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“Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility”*…

Take a look at any given corporation’s registration docs, and there’s a good shot you’ll see the address 1209 North Orange Street.

Spanning less than a city block in Wilmington, Delaware, this nondescript office building is the official incorporation address of 285k+ companies from all over the world.

On the surface, there’s no reason that Delaware — home to blue hens and Civil War monuments — should be a corporate paradise. It’s the second smallest state in America, and the 6th least populous, with just 986k residents.

Yet, nearly 1.5m businesses from all over the world are incorporated there, including 68% of all Fortune 500 firms. Among them:

In the early 19th century, every company had to be incorporated (legally established) in the state where they conducted business — and beholden to that state’s tax codes.

Post-Industrialization, huge firms like Standard Oil and the Whiskey Trust began to consolidate fractured markets. To combat this, many states set up laws aimed at regulating monopolies through heavy taxation.

But New Jersey saw an opportunity to cater to industry.

In 1891, the Garden State adopted an extremely generous corporate tax law that “would allow business to do as business pleases.” By incorporating there, a company based in another state could save big on taxes and enjoy perks like unlimited market expansion.

A flood of conglomerates took up this offer and New Jersey earned so much from taxes that it was able to pay off its entire state debt.

Pressured to incentivize businesses to stay, other states offered their own lenient corporate tax policies.

In this so-called “race to the bottom,” Delaware emerged victorious.

Adopted in 1899, the Delaware General Corporation Law “reduced restrictions upon corporate action to a minimum” and promised to maintain the most hospitable business enclave in the nation — a place where corporations could frolic in the open fields of capitalism, unencumbered by income tax, bureaucratic policing, and shareholder litigation.

In the ensuing decades, many other states (including New Jersey) reneged a bit on their corporate leniency.

But Delaware didn’t peel back.

Today, the state is still the incorporation zone of choice for corporations. The climate is so favorable that even international firms seek respite there.

What exactly makes Delaware so enticing?

Nearly 1.5m companies are incorporated in one of America’s smallest states; find out why at: “Why Delaware is the sexiest place in America to incorporate a company.”

* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

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As we peek behind the veil, we might recall that it was on this date in 1939 that John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was published.   The story of the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, agricultural industry changes, and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work.  Fleeing the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out, with thousands of other “Okies,” for California, seeking jobs, land, dignity, and a future.

The date was timely: four years earlier– on “Black Sunday,” this date in 1935– one of the most devastating storms of the 1930s Dust Bowl era kicked up clouds of millions of tons of dirt and dust so dense and dark that some eyewitnesses believed the world was coming to an end. 

The term “dust bowl” was reportedly coined by a reporter in the mid-1930s and referred to the plains of western Kansas, southeastern Colorado, the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and northeastern New Mexico. By the early 1930s, the grassy plains of this region had been over-plowed by farmers and overgrazed by cattle and sheep. The resulting soil erosion, combined with an eight-year drought which began in 1931, created a dire situation for farmers and ranchers. Crops and businesses failed and an increasing number of dust storms made people and animals sick. Many residents fled the region in search of work in other states such as California (as chronicled in books including John Steinbeck s The Grapes of Wrath), and those who remained behind struggled to support themselves…

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