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TheStreet Open House

100 Events That Changed Business: 1900-2000

100. Hallmark gets its start: Jan. 10, 1910.

Joyce C. Hall, a teenager (and a guy, by the way) from Norfolk, Neb., arrives in Kansas City, Mo., in 1910 and starts building a picture-postcard business into a giant of doggerel and cheer that would reshape American holiday celebrations. Hallmark is instrumental in the commercialization of holidays, which has driven a huge amount of the growth in U.S. retailing (and the growth in bogus holidays like Sweetest Day).

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99. The Three Mile Island disaster: March 29, 1979.

So much for alternative energy. Three Mile Island's near-meltdown renders nuclear energy but a Simpsons joke, increasing the country's dependence on oil.

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98. Disneyland opens: July 17, 1955.

With Ronald Reagan hosting a live ABC special, Disneyland opens in Anaheim, Calif. The first major destination theme park spurs growth in travel and tourism nationwide. Today Disney's parks alone are a $5 billion annual business, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., which has more than 50,000 employees, is the largest single-site employer in the U.S.

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97. Nike's Revolution ads commodify dissent: 1987.

It's not the first time the ideals of the 1960s -- freedom, individuality, antimaterialism, dissent -- are called upon to push product. But it may stand as the biggest co-optation. Right at the height of the Summer of Love anniversary celebration, Nike uses the Beatles song to sell sneakers. Now it's almost impossible to escape ads that sell not just products but breaking the rules, dude.

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96. The University of Phoenix, a for-profit university, is accredited: 1978.

The University of Phoenix is accredited in 1978, and few think that without the benefit of a Final Four-bound athletic team or ivy-encrusted heritage it will amount to much. It becomes the nation's largest private university. And unlike its more traditional academic competition, it turns a profit. Phoenix's rise goes hand in hand with the boom in private prisons since 1984, when Corrections Corp. of America takes over the county prison in Hamilton County, Tenn.

Both developments indicate the increased willingness of Americans and their elected representatives to hand over to the private sector functions previously reserved to government. But the move to market incentives hasn't unfolded like a libertarian's dream. Many educators criticize Phoenix and other for-profit education providers, saying they lack comprehensive library and lab facilities and a full-time, dedicated faculty. Prisons, meantime, face new regulations in the wake of violence and inmate escapes at CCA's prison in Youngstown, Ohio.

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95. Jaws ushers in the blockbuster era in Hollywood: June 20, 1975.

Before Steven Spielberg's little flick, starring a gape-mawed contraption named Bruce and co-starring Roy Scheider, movies almost invariably opened gradually and tried to build an audience through word-of-mouth and limited advertising. Jaws, which goes on to gross $260 million in the U.S., introduces the concepts of heavy preopening marketing and wide releases -- sound familiar?

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94. Frederick Taylor's 'scientific management' theory gains legitimacy: 1910.

Frederick Taylor forms his theory of "scientific management," a patchwork of efficiency and cost-cutting ideas, in the 19th century. But it doesn't gain wide currency until Boston lawyer and future Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis argues on behalf of consumers that a $27 million rate increase sought by the nation's Eastern railroads should not be approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Brandeis contends that the railroads cannot justify their costs. Citing Taylor's ideas, Brandeis maintains that the railroads could save $300 million a year through improved productivity.

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93. The U.S. is a giant creditor nation: 1918-1982.

Following World War I, the winners (Allies) and losers (Central Powers) have something in common: They owe lots of money to the U.S., making it the world's biggest creditor nation. The tables turn by 1985, however, as the U.S. becomes a net debtor. And because we like to be No. 1 in everything, we quickly become the world's largest.

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92. Harley-Davidson adopts Japanese management techniques: October 1981.

Having just bought the company in a leveraged buyout, Harley-Davidson Chairman Vaughn L. Beals Jr. and his management team realize that Japanese motorcycle makers are kicking their butts. To beat them, they join them, adopting such Japanese techniques as "just-in-time" inventory control. Just-in-time eliminates the high and costly inventory levels that require elaborate handling systems. Other U.S. major manufacturers, like General Motors, soon follow, lemminglike.

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91. Southwest Airlines begins flying: June 18, 1971.

Southwest Airlines begins flying between Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. With its cheeky attitude, wink-and-a-nudge ads and low prices, the new carrier is an immediate success.

In 1978, the U.S. begins deregulating interstate airfares and schedules, enabling Southwest to fly outside Texas. While other discount airlines rush to grow, often destroying themselves in the process, Southwest expands more cautiously, becoming the nation's dominant low-fare carrier by avoiding expensive mistakes.

Today, the company's everyday low fares give millions of Americans the chance to enjoy the speed and convenience of flying, and its good relations with employees and simple but superior customer service make it the most feared competitor in the airline business. Last year, the company earned more than $400 million on revenue of almost $4.2 billion. Not bad for a company that flies only 737s.

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