The Quick 10: 10 of the World's Oldest Companies

When I wrote the post about Woolworth's last week, I thought it was an old company. At nearly 120 years old, it was one of the oldest companies in the United States, but that's nothing when you expand your view to the rest of the world "“ these 10 are some of the oldest continuously-operating companies ever.

1. Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd, just saw the end of its long run a couple of years ago. Up until 2006, the Japanese construction company had been going strong since 578 A.D. Yep, you read that right - 578 A.D. The company was primarily involved in building temples but also had a stint building coffins during WWII. Things started going downhill in the "˜80s, when they borrowed a lot of money to invest in real estate. By 2004, revenues were way down, and by 2006, they were $343 million in debt and ended up being absorbed by Takamatsu construction.

hoshi2. Hōshi, a traditional Japanese inn in operation since 718, took over the "World's Oldest Continuously Operating Company" title when Kongō Gumi Co. folded. Located in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, the hotel has been in the same family for 46 generations so far.

3. Within the walls of St. Peter's Archabbey in Salzburg, Vienna, lies Stiftskeller St. Peter, a restaurant and wine cellar that has been feeding the masses since at least 803 A.D. And apparently being in business that long has allowed them to perfect a thing or two, because it consistently gets outstanding reviews from the travelers who pass through its doors "“ and there are some pretty impressive travelers that are rumored to have eaten here. Supposedly Mephistopheles met Faust at Stiftskeller, Charlemagne liked to eat there, and Christopher Columbus downed a mug of beer there before he hopped on the Santa Maria.

4. It should come as no surprise that there is a brewery on the list "“ the Weihenstephan Brewery of Bavaria, to be exact, which has been serving patrons since 1040, and maybe even earlier. But that's the year it was licensed by the city, so we have actual paperwork to prove it. It survived even when the monastery it was attached to was secularized under Napoleon in 1803. These days the brewery not only makes a selection of pale lagers and wheat beers, it's also a learning facility for students at the Techincal University of Munich.

5. The Wieliczka Salt Mine in the Krakow area of Poland is another one that had been going strong until very recently. And it sort of still is "“ although it's no longer producing salt, it is still a popular tourist spot, attracting about 1.2 million visitors every year. Since it has been open since 1044, some of those visitors have included Copernicus, Goethe, Mendeleyev, Pope John Paul II and Bill Clinton. If you're not headed to Krakow anytime soon, feel free to check out the virtual tour.

6. Although it's now owned by Heineken, Affligem Abbey brewery of Belgium retained its name, therefore keeping the not-quite 1000-year-old company in the running as one of the oldest companies ever. It was founded in 1074 by Benedictine monks and is still brewed using that original recipe, even since Heineken bought them in 2000.

aberdeen7. Aberdeen Harbour, the principal harbor in northern Scotland, has been in operation since 1136. It hasn't always been so successful, though "“ with a gravel bar at its entrance, it actually deterred trade in the region for years. Major renovations have taken place since 1773, though, and today it continues to help trade thrive instead of hindering it (which, you know, is the whole point of a harbor).
8. Michael Scott would be delighted to know that a paper company has been in business since 1288, although it's not Dunder Mifflin. It's called Stora Enso and the company actually started out mining copper, not pressing paper from pulp. In fact, it didn't end up diversifying into paper until the end of the 19th century. Stora finally ceased the copper mining business in 1992 and merged with Enso in 1998 to become the world's second-largest pulp and paper manufacturer (in terms of production, anyway "“ in terms of revenue it's only fifth).

9. Surprise! Another brewery. Augustiner Brewery of Munich, Germany, dates all the way back to 1328. It was probably earlier, but as with the Weihenstephan Brewery, we only have proof dating from 1328. Also like Weihenstephan, the monastery-operated brewery fell under Napoleon's reforms during 1803 and was only allowed to be sold within the monastery walls. When the state took it over, the monks protested by walking out. In 1829, the brewery was bought by a private owner and remained more or less unchanged until WWII, when it suffered a lot of damage during the war. But not even heavy artillery can keep a good brewery down, and today it's still brewing brands like Augustiner Helles, Edelstoff, Oktoberfestbier and Augustiner Dunkles (which I would drink just for the name).

10. The Kremnica Mint in Slovakia first started producing florins and ducats in 1328, when Hungarian King Charles Robert of Anjou decided that Kremnica would be a free royal town that would operate a mint. Kremnica ducats became somewhat famous, producing coins of such quality that they were known as the hardest currency in Central Europe. During WWII, German soldiers blew up the Mint's equipment, but dedicated workers rallied to bring the machinery and building back up to par.

Know of another particularly old company? Share it with us in the comments!

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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