They're the brands you can't help but know, with logos that nearly everyone will recognize. They're companies founded back in the 1800s that became the major players in providing the products and services of the next century -- and the one after that. Names like AT&T and JP Morgan, Coca-Cola and John Deere. And while their logos have changed over time, the changes have been evolutionary, not revolutionary. Companies with this kind of brand recognition don't tamper with it lightly.
So which firms' brands earned a place on 24/7 Wall St.'s list of America's 10 classic corporate icons, and how did they make the grade? We started by searching for brands that weren't just old, but part of America's consciousness -- and that have kept essentially the same logos since they were established. We also looked at the valuations performed by brand-management firms such as BrandZ and Interbrand.
Then, 24/7 reviewed the histories of famous logos, looking at them at several points during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries -- and only businesses whose histories go that far back were considered. Today, the logos on this list are all owned by large multinationals that usually use the same brand images for these products worldwide.
To make the list, a logo had to be clearly recognizable to a large part of the American population, both now and over the last hundred years -- an admittedly subjective measurement. A number of logos have stood the test of time but would be recognized only in certain regions, in individual industries, or by a small fraction of the public.
Here they are: The top 10 brand logos in American commerce. Odds are, you'll recognize them all -- and with good reason.
This agricultural machinery company, most widely recognized for its tractors, has identified itself with the leaping deer logo for more than 120 years. Founded in 1837, it first registered that trademark in 1876. The original John Deere (DE) logo, interestingly enough, featured a type of deer common to Africa. It wasn't until later that the iconic animal was changed to a North American white-tailed deer. It has undergone many changes and refinements over the years, but it has continually illustrated the company's motto: "Nothing runs like a Deere."
Beginning operations in 1852, Anheuser-Busch has been one of the leading international breweries in the world ever since. As recognizable as the company's flagship beer, Budweiser, is the Anheuser-Busch logo, known as the "A & Eagle." The trademark was first introduced in 1872 and has barely changed since. The eagle has shifted position very slightly (its wings were originally folded). However, the basic components -- an eagle standing on an American shield in the middle of a large A -- have remained constant. When Inbev purchased Anheuser in 2008, the company's brand remained intact, as did the A & Eagle on packaging. Indeed, the eagle was incorporated into the new Anheuser InBev (BUD) parent company's logo.
Quaker Oats' mascot, "the Quaker man," was first trademarked in 1877. The image was chosen in part because the company was operating in Pennsylvania, home of many Quakers, and in part to reflect the Quaker values of honesty, integrity and purity. In the earliest version of the logo, the Quaker man held a scroll with the word "Pure" on it. In those 134 years, the Quaker man was updated only three times before he became the smiling face seen on Quaker Oats products today.
The idea for both the mix and brand of Aunt Jemima pancakes came from newspaper editor Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood, who got idea for their icon while watching a performance of the song Old Aunt Jemima at a minstrel show in 1888. The two men had developed a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake product, and with a brand and trademark, began producing the mix at their mill in St. Joseph, Mo. The logo of a kindly looking black woman initially fit the racially stereotyped roots of its conception, but has slowly evolved over time to be somewhat more culturally sensitive. Aunt Jemima no longer wears a kerchief, but rather pearl earrings and lipstick. The brand is now owned by Quaker Oats -- itself a subsidiary of Pepsico (PEP) -- making it the only company to have two logos on this lists.
Coca-Cola (KO) was invented in 1886 by pharmacist John Pemberton, but it was Pemberton's partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, who came up with the name and now classic logo, noting that "the two Cs would look well in advertising." It was then registered in 1887. Although the company's packaging has undergone many design changes over the years, alterations to the logo have been minimal. The one iconic image established in the 19th century is still clearly connected to the one seen on billions of cans and bottles today.
General Electric's (GE) original logo, which was used at the company's inception in 1892, contained only the highly stylized letters G and E. In 1900, GE trademarked an updated version. This iteration featured a circle with four flairs around the letters, and bears a very close resemblance to the logo's current form. Throughout the 20th century, GE made slight adjustments without altering the style, the most significant of which was the blue color added to the background in 2004. Various nicknames over the years for the logo have included "the Meatball" and "the Death Star."
Vicks was started in the 1890s by pharmacist Lunsford Richardson in Greensboro, N.C. He originally sold 21 medicines under the Vicks label, the most popular of which was the Vicks Croup and Pneumonia Salve, which would later be known as VapoRub. Back then, Vicks products were marked by a right-side-up triangle that read "Vick's Family Remedies" along its sides, with family portraits in the center. The logo has been altered several times over the years -- flipped and colored red, then made solid, colored green, and given a bold, white "VICKS" label. The triangular shape, however, has remained constant. The brand and its products are now owned by Procter & Gamble (PG)
Arm & Hammer
Arm & Hammer is a trademarked baking soda marketed by Church and Dwight (CHD). The brand was introduced in the 1860s by James Church, who owned the Vulcan Spice Mills. The arm and hammer were designed to represent the muscular arm and hammer of the Roman blacksmith god Vulcan. Originally, the Arm & Hammer logo appeared only on baking soda, but it has expanded and now appears on a wide range of cleaning and hygiene products. There's some confusion regarding the brand and logo, and business magnate Armand Hammer, who purchased a large share of the company in the 1980s. The shared name is purely coincidental -- although some claim his move to purchase Church and Dwight was based on it.
Johnnie Walker whisky originated in 1820 as Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky, and was sold out of John "Johnnie" Walker's grocery store in Kilmarnock, Scotland. It wasn't until 1908, however, that the spirit was renamed Johnnie Walker Whisky. It was in that same year that cartoonist Tom Browne created the famous "Striding Man" logo, devised in the likeness of the company's founder. This image of a walking man with top hat and cane, accompanied by the slogan "Born 1820 - Still going strong!" is meant to "represent the Walker spirit of progress and forward thinking." Today, London-based alcoholic beverage giant Diageo (DEO) is the forward-thinking owner of Johnnie Walker.
The New York Times
The font for The New York Times (NYT) logo, or "nameplate" as it's called in the newspaper business, was created for the first issue on Sept. 18, 1851, and the periodical was originally -- and briefly -- called The New York Daily Times. Since then, the logo has seen a series of very minor changes, but the style has remained more or less constant for the last 160 years. The biggest change, besides simplifying the name to The New York Times in 1857, was the removal of the period after it in 1967. The original typeface was designed with only the letters contained in the title, and while the font has been expanded for use in other parts of the publication, it's still unique to the Times, though several close replicas have since been created.