One hundred lessons in endurance from 17 countriesIs there any institution more enduring or universal than a family business? Professor William O’Hara, the pre-eminent expert on this subject, posed that rhetorical question in his recent book, Centuries of Success. He also provided his answer: “Before the multinational corporation, there was family business. Before the Industrial Revolution, there was family business. Before the enlightenment of Greece and the empire of Rome, there was family business.”
Since the mid-1990s, research by O’Hara and his associate Peter Mandel has provided the foundation for two of this magazine’s most popular features: “America’s Oldest Family Companies” (updated most recently in Spring 2003) and “The World’s Oldest Foreign Family Companies” (Spring 2002). But the list that follows is the most definitive of all. In it we’ve combined the two previous lists, added newly discovered companies, and weeded out businesses that no longer qualify. The result is a compilation of the world’s 100 oldest continuously family-owned firms—all firms that can indisputably claim to have outlasted governments, nations, cities and certainly once-mighty corporations.
Prince Shotoku brought Kongo family members to Japan from Korea more than 1,400 years ago to build the Buddhist Shitennoji Temple, which still stands. Over the centuries, Kongo Gumi has participated in the construction of many famous buildings, including the 16th-century Osaka castle. Today the family continues to build and repair religious temples and manage general contracting from its Osaka headquarters. Current president is Toshitaka Kongo; his 51-year-old son, Masakazu Kongo, is waiting in the wings.
According to legend, the god of Mount Hakusan visited a Buddhist priest, telling him to uncover an underground hot spring in a nearby village. The hot spring was found, and the priest requested that his disciple, a woodcutter’s son named Garyo Saskiri, build and run a spa on the site. His family, known as Hoshi, have run a hotel in Komatsu ever since; the current structure houses 450 people in 100 rooms. Zengoro Hoshi is the current patriarch.
Vineyard, museum, butterfly collection/Haute Goulaine, France
The castle, owned by the Goulaine family, houses a rare butterfly collection in addition to a museum. It hosts various functions, including weddings. Wine is available for sale at the castle’s vineyards.
Bell foundry/Agnone, Italy
Founded: c. 1000
Bell foundry founded in the small central Italian town of Agnone, high in the Appenine hills. Still uses the original wax techniques of its founders (a wax “false bell” is overlaid with the real thing); its bells toll in New York, Beijing, Jerusalem, South America and Korea, among other locations. Firm has 20 employees, including five members of the founding Marinelli family. Pasquale Marinelli is current managing director. A museum, opened in 1997, features the work of Pasquale’s brother, sculptor Ettore Marinelli.
Wine and olive oil/Siena, Italy
The Ricasoli barons were first given their land by the Republic of Florence; today their Brolio Estate covers about 3,600 acres. The family’s main focus is its wine production, although 26 acres of the estate are used for olive cultivation.
Glass making/Murano Venezia, Italy
The Barovier family produces crystalline glass, mother-of-pearl glass and gold-free cornelian red on Murano Island, about a ten-minute ferry ride from Venice. The Baroviers merged with the Toso family, who were also glassmakers on Murano Island, in 1936.
The Hotel Pilgrim Haus is operated by the Andernach family in the town of Soest, about 110 miles north of Frankfurt.
Paper/Ambert d’Auvergne, France
Richard de Bas has a longstanding reputation for high-quality papers, which has led to many high-profile jobs. The company has supplied paper for limited-edition works by Braque and Picasso. It also operates a museum.
Jacopus Torrini moved to Florence from his native village of Scarperia to forge armor for Florentine knights. His workshop later evolved into a goldsmith, creating jewels and other precious objects. Perhaps the family’s most valued possession is its secretive and exclusive “Oro Nativo” manufacturing process, a method of working with gold while retaining its most natural color.
The Antinori family has been in the wine business since Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners more than 600 years ago. Marchese (or “Count”) Piero Antinori, and his three daughters currently oversee a system of vineyards in Italy, the U.S., Hungary, Malta and Chile that continue to be recognized by consumers and wine critics for their superior-quality Chiantis and other vintages. He sold 49% to British beer brewer Whitbred in 1983, later bought it back. The company has been housed in a Florentine palazzo since 1506.
The business began in Khanià, a Venetian port on the island of Crete. It was founded by a man locals called “Camuffi” but whose real name was El Ham Muftì. The family has supplied boats to Mohammed the Second, the Venetian Republic, Napoleon, the Asburg Imperial and the Royal Italian navies. Experts refer to a Camuffo boat as “the Stradivarius of the sea.”
When King Charles VIII began selling royal property in France to pay off some of his expenses, Pierre Raymond de Sarret bought the estate known as Coussergues. Today the vineyard produces a wide variety of wines, including Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Viogniers, Cabernet Francs, Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons. The Sarret family sells 1.5 million bottles a year and has won numerous gold medals for its wines.
The company produces majolica, a special type of ceramic that pre-dates the 13th century. Current CEO Ubaldo Grazia has expanded the company’s business into the U.S. market and has produced three exclusive designs for Henri Bendel. Grazia has also done work for other major department stores and labels, such as Neiman-Marcus and Tiffany.
Bartolomeo Beretta’s world-class gun-maker is now a Hollywood favorite; its guns appear in the James Bond series, among other films. Beretta’s reputation for quality craftsmanship enabled the company to wrest a $56 million U.S. armed forces contract away from competitor Colt Industries. Beretta is the weapon of choice of other law-enforcement agencies around the world, such as the Italian Carabinieri, French Gendarmes and Texas Rangers. The company also has earned distinction for its line of hunting weapons. Ugo Gussalli Beretta is the company’s current president.
Copper, brass, haberdashery/Stolberg, Germany
Goldsmith Wilhelm Prym started a brass and copper manufacturing business in Aachen in 1530. In 1642, the Protestant Prym family lost its guild rights in the Catholic city of Aachen and moved to Stolberg. In the 19th century, Prym developed the first finished products made of brass, iron and steel and later manufactured the first metal haberdashery products to be made mechanically. Michael Prym (born 1943) and Axel Prym (born 1950) are among the current company managers.
Woolens/Huddersfield, United Kingdom
The company, founded by John Brooke, has provided fabrics for British troops (Battle of Trafalgar, World War II), French troops and Russian military personnel. In the 19th century it had 220 looms and 900 employees, down to 280 by 1969. Today it’s headed by Mark Brooke and his brother Massimo Brooke. Mark has changed the company’s focus within the past decade, abandoning manufacturing and instead creating an entrepreneurial development park in the firm’s old mill buildings.
Wine/Saint Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain
Jaime Codorniu acquired the company in 1551, beginning centuries of family ownership. In 1976 King Juan Carlos I declared the Codorniu estate a national historic and artistic monument. The estate is visited by 200,000 people every year and produces about 60 million bottles of wine annually.
Pierre Fonjallaz began the family business when he “devoted himself to the growing of the vine,” as the label on a bottle of Fonjallaz wine will tell you. The company is now headed by Patrick Fonjallaz.
The von Poschinger glassworks in Germany began in 1568 when Joachim Poschinger took ownership of a glass factory near Frauenau, near the Czech border. Today the business is divided into three areas—farming, forestry and glass works—though glassmaking is still the focal point of family business affairs.
Candles, wax figures/Fulda, Germany
Maker of candles and wax figures still operated by the founding Gies family.
One of the few remaining independently owned banks in Germany.
Construction/Kent, United Kingdom
Founder John Durtnell and his brother Brian built their first house in 1593. It still stands and is occupied to this day. The company, based in Kent, is extremely versatile; its projects have included the Royal Military Academy, Chartwell House (Winston Churchill’s home) and Buckingham Palace.
The company today is run by Peter Eduard Meier and his sister Brigitte. Its product line consists of about 4,500 items.
Japan’s oldest traditional confectionery has been making the sweet delicacy known as wagashi since its founding in Kyoto by Enchu Kurokawa. After his son Kichiemon Kurokawa cultivated relationships with Japan’s nobility, the firm became purveyor to Japan’s Imperial Court in the 17th and 18th centuries. The firm moved to Tokyo in 1879 and opened its first branch retail outlet in 1962. Today, under Mitsuhiro Kurokawa, a former banker, the firm operates 79 shops with revenues of about $150 million.
Tailors and outfitters/Bishop’s Stortford, United Kingdom
Established as a tailor, draper and undertaker; now offers formal and casual clothes and shoes. The original building in Bishop’s Stortford (which dates from about 1360) is still in use.
Ceremonial tea school/Tokyo, Japan
Founded: c. 1602
The school has thrived for 400 years, imparting the traditional Sado tea ceremony and its culture to Japanese. Founded by Lord Enshu Kobori (1579-1647), who served as official tea instructor for Japan’s second and third shogun and built the famous Nagoya and Osaka castles. Current grand master Sojitsu Kobori succeeded his father in 2001 at age 44 and now oversees a staff of 20 with 30,000 practitioners, 53 local chapters in Japan, international chapters in Holland and Korea, and a school in Singapore. He goes to the school’s ancestor room each morning to pay his respects to his forebears.
Takenaka has built office buildings for some of Japan’s major corporations, such as Mitsui Bank and Nippon Life Insurance. The family company has won many awards for design, technique and quality.
Members of the Mellerio family from Lombardy, Italy, became seasonal workers in France in the 16th century as purveyors of handcrafted jewelry. The family became royal favorites when it helped foil an attempted assassination of King Louis XIII. Located today near the Place Vendôme in Paris, Mellerio is known for fine jewelry and as designers and creators of the French Open tennis championship trophies.
The Marenghi family, descendants of Riccio da Parma (a knight famous for his battles in the early 1500s), owns the company. On July 1, 1615, the Duke of Mantua granted the family the privilege to make and and sell paper; production began that year. The company is currently run by Cristina Marenghi and her sons Marcofabio, Alberto and Vittorio.
Founded in Constantinople by an alchemist named Avedis I, who discovered an extremely musical metal alloy to create powerful, durable cymbals. The sultan named him “Zildjian,” Armenian for “cymbalsmith.” The family arrived in the U.S. in 1909, in time for Avedis Zildjian III to establish ties with the hot new jazz drummers of the day. His son Armand (1921-2002) created modern factory. Today his daughters Craigie (CEO) and Debbie (VP/human resources) run the company, the first women chiefs in the firm’s long history.
Soy sauce/Noda, Japan
On the run after her husband’s military defeat and death at the Osaka castle in the 16th century, widow Shige Maki escaped to Noda, Japan, and established a small business making what was to become soy sauce. The family business became a unified company in 1917 when eight branches of the Mogi family merged their companies together. The company has grown into the world’s largest producer of soy sauce products.
Masatomo Sumitomo opened a medicine and book shop in Kyoto in the 17th century. As time went on, various members of the family added to the conglomerate, making it what it is today. Sumitomo Group’s current core consists of 20 companies focusing on banking, shipbuilding, mining, glass production, electronics, cement, lumber and chemicals.
This charming hotel in Tällberg is currently run by members of the 19th through 21st generations of the Akerblads family. The property has been remodeled and expanded over the years but still conveys a 17th-century atmosphere while offering excellent cuisine and warm Swedish hospitality.
Founder John Tuttle left England in 1635, survived a shipwreck off the Maine coast and arrived in Dover with his wife and four-year-old daughter. His 240-acre farm grows vegetables and strawberries and operates retail shop on site. Twelfth-generation member Evan Hourihan, who is in his 20s, has expressed interest in the family farm.
The Gekkeikan brewery was established by Jiemon Okura in the town of Fushimi. The quality of its sake has led to the company’s appointment as the official supplier of the Japanese Imperial household. Currently, the business makes more than 170 different products and exports to more than 60 countries.
Historical site/Charles City, Va.
Virginia’s oldest plantation was settled in 1613 on the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg (near the present Charles City) by Sir Thomas West. Operated as a tobacco and grain farm, 1613-1952. Acquired in 1638 by Edward Hill and managed by his descendants ever since. His great-granddaughter Elizabeth Hill married John Carter in 1723; site has been owned since then by their descendants. Under tenth-generation owner Charles Hill Carter Jr. and his wife, it was converted to a tourist attraction in 1952; since 1998, it has hosted weddings and corporate events as well under the Carters’ children.
The Hugel family’s roots in the war-torn Alsace-Lorraine region of France reach back to the 15th century. In 1639 the family began to make wine in the town of Riquewihr. Today its vintages have an outstanding international reputation and are exported to more than 100 countries.
Hatters/London, United Kingdom
The company was founded by James Lock and now makes men’s and women’s hats. One of its most recognized creations is the bowler.
Dairy and apples/North Andover, Mass.
Family farm now run the Barker family. Visitors can pick produce.
Shipping agent/Falmouth, United Kingdom
Shipping agent (now travel agency as well) founded by George Croker Fox.
Funeral services/Stansted Mountfitchet, United Kingdom
Potters/Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom
The family has been producing pottery since at least 1448. In 1650, brothers William and Thomas established their pottery business in Burslem, about 35 miles south of Liverpool. It’s currently run by members of the 11th and 12th generations.
Metals, milling, forestry/Telemark, Norway
On Aug, 8, 1657, King Fredrik III gave a royal decree allowing the Cappelen family to begin the company’s operations. The family has become involved in many different businesses over the years: owning ships, trading and producing stoves and manhole covers. The company is currently Norway’s market leader in manhole covers, which accounts for 70% of the family’s business.
Trading company/Amsterdam, Netherlands
Christiaen Van Eeghen established himself circa 1633 in Aardenburg (in the present Flanders, Belgium) as a cloth merchant. His son Jacob van Eeghen founded Van Eeghen & Co. in 1662 in Amsterdam, where the business remains. Subsequent generations launched sailing ships to spread their markets along historic spice routes to British colonies and the Far East. Today Van Eeghen continues its involvement with world trade but specializes in food products.
Jan Swarte (the surname was later changed to Schwarze) began the family business in Westphalia, where he was a farmer and a distiller. Four generations later, Hermann Josef Schwarze bought a house at Herrenstrasse, where the family still lives. This house serves as the company’s headquarters. The Schwarze Group acquired the Schlichte brands in the 1990s.
At the request of Fernando Gorges, agent for King Charles II, John Gooch was asked to reside on this oceanfront peninsula at the mouth of the Kennebunk River to ferry travelers across in the 1640s. He provided rooms and operated a tavern for travelers who stayed in the area. The family’s first dated record is Gooch’s will, dated 1667. The property was passed down for generations to the first-born son. Four generations ago the Gooches had only daughters, and the name “Severance” was introduced. The current 12th-generation innkeeper, Patricia Mason—daughter of Mike and Sandy Severance—now operates the inn with her husband, Ken.
Blankets/Witney, United Kingdom
Richard Early established a blanket factory in Witney in 1669, mostly contracting to spinners who worked in their homes. Family’s first weaver was his son Thomas. Brian Crawfford of the eighth generation (his mother was an Early) was with the firm from 1949 to 1986.
Banking/London, United Kingdom
The Hoare bank in London is the last survivor of the English private deposit banks that were originally established in the 17th and 18th centuries. The bank was founded by Richard Hoare and is now run by members of the tenth and 11th generations. The family’s pride in close customer relationships and meticulous service has attracted famous customers, including Samuel Pepys, Queen Charlotte, furniture makers Thomas Chippendale & Son, Lord Byron, Jane Austen and various prime ministers.
Uniforms and insignia/Birmingham, United Kingdom
Britain’s leading manufacturer of military and civil regalia (uniforms, badges, buttons, medals, swords, etc.) has served the British monarchy since about 1750. Past customers include Lord Nelson and his men at the Battle of Trafalgar, the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo and the armies of both North and South in the U.S. Civil War.
Iron making/Forges de Morvillars, France
The business was started by an ironmaster named Nicolas Viellard and met with significant success after the French Revolution. During this time the business adopted a strategy of cultivating family alliances to consolidate the iron works in Belfort, about 35 miles north of Toulouse. It’s now one of the world’s leading makers of fishhooks.
Agriculture, timber/Frederica, Del.
The farm has remained in the Miller family’s hands through nine generations. Its tillable land is currently leased to a local farmer.
Wine trading/Bordeaux, France
The Gradis family, Jewish refugees from Portugal, settled in Bordeaux in the late 1500s. Diego Gradis later began the family wine trading business. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), family ships were used to re-supply troops in Canada. During World War I, the French government commissioned the family to ensure the supply of sugar for France. Today, the family has returned to its roots in wine trading.
Weavers/London, United Kingdom
Toye, Kenning & Spencer holds a royal warrant and over the years has produced much of the U.K.’s regalia, medals and uniforms. Brian Toye is the current chairman.
The Yamamotoyama family began producing premium teas in Japan more than three centuries ago. The company is now the oldest family-owned tea business in the world.
Packaging materials/Criquebeuf-sur-Seine, France
The company was founded by André Delamare and is now run by Franéois Delamare. Family members initially worked with wood, making carts and stagecoaches. Eventually they expanded into plastics and adhesives in the packaging market. The family has earned two top packaging awards, in 1986 and 1988. Today it conducts research on recycling and transformation of industrial waste.
Since its founding by Joannes Nolet (1638-1702), the Nolet family’s distillery in Schiedam has been passed from father to son, each zealously guarding the family’s secret vodka formula. The company name refers to the family’s first distilling kettle. Current proprietor Carolus Nolet, 63, maintains the family tradition of distillation by hand.
Real estate and engineering/Lye, United Kingdom
The company began by making chain mail and swords and is now the oldest firm with a current stock market listing in the United Kingdom. In addition to making real estate investments, the company produces specialized cargo handling equipment, large crankshafts, roofing materials and other products.
Wine merchants/London, United Kingdom
Family of coffee, tea and spice merchants gravitated to wines and spirits later. They earned the right to supply the British royal family in 1760 and continue to do so—they currently hold royal warrants to the Queen and the Prince of Wales. The family operates out of the same shop where they began three centuries ago.
Brewer/Faversham, United Kingdom
Britain’s oldest brewer, founded by Capt. Richard Marsh, who was the mayor of Faversham, in Kent. Samuel Shepherd and his sons Julius and John eventually bought the business. When Percy Beale Neame joined the partnership in 1864, the company’s beer began to gain widespread renown. The Neame family has remained in control ever since.
Fruit, produce, flowers/Brookline, Mass.
Last working farm within Boston-Brookline limits; only one of six farms left within Route 128 Beltway. Also operates summer outdoor program for children.
The world’s oldest perfume company was launched in Cologne by Johann Maria Farina (1685-1766), who made his city famous by calling his new fragrance Eau de Cologne. His namesake and eighth-generation descendant, Johann Maria Farina, runs the firm today.
Pest control/United Kingdom
Founded 1720 or earlier, once a thriving 550-acre dairy operation. Tenth-generation proprietor George Cooke stopped milking cows in 1995, sold off most acreage and developed an industrial park. The business is now a general contractor and leases its remaining land to a tenant farmer.
Farm established in 1722 by the grandchildren of Rebecca Nurse, hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Mass., in 1692. The family fled Salem and in 1722 purchased land on the frontier in Westborough, where descendants have farmed the 140-acre spread for more than 280 years. Jonathan Nourse, proprietor since 1971, has expanded into prepared foods (jams, jellies, pies, etc.).
Even with more than 400 employees, the company preserves its traditions, which began in the 18th-century French trade fairs. Michel Denantes and his wife, Barbe, established a reputation for fine cloth at these fairs.
Licorice/Rossano Scalo, Italy
The family’s roots in Italy’s southern Calabria region pre-date the year 1000. Fortunato Amarelli created the Amarelli company with his son in Rossano in 1731, harvesting licorice to sweeten his land when it lay fallow. In 1987 the company won the gold medal from the Italian Chemical Company for combining traditional craftsmanship with modern technology.
Pietro Francesco Piacenza created the first woolen mill in Pollone, a small town nestled at the foot of the Alps, near the Swiss and French borders. The family prides itself on its strict quality standards—its method of producing wool takes up to six times longer than some more modern techniques. The company’s president today is Riccardo Piacenza.
The business was begun by Jacques Fourneaux. After World War I, the Taittinger family merged with Fourneaux-Forest (as the company was known at the time). The Taittingers ultimately took control of the operation. Claude Taittinger runs the business today.
Linen/Upperlands, Northern Ireland, U.K.
The family has operated for more than 250 years as a manufacturer of linens in Northern Ireland. Their international reputation for quality and value has made Irish linen perhaps more highly prized than any other cloth. Founded by Jackson Clark, the company was named for his great-great-grandson William; it’s now run by Bobby and Stephen Clark of the ninth generation.
The 1,100-acre farm today offers an ambitious variety of food products (cider, apple pies, etc.), events (golf tournaments, fund-raisers) and tours.
Oldest farm in North Carolina. Family mementos include the original deed with wax seal of the king of England and a note from Theodore Roosevelt thanking the Whitleys for lending him their binoculars. The land is now leased for tobacco, corn, wheat, peanuts, soybeans.
Agriculture, orchards/Koue Bokkeveld, Cape Town, South Africa
The farm was founded by Isaak Wilhelm Van der Merwe and is now run by two brothers, Frans and Nicolaas Van der Merwe. The family also has built a literary legacy through poet Isaac Wilhelmus Van der Merwe, known nationally as “Boerneef,” and current author Carl Van der Merwe (eighth generation). The family farm was declared a national monument in 1973.
The business was started by Antoine Aubanel in Avignon. Rome awarded Antoine the title of “master printer” in 1756, and in 1780 he was appointed the official printer to the Pope, an honor that was to be handed down from generation to generation. The family refused to publish Napoleon Bonaparte’s book Le Souper De Beaucaire.
Bell maker/Padua, Italy
The foundry was established by Giuseppe Colbachini when he joined with his three brothers to make bells. The Colbachini family’s talents earned them the prestigious title of ‰Pontifical Foundry” on Jan. 17, 1898. To this day, Fonderia Daciano Colbachini & Figli is the only maker of bells in the world that is able to stamp its products with the Papal coat of arms. The business is currently directed by Giovanni Aldinio-Colbachini.
Hoist manufacturers/Witten-Heven, Germany
Johann Diederich Neuhaus began the business when he joined the Factory Register in Germany as a manufacturer. The company started by producing wooden jacks, which were in high demand by carters who would constantly break their wheels on the rough terrain of 18th-century roads. In 1952 the company invented the air hoist, which was much safer than the electrical hoists produced at the time. Today, the company’s products are sold in 90 countries. One product, the Gorilla V, is reportedly the world’s most powerful air hoist: It can lift 250 tons. Johann Diederich Neuhaus is the current chairman.
The family business began in Lorraine when François Boch, then an iron founder, started making ceramic tableware. In 1791, Nicolas Villeroy established a nearby ceramic factory. In 1836, these two families merged their factories to form Villeroy & Boch.
Tobacco pipes/Gouda, Netherlands
Aart van der Want currently runs the company.
Farm/New Roads, La.
One of the state’s oldest plantations; descendants of first owner Marquis Vincent de Ternant still live there. Originally grew indigo and cotton; now sugarcane, soybeans, corn and Brahmin cattle. The house, open for tours, contains original Louis XIV- and Louis XV-style furnishings and French objects handed down through generations. A basement museum displays antiques: blacksmith tools, cotton scales, sugar kettles (formerly used to boil indigo beans down to a dye), candle molds, and an 1842 inventory of the estate, which lists livestock by name and ranks the value of each slave by age and ability.
The company traces its origins to 18th-century Bordeaux, where, as legend has it, Marie Brizard saved a sailor from death. To show his gratitude, the sailor told Marie about an elixir that supposedly could cure every type of ill. Marie joined with her nephew Jean-Baptiste Roger to start the family company by producing the “elixir” known as anisette. The business is still centered in Bordeaux and is currently run by Jean-Baptiste Roger. Today the company’s products can be found in 130 countries.
Parts of the family’s wine cellars date to the 13th century. One portion of their cellar was built in the 16th century for the king of France. The family’s cellars have been classified as historical treasures. Today the estate covers more than 162 acres. Family members Robert, Philippe, Véronique, Françoise and Frédéric currently run the winery.
Family-owned conglomerate based in Duisburg controls Gehe, Europe’s biggest drug wholesaler, and Lloyd Chemists, a household name in Britain. It also has large stakes in retailers, mail-order houses, steel recycling, concrete blocks and disaster recovery services. Sales exceeded $25 billion in 2002. The company was founded by Jan Willem Noot and later renamed for his grandson Franz Haniel. About 520 Haniel family members are shareholders (although an unwritten rule precludes them from working there full-time). Franz Haniel, 49, is chairman of the firm’s supervisory board.
Johann Christoph Riedel (1678-1744) journeyed throughout Europe trading glass. His son Johann Carl Riedel (1701-1781), a guilder and glasscutter, operated his own workshop. Grandson Johann Leopold Riedel (1726-1800) founded glass factory in 1756, benefited from the need to rebuild windowpanes after the Seven Year War (1756-1763) between Austrians and Prussians. The company is now known for making wineglasses. Georg Riedel of the tenth generation is the president. Eleventh-generation member Maximilian Riedel (born 1977) is in charge of the North American market; Laetizia Riedel (born 1974), a lawyer, plans to become the firm’s legal adviser.
The business was started when Antonio Di Giovan Battista bought a woolen mill in 1757. The current president is Gemma Boniver Conte. The firm has cultivated a reputation for fine women’s clothing.
José Antonio de Cuervo acquired a land grant from the king of Spain in 1758. In 1795, José Maria Guadalupe Cuervo was granted the first license from the king to produce tequila. The family business is now Mexico’s oldest existing company. In Spanish, Cuervo means “crow,” the symbol the firm uses to identify its products.
Crystal, china, & cookware/Dublin, Ireland
Waterford Wedgwood is perhaps the world’s leading maker of luxury crystal, china, ceramics and cookware. The company’s most visible product is the large crystal ball lowered every New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square. Chairman Tony O’Reilly and his brother-in-law control about 27%.
The business was started in the U.K. in 1760 when James Creed received an appointment from King George III to make fragrances. The company moved its operations from London to Paris in 1854. Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, both commissioned the company to make scents for them. Today the company has 238 fragrances in its line and is run by Olivier Creed.
Foundry/Villers-St. Paul, France
Antoine Griset established the family’s first metal foundry in Paris in 1760. The factory was moved to Rue Oberkampf in Paris in 1825. Here the platinum bar used by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures to denote the “standard meter” was first produced.
Ranch/San Fernando, Chile
Don Melchor Jufré del Águila, mayor of Santiago, received an 18th-century gift from the king of Spain: the Angostura Estate, located in Chile’s Central Valley 78 miles south of Santiago. He passed the land on to his daughter, Doña Ana María del Águila, and its 4,000 hectares became the home of a five-star hotel that can accommodate 37 guests. It’s also the home of one of the most prestigious horse stables in the Americas: the Aculeo Stable, which features horses brought to Spain by the Moors in 711 and later brought to the New World by the Spanish Conquistadors. Germán Claro Lira currently owns the land.
Writing instruments/Stein, Germany
The company was founded in Stein, Germany (near Nuremberg), when Kaspar Faber, a carpenter, produced his own pencils. Count Anton Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell currently manages the company, which offers about 2,000 products with 2002 sales of $263 million.
Metal products/Bielefeld, Germany
The family can be traced back to 1575. The Möllers began working with copper in 1762. Successive generations expanded the family’s focus to include a tannery and leather goods factory (1827), an engineering division (1863) and a plastics division (1936). Dr. Peter von Möller, who represents the seventh generation, currently runs the company.
Johannes Bachman, a Swiss Mennonite, began as cabinetmaker in Lancaster County, Pa., and evolved into coffins and funerals. His original business ledger (in German), dated April 1769, has been passed to the present eighth generation. John D. Bachman is the current director.
Keys & key cutting machines/Vittorio Veneto, Italy
Camillo Bianchi started the business when he invented the key-cutting service. The company serves more than 130,000 key-cutting centers, locksmiths and manufacturers in the security and automotive industries worldwide.
Brandy and sherry/Cadiz, Spain
The business was started by an Englishman, Thomas Osborne Mann, who in the late 1700s owned an export agency in Cadiz. He enjoyed early success through his friendship with a British consul, who allowed him to store his wines in the consulate’s personal cellar. Today the company has about 700 employees and is headed by Tomas and Ignacio Osborne.
Music publishing/Paris, France
The family business was begun by Antoine-Marcel Lemoine in Paris. In 1810 he published the Messe Solennelle, composed for the coronation of Napoleon I. The company also published the works of Chopin, Berlioz, Donizetti, Halevy, Franck, Gounod, Messiaen and Piazzolla. Pierre Lemoine currently heads the company.
Beef cattle operation still functioning. Henry Smith II started Clifton Farm. When his great-granddaughter Mary Taylor Carter married William Alexander Stuart, she brought a dowry of 80,000 acres, which Stuart added to his own large land holding. Current proprietor William (Zan) Stuart is eighth generation from founder; he has no children in the business, but his grandchildren may succeed him.
Tools & ironwares/Lisbon, Portugal
In 1778 an earthquake ruined much of Lisbon, then one of Europe’s most brilliant capitals. This disaster prompted Ignacio Jose Fernandes to open a business selling tools and iron goods to help rebuild the city. Today the firm is an industry leader in Portugal.
Milling, farm products/Watauga, Tenn.
Stone mason Jeremiah Dungan built the original foundation for the mill and stone manor (still standing) and ran the mill with his children Jeremiah and Mary D. Hendrix. The mill passed to his son Jeremiah’s daughter Mary and her husband, John Houston (brother of frontier hero Sam Houston), and then to their sons John Jr. and William Houston. They were succeeded in 1866 by George W. St. John (1837-1904), great-nephew of Jeremiah Dungan. His son James St. John (1874-1956) inherited the mill from his father in 1904. His son George St. John, an electrical engineer, succeeded him and converted the farm’s power source from water to electricity. Today the mill is owned by George’s daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Ron Dawson. The operation changed from general feed and milling to a feed and seed store. Owing to shifting boundaries, the company has paid taxes in three different states: North Carolina, Tennessee and the short-lived “State of Franklin.”
Distillery/Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Bortolo Nardini founded the distillery when he bought an inn next to the famous Bassano Bridge, about 45 miles northwest of Venice. The inn became known as the “Grapperia Nardini.” Grape pomace acquavite (known as grappa) had been made by peasants living in the area before the Nardinis arrived. Nardini introduced technology to the process of distilling the seeds, skins and stems left at the end of the winemaking process, making it more modern and scientific.
Brandy Distiller/Scobeyville, N.J.
America’s first large-scale distiller produces AppleJack brandy, vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, tequila, wines, etc. Robert Laird, Revolutionary War soldier, first distilled AppleJack in 1780 to serve at inn, provided brandy to George Washington.