California’s Forgotten Companies

Victory ships fitting out at California Shipbuilding and Drydock, 1944

As pundits debate the degree to which California is (or is not) welcoming to businesses, it is worth reflecting on the long, slow disappearance of companies headquartered in California.

To be sure, the growth of Silicon Valley tends to mask the numbers. But mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and outright decampments have left many Californians wondering where where all of the companies went.

Below is a partial, working and growing list of companies that helped build the Golden West, and are now no longer a part of our landscape.

Aerospace

  • Convair – sold in 1953 to General Dynamics of Virginia
  • Douglas Aircraft – merged with McDonnell Aircraft of St. Louis, 1967
  • Garrett AiResearch – merged with Signal Oil & Gas in 1968, merged with AlliedCorp of New Jersey in 1985, brand retired in 1999
  • Hughes Aircraft – sold to General Motors of Detroit in 1985, assets sold to Raytheon in 1997
  • Hughes Helicopter – sold to McDonnell-Douglas of St. Louis in 1984
  • Lockheed Aircraft – sold to Martin Marietta of Marietta Georgia in 1995
  • North American Aviation – purchased by Rockwell of Pittsburgh in 1967
  • Northrop – purchased Grumman Aircraft in 1994 and decamped to Falls Church, Virginia
  • Rocketdyne – sold to Rockwell International of Pittsburgh in 1967, to Boeing in Seattle in 1996, to United Technologies of Connecticut  2005 and brand retired
  • Thompson-Ramo-Woldridge (TRW) – sold to Northrop-Grumman of Virginia in 2002

Automotive

  • Toyota USA – decamped to Texas, 2014

Banks

  • Bank of America – purchased by NationsBank of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1998; brand retained, but no longer based in California.
  • Home Savings & Loan -purchased by Washington Mutual of Seattle, Washington in 1998. WaMu collapsed in 2008; former assets acquired by JPMorgan Chase.
  • Security Pacific National Bank – Acquired by Bank of America, 1992
  • Transamerica Bank – Split from TransAmerica 1958, became FirstAmerica Bank; changed name to Western Bancorporation 1961; operated as United California Bank until 1981; became First Interstate Bank in 1981; acquired by Wells Fargo 1996.

Entertainment

  • A&M Records – sold to PolyGram of London in 1989
  • Capitol Records – sold to EMI of London in 1955
  • Casablanca Records – sold to PolyGram of London in 1980
  • Rhino Records – sold to Time Warner of New York in 1990
  • United Artists (UA) –

Manufacturing

  • California Shipbuilding Corporation – closed by government order in September 1945
  • J.A. Bauer Pottery – closed as the result of a general strike in 1962
  • Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corporation – seized by the US Navy in 1943, purchased by Todd Shipyards of New York in 1946; closed in 1989.

Petroleum

  • Atlantic Richfield Company – sold to British Petroleum of London in 1980, then Tesoro of Texas in 2014.
  • Union Oil Company of California – sold to Chevron, 2005

Retail

  • Broadway – sold to Federated Department Stores 1995, brand retired 1996
  • Bullock’s – sold to R.H Macy’s in 1988, brand retired 1992
  • Capwells – merged with Emporium, 1927
  • Carter Hawley Hale – bankrupt 1991, reorganized as Broadway, purchased by R.H. Macy’s of New York and brand retired, 1995.
  • Emporium – purchased by Carter Hawley Hale, purchased by R.H. Macy’s of New York and brand retired 1995
  • I. Magnin – merged with Bullock’s 1944, shuttered 1994
  • Joseph Magnin – sold to AMFAC of Honolulu in 1969, closed in 1984
  • J.W. Robinson’s – sold to Associated Dry Goods of New York in 1957, then to May Department Stores in 1989, then to R.H. Macy’s of New York in 2005
  • May Company – purchased by R.H. Macy’s of New York and brand retired 2005
  • Price Club – merged with Costco of Seattle in 1993, brand retired 1996
  • Weinstock’s – Purchased by Broadway 1992, purchased by R.H. Macy’s of New York and brand retired 1995
  • White Front – sold to Interstate Department Stores of Delaware in 1958, closed when Interstate declared bankruptcy in 1974

Transportation

  • AirCal – sold to American Airlines of Dallas, 1987
  • American President Lines – sold to Neptune Orient Lines of Singapore in 1987, US headquarters moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 2009
  • Hughes AirWest – merged into Republic Airlines of Milwaukee in 1980, brand retired.
  • Pacific Southwest Airways – sold to USAirways of Charlotte, NC in 1987, brand retired 1988
  • Southern Pacific Railroad – Purchased by Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe of Chicago in 1984, rail assets sold to Rio Grande Industries of Denver in 1988, sold to Union Pacific of Chicago and brand retired in 1995.
  • Western Airlines – sold to Delta Airlines of Atlanta in 1987, brand retired.
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