Just because credit markets dry up and unemployment rises, the spirit of innovation doesn't hibernate. Recessions can often be like the economy's answer to a ravaging forest fire--a painful but necessary way to clean the slate and create lasting change. Historically, American entrepreneurs have made the most of their opportunities to rise from the ashes. Here's a look at how they've done it.
The Great Depression
1930: 3M pours profits into R&D, yielding Scotch tape.
1931: Sears Roebucks notes automobile's popularity and creates Allstate auto insurance subsidiary.
1932: Revlon launches with long-lasting nail polish.
1933: Miracle Whip is born.
1934: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Noodle soups are introduced.
1938: GE introduces fluorescent light bulb, which has twice the lifespan of incandescent but uses half the power.
1939: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard establish Hewlett-Packard.
1954: Texas Instruments introduces transistor radio.
1955: The first McDonald's (owned by Ray Kroc) opens.
1958: Hello, Hula Hoop.
1960: Medtronic purchases the rights to produce an implantable pacemaker.
1961: Procter & Gamble tests Pampers disposable diapers.
Vietnam, Stagflation, Oil Crisis
1973: Revlon's Charlie, designed for the working woman's budget, is a hit.
1974: The first product with a UPC--a pack of gum--is scanned.
1974: Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver invent Post-it Notes; 3M introduces the product in 1980.
1975: Bill Gates and Paul Allen form Microsoft.
The Most Severe Recession Since The Great Depression (So Far)
1981: MTV hits the airwaves.
1982: Diet Coke makes its debut.
1983: California firm (later IDEO) designs Apple computer mouse.
1983: Microsoft introduces Word for MS-DOS 1.00.
1987: Ameritech spends 10 percent more on fiber optic and digital technologies than in 1986.
1987: Quark introduces QuarkXPress.
1987: The Food and Drug Administration approves the use of Prozac for treating depression.
Gulf War, Oil Prices Surge
1991: The World Wide Web and Apple PowerBook debut.
1992: Kali's Bar is introduced. It becomes Clif Bar in 1997.
Dotcoms Implode, 9/11 Attacks
2000: Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan found Method Products.
2001: The iPod is unveiled; Orbitz.com goes live; X.com Corp., renamed PayPal, goes public; and XM Satellite Radio begins broadcasting.
2002: RIM introduces BlackBerry 5810.