Company Histories: Heroes & Happy Endings

Mark Zuckerberg

Many of us have been entertained in recent years by newspaper and television reports, books, and even biopics about how clever e-entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook and Steve Jobs with Apple built companies that ultimately changed the course of our lives. Yet this phenomenon is not new. Since the rise of the corporation centuries ago, thousands of visionary geniuses have been reinventing technology, business models, and business philosophies. Lucky for you, the Sheridan Libraries have numerous examples of these entertaining and inspirational stories set down in print, e-print, and film.

If you’re just interested in the subject of successful entrepreneurs regardless of what they did and when they were around, then you can easily lose yourself in the journal Explorations in Economic History (formerly Explorations in Entrepreneurial History). The older volumes before the name change (in 1969) are especially interesting.

For concise depictions of the story behind a wide range of companies, try the International Directory of Company Histories, which is published seven or eight times per year. For example, Volume 1 (1988) profiles Lockheed Corporation (now Lockheed Martin), American Motors (you’ll love perusing the 1979 Annual Report), and Heineken, while Volume 35 (2001) includes Abercrombie & Fitch and the National Hockey League. You’ll have to come to MSEL or the Montgomery Library Resource Center for the privilege of perusing these non-circulating print publications, but the tables of contents are available through a link from the catalog record.

A subject search on Business Enterprises-History produces over 200 results, including some thought-provoking gems, such as The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship and China and Capitalism: A History of Business Enterprise in Modern China.

Guglielmo Marconi

My favorites, though, are the books about individual companies, some world famous and others that would have been lost to memory except for the fact that someone thought it worthwhile to commit their histories to paper. A subject search on Company History produces numerous examples. How about The MouseDriver Chronicles: The True-Life Adventures of Two First-Time Entrepreneurs about two young men driven to create the world’s first golf-club-shaped mouse? Or A History of the Green Giant Company, 1903-1979 for the nostalgia buffs among you?

Okay, so you just want to read about those larger-than-life entrepreneurs who single-handedly changed the world, so you can follow in their footsteps? No problem: Run a catalog search on Businesspeople “United States” Biography to find all the role models you’ll ever need. Among the 50+ entries, you’ll find compilations such as American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries and individual works on the key founders and leaders of business giants such as Sears, Roebuck (Julius Rosenwald), The New York Central Railroad (Erastus Corning), Oracle (Larry Ellison), and CNN (Ted Turner).

So start reading—and maybe someday you’ll be written up and appear in our catalog…

About Alan Zuckerman

Librarian for Business.

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