6 Bizarre Origins of Famous Companies

When it comes to corporations, we all have a pretty short memory -- nobody even remembers that Hugo Boss made Nazi uniforms. And that's a good thing for the companies who make the things you use every day, because almost all of them have completely reinvented themselves at some point.

For instance, did you know ...

#6. Monsanto Made Agent Orange for the U.S. Military


The Company You Know

The $20 billion potentially evil genetic engineering conglomerate that probably supplied the seeds for several things you have eaten today.

"DDT, part of a balanced breakfast!"

How It Got Started

The jungle-killing warfare chemical Agent Orange.

Concerned citizens from all over the political spectrum have long been wary of biotech firm Monsanto, the closest thing to an evil mad science organization that we have, and the one thing that conspiracy theorists might actually be right about. Monsanto mostly controls the corn supply of Earth, and has come under criticism for its genetic manipulation of nature so as to obtain corporate ownership of the actual concept of corn. But whatever evil Monsanto gets up to these days is just old habits dying hard.

"We convinced our legal team to stop eating orphans, but not to stop hunting them for sport."

The officially sanctioned history of Monsanto clarifies that they only "share the name and history of a company that was founded in 1901," which is kind of like saying that the only things you share with the person who wore your trousers yesterday are the same name, memories and identity. The timeline begins with the company's invention of saccharine in 1901, then leaps bafflingly over the entire 20th century until the '90s, when they invented Frankencorn.

Obviously, despite what they'd like you to think, they didn't just save up their meager saccharine royalties until they owned most of the planet. During the 20th century, Monsanto was a herbicide manufacturer, and their most successful product is known to this day only by its code name, Agent Orange. Yes, that Agent Orange (not the one from Reservoir Dogs). During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government decided that the best way to drive Viet Cong militants out of their forest hiding spots was to kill all of the forests in Vietnam. To find out how, they asked Monsanto, who simply tented their fingers and hissed "leave it to us."

"We do not tolerate failure."

To call Agent Orange a herbicide is of course to give it too little credit, as Monsanto achieved their goal of "killing all the plants" by inventing a chemical that would kill every life form that touched it or saw it or thought about it too hard.

Since then, Monsanto has been the target of endless lawsuits from families of the million-odd people who were killed or deformed by Agent Orange, but Monsanto's stock response has always been "We were forced to do it. Also, Agent Orange is harmless." Lately, this has been followed by "Buy our corn."

#5. NASCAR Was Started by Bootleggers


The Company You Know

Coordinator of the largest gatherings of rednecks outside Civil War re-enactments. And something about car racing.


How It Got Started


Like all good things in life (organized crime, the Kennedys, etc.), NASCAR has its roots in Prohibition. Following the horrors of World War I, the United States really needed a drink. At that exact moment, the government decided they couldn't have one and passed the 18th Amendment, banning the sale of alcohol. Organized crime decided to fill the demand by making their own booze, which was transported by the 1920s equivalent of Jason Statham -- recklessly ballsy men insecurely fastened to steel boxes powered by explosions.

"This is my co-driver, Leo. He makes sure I don't fall asleep from boredom."

When strapping themselves to coffins on wheels and running from the cops no longer proved thrilling (people got bored easily in those days), they decided to start racing each other, because if there's anything that could be added to the harrowing experience of barely controlling your fire-breathing demon steed as it rockets down the cheapest roads money could buy, it's doing that in close proximity to bystanders. One of the biggest races took place in Daytona Beach, and a perennial fan by the name of Bill France thought that other people would enjoy watching the mechanical carnage.

There were a few problems with early racing. The first was that races weren't really so much scheduled as coalesced when enough drivers happened to congregate in the same area. There were no consistent rules between the races, which we're sure led to some heated debates over the legality of banana peels and turtle shells.

Fucking blue shells.

Bill France wanted to fix all that by uniting all the races under a single governing body for the enjoyment of the fans and the profit of the drivers. France gathered promoters and drivers together in a hotel bar and figured out the rules and regulations for his new sport, probably much in the same way that Delta Tau Chi chose pledges. Three months later, the first NASCAR race was held, and the rest is history.

#4. Silverware Maker Oneida Funded a Sex Cult


The Company You Know

One of the world's largest silverware manufacturers. Your grandmother's good dinnerware that only gets used on Thanksgiving probably has Oneida silverware with it.

"These are specially made for tossing salads!"

How It Got Started

A freaking sex colony.

In 1848, John Humphrey Noyes had a dream, one that many of us have to this day. Noyes' dream was for people to be able to bang whomever they wanted, consequence-free. But more importantly, he wanted them to bone in the name of Jesus. So Noyes formed a splinter faction of Christianity that believed that Jesus had already returned to Earth in 70 (not 1770 or 1670, just 70), and therefore his followers were able to bring about paradise on this mortal coil and achieve perfection by screwing the bejesus out of each other. He and his Humpayoo tribe decided to settle their den of divine inequity in Oneida, New York.

"Right here looks good!"

Even though our fantasy involves us being able to orgy it up all day without ever having to work, Noyes still lived in reality and needed a way to pay the bills. Since this was the 1800s, there were no university research grants they could take advantage of, so they set up a number of different businesses to help facilitate their extracurriculars. For a while, life was good. The businesses were thriving, the sex was plentiful and the people were happy, even though Noyes decreed that men were not permitted to ejaculate.

In 1879, Noyes was tipped off that the local police were coming to arrest him (turns out the older members had a thing for sexing underage girls), so Noyes fled to Canada, never to return. He eventually wrote to his followers and said they should go back to monogamy. Presumably after a massive "last hurrah" orgy, the community disbanded. A number of the members split off into monogamous pairs and decided to remain in Oneida. They sold off all the businesses except the most profitable one: silverware manufacturing. They incorporated their community and have been banging it out ever since.

"Hell yeah we have."

Silverware, that is.

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