by Gwen Moritz
Posted 9/24/2007 12:00 am
Updated 11 months ago
(You can view the complete list of the oldest businesses in Arkansas by clicking on the appropriate section: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, or Part Four. A spreadsheet version of the list is available here.)
(You may also click here to see the geographical distribution of Arkansas' oldest businesses.)
When Arkansas Business first tried to catalog businesses that have survived in Arkansas for more than a century back in 2004, we identified 166. We learned immediately that it was woefully incomplete.
Today we make another attempt. This list of 209 businesses includes 18 that have had their 100th birthdays since that first list was published.
We made our own rules. We include private, nonprofit organizations like hospitals, private colleges and trade associations. We exclude government-sponsored institutions like the University of Arkansas (founded 1871) or the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (1879).
We didn't include companies that were founded outside of the state and then moved into Arkansas, either in whole or part. We didn't include banks with 100-plus-year histories if they no longer have their original charter.
We did include every bank whose current charter dates to 1907 or earlier, which means that banks that seem very new - like Parkway Bank of Rogers and Centennial Bank of Little Rock - are on the list.
We included home-grown companies that are now owned by non-Arkansas companies if they continue to be operated as independent business units, like 142-year-old Coleman Dairy, which is now owned by Tennessee-based Turner Holdings. M.M. Cohn (1902) has been removed since it will soon cease to exist as an independent business unit of The Dunlap Co. of Fort Worth, Texas.
The oldest business in Arkansas is Rose Law Firm of Little Rock, founded in 1820 by Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley, for whom two counties would be named. Crittenden and Ashley didn't stay in practice together long, but the firm survived. It got its ultimate name from Uriah M. Rose, who joined the firm a mere 142 years ago, and his son, George B. Rose, who joined in 1881.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette traces the Gazette side of its history to 1819, but that business was acquired by the Arkansas Democrat in 1991 and ceased to be operated independently. We date the surviving business to 1870, which is the approximate date that the Arkansas Democrat (originally called The Liberal) appeared in Little Rock.
The Democrat-Gazette is one of 65 newspapers among the 209 businesses on the list. The end of the 19th century was a time of rapid expansion in the newspaper industry; a list of newspapers that have died would be much, much longer.
The next biggest category of centennial companies is commercial banks - 36 have charters dating to 1907 or earlier.
The oldest is Arvest Bank of Fayetteville, owned by the Walton family of Bentonville, which deliberately retained the 1871 charter originally known as McIlroy Bank & Trust when its bank holdings were collapsed into a single Arkansas charter.
Also well represented among the oldest businesses are trade associations, beginning with the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce in 1866.
Additions or corrections are welcome. E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (501) 372-1443.