When researching the dozens of iconic businesses that got their start in Massachusetts, it was difficult to choose just a handful to discuss. Instead, I decided to focus on 8 Bay State companies that revolutionized their industries by inventing, improving or perfecting the products they are known for.
1. Cains Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is said to have been originally invented by the French chef of the Duke de Richelieu in 1756, but John E. Cain, the enterpreneur behind Cain’s Mayonnaise definitely perfected it! He originally started a cheese distribution company in 1914 in one of Fanueil Hall Marketplace’s many booths. He was determined to find a way to keep mayonnaise from separating – and eventually, he did! The result was Cains All Natural Mayonnaise, introduced in 1924.
2. Birdseye Frozen Foods
Scientist Clarence Birdseye – yup, that’s his actual name! – was working in Newfoundland when he noticed that when the Inuit would immediately pack the fish they caught with snow and ice, flash-freezing it. Birdseye was astonished to find that the process did not destroy the food’s texture. Back home in MA, he set up a company in Gloucester, and essentially fathered the frozen food industry.
3. Hasbro Games
Believe it or not, one of the most popular toy and game manufacturer in the world began as a textile seller in Providence, RI in the 1920s. Brothers Henry and Helal Hassenfeld soon added school supplies to their product line and eventually toys in the 1940s. Many of their most famous games and toys were acquired as they purchased other companies – including Monopoly. They did however introduce the world’s first action figure, GI Joe in 1964, created at the East Longmeadow plant.
4. Zildjian Cymbals
Zildjian Cymbals of Norwell, has the unique distinction of being the oldest continuously family-owned business in the United States. Avedis Zildjian was an Armenian chemist in Constantinople who created cymbals by combining copper, tin, and silver in 1623 – their drum products are still preferred by percussionists the world over.
5. Samuel Adams Beer
Founded in the 1980s by Jim Koch, The Boston Beer Co. which produces Samuel Adams is headquartered in Jamaica Plain. They certainly didn’t invent beer, but they did reinvent it by utilizing a recipe and techniques used in the 19th century and then adding their own flavors and flair. The company, which also has breweries in Pennsylvania and Ohio, became a Boston icon in record time.
6. Ocean Spray Craisins & Cranberry Juice
This world-famous company located in Lakeville was formed in 1930 by three local cranberry growers. Their very first product, Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail, is still their most popular, but they have had success with other fruit juices and Craisins dried cranberries.
7. Harmonix Music Systems Guitar Hero
Cambridge-based Harmonix is best known for creating the popular “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” franchises, but they also created “Dance Central” for the Kinect and “Karaoke Revolution.” Without this company, the world of music-themed gaming as we know it may not exist!
8. Necco Candy Hearts
They may taste like chalk, but Sweethearts Conversation Hearts are a Valentine’s Day tradition! Created by the New England Confectionary Co. of Revere, the hearts are by far the most popular of their candies, but they are also known for creating Necco Wafers, Thin Mints and Candy Buttons. Founded in 1847, it is the oldest multi-line candy company in the United States.