From the mid-20th century into the early 21st, America’s love affair with the automobile kept a car manufacturer (General Motors) and an oil company (Exxon) in the top five spots among the biggest U.S. companies. Americans drive both for work and pleasure, and they need gas to fuel their cars, so their success is hardly surprising.
Between 1955 and 1974, GM reigned as the country’s biggest corporation. After ‘74, GM and Exxon traded the No. 1 position back and forth for some years, with Ford and Mobil occasionally slipping in. (Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999 to become ExxonMobil.) It wasn’t until 2002 that retailing giant Walmart first overtook both as the nation’s largest corporation. Another interesting change occurred in 2019. Although Walmart held onto the top position, mega online retailer Amazon eased into second place.
E-commerce has clearly become the category to beat in recent years. According to Jungle Scout, a platform for e-commerce sellers, Walmart attributed $47.8 billion in net sales to e-commerce in fiscal year 2022. During the fiscal 2022 second quarter earnings call in August, Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon estimated the global company’s online sales would hit $75 billion by the end of the year. (Online or otherwise, here are 29 things you should never buy at Walmart.)
Yet Amazon remains the undisputed king in the online sales arena. In its first quarter earnings report, Amazon reported net sales rose 7% to $116.4 billion in the first quarter, compared with $108.5 billion in the first quarter of 2021. In the coming years, Walmart and Amazon will likely be trading places as the biggest U.S. corporation. (These are the corporations that made skyrocketing profits in 2021.)
To determine the biggest company the year you were born, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed annual revenue figures for companies on the Fortune 500 each year from 1955 through 2021, as well as data from company press releases and SEC financial filings. Some corporate names have changed over the years, but we’ve used the abbreviated popular name of each for clarity.
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