Corporate Time-Travel: Nostalgic Images Of Famous Companies’ Beginnings

By Ayomitide F

Ever wondered how the giants of the corporate world got their start? Well, they didn’t just magically become global powerhouses overnight. In these seldom-seen photos from their early days, we’ll peel back the curtain and dive into the humble beginnings of mega-companies like Google and McDonald’s. 

From Apple’s garage tinkering to Google’s dorm room brainstorming and McDonald’s first humble burger joint, these pictures capture the moments when these iconic brands were just starting to write their success stories.

These snapshots reveal untold origin stories and take us on a nostalgic journey. They will make you feel like you are strolling down memory lane. So, stay tuned to learn more about corporate history and see how these giants began their epic journeys.

The Queen

Back in 1938, John Fremont “J.F.” McCullough whipped up a killer ice cream recipe. On day one, Sherb Noble, their friend, dished out a jaw-dropping 1,600 servings in just two hours! The trio saw the potential, and in 1940, they opened the very first Dairy Queen store in Joliet, Illinois. 

Image credit: Dick Brodeur/Pinterest

And then, they blew up like C4! They went from ten stores in ’41 to a mind-boggling 2,600 by ’55. Dairy Queen even went global after crossing into Canada in ’53. But some places still got the lion’s share. For example, Texans enjoy the most Queen joints in the US.

Abbey Road

1942 was quite a turbulent year, with the universe’s fate swinging on the balance of World War II. But amidst that chaos, Johnny Mercer, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn E. Wallichs decided to kickstart Capitol Records, the first major record company on the West Coast.

Image credit: Rare Historical Photos

About twenty years later, the company pulled off one of the most legendary moves in music history after snagging the Beatles as their protégés in the US. The enchantment continues today with artists like Troye Sivan, Halsey, and Sam Smith, among others.

A Dream Sung!

Back in 1938, there lived a guy named Lee Byung-Chul who was from a well-off family. He had some pretty big dreams for his trading business. What he didn’t imagine was that these dreams would spark the birth of one of Asia’s business giants. 

Image credit: alvinfoo/Twitter

As the years rolled by, Samsung got into all kinds of things, like insurance, securities, and retail. However, in the 1960s, the company decided to explore the electronics industry, and the rest was history. Today, it is one of the planet’s biggest players in electronics.

Hennes & Mauritz

Back in 1947, a Swedish fashion trailblazer named Erling Persson threw open the doors to his store called Hennes. And no, it wasn’t named after some mysterious Swedish superhero – it means “hers” in Swedish and focused on women’s clothing.

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But soon after, Persson decided to spice things up by snagging a store called Mauritz Widforss that sold hunting gear and threw menswear into the mix. That’s how H&M, the fashion powerhouse with over 5,000 stores worldwide, took its first steps!


When you think of technology giants, you are probably thinking of Google, Apple, and Microsoft. But the thing is, most of those guys wouldn’t be so loved without Intel’s cutting-edge semiconductor chips. They are like ”The Man” of the tech hardware scene.  

Image credit: Intel Free Press / Wiki Commons / CC BY 2.0

But they’ve been quite unpopular. You can say marketability isn’t their strongest suit, but they did try their best by ducking the name “Moore Noyce” when the company’s founders briefly considered it. So they went with “Intel” instead. The company is now worth over $130 billion. 

The Waltons

In 1962, a former J.C. Penney employee named Sam Walton was on to something big. The lightbulb popped after he pondered the possibility of making product prices irresistibly low to skyrocket sales. Genius, right?! So, dear Sam took his dollar and a dream and opened his first store, Walton’s Five and Dime. 

Image credit: User Bobak / Wiki Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

Not so familiar, right?! Let’s say they have come quite a long way from that. Today, Walmart is the king of revenue, hauling in around a staggering $570 billion a year. In fact, that very spot where the Walton’s Five and Dime once stood is now the Walmart Museum.

The Karcher dream

Carl and Margaret Karcher had a mouthwatering dream and only $326 in their pockets in 1941. Their seemingly simple journey began when they got hold of a hot dog cart in LA. By 1945, Carl’s Drive-In Barbecue was sizzling in Anaheim, California. 

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About ten years later, the entrepreneurial couple opened two smaller joints, cleverly named Carl’s Jr. The name stuck like melted cheese on a juicy burger, and it quickly became one of the most popular places to get delicious fast food.

Cash Penney

You won’t believe how J.C. Penney got its start. Way back in 1902, most people were thinking about steel, cars, and gold. But not our guy, James Cash Penney. The man was all about high fashion. The fly god right here! 

Image credit: By Unknown photographer; “J.C. Penney Archives” / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

Now, James had some experience under his belt, having worked for a small chain of stores. So, he kickstarted the business with $2,000 in 1902. But it wasn’t called J.C. Penney right out of the gate. Nope, the first store had a fitting name: The Golden Rule!

King of Burgers

Now, do you know why the Burger wars were so intense? Because in ’53, Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns were inspired by the famous Mickey D’s. The partners decided to take a crack at the restaurant biz! And why not?!

Image credit: Lynn Williford/Pinterest

They were so blown away by McDonald’s that they thought, “Hey, we can do this too!” Kramer and Burns kicked things off with a joint called Insta-Burger King. But it wasn’t until after a change in management and a move down to South Beach that the new Kings on the block hit their stride!

Dunk this!

Dunkin’ Donuts, the breakfast haven of millions, has a story as sweet as its pastries. It all started in 1948 with a food vendor extraordinaire named Bill Rosenberg, who noticed a pattern at factories and construction sites – people craved donuts and coffee. 

Image credit: unknown user/Twitter

So, he planted the seed of inspiration and gave birth to Open Kettle, a precursor to the Dunkin’ Donuts we adore today. Fast forward, and Dunkin’ now boasts over 12,000 locations worldwide, serving up happiness one donut and sip of coffee at a time. 


Another beautiful tale from sunny California! 1940. San Bernardino. What a time to be alive, right? Richard and Maurice McDonald turned the fast-growing fast-food business on its head with their very own “Speedee service system” that laid the groundwork for what we know as modern-day joints today! These guys were the real pioneers. 

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But here’s the twist. Ray Kroc, swoops in, grabs the reins from the McDonald brothers, and voilà, McDonald’s becomes a global sensation. Safe to say, he did a heck of a job. You can now find those golden arches on every corner of the globe. It’s the real American dream, with a side of fries!


Before the Ford Bronco and Ford Mustang, it was just Henry Ford in the room – and a bunch of visionary investors who pooled together a measly $28,000 to get this thing rolling. They were all about crafting cars by hand, and their team was small. Like, two or three people small. 

Image credit: Far Ford company / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

But once they introduced the assembly line, it hit like a last-minute whopper, and suddenly, cars were being made faster than you could say “vroom vroom.” Talk about revolutionizing the automobile industry! Many years later, here we are cruising in America’s very own!


Now, let’s talk Wendy’s. You know those square-shaped burgers? Well, they’ve got a heartwarming story behind them. Dave Thomas, the genius behind Wendy’s, got his inspiration from his daughter, Melinda Lou, whom everyone lovingly called “Wendy.”  Little did Wendy know, she was going to be a household name!

Image credit: Historical Ohio/Facebook

In 1969, Ohio got the privilege to host the first Wendy’s. Currently, they have close to eight thousand restaurants worldwide. So, next time you bite into one of those adorable square patties, just remember that it all started with a nickname! 

The Bike Club

Even before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made his bones in the Cream City, Milwaukee was already one of America’s cultural cornerstones. Back in 1903, a young William S. Harley and his Milwaukee cohorts decided they were going to revolutionize the motorcycle industry. 

Image credit: Arnaud 25 – Own work / Wiki Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

And that they did! It all started with a small engine to power their motorbike, and even though their first prototype stumbled a bit, they didn’t hit the brakes. After finishing fourth in a Milwaukee motorcycle race, Harley-Davidson officially became one of the best motorcycle manufacturers, and it maintains that reputation over 100 years later!

Taco Bell

Glen Bell, the mastermind behind this Mexican fast-food haven, was actually running a humble hot dog stand when he had his lightbulb moment. Now, depending on who you ask, that moment was really up there with Newton’s apple. It is a cultural classic! 

Image credit: Taco Bell Archives

In 1962, the first Taco Bell opened its doors. Who would’ve thought that tacos would make such a huge impact? Now, it’s hard to find anyone who has never had a taco from this successful chain. Hard to believe it all started with a hot dog stand.

The Sirens!

Now, let’s talk coffee. Starbucks, the ultimate go-to for caffeine enthusiasts worldwide, had quite the surprising start back in 1971 in Seattle. At first, it was all about selling some beans, but all that changed in 1987 when marketing guru Howard Schultz took over the reins. 

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And boy, did he stir things up! Schultz had a dream. He wanted Americans to enjoy coffee the Italian way. Additionally, he wanted to create a place where people could chill as they got their dose of caffeine. So, voilà, Starbucks was born, and it’s been a coffee lover’s paradise ever since.

Donkey Kong

Nintendo’s journey from a humble card-making business in 1889 to a global gaming powerhouse is like a plot twist in a blockbuster game. Back then, a young Fusajiro Yamauchi was just focused on crafting those handmade hanafuda playing cards. But fast forward to 1977, and they flipped the script with Donkey Kong! 

Image credit: Haiko Honten Co., Ltd. License / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

Then, in 1985, they went full-on mushroom kingdom mode with Super Mario Bros., catapulting themselves into gaming history. Nintendo didn’t just create games; they created universes filled with iconic characters like Mario, Luigi, and Link. Their consoles, from the classic NES to the modern Nintendo Switch, became the bomb ever since!


Before it became the household name in toothpaste that we all know today, Colgate had a rather humble beginning as a soap company way back in 1806. This all started with an English guy called William Colgate, who made candles. 

Image credit: Creator: U.S. Department of the Interior / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

Little did he know that his venture would lay the foundation for one of the most recognizable oral care brands globally. In fact, the Colgate story started out with jars, not tubes. However, once Colgate hopped on the tube bandwagon in 1896, they just soared. And the rest? Well, that’s history!

Subway Surfers

Our next company has a story that started in Bridgeport, Connecticut, back in 1965. A tiny unassuming sandwich shop climbed all the way up to become Subway. Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck had a different plan when they started this in the 20th century.

Image credit: Unknown author / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

You won’t believe it: they were trying to fund DeLuca’s medical school tuition! Their goal was just 32 stores in a decade, but as they started franchising, Subway blew up so crazy that it became the face of the sandwich revolution!

Rock in Tiffanys

Can you guess how Tiffany & Company, the dazzling jewelry empire, started back in the day? Well, it wasn’t VVSs; we can tell you that for free. These glam friends of ours started out with fancy goods and stationery items! It was the go-to spot for sending beautifully crafted letters in style!

Image credit: Unknown author – [1] / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

Fast forward to 1853, and Tiffany’s new management did a fabulous rebranding makeover. That’s when they shed their stationery roots and emerged as the glamorous jewelry haven we know today. The iconic blue boxes, breathtaking engagement rings, and timeless elegance all began to take shape.

The Garage crew

Microsoft’s rise from a teeny tiny garage in Albuquerque is like the ultimate underdog story in the tech world. Back in 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen were just a couple of geeks, but their idea changed the world forever. In that humble garage, they laid the foundation for the world’s largest computer software company.

Image credit: Bruce Burgess – Original: / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

They did not just make it big; they became the big kahunas of the computer software realm. When Microsoft went public, its stock skyrocketed, making its early employees billionaires and millionaires overnight. They had seemingly cracked the code to success!

Loom Works

Suzuki’s journey from silk to engines is just mind-blowing. Back in 1909, they weren’t tinkering with cars or motorcycles; instead, they had their sights set on the booming silk industry. Known as Suzuki Loom Works, they were weaving their way toward success, creating looms and machinery for the silk trade.

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However, Michio Suzuki, the founder, was an ambitious visionary. He later shifted gears, quite literally, and got into compact prototype cars. This unexpected shift marked the beginning of their journey in the automotive industry. A move that seriously paid off!

Brothers in Arms

The origins of Adidas and Puma sound like a plot straight out of a sports blockbuster. Back in 1924, a young and ambitious Adolf “Adi” Dassler was cooking up shoes in his mother’s house. This was the start of what would become a global footwear empire. 

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Adi’s brother, Rudolf, also caught the entrepreneurial bug and decided to venture into the sports shoe game. Instead of teaming up, the brothers took opposite sides of the court. Rudolf launched his own sports shoe company, Puma, and Adi countered with his own company, Adidas!


Let’s take a stroll through grocery store history, shall we? Whole Foods, the go-to organic haven, had some humble beginnings. It all began in 1980 in Austin, Texas, with a small store called SaferWay. But the real magic happened a couple of years later.

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Craig Weller and Mark Skiles remodeled the company and formed the wholesome Whole Foods brand we all know today. Oh, and when they were threatened with eviction, they made the store their temporary home! Now it’s not just a grocery store; it’s a culture beacon!


1955, what a time to be alive! That’s the year when Disneyland, the stuff of every childhood dream, first opened its enchanted gates. And guess what? Main Street, that iconic stretch that welcomes you as you enter the park, looked just as enchanting almost seventy years ago as it does today. 

Image credit: Santa Fe Railway Photographer-B. Don Erb / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

Disneyland has been the dream factory since day one. It’s the spot where both kids and grown-ups get together to dive headfirst into a world of pure imagination, adventure, and all-around joy. That magical spell that still has us all spellbound today? Yep, it was there from the get-go! 

From way back

Xerox ios another worldwide giant. It all started in 1906 when they were known as the Haloid Photographic Company, making stuff like photographic paper and equipment. But when Joseph C. Wilson stepped into the scene, everything changed. In 1959, they dropped the Xerox 914, a groundbreaking photocopier that revolutionized the game.

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Imagine going from developing photos to making the whole world’s office life a heck of a lot easier with photocopying – that’s some serious transformation! From being knee-deep in paper to pioneering the photocopier industry, Xerox really flipped the script on what their company was all about!

Helsinki to the world 

You won’t believe how Nokia’s journey unfolded. It all started way back in 1865 when a Finnish mining engineer named Fredrik Idestam set up a humble paper mill by the roaring Tammerkoski rapids. In 1971, Idestam joined forces with Leo Mechelin, and together, they made the leap from hydropower to electricity. 

Image credit: Mechanical Curator collection, Flickr Commons, British Library / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

It was a pivot that would set the stage for a transformation nobody saw coming. Fast forward to today, and Nokia isn’t just a name associated with paper or electricity. It’s a global telecommunications and electronics powerhouse, a brand known in every corner of the world!

United we Fly! 

You see, United Airlines isn’t your typical rags-to-riches story. It’s more like a wild puzzle where different pieces come together to create something big. Back in 1926, a guy named William Boeing started Boeing Air Transport to shuttle airmail. Kinda like a regular postal service with wings, you know? 

Image credit: SDASM Archives / Wiki Commons

In 1931, Boeing decided to add some extra oomph to his aviation game. He went on a little shopping spree and acquired a bunch of small airlines under the official name United Airlines. There was some turbulence after the merger, but United Airlines has grown to become the Aviation giant we all trust today!


Coca-Cola has quite the bubbly origin story. A pharmacist from Atlanta, John Stith Pemberton, mixed up a concoction that he dubbed “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.” Let’s just say it had a bit of a kick. But then, bam! Prohibition rolls in like an unwelcome party crasher, and Pemberton’s beloved elixir is in hot water. 

Image Credit: Conrad Poirier / Wiki Commons

So, what does he do? He whips up a nonalcoholic version of his concoction, and voila! Coca-Cola didn’t just become a drink; it became a legend. It’s the classic beverage we reach for on scorching summer days, the secret ingredient to grandma’s famous barbecue sauce, and the go-to buddy for movie nights. Cheers to John!

Denim Dreams 

Back in the day, in 1853, German immigrant Levi Strauss rolled into San Francisco and set up a store. Nope, it wasn’t a jeans store. Levi’s started as a general store that sold all sorts of stuff – clothes, bedding, purses, you name it. They were the go-to place for a little bit of everything.

Image credit: Cullen328 photo by Jim Heaphy – Own work / Wiki Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Things would never be the same after Levi Strauss met a fella named Jacob W. Davis in 1873. Together, they cooked up something that would change the world of fashion forever – denim work pants. After patenting these bad boys, Levi’s became legends of the denim game!

The Dorm Crew

Google’s story is basically like a wild tech rollercoaster. So, back in ’98, you’ve got these two brainiacs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, just regular Ph.D. students at Stanford, right? Except there is nothing regular about getting a Ph.D. from Stanford! 

Image credit: PlugandPlayTC/Twitter

They start tinkering around, trying to organize all the crazy stuff happening on the internet. Fast forward, and boom! Google is not just a search engine; it’s like the digital master of the universe. These guys went from messing around in their dorm room to building this massive empire that’s worth trillions of dollars!

Ships and Whips

Yataro Iwasaki saw an opportunity in Japan’s growing maritime business after the island country started playing catch-up with the outside world. So he pounced by launching Mitsubishi, a shipping company. But it wasn’t long before they were dabbling in everything from manufacturing to commerce! Even after engineering Japan’s first steel steamship, Mistibushi did not stop. 

Image credit: Mitsubishi Motors Corporation – 1. The Globe and Mail [1] / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

After Yataro’s son, Yanosuke, took over in 1893, it became a multinational corporation with divisions for banking, real estate, and marketing. In 1916, Koyata, Yanosuke’s son, took the reins. Through his modernization efforts, Mitsubishi became a leader in automobile manufacturing and more. These folks weren’t just riding the wave; they were shaping the entire ocean!

Cola wars

We are never getting ahead of the Pepsi vs. Coke debates. And it’s all thanks to this guy, Caleb Bradham, who invented Pepsi. So, back in 1893, he’s just a guy working at a drugstore, right? But he’s not your average pharmacy worker because he’s got a knack for mixing up drinks. 

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He whips up this concoction called “Brad’s Drink” and starts selling it right there at the store. In 1898, he decided to give his drink a bit of a makeover and renamed it Pepsi-Cola. Why? Because they marketed it as a remedy for dyspepsia (that’s indigestion), and “Cola” to hint at that classic cola flavor!


From looms to vrooms, that does sound familiar! Way back in 1918, Sakichi Toyoda rocked the world by inventing the first automatic loom. This invention was a game-changer. See, it had the ability to stop if there was a glitch, preventing it from making messed-up fabric. 

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In 1929, the Platt Brothers, a British company, were so blown away by Sakichi’s loom that they coughed up £100,000 for the rights to make and sell it. Sakichi’s cash ended up with his son, Kiichiro, who delved headfirst into the world of cars. And the rest is history!


Everything changed when the Monahagan brothers, Tom and James, took over DomiNick’s, a small pizza chain owned by DomiNick DeVarti in Michigan, with a $500 down payment. Both brothers split the work time. However, James could not balance the new business with the demands of a full-time postman job. 

Image credit: dominos/Twitter

So, he sold his half of the business to his brother, Tom, for a Volkswagen Beetle. Tom bought two more pizzerias, but DeVarti refused to let him use the name “DomiNick’s.” An employee, Jim Kennedy, suggested the name Domino’s, and it became an instant hit!


Sears was the brainchild of its namesake and mastermind, Richard Warren Sears. It all kicked off in 1892 when this guy had this nifty idea of starting a mail-order watch business. Pretty chill, right? But here’s the twist – he didn’t stop there. 

Image credit: Toledo-Lucas County Public Library / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

Later on, he teamed up with a dude named Alvah Curtis Roebuck. Together, they decided to take things up a notch and opened their very first brick-and-mortar store right in the heart of Chicago during the swinging ’60s. Imagine going from just selling watches to a whole department store!

The Garage Crew II

It’s 1976, and you’ve got two guys named Steve Jobs and Wozniak chilling in a garage, just tinkering with some electronics. But what they were creating in that garage would change the world forever. They birthed the Apple I, and that’s where the magic started.

Image credit: Tony Wills – Own workCamera / Wiki Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fast forward to today, and it’s like we’re living in the iUniverse, right? Apple is this trillion-dollar tech giant that’s everywhere, from iPhones that practically run our lives to sleek MacBooks that make us feel like we’re living in the future and even Apple+ streaming! 


The Year of our Lord, Eighteen Hundred and Ninety Nine. What a time to be alive, right?! Right at the brink of the new century, S.S. Kresge, a former traveling salesman with a knack for business, decided to roll the dice and create what we now know as Kmart. 

Image credit: Pub by The Springfield News Company Tichnor Bros. Inc / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

It all kicked off in 1899 as the S.S. Kresge Company, setting the stage for some retail magic. But it wasn’t until the ’60s that it really kicked it off. The stars aligned with the bell bottoms and funky music. Kmart’s neon sign was just perfect for lighting up the nights with unbeatable deals! 

Straight Outta Galicia

In 1975, Amancio Ortega and Rosalía Mera decided to open a little family store in the charming Galicia region of Spain. They named it Zara, which wasn’t their first choice, mind you. Amancio’s preferred name, Zorba, was already taken. Their secret sauce? Offering stylish clothes that looked like high-end fashion but at wallet-friendly prices. 

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Zara’s approach to fashion caught fire in Spain, and they opened up nine more stores in the biggest cities. But the real game-changer came in 1985 when they formed Inditex, a Fashion holding company. Fast forward to today, and Zara is everywhere, with a whopping 2,264 stores across 96 countries! 

Hear us Roar

In 1924, Marcus Loew decided to play the ultimate card trick in Hollywood. He takes Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures and throws them into the same cinematic cauldron. What do you get? A Hollywood heavyweight by the name of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. Boom! 

It’s like when your favorite superheroes team up to save the day. And with great power comes a great intro! Enter Leo the lion. Despite being recorded in 1957, Leo was the eighth Lion to roar for MGM. Whenever you heard that sweet roar, you knew you were in for a ride!