Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Then and Now--I

As I age, my memories of my youth seem to get stronger.  Here's some of my memories of American society circa 1950's:

Big Companies

  • the big companies then  (components of Dow Jones) mostly made things: the big 3 automakers, GE, US Steel, Bethlehem Steel, National Steel, oil companies.  Woolworths and Sears Roebuck were big retailers, though there were supermarket chains around.  Franchises weren't big, no McDonalds or other fast food chains then. AT&T was big, a big monopoly known as "Ma Bell". Vice in the form of tobacco and distilling found a place.
  • now the big companies are Microsoft, /Apple,  Amazon, Google, and Facebook, They don't really make things comparable to steel or cars.  The oil and chemical companies are still around but Detroit has lost its status. Health care and drugs are big these days and no tobacco or alcohol in the Dow.. 
  • labor unions were big--the big companies were opposed by big unions--the UAW, the Steelworkers, the Communications Workers.  Other important unions were the Longshoremen and the United Mineworkers.  In this situation there were a lot of strikes and several notable leaders: Walter Reuther, Harry Bridges, and John L. Lewis, not to forget George Meany, head of the AFofL
  • now unions aren't big--the biggest represent teachers and public service workers.
  • in the 1950's banks were limited to one state, so you had lots of one city banks (First National of Greene) and some state chains (Marine Midland).  Finance wasn't big.
  • now Visa and American Express are in the Dow Jones, along with Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.

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