We’re delighted to present our annual update of our charts on the largest American companies, ranked by revenue, reflecting full year results for 2023.  Here are two charts which you can pause and move to any year between 1994 and 2023.  One chart is the top 25 companies, which can be seen on one screen; the other chart is the top 50 companies, which requires scrolling to see the whole list.  (There is also a video with sound on YouTube.)  Reacd our comments on this history below the charts.

Top 25 companies chart here:

Top 50 companies:

These charts tell the story of the evolution of American industry over the last 29 years.  Studying the charts is an education in itself.

The Fortune list of the 500 largest US public companies began 70 years ago.  Through 1993 results, the list only included “industrial” (manufacturing) companies, with separate lists for service companies including retailers, transportation companies, banks, utilities, and insurance companies.  With the 1994 data, Fortune changed to a consolidated list including companies of all types.  To see the rise of fall of industrial companies as the American economy boomed from 1954 to 1993, see this chart.

The charts we present today show that in 1994, towards the end of our great heavy industry period, the three largest companies were General Motors, Ford, and Exxon.  Other giants included General Electric, Sears, Chrysler and DuPont, all of which have disappeared or been greatly transformed in the intervening years.  Five years later, in 1999, Walmart had risen to second place behind General Motors.  The list is still heavily industrial, with General Electric ranked 5th and Boeing 10th.  The next year, 2000, saw the rise of Exxon, which had acquired Mobil two years earlier, to the top of the list as oil prices spiked.  As oil prices gyrated, the oil industry rose and fell in the next few years. 

In 2005, the biggest companies were ExxonMobil, Walmart, General Motors, Chevron, Ford, and ConocoPhillips.  While Walmart began to pull away from the crowd, the big oil companies remained near the top through 2014, after which they began to drop in the rankings.  By 2014, Berkshire Hathaway and Apple had risen to the 4th and 5th spots, respectively, though Amazon was not yet in the top 25. 

The following year, 2015, Amazon made it to 18th.  General Motors had fallen to 8th and Ford to 9th.  As remarkable as the rise of the digital giants was the rise of healthcare as the American population aged.  In 2015, drug distributor McKesson had risen to 5th, UnitedHealth 6th, and CVS 7th

The decline of heavy industry and the rise of health and technology have continued in the eight years since then.  Last year, while Walmart remained on top, Amazon was the second largest American company, followed by Apple, UnitedHealth, Berkshire Hathaway, CVS, and ExxonMobil.  Ford has fallen to 17th and General Motors to 19th.

In forthcoming newsletters, we will be updating our similar annual charts which rank the Fortune 500 companies by profit, by number of employees, and by value (market capitalization). 

We hope you enjoy these animated charts and get a better understanding of change through time in the American economy.  You can find more such charts, on different topics including population change, here.

Gary Hoover

Executive Director

American Business History Center

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