Business history from the year you were born

Written by:
December 4, 2020
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

Business history from the year you were born

Business plays a critical role in American society. It’s the driver of the country’s $21.43 trillion gross domestic product and provides some 125.9 million jobs. Entire government agencies and offices, like the Small Business Administration, Women’s Business Centers, the U.S. Copyright Office, and the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission, are devoted to giving Americans the tools, support, and protection they need to establish prosperous companies. Businesses are also a key part of the country’s discourse, receiving heavy discussion among politicians and the media alike.

But business also feels like a deep part of American culture. Some 6 million people recently spent their Friday night watching quirky entrepreneurs pitch their innovative start-ups on “Shark Tank.” Extremely successful business owners from both the past (Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford) and the present (Oprah Winfrey and Larry Page) are viewed like idols who figured out what it takes to make it in this country. We make shopping lists specific to Small Business Saturday so we can support our local businesses. And what American hasn’t felt the tug toward entrepreneurship, even if they have yet to make that leap? Business, it seems, runs through our blood as a country.

So how did entrepreneurism get put on such a pedestal across the nation? To learn about how business has evolved throughout modern U.S. history, Stacker compiled a list of important milestones from 1921 to 2020. We used information from universities, news outlets, business- and finance-focused publications, companies, and more. Some moments—like a law passed in 1988 that made it illegal for banks to require a male co-signer on business loans for women—are sure to surprise you. While others, like college drop-outs launching incredibly successful companies out of their garages, and the rise of women and people of color to executive positions at Fortune 500 companies, will inspire you.

Wondering what happened in business history the year you were born? Read on to find out.

You may also like: The cost of a beer the year you turned 21

1 / 100
Oklahoma Historical Society // Getty Images

1921: White mobs destroy Black Wall Street

Racist violence in Tulsa, Oklahoma, left a wealthy African American community destroyed in 1921. The white community, aided by the National Guard, killed up to 300 people and left many more injured and thousands homeless. The area had been known as Black Wall Street because it had a range of successful Black-owned businesses and a well-educated community.

[Pictured: A group of National Guard Troops, carrying rifles with bayonets attached, escort unarmed African American men to the detention center at Convention Hall, after the Tulsa Race Massacre, Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 1921.]

2 / 100
Picture Post // Getty Images

1922: Luce and Hadden launch Time Inc.

Henry Luce and Briton Hadden formed Time Inc. in 1922. The company would grow to become one of the largest media businesses in the U.S., eventually being sold to Meredith Corporation for $2.8 billion in 2017.

[Pictured: US journalist Henry Robinson Luce.]

3 / 100
Henry Guttmann Collection/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1923: Walt Disney Company gets started

Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, created the business that became The Walt Disney Company in 1923. It is considered one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and has mass brand recognition.

4 / 100
Tony Webster // Wikimedia Commons

1924: Group of businessmen found Ace Hardware

A group of hardware store owners in Chicago united their businesses into “Ace Stores” in 1924. Now known as Ace Hardware, the company is the largest hardware retail cooperative in the world, with locations in 60 countries.

5 / 100
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG // Getty Images

1925: President Coolidge affirms American capitalism

In a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors on Jan. 17, 1925, President Calvin Coolidge said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” It is often misquoted as, “The business of America is business.” The quote referred to the role of the press in educating the people about business.

You may also like: 30 of the biggest scams in modern history

6 / 100
FPG/Staff // Getty Images

1926: Businesses thrive on Route 66

The U.S. Highway System established the famous Route 66 on Nov. 11, 1926. Businesses along the highway, which initially ran from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, prospered from the increased tourist traffic.

7 / 100
Keystone Features // Getty Images

1927: Ford produces final Model T

The last Model T came off the Ford assembly line in May 1927. The country’s first truly affordable vehicle, it demonstrated the ability for efficient assembly line production to lower prices, and made car travel accessible to the middle class. Some 15 million Model T cars were sold.

8 / 100
Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum // Getty Images

1928: Herbert Hoover promises tariff on agricultural products

As part of his presidential campaign, Herbert Hoover promised to increase tariffs on agricultural goods in an effort to help farming businesses in the U.S. in 1928. His promise would eventually lead to the Tariff Act of 1930.

9 / 100
FPG // Getty Images

1929: Stock market crash devastates businesses

Stock prices collapsed starting on Oct. 24, 1929, pushing the country into the Great Depression. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 24.8% by Oct. 29, 1929. Businesses were destroyed and people saw their life savings vanish.

10 / 100
BsBsBs // Wikimedia Commons

1930: Toyota develops lean manufacturing

Toyota created the concept of “just-in-time” manufacturing and automation in 1930. The concepts would help increase efficiency at auto plants. Later known as “lean manufacturing,” it would become adopted on a wider basis in the 1990s.

You may also like: Most common jobs in America 100 years ago

11 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1931: Bank runs take a toll on businesses

A series of bank runs in 1930 and 1931 took a toll on American businesses, further plunging the country into the Great Depression. Businesses had a very difficult time accessing credit, and deflation forced banks and other financial businesses to go belly up.

12 / 100
Boston Public Library/Tichnor Brothers Collection // Wikimedia Commons

1932: Howard Johnson’s pioneers modern franchising model

Howard Deering Johnson, owner of Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts, developed the modern-day franchise model in 1932. That year, he began to accept payment from independent operators in exchange for letting them use his restaurant’s name, logo, supplies, building plans, and food.

13 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1933: Congress passes the Federal Securities Act

Congress passed the Federal Securities Act in 1933. The first regulation on the stock market from the federal government, the act aimed to eliminate fraud in the sale of securities by requiring companies to submit accurate financial information about their businesses to the Securities and Exchange Commission before going public.

[Pictured: The newly created National Securities Exchange Commission.]

14 / 100
New York Times Co./Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1934: Economy starts to recover with the New Deal

The passage of the First New Deal helped boost industrial production by 45% between March 1933 and March 1934. Millions of Americans regained employment through make-work projects.

[Pictured: Civil Works Administration workers on their way to fill a gully with wheelbarrows of earth during the construction of the Lake Merced Parkway Boulevard, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, San Francisco, California, 1934.]

15 / 100
MPI // Getty Images

1935: President Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act

President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act on July 5, 1935. The act would require that businesses engage in collective bargaining with unions.

You may also like: 50 jobs that no longer exist

16 / 100
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1936: Congress passes law against price discrimination

Congress passed the Robinson-Patman Act in 1936. Intended to protect small retail businesses from powerful chain stores, the law prohibited suppliers and wholesalers from selling products to “preferred customers” at discounted prices.

17 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1937: IBM enables mass data processing

By 1937, IBM technology allowed organizations and companies to process data at unprecedented volumes. The company won a contract from the federal government to maintain Social Security data, which, in turn, opened up another potential market of some 20,000 other businesses that would also need a way to process the data, according to a book on the company from author and former IBM employee James W. Cortada.

[Pictured: These are just a few of the 1,900 employees at work establishing individual social security accounts for millions of workers at the wage records office.]

18 / 100
Fox Photos // Getty Images

1938: Congress passes Fair Labor Standards Act

Congress increased business regulations with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. The law would establish minimum wage requirements, overtime pay mandates, and rules against child labor.

[Pictured: Workers from the de Havilland aircraft works, Hatfield, listening to speakers at their factory, whilst on strike for fair wages.]

19 / 100
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1939: DuPont begins producing nylon

DuPont started commercial production at the first nylon plant, located in Seaford, Delaware, in 1939. Within a year, the company would sell 64 million pairs of nylon stockings, ABC News reported.

20 / 100
Ian Matoo // Wikimedia Commons

1940: Sherb Noble opens first Dairy Queen

Sherb Noble opened the first Dairy Queen in Joliet, Illinois on June 22, 1940. It would make soft-serve ice cream a favorite among Americans. The chain would see rapid expansion over the next 15 years.

You may also like: Can you answer these real 'Jeopardy!' questions about the economy?

21 / 100
PNA/Rota // Getty Images

1941: Auto manufacturers join wartime effort

A plan to convert Detroit’s automobile plants into manufacturing hubs for war planes and tanks was implemented in 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, despite initial resistance among company executives. The goal was to help the U.S. produce 500 planes per day.

22 / 100
PhotoQuest // Getty Images

1942: American food manufacturers produce K-rations

Military contracts for K-rations in World War II helped some major food manufacturers, like The Cracker Jack Company, Kellogg’s, and H.J. Heinz, prosper. The individual food rations for troops came into use in 1942.

23 / 100
R. Gates/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1943: War production contributes to gross national product

War production made a significant contribution to the gross national product in the mid 1940s. In 1943, it made up 40% of total GNP.

24 / 100
E.F. Joseph/Anthony Potter Collection // Getty Images

1944: Women enter workforce previously held by men

World War II created labor shortages in many U.S. industries. As a result, businesses began focusing their recruitment efforts on women in the 1940s. By 1944, 35.4% of the civilian labor force was composed of women.

25 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1945: America becomes powerhouse for corporations

Every other big industrial nation was left devastated by World War II, except America, in 1945. That allowed American corporations to grow practically unchallenged in the coming decades, Investopedia wrote.

[Pictured: Gasoline plant near San Francisco built by the Defense Plant Corporation and operated by Standard Oil of California will turn out enough 100 octane gas to fuel a "substantial force" of B-29 superforts daily.]

You may also like: History of the supermarket industry in America

26 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1946: Businesses deal with series of worker strikes

The great strike wave of 1946 brought a series of labor strikes across industries in the U.S. Some 5 million workers participated in strikes between 1945-1946, including meatpackers, electric workers, coal miners, and railroad engineers.

[Pictured: Members of the United Packing House Workers of America, who went out on strike, are shown tying up four major packing concerns, as they hold a meeting at 44th Street and 1st Avenue.]

27 / 100
FPG/Archive Photos // Getty Images

1947: New law protects businesses from some strikes

After two years of strikes, Congress passed the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947. The act would offer businesses some protection by banning unions from certain types of strikes and other “unfair labor practices.”

28 / 100
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1948: First McDonald’s restaurant opens

Richard and Maurice opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California in 1948. The self-service restaurant was designed with an assembly line-style kitchen to maximize efficiency.

29 / 100
R. Gates/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1949: ADP makes payroll easier

Henry Taub launched Automatic Payrolls Inc. in 1949. Now known as ADP, the company offers payroll and HR services to nearly 700,000 businesses.

30 / 100
Carsten/Three Lions // Getty Images

1950: Credit cards become available

The first modern credit card became available in 1950. Created by Diners Club founders Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara, the charge card expanded the purchasing power of the middle class, offering new opportunities for businesses.

You may also like: 30 big companies that started with little to no funding

31 / 100
Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1951: TV spurs advertising industry

In the early 1950s, advertisers shortened TV commercials to just 30 seconds. It would help TV rake in $41 million in ad revenue in 1951. Two years later, it would earn $336 million in ad revenue, according to the Houston Chronicle.

32 / 100
American Stock // Getty Images

1952: Companies experiment with automation

Companies in the U.S. began experimenting with automation in the 1950s. General Electric started making engineering calculations on an IBM 701 at a jet-engine plant in Ohio in 1952.

33 / 100
Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis // Getty Images

1953: Congress creates the Small Business Administration

Congress established the Small Business Administration in 1953. The independent agency is responsible for providing aid and assistance to small businesses, in an effort to ultimately strengthen the economy.

34 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1954: GE processes data on electronic computer

General Electric started conducting regular data processing on an electronic computer in 1954, making it the first company in U.S. history to do so. It used a UNIVAC I for accounting and manufacturing control at its appliance division.

35 / 100
Gene Lester // Getty Images

1955: Disneyland opens in California

Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955. It would bring Disney staggering profits. The theme park would also “pioneer dynamic pricing strategies to lure more customers,” MarketWatch reported.

You may also like: History of workers' strikes in America

36 / 100
Ed Maker/The Denver Post // Getty Images

1956: Franchise chains boom with Interstate Highway System

The Federal Aid HIghway Act of 1956 authorized construction of the Interstate Highway System. As highways developed, franchise chains began booming, as many were fast food restaurants at roadway rest stops.

37 / 100
Iwao // Wikimedia Commons

1957: Toyota cuts the ribbon on its first U.S. headquarters

Toyota Motor Sales launched its first headquarters in the U.S. in Hollywood, California on Oct. 31, 1957. In less than 20 years, it would become the country’s best-selling import brand, according to Purdue University.

38 / 100
Ira Gay Sealy/The Denver Post // Getty Images

1958: Bank of America creates the Visa card

Bank of America established BankAmericard, now known as Visa, in 1958. It was the first card to offer “revolving credit” and was the earliest consumer credit card aimed specifically at middle-class customers and small- to medium-size businesses in the country.

39 / 100
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone // Getty Images

1959: Mattel debuts the Barbie doll

Mattel began selling the first Barbie doll in 1959. It would become one of the best-selling toys in U.S. history.

40 / 100
H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile // Getty Images

1960: Shopping malls win over suburban families

A new style of shopping was created in response to the rise of the suburb in the 1950s. The early 1960s saw many indoor shopping malls open up across the country, giving customers an easy way to shop at many businesses on a single trip.

You may also like: How U.S. labor productivity has changed since 1950

41 / 100
Erich Andres/United Images // Getty Images

1961: American car companies see sales decline

The “Rolling Adjustment” Recession occurred between April 1960 and February 1961. During that time, gross national product and demand for goods fell. It also marked a major shift in the automotive industry, with American drivers buying up more foreign-made cars, according to Investopedia.

42 / 100
RozenskiP // Shutterstock

1962: First Walmart opens in Arkansas

Sam Walton opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962. He wanted to build on the success of his previous store, Walton’s 5&10, in Bentonville.

43 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1963: Government requires businesses to pay women equally

The government amended the Fair Labor Standards Act, including a new law on equal pay in 1963. The Equal Pay Act would aim to end wage disparity based on gender.

44 / 100
Uni // Getty Images

1964: President Johnson signs Civil Rights Act

President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. The act would make it illegal for businesses to discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, or religion.

45 / 100
Charley/The Enthusiast Network // Getty Images

1965: Companies court counterculture customers

Many American businesses ditched their conservative ads from the 1950s in an effort to woo customers who were part of the counterculture movement of the mid-to-late 1960s. In 1965, Dodge released ads in Life magazine that urged people to “Join the Dodge Rebellion.”

You may also like: Can you guess the company these real 'Jeopardy!' questions are about?

46 / 100
Harry Benson/Daily Express // Getty Images

1966: Government looks at business workforce demographics

The government began requiring businesses with at least 100 employees to file a report on the demographics of their workforces annually, starting in 1966. They were required to disclose information about their employees’ genders, race and ethnicity, and job categories.

47 / 100
PhotoQuest // Getty Images

1967: Government bans companies from age discrimination

The Age Discrimination and Employment Act was signed into law in 1967. It would prevent businesses from using age as a reason to discriminate against potential workers at least 40 years old.

48 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1968: Labor strikes strain production

Labor strikes and capacity bottlenecks caused a strain in production at U.S. businesses in 1968. On the flip side, consumer spending continued to grow, despite a surtax on higher incomes that was passed by Congress in the middle of that year.

49 / 100
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone // Getty Images

1969: President Nixon establishes Office of Minority Business Enterprise

President Richard Nixon established the Office of Minority Business Enterprise on March 5, 1969. The federal agency, which is now known as the Minority Business Development Agency, focused exclusively on the success of minority-owned businesses.

50 / 100
Leif Skoogfors // Getty Images

1970: Anti-war protesters target businesses

Corporations that seemed to represent American capitalist imperialism were targeted by anti-war protestors in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1970, protesters in Santa Barbara, California, torched a Bank of America branch.

You may also like: Major laws that changed the workplace over the last 100 years

51 / 100
Paul Walters Worldwide Photography Ltd./Heritage Images // Getty Images

1971: Congress establishes OSHA

Congress established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971. The regulatory agency would create mandates for businesses to follow to offer employees safe, healthful working conditions.

52 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1972: Katharine Graham breaks glass ceiling for women CEOs

Katharine Graham took on the role of CEO at The Washington Post Company in 1972. It was the first time in history that a Fortune 500 company had a woman CEO.

53 / 100
Thomas R Machnitzki // Wikimedia Commons

1973: FedEx starts shipping

FedEx began operations in 1973 out of a hub in Memphis. The company would increase the availability of overnight shipping and pioneer real-time package tracking capabilities that businesses and customers expect today.

54 / 100
STF/AFP // Getty Images

1974: OPEC embargo causes oil prices to skyrocket

An embargo on oil exports from OPEC members to the U.S. caused oil prices to more than quadruple between 1973 and 1974. It is considered the reason behind the 1973-1975 recession, in which many businesses faced uncertainty, per The Balance.

55 / 100
Bettmann Archive // Getty Images

1975: Wall Street ends fixed commissions

May 1, 1975, marked the end of fixed commissions on the stock market. Moving forward, brokerages could offer discounted commission rates, thus allowing more retail investors to start trading and investing in companies.

You may also like: History of oil in America

56 / 100
Tom Munnecke // Getty Images

1976: Apple Computers is born

College dropouts Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs formed Apple Computers on April 1, 1976. The company would go public in 1980 and revolutionize the computer industry.

57 / 100
Michael Fresco/Evening Standard // Getty Images

1977: Companies increase production

U.S. companies ramped up production by 16% toward the end of 1977. It would lift the country out of the oil recession and provide millions of new jobs.

58 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1978: President Carter signs Airline Deregulation Act

Congress and President Carter passed a law that would allow airlines to establish their own ticket prices and routes in 1978. It was the first time in the country’s history that the government deregulated an industry.

59 / 100
Photo12/Universal Images Group // Getty Images

1979: Manufacturing peaks in the U.S.

Employment in the U.S. manufacturing industry peaked in June 1979, providing jobs to nearly 20% of American workers. The industry would go on a mostly-downward trajectory from that point on.

60 / 100
Bettmann Archive // Getty Images

1980: President Carter deregulates the trucking industry

President Carter signed the Motor Carrier Act into law on July 1, 1980. It would deregulate the trucking industry, giving businesses more control over rates and removing some barriers to entry for new trucking firms.

You may also like: History of manufacturing in America

61 / 100
Ulrike Welsch/The Boston Globe // Getty Images

1981: Recession hurts auto, construction, and manufacturing businesses

Tight monetary policy plunged the U.S. into a recession starting in July of 1981. Businesses in the auto, construction, and manufacturing industries suffered and were forced to lay off wide swaths of their workforces.

62 / 100
Bettmann/Contributor // Getty Images

1982: Johnson H. Johnson becomes first African American on the Forbes 400

Businessman and publisher Johnson H. Johnson was the first African American to make the Forbes 400 list in 1982. He founded Johnson Publishing Company and created the magazines Ebony and Jet.

63 / 100
mark peterson/Corbis // Getty Images

1983: Costco opens first warehouse

The first Costco warehouse opened in Seattle in 1983. It would open up the wholesale business to regular retail customers, allowing them to buy products in bulk at a discount.

64 / 100
Ann E. Yow-Dyson // Getty Images

1984: Dell innovates computer business

Michael Dell launched the company that would become Dell Computer corporation in 1984. The business specialized in building custom computers, allowing businesses and customers to get machines designed to do very specific jobs.

65 / 100
Yvonne Hemsey // Getty Images

1985: Media industry experiences many takeovers

Companies in the media industry had a ton of takeovers in 1985. That year, ABC was bought by Capital Cities Communications, Rupert Murdoch acquired half of 20th Century Fox, and Fox snapped up six TV stations, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

[Pictured: Rupert Murdoch.]

You may also like: Cost of gold the year you were born

66 / 100
Frank O'Brien/The Boston Globe // Getty Images

1986: Government tracks employer costs for worker compensation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its data on employee costs for employee compensation for the first time in 1986. It would provide organizations and businesses insight about the costs of having employees annually.

67 / 100
Jim Cummins/Newsday RM // Getty Images

1987: Chrysler absorbs American Motors

Chrysler absorbed American Motors in 1987. The deal would cost Chrysler $1.5 billion. American Motors was a relatively small company in the auto industry and had trouble standing up against the competition from larger manufacturers.

[Pictured: Chrysler Corp.'s chairman Lee Lacocca.]

68 / 100
Denver Post // Getty Images

1988: Congress passes Women’s Business Ownership Act

In an effort to help women entrepreneurs succeed, Congress passed the Women’s Business Ownership Act in 1988. The law would make it easier for women to get business loans without a male co-signer and pave the way for new policies and programs for women-owned businesses.

69 / 100
Patrick Lin/AFP // Getty Images

1989: Garmin launches in Kansas

Gary Burrell and Min Kao founded Garmin in Lenexa, Kansas, in 1989. It started out selling GPS technology to the military. Eventually, it would take over a huge share of the consumer GPS market.

70 / 100
Staff/Mirrorpix // Getty Images

1990: Microsoft Windows finally sees success

Microsoft launched Windows 3.0 in 1990. It was the first version of the product that would see both critical and commercial success.

You may also like: History of gold and which countries have the most

71 / 100
Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis // Getty Images

1991: Pan Am collapses

Pan American World Airways, or Pan Am, filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 8, 1991. Delta Air Lines picked up the remaining profitable assets of what was once the country’s unofficial flag carrier.

72 / 100
Bettmann // Getty Images

1992: U.S., Canada, and Mexico consider free trade agreement

Leaders of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico submitted an agreement for free trade in their countries in December 1992. Now known as NAFTA, the agreement eliminated trade and investment barriers between the three nations.

73 / 100
Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times // Getty Images

1993: National Black Chamber of Commerce is formed

The National Black Chamber of Commerce was established in May 1993. Census Bureau data at the time showed that there were more than 300,000 Black-owned businesses nationwide, responsible for $33 billion in sales annually.

74 / 100
Photo Nomad Ventures, Inc./Corbis // Getty Images

1994: Jeff Bezos founds Amazon

Jeff Bezos founded Cadabra, Inc. on July 5, 1994. Within months, he renamed his company Amazon.com and began selling books online.

75 / 100
VINCENT LAFORET/AFP // Getty Images

1995: Martin Marietta and Lockheed Corporation merge

Martin Marietta and Lockheed Corporation merged in a $10 billion deal in 1995. The combined company, renamed Lockheed Martin Corporation, would become the largest military contractor in the U.S., The New York Times reported.

[Pictured: Lockheed Martin President Norman Augustine (L) shakes hands with Chairman and CEO Daniel Tellep after a press conference in Chicago 15 March announcing stockholder approval of the merger of Lockheed and Martin Marietta.]

You may also like: 25 IPOs that skyrocketed on their first day

76 / 100
Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly // Getty Images

1996: Congress passes law that protects internet companies

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996. The law would deem that internet companies were not liable for information or content posted by users on their sites. It would help social media sites and other online businesses flourish, The New York Times wrote.

[Pictured: Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., at news conference on the Supreme Court decision on the Communications Decency Act.]

77 / 100
Bob Carey/Los Angeles Times // Getty Images

1997: Toyota releases the Prius

Toyota began selling the Prius in select countries, including Japan, in 1997. It is considered the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. Toyota would sell 1 million Prius vehicles by mid-2008.

78 / 100
MediaNews Group/The Mercury News // Getty Images

1998: Google launches in California

Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Google while pursuing their PhDs at Stanford University in 1998. Google.com would become the most-visited site in the world, and the company would go on to make many other products used by businesses and consumers alike.

79 / 100
John Chapple // Getty Images

1999: Internet businesses boom

Huge numbers of people began using the internet in the 1990s, sparking a boom in online businesses in 1999. That year, shares of many internet businesses experienced exponential growth.

80 / 100
STAN HONDA/AFP // Getty Images

2000: AOL and Time Warner announce megamerger

AOL and Time Warner merged in 2010. The deal was valued at a staggering $350 billion, making it the largest merger in the history of American business at the time.

You may also like: Cost of gas the year you started driving

81 / 100
Jeff Christensen/Liaison // Getty Images

2001: Dotcom bubble bursts

The Dotcom bubble began to burst in 2001. Over the next year, many internet companies went bust, per Investopedia. Strong digital brands, like Amazon and eBay, managed to stay in business.

82 / 100
JAMES NIELSEN/AFP // Getty Images

2002: Uncovering of financial scandals taints ’90s economy

A number of financial scandals at major U.S. companies in 2002 made people realize that the bull market of the late ’90s was rife with fraud, according to CNN Money. That year, former chief financial officers at WorldCom and Enron were arrested and later indicted amid fraudulent accounting allegations.

83 / 100
Scott Olson // Getty Images

2003: Companies continue to outsource

The government and consumers began taking notice of more companies outsourcing labor and importing cheap foreign goods in 2003. Walmart, for example, imported tons of low-cost merchandise from China, undermining domestic-made products and calling into question just how good the world’s largest retailer was for low-income Americans, NBC wrote.

84 / 100
David Brewster/Star Tribune // Getty Images

2004: U.S. businesses get repatriation tax holiday

Congress established a repatriation tax holiday in 2004 to give companies a break on profits earned overseas, per CNBC. It would bring $312 billion back to the U.S.

85 / 100
Kevin Hale // Wikimedia Commons

2005: Y Combinator changes venture capitalism model

Y Combinator launched in Silicon Valley in 2005. It operated under the mission of cultivating startup founders, rather than forcing them to give up control over their companies in exchange for funding, per Fast Company. It now runs a program that helps guide promising founders through “a rigorous grooming program” and pitch their businesses to investors.

You may also like: Major boycotts that changed history

86 / 100
Lelepanne // Wikimedia Commons

2006: B Corp status is born

A group of entrepreneurs established B Lab in 2006. The organization offers companies who meet certain corporate social responsibility standards and environmental practices “B Corporation” status.

87 / 100
SHAUN CURRY/AFP // Getty Images

2007: Apple launches the iPhone

Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. It led to the creation of many new business opportunities, such as apps and phone accessories, and it also expanded the way people kept in touch.

88 / 100
Spencer Platt // Getty Images

2008: Global financial crisis hits businesses hard

The global financial crisis of 2008 made a huge impact on businesses in the U.S. Between late 2008 and 2010, some 1.8 million small businesses were forced to close, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

89 / 100
Ramin Talaie/Corbis // Getty Images

2009: Ursula Burns becomes first African American woman CEO

Once an intern at Xerox, Ursula Burns ascended to the highest position at the company in 2009. She was the first Black woman to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

90 / 100
Win McNamee // Getty Images

2010: President Obama signs Small Business Jobs Act

President Barack Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act on Sept. 27, 2010. It established the Small Business Lending Fund Program, which helped boost credit opportunities for small businesses.

You may also like: 12 original companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (and what happened to them)

91 / 100
Spencer Platt // Getty Images

2011: Occupy Wall Street protests slow economic recovery

Occupy Wall Street protests impacted major business hubs in the U.S. in 2011. Their “anti-market rhetoric” may have slowed down the country’s economic recovery, research from the University of Maryland showed. They brought inequality, and the concept of "the 1%," into the mainstream.

92 / 100
Jim Watson/AFP // Getty Images

2012: Do-gooder businesses take off

After the Great Recession, companies that incorporated social good into their mission began to take off in 2012. That year, several states (including California and New York) passed new laws that gave mission-based businesses the opportunity to get reclassified as benefit corporations and “protect themselves from shareholders who might not prioritize values such as employee wellness or eco-friendliness,” Fast Company reported.

93 / 100
Angelika Warmuth/picture alliance // Getty Images

2013: Sheryl Sandberg publishes “Lean In”

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg published “Lean In” in 2013. The popular book offers guidance to help women succeed in business.

94 / 100
Jim Watson/AFP // Getty Images

2014: GM announces 79 recalls

GM had a tough year in 2014, when it announced an unprecedented 79 recalls, CBS News noted. The company’s earnings fell 80% in the second quarter, and it was expected to lose billions of dollars from the recalls.

[Pictured: General Motors CEO Mary Barra is sworn in before the House Energy and Commerce Committee for a hearing on the GM ignition switch recall on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.]

95 / 100
Alex Wong // Getty Images

2015: Huge companies announce mergers

The year 2015 marked a series of mergers and acquisitions among major companies. That year, Anheuser-Busch InBev (producer of Budweiser) and SABMiller (which makes Miller Genuine Draft) made a $106 million merger deal. Mergers also occurred between Dow Chemical and DuPont, as well as Pfizer and Allergan. Walgreens bought Rite Aid for $9.4 million, CBS News reported.

[Pictured: (L-R) CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev Carlos Brito, CEO of the Brewers Association Bob Pease, president and CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association Craig Purser, minister of Iowa Beer for the Iowa Brewers Guild J. Wilson, president of the American Antitrust Institute in Boulder, Colo., Diana Moss, president and CEO of Molson Coors Mark Hunter are sworn in during a hearing before the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee on "Ensuring Competition Remains on Tap: The AB InBev/SABMiller merger and the State of Competition in the Beer Industry."]

You may also like: Dangerous jobs from throughout human history

96 / 100
Alex Wong // Getty Images

2016: EpiPen scandal sparks concerns over drug prices

In 2016, pharmaceutical company Mylan received harsh criticism from customers and Congress for increasing the price of EpiPens by more than 400%. It would spark increasing attention to rising drug prices and concerns about pharmaceutical businesses taking advantage of the market, per U.S. News & World Report.

97 / 100
Rodin Eckenroth // Getty Images

2017: Companies respond to #MeToo movement

The #MeToo movement started in 2006 when Tarana Burke coined the phrase, and gathered steam in October 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano encouraged people to come forward if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Consumers took notice as to how businesses reacted to the movement. As a result, 55% of companies changed their procedures for handling sexual harassment, or planned to do so soon, according to a 2019 report from HR Acuity.

98 / 100
Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket // Getty Images

2018: President Trump starts trade war with China

President Donald Trump established new trade barriers and tariffs on goods from China in 2018. Many businesses and agricultural firms came out against the trade war, saying that it would harm the economy.

99 / 100
Drew Angerer // Getty Images

2019: WeWork falls from grace

Once estimated to be worth $48 billion, WeWork saw its valuation slashed to $10 billion in 2019. That year, the company made a failed attempt at launching an IPO. In October 2019, it was taken over by Softbank.

100 / 100
Erin Schaff-Pool // Getty Images

2020: Government offers businesses financial relief from pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses around the country to close. In an effort to help companies hang on, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which created special forgivable loans for companies.

You may also like: History of trucking in America

Trending Now