    In 1982, Exxon Corporation sued a British law firm, Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd., for use of the name Exxon (which was copyrighted by the fuel company in question.) The appellate court ruled in favor of the law firm, because the name “Exxon” held no weight as a literary work unless associated with the trademark of the corporation.

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    1983 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $97.17 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $60.03 billion)

    3. Mobil (Revenue: $59.95 billion)

    4. Texaco (Revenue: $46.99 billion)

    5. Ford Motor (Revenue: $37.07 billion)

    On January 7, 1983, human error at a Texaco gas terminal in Newark, New Jersey caused an explosion that killed one man and injured 22 others. The blast was felt as far away as Stanford, Connecticut, and the resulting fire burned for three days.

  • Unknown // ZDNet
    31/ Unknown // ZDNet

    1984 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $88.56 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $74.58 billion)

    3. Mobil (Revenue: $54.61 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $44.45 billion)

    5. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $40.18 billion)

    IBM climbed back into the top 5 in 1984 despite the concurrent rise of its competitor Apple, which premiered its first Mac computer that year. A famous Apple commercial aired during the 1984 Superbowl to advertise the Mac not-so-secretly referred to IBM as “Big Brother.”

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    1985 - Exxon Corporation

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $90.85 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $83.89 billion)

    3. Mobil (Revenue: $56.05 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $52.37 billion)

    5. Texaco (Revenue: $47.33 billion)

    In the fall of 1985, Ford introduced the Taurus, a car that “revolutionized automotive design” and scored high mileage per gallon. The Taurus sold over 250,000 models in just its first year on the market, and about 410,000 models within six years, making it one of the most popular cars in American history.

  • Cliff // Wikipedia
    33/ Cliff // Wikipedia

    1986 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $96.37 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $86.67 billion)

    3. Mobil (Revenue: $55.96 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $52.77 billion)

    5. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $50.06 billion)

    General Motors was back on top again in 1986, but the company also “acknowledged... that it would probably never regain the huge share of the market that it enjoyed more than a decade ago,” as the New York Times wrote that December. This statement accompanied reports of G.M.’s intent to close 21 of its 125 plants and eliminate nearly 18% of employees in the next few years.

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    1987 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $102.81 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $69.89 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $62.72 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $51.25 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $44.87 billion)

    In 1986, Exxon’s Research and Engineering division had an important breakthrough: 3D microtomography, an imaging technique that allows scanners to examine the structure of an opaque object (such as an underwater oil reserve) without damaging it.

  • Skeeze // Pixabay
    35/ Skeeze // Pixabay

    1988 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $101.78 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $76.42 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $71.64 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $54.22 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $51.22 billion)

    In 1988, IBM researchers created the fastest dynamic memory chips in computing history; they were able to process a single bit of information in 20 billionths of a second. These chips were experimental, though, and were never released on the market.

  • Rob Stapleton // AP
    36/ Rob Stapleton // AP

    1989 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $121.09 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $92.45 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $79.56 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $59.68 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $49.41 billion)

    On March 24, 1989, an Exxon oil tanker hit a reef in Prince William Sound (off the coast of Alaska), causing the release of 11 million gallons of oil into the environment. Exxon paid billions in fines and cleanup costs, but many Alaska beaches are still polluted by the spill.

  • Claus Ableiter // Wikipedia
    37/ Claus Ableiter // Wikipedia

    1990 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $126.97 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $96.93 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $86.66 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $63.44 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $55.26 billion)

    General Motors developed the experimental Impact sports coupe, one of the first electric cars designed as electric from the outset, in 1990. The 1996 EV1, GM’s first electric model to go into production, was based off of this prototype.

  • Ruben de Rijcke // Wikipedia
    38/ Ruben de Rijcke // Wikipedia

    1991 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $125.13 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $105.89 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $98.27 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $69.02 billion)

    5. Mobil (Revenue: $58.77 billion)

    1991 marked the release of IBM’s third generation of personal computers: the IBM Personal System/2 L40 SX. This system was far less compact than the laptops of today, but it did have a (comparatively) fast 80286 processor and new graphics systems.

  • George Burns // Wikipedia
    39/ George Burns // Wikipedia

    1992 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $123.78 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $103.24 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $88.96 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $65.39 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $60.24 billion)

    General Motors kept its top spot in 1992 despite recording a record loss for a U.S. company of $23.5 billion over the course of the year. GM hoped to move back in an upward direction through restructuring, closing 23 plants and eliminating 74,000 jobs.

  • Vinoo202 // Wikipedia
    40/ Vinoo202 // Wikipedia

    1993 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $132.77 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $103.55 billion)

    3. Ford Motor (Revenue: $100.79 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $65.10 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $62.20 billion)

    In similar fashion to GM the previous year, IBM lost around $8.9 billion in a single quarter between 1992 and 1993. The company worked to offset the costs by laying off 25,000 of their 300,000 workers, restructuring the board of directors, and pushing to keep up with the fast-paced technology market that focused more on personal desktops and less on bulky, outdated mainframes.

  • US Coast Guard // Coast Guard Alaska
    41/ US Coast Guard // Coast Guard Alaska

    1994 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $133.62 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $108.52 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $97.83 billion)

    4. Intl. Business Machines (Revenue: $62.72 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $60.82 billion)

    Exxon was involved with several court proceedings in 1993 relating to the disastrous 1989 oil spill, including one where the oil giant sued insurers for not wanting to help Exxon cover the damages owed to the victims affected by the spill, and another one where it was ruled that Exxon must pay $286.8 million as compensation to the Alaskan fishermen who lost their source of income due to the spill.

  • Archives New Zealand // Flickr
    42/ Archives New Zealand // Flickr

    1995 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $154.95 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $128.44 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $101.46 billion)

    4. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $83.41 billion)

    5. AT&T (Revenue: $75.09 billion)

    A union-led strike in September 1994 caused 11,500 General Motors employees to walk out of their jobs at the Flint, Michigan plant in protest of grueling overtime hours causing health issues. As GM worked to meet its high demand for cars, workers complained that the company should hire more full-time workers to ease the strain on the existing union workers, but GM could not agree on the number of workers that should be hired.

  • Department of State // Wikipedia
    43/ Department of State // Wikipedia

    1996 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $168.83 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $137.14 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $110.01 billion)

    4. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $93.63 billion)

    5. AT&T (Revenue: $79.61 billion)

    In the fall of 1995, Walmart pulled a shirt from its stock that said “Someday a woman will be president,” after some people complained that the shirt’s message was offensive. The company’s response to the shirt was that it “goes against Wal-Mart’s family values." The article resurfaced 20 years later when Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be the Democratic nominee for president, as a way to show how far the country has grown.

  • Yahya S // Flickr
    44/ Yahya S // Flickr

    1997 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $168.37 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $146.99 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $119.43 billion)

    4. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $106.15 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $79.18 billion)

    In 1997, Wal-Mart sat at number four on the list, having officially celebrated it's first $100 Billion sales year.

  • IFCAR // Wikipedia
    45/ IFCAR // Wikipedia

    1998 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $178.17 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $153.63 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $122.38 billion)

    4. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $119.30 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $90.84 billion)

    On June 5, 1998, General Motors saw the beginning of another large strike, as 3,400 members of the United Auto Workers union walked out of their jobs at a metal-stamping factory in Flint, Michigan. Flint was home to over 30,000 GM workers at 18 different factories - more than at any other singular place in the country.  The strike lasted seven weeks and halted production at factories around the US.

  • Rich Niewiroski Jr // Wikipedia
    46/ Rich Niewiroski Jr // Wikipedia

    1999 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $161.32 billion)

    2. Ford Motor (Revenue: $144.42 billion)

    3. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $139.21 billion)

    4. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $100.70 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $100.47 billion)

    November 30, 1999 was a landmark day for the oil industry: Exxon (#4) and Mobil (#8) joined forces to become Exxon Mobil. This merger made Exxon Mobil America’s largest oil company, and brought back together two pieces of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil that had been split apart in 1911.

  • Peter Broster // Wikipedia
    47/ Peter Broster // Wikipedia

    2000 - General Motors

    1. General Motors (Revenue: $189.06 billion)

    2. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $166.81 billion)

    3. Exxon Mobil (Revenue: $163.88 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $162.56 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $111.63 billion)

    General Motors and ALSTOM, a worldwide train company, worked together in 2000 to create a new, leading locomotive maintenance provider called ALSTOM End Services. As one of the world’s largest locomotive manufacturer and the global specialist in energy and transportation infrastructure, respectively, the two companies were well suited for this dual venture.

  • geralt // Pixabay
    48/ geralt // Pixabay

    2001 - Exxon Mobil

    1. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $210.39 billion)

    2. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $193.30 billion)

    3. General Motors (Revenue: $184.63 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $180.60 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $129.85 billion)

    Vice chair of Exxon stepped down

    Exxon’s fifth stock split took place in July 2001, the first split after the Exxon-Mobil merger. In this split, each holder of one of Exxon Mobil’s 3.4 billion shares received one additional share for each share held.

  • Lordcolus // Flickr
    49/ Lordcolus // Flickr

    2002 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $219.81 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $191.58 billion)

    3. General Motors (Revenue: $177.26 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $162.41 billion)

    5. Enron (Revenue: $138.72 billion)

    As Wal-Mart took the Fortune 500 top spot in 2002, activists were not buying into the blue and yellow hipe. An Indyweek article slammed this corporation for its low wages, anti-union attitude, lack of benefits, and other hard calls made in order to profit Wal-Mart’s owners, and called for readers to boycott Wal-Mart.

  • Taber Andrew Bain // Flickr
    50/ Taber Andrew Bain // Flickr

    2003 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $246.53 billion)

    2. General Motors (Revenue: $186.76 billion)

    3. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $182.47 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $163.63 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $131.70 billion)

    Ford Motor celebrated its 100th year anniversary in 2003.  To celebrate, the company put out five new limited-edition cars: the 2003 Ford Mustang, Focus, Taurus, Super Duty, and Explorer.  In honor of Henry Ford, the company’s founder, and echoing his policies from Ford’s early days, these models were offered in “any color so long as it is black.”

  • Jason Colbert // US Air Force
    51/ Jason Colbert // US Air Force

    2004 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $258.68 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $213.20 billion)

    3. General Motors (Revenue: $195.65 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $164.50 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $134.19 billion)

    Wal-Mart held the top of the Fortune 500 list for the third year in a row in 2004, making it only the third corporation to ever do so (it is in fact only the third corporation to reach the list at all, after General Motors and Exxon.)  All the companies on the list were doing well this year, as they took in a combined record $7.5 trillion in revenue and earned $445.6 billion in profit.

  • Bob McMillan // Wikipedia
    52/ Bob McMillan // Wikipedia

    2005 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $288.19 billion)

    2. Exxon Corporation (Revenue: $270.77 billion)

    3. General Motors (Revenue: $193.52 billion)

    4. Ford Motor (Revenue: $172.23 billion)

    5. General Electric (Revenue: $152.36 billion)

    Wal-Mart was vastly influential in the relief of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  The superstore’s donations included $20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals, and jobs for its displaced workers, and the efficiency with which the company distributed these donations was held up as a model when compared to state-sponsored relief efforts.

  • Mike Mozart // Flickr
    53/ Mike Mozart // Flickr

    2006 - Exxon Mobil

    1. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $339.94 billion)

    2. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Revenue: $315.65 billion)

    3. General Motors Corporation (Revenue: $192.60 billion)

    4. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $189.48 billion)

    5. Ford Motor Company (Revenue: $177.21 billion)

    General Motors, once America’s giant, faced huge losses in 2006. The company lost $10.4 billion in 2005, followed by $2 billion in 2006, partially due to heavy losses within its finance arm on subprime mortgage lending.

  • Paxson Woelber // Wikipedia
    54/ Paxson Woelber // Wikipedia

    2007 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Revenue: $351.14 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $347.25 billion)

    3. General Motors Corporation (Revenue: $207.35 billion)

    4. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $200.57 billion)

    5. ConocoPhillips (Revenue: $172.45 billion)

    ConocoPhillips, an energy giant that made the top of the Fortune 500 list for the first time in 2007, partnered with Tyson that year to produce diesel fuel from pork, poultry, and beef fat. The companies claimed that this diesel would burn cleaner than oil-based fuel, and the move represented a great alliance between agricultural and energy industries.

  • Walmart // Flickr
    55/ Walmart // Flickr

    2008 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $378.80 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $372.82 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $210.78 billion)

    4. General Motors Corporation (Revenue: $182.35 billion)

    5. ConocoPhillips (Revenue: $178.56 billion)

    Wal-Mart made a major rebranding move in 2008: the company changed its logo (from Wal-Mart with a star in the middle to Walmart, followed by a starburst), and its slogan (from “Always Low Prices” to “Save Money. Live Better.”) 

  • Bubba73, Jud McCranie // Wikipedia
    56/ Bubba73, Jud McCranie // Wikipedia

    2009 - Exxon Mobil

    1. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $442.85 billion)

    2. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Revenue: $405.61 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $263.16 billion)

    4. ConocoPhillips (Revenue: $230.76 billion)

    5. General Electric Company (Revenue: $183.21 billion)

    2009 marked the first year since 1955 that General Motors was not in the top 5 of the Fortune 500, driven by a sharp downturn in auto purchases during the Great Recession.

    Exxon Mobil invested big (to the tune of $600 million) into biofuels in 2009, when the company joined the biotech company Synthetic Genomics to build a greenhouse facility in San Diego that would study extracting oil from algae, as well as funding other research. This was a significant step for a company long accused of denying climate change.

  • Mike Mozart // Flickr
    57/ Mike Mozart // Flickr

    2010 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $408.21 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $284.65 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $163.53 billion)

    4. General Electric Company (Revenue: $156.78 billion)

    5. Bank of America Corporation (Revenue: $150.45 billion)

    Bank of America’s lone appearance in the top five is indicative of the massive growth they saw from 2008 to 2009. The nation’s largest bank saw a revenue increase of nearly $50 billion over the previous year.

  • futureatlas.com // Flickr
    58/ futureatlas.com // Flickr

    2011 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $421.85 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $354.67 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $196.34 billion)

    4. ConocoPhillips (Revenue: $184.97 billion)

    5. Fannie Mae (Revenue: $153.83 billion)

    Though it is unusual to see government-sponsored enterprises this high on the list, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) accumulated unprecedented revenues in a year that proved to be big for mortgage lenders following the depths of the recession. 

  • Tewy // Wikipedia
    59/ Tewy // Wikipedia

    2012 - Exxon Mobil

    1. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $452.93 billion)

    2. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Revenue: $446.95 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $245.62 billion)

    4. ConocoPhillips (Revenue: $237.27 billion)

    5. General Motors (Revenue: $150.28 billion)

    General Motors’ reappearance in the top 5 in 2012 was the first time since the depths of the 2008 recession.

  • Neubie // Flickr
    60/ Neubie // Flickr

    2013 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $469.16 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $449.89 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $233.90 billion)

    4. Phillips 66 (Revenue: $169.55 billion)

    5. Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Revenue: $162.46 billion)

    Forbes’ 4th richest person on Earth got richer in 2013, as his flagship company Berkshire Hathaway earned a spot on the top five list for the first time. The growth of key subsidiaries like GEICO, Dairy Queen, and Fruit of the Loom helped drive revenue gains.

  • kropekk_pl // Pixabay
    61/ kropekk_pl // Pixabay

    2014 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $476.29 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $407.67 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $220.36 billion)

    4. Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Revenue: $182.15 billion)

    5. Apple (Revenue: $170.91 billion)

    Apple entered the top five in 2014 and replaced Phillips 66, whose decline was ultimately due to a series of headwinds. Revenue would be harder to come by since their split from upstream E&P company ConocoPhillips, and though Phillips 66 was not as affected as competitors, the sudden drop in oil prices provided a difficult challenge to overcome.

  • UFCW Local400 // Flickr
    62/ UFCW Local400 // Flickr

    2015 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $485.65 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $382.60 billion)

    3. Chevron Corporation (Revenue: $203.78 billion)

    4. Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Revenue: $194.67 billion)

    5. Apple (Revenue: $182.80 billion)

    WalMart continued to separate itself from Exxon Mobil as the clear top dog from a revenue perspective, and it set aside a percentage of those additional funds to make life better for the workers responsible. According to their 2015 Global Responsibility Report , February saw a “$1 billion investment in higher wages, job training and scheduling enhancements” for workers.

  • William Hook // Flickr
    63/ William Hook // Flickr

    2016 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $482.13 billion)

    2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $246.20 billion)

    3. Apple (Revenue: $233.72 billion)

    4. Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Revenue: $210.82 billion)

    5. McKesson (Revenue: $181.24 billion)

    Apple jumped two spots up the list, and it is really no surprise when one considers the slew of innovative products they released during 2015. These included, but were not limited to, several editions of the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6s, the iPad Pro, and a series of vastly improved operating systems.

  • Ed Uthman // Flickr
    64/ Ed Uthman // Flickr

    2017 - Wal-Mart Stores

    1. Wal-Mart Stores (Revenue: $485.87 billion)

    2. Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Revenue: $223.60 billion)

    3. Apple (Revenue: $215.64 billion)

    4. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Revenue: $205.00 billion)

    5. McKesson (Revenue: $192.49 billion)

    McKesson was able to cling to its spot on the top five list by warding off healthcare behemoths UnitedHealth Group and CVS Health (companies 6 and 7, respectively). A great deal of their continued success can be attributed to the growth of their “Health Mart franchise to more than 4,600 members.”

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