Ever Heard of Tecumseh?
By Andy Serwer

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The July 1955 issue of FORTUNE magazine, which contained the first 500 list, also featured a story about a hot manufacturer of refrigeration compressors called Tecumseh Products. The article, "Little, Big-Rich Tecumseh" (a less than politically correct reference to the Indian leader), described the company's fiery CEO and founder Ray Herrick as a manufacturing marvel.

So we wondered, How has Tecumseh fared? Turns out the company, which now also makes engines, pumps, and motors, is alive and well and still based in Tecumseh, Mich. It has 22,000 employees (up from 4,200 a half-century ago) and remains under the stewardship of the Herrick family, which controls some 50% of the company's voting stock. CEO Todd Herrick, 60, "is a lot like his grandfather," says Bill Merritt, Tecumseh's head of marketing. "He's an aggressive, no-nonsense guy."

In 1955, Tecumseh came in a respectable No. 248, with sales of $124 million. While sales are now up to $1.8 billion, that's not enough to keep little big-rich Tecumseh on the 500 (it came in at No. 751 this year). We'll have to check back in on the company in another fifty years. --Andy Serwer