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What do ice cream, rifles, and motor oil have in common? They represent a few of the companies celebrating a century and a half of doing business. And you might be surprised to learn where their stories started. In 1866, Valvoline was created as a lubricant to unclog the valves of steam engines. That’s right—Valvoline is older than the car itself. As we reflect on our 150 years, we tip our hats to a few of our comrades—and we take a look at how their stories unfolded.
Photo Credit: Nestle®
Nestlé® is the largest food company in the world in terms of revenue, but the brand’s history began long before people were scooping powdered chocolate into their milk. After the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company was founded in 1866, pharmacist Henri Nestlé created ‘farine lactée’—or ‘flour with milk’—in Vevey, Switzerland as a food source for infants who could not be breastfed. Infant mortality rates plummeted, and in 1905 his company merged with Anglo-Swiss to form the Nestlé® Group. Today, Nestlé® owns 84 brands whose products range from ice cream and candy, to bottled water and coffee, to pet food and breakfast cereals.
Photo Credit: General Mills
When you think of General Mills, you might think of cereal. That’s because they own lots of them. Thirteen at present, not counting dozens of others over the past century. (Does anyone remember Banana Wackies?) This food company has many other brands in its portfolio too, from baking products such as Pillsbury, to Progresso soups, to Totino’s Pizza Rolls, and more. But in 1866, many doubted the company would take off. General Mills was founded as a flour mill on the St. Anthony Falls in Minnesota by a 48-year-old Civil War veteran. Entering the flour business was considered foolish, and many scoffed. It would fail, they told him. Boy, were they wrong.
Photo Credit: Rock Island Auction
Food brands aren’t the only ones with whom we share a birthday. Winchester is a popular brand among sportsmen, but it earned status as a tool for westward expansion. After taking inspiration from early lever-action rifles in the Civil War, Oliver Winchester established the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1866 to produce the best firearms and ammunition in America. The Winchester Model 1873 was dubbed “The Gun That Won the West,” and many pioneers swore by the brand, including William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Dakota rancher (and later, president) Theodore Roosevelt, and Lt. Col. George Custer.
Photo Credit: Blade Creative Branding
Another brand that could have been in the saddle bags of those western settlers is Jack Daniel’s. It’s the oldest registered distillery in the United States, operating continuously (not counting that unpleasant period in the 1920s) since its founding in Lynchburg, Tennessee. While many brands have evolved since their beginnings, Jack Daniel’s boasts to have roughly the same distilling process as it did in 1866. Today, the whiskey is available in 165 countries, but every batch is still made in Lynchburg.
Photo Credit: Terapeak
In the wake of the Civil War, William A. Breyer began hand cranking ice cream for his friends in Philadelphia. Now that’s a feel-good story we can get behind. The business slowly grew and by 1918, the family was shipping ice cream up and down the East Coast, from New York City and Staten Island; to Newark, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Today, Breyers® is a division of Unilever. The brand is still based near its original Philadelphia home—in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey—and folks from California to Maine can enjoy a bowl of Breyers® ice cream.
Valvoline is not affiliated with nor endorses any of these brands. Any brand name or trademark is the property of its respective owner.