Who was Charles Ranlett Flint?
Charles Ranlett Flint was an American businessman and industrialist active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the early 1900s, he was labeled the “Father of Trusts” by the New York Times. Flint saw corporate expansion through combination and corporate trusts as the evolutionary future of American industry. The profits of larger companies could sustain the growth of smaller companies, increasing the net worth of everyone involved.
Flint receives credit as the primary IBM founder. In 1911, he formed the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company by combining four existing business machine manufacturing companies. The new company took the name International Business Machines in 1924. IBM would transform into one of the largest businesses in the computer industry for decades to come.
- Full Name
- Charles Ranlett Flint
- January 24, 1850
- February 26, 1934
- Net Worth
- World Water Speed Record
- Place of Birth
- Thomaston, Maine
- Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, IBM
- Corporate Trusts
On January 24, 1850, Charles Ranlett Flint was born in Thomaston, Maine. His family tree includes his father, Benjamin Chapman, who owned one of the largest clipper ship fleets in America at the time. Chapman had received the Flint family name after his adoption by his maternal uncle. Charles’ mother was Sarah Tobey Flint.
After the death of his mother, Charles’ father moved the family to New York City to run the Chapman & Flint mercantile along with his brother. Charles received a degree from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1868. In 1871, he joined the family shipping business, now known as Gilchrist, Flint, and Co. His affiliation with this organization helped him establish connections with government and industry leaders.
His career started in the shipping industry but transformed as he developed his vision of amalgamation. He recognized the power of uniting the resources of several companies to increase the net worth of all.
In 1892, Flint brokered the union of nine rubber manufacturing companies to form US Rubber. Newspapers of the time gave him the nickname, “The Rubber King.” The family tree of US Rubber products includes Michelin Tires and Keds sneakers.
The American businessman enabled the joining of several chewing gum factories into the American Chicle Company in 1899. The products represented included Adams Chewing Gum, Chiclets, Dentyne, and Beemans. Cadbury purchased this company in 2003.
Flint’s most famous trust involves the formation of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. The IBM family tree begins with the union of four companies: Bundy Manufacturing Company, International Time Recording Company, Tabulating Machine Company, and Computing Scale Company of America. This 1911 merger earned Flint his title as the Father of Trusts.
In 1924, the company became International Business Machines, and Flint would serve on the board as an IBM owner until 1930. The result of Flint’s work is a company that has been at the forefront of business technology.
What is Charles Ranlett Flint known for?
Flint is most famous for his role as an IBM founder. However, his novel approach to business is responsible for his relationship with the company. The American businessman was an early proponent of the concept of corporate trusts. In his view, combining the net worth of several small companies in similar fields would generate greater income for everyone involved. Flint saw this as a natural expansion of American industry.
It would not be long before anti-trust opponents questioned this model. They argued that consolidation led to a lack of competition. Smaller companies could not get started in an industry when a large conglomerate held all the clients, power, and resources. Flint countered that such arguments showed a lack of vision and fear of progress.
Charles Ranlett Flint: Personal Life
Flint was more than an IBM owner. He was also a dedicated athlete who enjoyed swimming and boating. In 1903, he set a new World Water Speed Record with his steam-powered yacht, the Arrow.
Flint was married twice. He married his first wife, Emma Kate Simmons, in 1883. A year after her death in 1926, Flint married Charlotte Reeves. There were no children from either marriage.
Charles Ranlett Flint Published Works and Books
The Trust, Its Book: Being a Presentation of the Several Aspects of the Latest Forms of Industrial Evolution
The Trust, Its Book is a collection by Flint and other proponents of the corporate trust model published in 1902. In the book, the authors describe the benefits of conglomeration. They use the language of Darwinian evolution to suggest that corporate trusts are the next natural step in industrial development.
Memories of an Active Life: Men, and Ships, and Sealing Wax
Flint’s illustrated 1923 autobiography describes his vibrant approach to life and business. He describes adventures in the shipping industry and his connections to South America. Several chapters focus on the impact of world affairs on business.
Charles Ranlett Flint Quotes
- “It has been said, perhaps too frequently, that a rolling stone gathers no moss. But I have never heard anyone speak of the fun the rolling stone has a-rolling.”
- “Ambition and thirst for power have a part but greed and greed alone is the reason for a man wanting to swell his ward.”