6 of the Most Famous "Dead Brands"

From Pan American World Airways to F.W. Woolworth's, some of the most loved brands are no longer.
Marcia Wendorf
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The holidays are coming up, so you might want to jump on a Pan American World Airways flight, grab a TWA flight, or take an Eastern Airlines shuttle to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Grandma and Grandpa could pick you up in their big old Oldsmobile or Plymouth, and stop off on the way home at the local Woolworth's for a malt.

The only problem with all of this is that none of these brands exists anymore. Let's take a stroll down the memory lane and see how these iconic companies have become "dead brands" over time.


1. Pan American World Airways

Pan American World Airways began in 1927, operating flights between Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba. Pan Am pioneered the use of jet aircraft and a computerized reservation system, and the company was a founding member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Pan Am logo
Pan Am logo, Source: Pan Am Historical Foundation/Wikimedia Commons

Pan Am flew many routes throughout both South and Central America, and beginning in 1935, it pioneered routes from Alameda, California to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam and Subic Bay Manila. Eventually, it flew a San Francisco to Canton, China route.

Beginning in 1937, Pan Am flew routes to both Britain and France from the U.S., using its famous "Clippers". In 1973, the oil crisis reduced air travel, and in 1978, the deregulation of the airline industry allowed for more competition with Pan Am.

On December 4, 1991, Pan Am ceased operations. It's last flight, #436, was the Clipper Goodwill, which departed Barbados for Miami.

2. Oldsmobile Automobiles

While the Olds Motor Vehicle Company was created in 1897, for most of its existence, it was a division of General Motors, which built Oldsmobiles at its Lansing, Michigan factory.

Oldsmobile logo
Oldsmobile logo, Source: Oldsmobile/Wikimedia Commons

One of GM's five divisions, Oldsmobile sat just below the Cadillac, and just above Buick, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. Iconic Oldsmobile models included the 98, Cutlass, Cutlass Ciera, and Cutlass Calais.

In April 2004, the last 500 Oldsmobile cars came off the assembly line with a special heritage emblem. The last car, an Alero GLS, was signed by all the Oldsmobile assembly line workers and can be seen at the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

3. Plymouth Automobiles

Plymouth automobiles first made their appearance on July 7, 1928 as Chrysler Corporation's entry into the low-cost auto market, which at the time, was dominated by Chevrolet and Ford.

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Plymouth logo
Plymouth logo, Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Plymouth logo featured the ship the Mayflower, which landed in 1620 at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the performance car market exploded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Plymouth Barracuda fastback was a big seller.

In the 1970s, increased gas prices and new emissions and safety regulations signaled the end of muscle cars. The 1980s ushered in Chrysler's "K-cars", which included the Plymouth Reliant.

After Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998, Plymouth's final car was the Neon before production ended for good on June 29, 2001.

4. F.W. Woolworth Company

The F.W. Woolworth Company first opened its doors on February 22, 1879, in Utica, New York. The chain was a pioneer in merchandising and customer service, and it was a staple of both pre-war and post-war America.

Woolworth logo
Woolworth logo, Source: FW Woolworth/Wikimedia Commons

The 1980s brought increased competition from stores such as Walmart and Target, and in July, 1997 Woolworth was forced out of business. Today, the company continues as Foot Locker, Inc., which sells sporting goods.

In Australia and New Zealand, Woolworths supermarkets are operated by Woolworths Limited, a company which took its name from the F.W. Woolworth company because that name had never been registered or trademarked in Australia.

5. Eastern Air Lines

Eastern Airlines got its start in 1926 and was headed by the World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. From the 1930s until the 1950s, Eastern Airlines had a near-monopoly on air travel between New York City and Florida.

Eastern Air Lines logo
Eastern Air Lines logo, Source: Jj98/Wikimedia Commons

On April 30, 1961, Eastern began the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle, which left New York's LaGuardia Airport every hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Shuttle emphasized convenience and simplicity for travelers.

In 1971, Eastern Airlines became the official airline of Walt Disney World, and in 1975, former astronaut Frank Borman became its president. Borman moved the headquarters from New York City to Miami.

With increased competition from low-cost carriers, in 1986, Borman sold Eastern to Texas Air. In 1989, Texas Air sold the Eastern Shuttle to Donald Trump, who, of course, renamed it the "Trump Shuttle". On January 19, 1991, Eastern Airlines ceased operations.

6. Trans World Airways

TWA was formed in 1930 to operate a route from New York City to Los Angeles, with stops in St. Louis and Kansas City. In 1939, industrialist Howard Hughes got control of the airline, and following World War II, he expanded the airline's service to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

TWA logo
TWA logo, Source: TWA/Wikimedia Commons

This put Hughes squarely at odds with Pan Am's Juan Trippe, and the battle between the two men is captured in Martin Scorsese's 2004 film, The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Hughes gave up control of the airline in 1960, and the new management diversified the company by acquiring the Hilton International hotel chain and the real estate company Century 21.

In 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act shook up the airline industry, and the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996 off the coast of New York City further doomed the airline. It filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and was acquired by American Airlines.

In May, 2019, TWA's iconic Flight Center at New York City's JFK Airport, which was designed by Eero Saarinen, became the TWA Hotel.

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