BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- A generation ago, wealthy families built portfolios chock-a-block with blue chip stocks such as General Motors (GM) and passed them on to their progeny as part of the family trust.
But that investment approach has mostly been turned on its head in the past 40 years as the buy-and-hold investing strategy of old faded, the list of blue chips got shuffled, and technology stocks led the markets.
But given the uncertainties of investing today, particularly for those approaching retirement, it may be time to revisit what had been considered a fuddy-duddy strategy. Some of the top blue chip stocks of yesteryear are still some of the best investments now as they have proven they can weather any economic environment and continue to pay steady dividends and grind out long-term share price returns.That group includes some sedate consumer staples stocks, such as cereal makers General Mills (GIS) and Kellogg (K - Get Report), and ketchup and relish maker H.J. Heinz (HNZ). But their records now looks appealing, especially when compared to what's happened to some of their old peers, many that faded along with their industries due to changing technologies or shifting consumer tastes. For example, Eastman Kodak (EKDKQ), once the leader in photography products, is struggling in bankruptcy as it failed to adapt fast enough to consumers' shift from film to digital-imaging photography. It's now trading at 17 cents a share down from $30.20 five years ago. And then there's GM, which filed for bankruptcy in 2009, wiping out the stakes of a lot of long-term investors before getting a government bailout. Bank of America (BAC), once one of the most respected banks in the country, has been on a roller coaster ride with the rest of the financial services industry over the past decade. Its shares show the damage done to its loyal investors' portfolios with a loss of 5.6% annually over 10 years. So, given the hostile environment investors have had to deal with over the past decade, the old-school blue chip performances are particularly appealing now. General Mills, for example, the home of Betty Crocker, sports a 7.6% annual return over the past decade. Indicative of the headwinds facing long-term investors, the S&P 500 is up 5.6% this year, and 14% annually over three years, but it's still down 0.3% over five years and up a mere 4.6% annually over 10 years. And a subset of blue chip stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, an index of 30 U.S. industrial companies, is up 3.2% this year and 15.6% annually over three years, but up only 1.5% annually over five years and 3% annually over 10 years. Here are 10 stocks of blue chip companies that are over a century old and have proven their worth through all economic cycles, ranked in inverse order of analysts' "buy" ratings: