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The oldest companies in the world

According to statistics, most companies expire after their 40th or 50th birthday. Their endurance depends on the dynamics of economic upheaval, their reputation and  their adaptability to the needs of the customers–a top priority at any successful company.

Some business have beat the average and persisted for 500 or even over 1,000 years. The records of the world’s oldest companies reveal the priorities of humanity over time. In general, they were was food, drink, and housing. In 2008, the Bank of Korea published a report of companies that were older than 200 years. The data shows 5,586 companies from 41 countries that survived over two centuries. Most are located in Japan, the country that, according to a 2009 survey, counted over 20,000 companies older than a century.

So, here are the world’s five oldest companies that passed the test of time. They could serve as a lesson for all the startups!

The Bingley Arms, England (953 AD)

This tourist hotspot is officially known as Britain’s oldest pub, dating back to 953 AD, a time when Vikings were conquering different parts of England, and Alfred the Great and his descendants were fighting back.

The Bingley Arms in Bardsey, perhaps Britain’s oldest pub. Author: Mtaylor848. CC BY-SA 3.0
The Bingley Arms in Bardsey, perhaps Britain’s oldest pub. Author: Mtaylor848. CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s situated in the beautiful village of Bardsey, Leeds, named the Priests Inn for a period. That name originates from its history of serving as a shelter for persecuted Catholic priests and, for some time, as a courthouse from which the accused were taken to pillory. Today it offers a view into the old priest holes hidden in the chimney of the lounge.

Sean’s Bar, Ireland (900 AD)

This bar is one of the oldest pubs in Ireland and Europe. Its success owes to its location in the heart of Ireland, on the banks of the magnificent River Shannon and its estuary with Esker Riada, which in the past was a route that provided safe passage to travelers.

Sean’s Bar, Athlone. Author: Chris55. CC BY-SA 3.0
Sean’s Bar, Athlone. Author: Chris55. CC BY-SA 3.0

Sean’s Bar was established as an inn for travelers who were crossing the then fjords in the area. When the pub was being renovated back in 1970s, some of the workers discovered a wall made of wattle and daub, an ancient building material that used wooden strips glued together with clay or mud. Inside the wall, the workers found coins that were later confirmed to date back to 900 AD.

Stiftskeller St. Peter – Austria (803 AD)

Stiftskeller St. Peter
Stiftskeller St. Peter

Inside the tranquility of St. Peter’s Archabbey monastery in Salzburg, Austria, is situated the restaurant Stiftskeller St.Peter. Today, it is regarded as the oldest inn and restaurant in Central Europe, a status earned by its mention in the scriptures of the scholar Alcuin in 803 AD. Rumor has it that Wolfgang Amadeuz Mozart and even Christopher Columbus enjoyed an occasional feast here. Not together, of course.

 Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan (705 AD)

This Japanese hotel was established in 705 AD by the hotelier Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, who has passed it on to the next 52 generations of his family. This year, the inn celebrated its 1,312th birthday, holding the Guinness World Record for the oldest hotel in the world.

Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd., Japan: (578 AD)

Unfortunately now liquidated, Kongo Gumi was the oldest independent continuously operating construction company in the world.

Several Kongō Gumi workers, early 20th century
Several Kongō Gumi workers, early 20th century

It was founded in Japan a century after the fall of the Roman Empire, surviving through a myriad of changes regarding Japanese culture, economy, and politics. For over 1,400 years it succeeded in preserving the traditional techniques of construction.

Related story from us: The Fairbanks House is the oldest surviving wood-frame house in North America

However, these facts didn’t protect the company from its downfall, which resulted in Kongo Gumi being absorbed into one of it’s subsidiaries in 2006.

Brad Smithfield

Brad Smithfield is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News