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Discovering the Origins of Corporations: Exploring the 20 Oldest Companies in the World

For a long time, corporations have been legal entities in human society, with legal standing acknowledged in ancient civilizations like Roman and European societies.

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We’ll examine the 20 Oldest Companies in the World in this post. For a very long time, business and commerce have been essential to human society. Even though they are thought to have been less developed, earlier civilizations developed in ways that were appropriate for their periods. The Latin word “corpus,” which refers to a body of individuals, is where the word “corporation” originates.

Documents show that Roman society acknowledged corporations with legal standing as early as the fourth century, enabling them to make agreements and pursue legal action. Europe, Japan, Britain, and India were among the ancient civilizations with comparable economic organizations. There were stock exchanges in many places where investors could purchase shares and obtain a certificate of ownership for individual corporations.

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A few companies in Western history are especially notable: the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Dutch East India Company, and the East India Company of England. For more than a century, the East India Company ruled over the Indian Subcontinent. It surpassed the size of well-known modern firms including Apple, Amazon, Tesla Inc., and Meta Platforms, Inc., to become purportedly one of the largest companies in history.

There are reputedly the most ancient companies in Japan. Japan is the nation with the most number of 100-year-old enterprises in the world, with over 52,000 businesses reportedly over 100 years old. Among the well-known names in the nation were Kikkoman Corporation, established in 1917; Nintendo Co., Ltd., founded in 1889; and Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd., founded in 1899. In the meantime, a winery is the oldest business in Europe. Even though these businesses work in a variety of sectors, their capacity to adjust to changing conditions over time has allowed them to overcome obstacles.

This begs the issue of what makes a firm successful over the long run and what other businesses might learn from these kinds of establishments. It becomes critical to comprehend these lessons because, compared to the 1920s, the average longevity of a company listed in the S&P 500 index has decreased from 67 years to about ten years. Many corporate titans have fallen victim to economic changes and rivalry in recent years, including well-known camera manufacturers like Kodak and banking institutions like Silicon Valley Bank.

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A dedication to innovation and ongoing reinvention is a critical factor in determining long-term survival. Nokia is a well-known example, having progressed from making pulp to becoming involved in the production of power and, ultimately, mobile phones. Nokia used to even have a brand for galoshes. Another good example is Berkshire Hathaway, which started off as a textile mill in Rhode Island before expanding into several different businesses.

20 Oldest Companies in the World

20. Benediktinerstift Admont

Founding Year: 1074

The Archbishop of Salzburg constructed Admont Abbey in 1074, making it the oldest surviving monastery in Styria, Austria. Situated in a forested area, the Abbey first carried out small-scale woodworking operations. As the timber processing operation Stift Admont, also known as Stia, was established, this gradually developed into a major commercial enterprise. The company makes staircases, panels, and flooring made of natural wood.

19. Affligem Brewery

Founding Year: 1074

Constructed about 1074, the Abbey of Affligem stands as one of the earliest recognized breweries and companies in Belgium. Heineken International currently manufactures the beers under license from the Affligem monks.

18. Otterton Mill

Founding Year: 1068

The earliest known records mention the Otterton Mill, dating from 1068. The mill produces traditional stoneground whole meal flour using waterpower. Even though milling stopped in 1959, restoration efforts spearheaded by a local family’s investment in 1977 were successful in turning the mill into a tourist destination.

17. Weltenburg Abbey

Founding Year: 1050

Weltenburg Abbey, one of only two remaining monastic breweries in existence today, is situated in Germany. The Abbey was founded in 617, and its brewing history is well-documented; the earliest evidence of its brewery dates to 1050. Among the brewery’s well-known products is Barock Dunkel, which won the World Beer Cup’s best dark beer award three times.

16. Weihenstephan

Founding Year: 1040

Weihenstephan Abbey, one of the two remaining monastic breweries in existence today, is located in Germany. Although there is a mention to a brewery at this location as early as 768, Weihenstephan asserts that the brewery was founded in 1040, the year it was granted a license. However, the earliest known evidence of its brewery dates back to 1050.

15. Shumiya-Shinbutsuguten

Founding Year: 1024

The second-oldest manufacturer of funeral items and shrine is Shumiya-Shinbutsuguten. The company produces Buddhist tombstones, funeral materials, vestments, altar supplies, and temple fittings. The company is currently adapting by bringing traditional Japanese art goods to the international market in order to stay up with the times and the diminishing demand for such things. Modern companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Meta Platforms, Inc. (NASDAQ:META) may learn a lot from the tenacity and flexibility of companies like Shumiya-Shinbutsuguten in this evolution.

14. Ichimonjiya Wasuke

Founding Year: 1000

Kyoto, Japan is home to the candy business Ichimonjiya Wasuke. Wagashi, a type of Japanese confection, is sold there. The Hasegawa family’s 25th generation runs the company. Around the year 1000, the family first made their home close to the Imamiya Shrine in an attempt to provide for pilgrims who were visiting the shrine and to escape a pandemic. The company is still in operation today, serving its sweets to tourists and visitors to the shrine.

13. Marinelli Bell Foundry

Founding Year: 1000

In Italy, the Marinelli family began operating a bell foundry a little more than a millennium ago. The location is currently found in Molise’s tiny settlement of Agnone. In appreciation of the foundry’s assistance to the Vatican, Pope Pius XI named it a “pontifical foundry” in 1924. This old foundry’s principal benefactor is still the Vatican.

12. Château de Goulaine

Founding Year: 1000

France’s Loire Valley wine area is home to the historic Château de Goulaine. For more than a millennium, the Goulaine family has possessed it. Although the exact date of the shift from making wine only for estate use to its business ventures is yet unknown, the winery has been actively involved in the winemaking heritage for more than a millennium.

11. Nakamura Shaji

Founding Year: 970

Japanese construction company Nakamura Shaji is based in the Aichi Prefecture. It specializes in constructing Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and other intricate woodwork pieces for these shrines.

10. The Bingley Arms

Founding Year: 953

The Bingley Arms is the oldest pub in the United Kingdom and is situated in the village of Bardsey, West Yorkshire. The bar asserts that it has been around since between 905 and 953. On our list of the oldest companies in the world, The Bingley Arms comes in at number ten.

9. Sean’s Bar

Founding Year: 900

An Irish bar called Sean’s Bar gained notoriety when it opened in the year 900 AD. It makes the claim to be the oldest bar still in operation in both Europe and Ireland. Archaeological examinations of the building, which have revealed sections of an ancient wall dating back to the 900s, lend credence to the pub’s claims.

8. Tanaka-Iga

Founding Year: 885

Tanaka-Iga Butsugu, a Japanese manufacturer, produces religious items like butsudan shrines, which many Japanese homes widely use. The firm established in the ninth century is one of the world’s earliest producers of sacred objects.

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7. Staffelter Hof

Founding Year: 862

Dating back to 862, the Staffelter Hof is a wine-producing abbey located in Belgium. An original document that is still kept in the city archives of Liège, Belgium, has the first known mention of the Staffelter Hof abbey. Rank seven on our list of the world’s oldest companies is the Staffelter Hof.

6. Stiftskeller St. Peter

Founding Year: 803

A restaurant called St. Peter Stiftskulinarium is located inside Salzburg, Austria’s St. Peter’s Abbey. Officially, it is the oldest inn in Central Europe, having been in business before AD 803.

5. Genda Shigyō

Year of Founding: 771

A Japanese company called Genda Shigyō (or Genda Shigyō Kabushiki gaisha) produces paper items that are frequently utilized in religious and cultural festivals in Japan. In keeping with these customs, the company creates products like mizuhiki, wrapping paper, and betrothal gifts. Genda Shigyō has been in operation since 771, making it one of the oldest businesses in the world.

4. Hōshi Ryokan

Year of Founding: 718

Japan’s traditional inn is called Hōshi. It was established in the Japanese prefecture of Ishikawa in 718. For the previous 46 generations, the Hoshi family has been in charge of and owned it. Hoshi Ryokan has gradually changed over time while keeping the classic charm that characterizes traditional Japanese inns. The ryokan currently has 70 guestrooms spread throughout its four wings, including suites. Traditional cushions, wood and washi paper shoji sliding doors, and tatami mats adorn the bedrooms.

3. Koman

Year of Founding: 717

Located in the Hyōgo prefecture of Japan, Sennen-no Yu Koman is a Ryokan, or Japanese inn. Hiuke Gonnokami owns the Ryokan, which is one of the oldest businesses in the world and a long-standing enterprise in Japan, created in 717. His family has been running it for more than 46 years, and it is located close to the Shisho Shrine and a hot spring.

2. Keiunkan Nishiyama Onsen

Year of Founding: 705

A Japanese hot spring spa located in the Yamanashi prefecture is called Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. In the year 705, Fujiwara Mahito constructed the hotel. With its 37 rooms, kaiseki restaurant, and moon-viewing platform, this ancient building skillfully blends traditional design elements with contemporary amenities. Second on our list of the oldest is Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan.

1. Kongō Gumi

Year of Foundation: 578

With its roots in Osaka, Japan, Kongō Gumi is a construction company with a history spanning more than 1,400 years. A scroll from the 17th century shows the company’s extensive history by tracing its ancestry across 40 generations. Kongō Gumi’s durability was largely due to the unusual custom of sons-in-law taking on the family name upon entering the company. This allowed the business to remain distinct even in generations without male successors. The business builds Buddhist temples, which are in constant demand. Kongō Gumi has been involved in the construction of numerous well-known structures over the ages, including the Osaka Castle from the 16th century. As of right now, Takamatsu Construction Group owns all of Kongō Gumi’s operations.

Farheen Ashraf
Farheen Ashraf
Farheen Ashraf is a History graduate. She writes on a variety of topics, including business, entertainment, laws, poetry, stories, travel, and more. Her passion for writing has led her to explore a variety of genres.

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