The Surprising and Strange Origins of 8 Famous Companies

We know a lot about how some famous companies originated because their histories are part of American folklore: Apple, Microsoft, Ford, etc.

But there are plenty of iconic businesses that have pretty fascinating and unusual beginnings. Take a look at how these famous companies got off the ground…you might be surprised.

1. Coca Cola

Photo Credit: Public Domain

John Pemberton was wounded in the Civil War at the Battle of Columbus in Georgia, and he became addicted to morphine to help ease his pain. Pemberton experimented with coca as an alternative, and eventually came up with his Coca Cola recipe in 1886.

2. Bank of America

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The banking behemoth actually started out in San Francisco in 1904 as the Bank of Italy. It was started by Amadeo Pietro Giannini, who established the bank to help Italian immigrants who were typically discriminated against by other banks.

3. Kellogg’s Cornflakes

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As anti-masturbation hysteria raged in the 19th century (it totally did, trust us on that), doctor John Harvey Kellogg came up with what he thought was the cure. Kellogg believed a healthy (and bland) diet would surely curb the urge people had to touch themselves, so, in 1898, he developed the Corn Flakes we all know and love. I have a feeling it didn’t work…

4. Marriott

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The well-known hotel chain actually started out in 1927 as an A&W Root Beer stand that also sold food in Washington, D.C. The family expanded their business and opened drive-in restaurants, but they didn’t even establish their first hotel until 30 years later, in 1957 in Virginia.

5. Samsung

Photo Credit: Public Domain

The electronics giant began as a trading company in 1938 that specialized in fish, locally grown groceries, and dried noodles. Company founder Lee Byung-chul later diversified into many areas, including into electronics in the late 1960s.

6. TGI Fridays

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The popular restaurant chain was established in 1965 in New York City by Alan Stillman. His reason for opening the eatery? He wanted to be able to meet and mingle with all the young stewardesses, models, and other single women who lived in his neighborhood on the east side of Manhattan.

Genius (and killer potato skins, Mr. Stillman).

7. Little Trees air fresheners

Photo Credit: Flickr,Mike Mozart

Those little air fresheners hanging from your rearview mirror have a cool little origin story. Julius Sämann was a chemist who had spent a good amount of time extracting oils from evergreen trees in Canada. Then one day a milk truck driver complained to him about the disgusting smell of spoiled milk in his vehicle, and Sämann decided he had a big game-changer on his hands, which turned out to be good news for all of us.

8. Procter & Gamble

Photo Credit: Public Domain

William Procter made candles and James Gamble made soap. The two didn’t know each other until they married two sisters in Cincinnati. Their father-in-law suggested the two work together, and in 1837 Procter and Gamble went into business together. The company is now over 180 years old and worth billions of dollars.