What Is The Oldest Black Owned Business In The U.S.?
By Ryan Velez
To be a long-time Black business in the United States is no small feat. To be around simply 50 years or more means enduring great times of financial and social upheaval in the country, not to mention the extreme difficulties Black businessmen have had to encounter to get started and grow compared to their white counterparts. Some business that started off Black-owned may have changed hands for various reasons, meaning that they aren’t continuously Black-owned. Many may wonder, as a result, who exactly holds the crown for the oldest Black-owned business. Blackbusiness.org finally answers this question, reporting that the U.S. Department of Commerce itself has handed the honor to a Columbus, Ohio business.
The company in question is E.E. Ward Moving and Storage Company, which has been recognized as having 134 continuous years in business, as well as still being a leader in the transportation and relocations business today. Originally founded in 1881 by William S. Ward and his father, John, it was originally called Ward Transfer Line.
John Ward’s original interest in transportation stemmed from his role helping slaves escape to freedom in the 1840’s through the Underground Railroad. When it first started operations, the company was using horses and wagons to perform transportation jobs. In its current incarnation, the company does residential moving, office and industrial moving, and corporate relocations. They are also an agent for North American Van Lines.
What makes E.E. Ward Moving and Storage Company stand apart from others is that they hold the oldest continuous titles for being a Black-owned business, meaning that they have been in operation without a hiccup since 1881. Imagine the industry crashes and rises that the company has endured, as well as the times of domestic strife, which many Black businesses became unfair targets of. However, we can’t ignore the business savvy that goes hand in hand with such an accomplishment. The transport business has seen many major names, and to stay in operation since 1881 means not only responding to market trends but also putting together effective succession plans to make sure that power is handed over effectively and without disrupting the business.
As of right now, E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is still rated one of the top-rated businesses in Ohio. The last member of the Ward family, Eldon Ward, sold the company to his childhood friends Brian Brooks and Otto Beatty upon his retirement in 2001.