the Company noun earlier than 1966

Bryn submitted verifiable evidence from 1953.

In 1989, when the OED first entered the expression the Company as a name for the Central Intelligence Agency, the earliest evidence we had was from a 1967 slang dictionary. Research has since turned up a slightly earlier example, the text of which suggests that the term was in wide use within the CIA itself:

One of the first things they pound into you during training is always to call the Agency the ‘company’… Never the C.I.A. or the Agency, even among yourselves.

1966 Esquire May, p. 82

Can you help us find an even earlier example?

It is sometimes claimed that this name originates from the association of the initials CIA with cia., which is the Spanish abbreviation of the word compañía, i.e. ‘company’. Is there any evidence to support this claim, such as an early example of the name appearing in Latin American contexts?

Posted by OED_Editor on 6 March 2013 14.01
Comments: 8

  • Bryn_OED

    The Daytona Beach Morning Journal [May 1964 **] has an article entitled “Washington Merry Go Round: Cuba’s Refineries Protected”, with the passage:
    “Arms from `The Company’ …. His aides have admitted frankly to this column that everything is supplied by the CIA, or `The Company’ as they call it.”,5823264&dq=central-intelligence+company&hl=en
    Versions of this article appear in other newspapers – e.g.:,4250869&dq=central-intelligence+company&hl=en,5280175&dq=central-intelligence+company&hl=en

    ** Google News is contradictory on the date:
    – the GoogleNews listing shows “28th May 1964, p23”
    – the digitised newspaper-page, itself, shows 30th May 1964, p4, at the top of the page  

    • Bryn_OED

      Another potential 1964 usage:

      Stewart Alsop & Thomas Braden (1964) “Sub Rosa: the OSS and American espionage”, New York, Harcourt Brace & World
      This contains the passage:
      “General Donovan’s reaction both to Sub Rosa and to what must have been a very much more detailed and authoritative record of America’s first intelligence services provides a good example of one side of the old argument which rages today between the Central Intelligence Agency, successor to OSS, and its critics. The argument will continue to rage as long as the United States tries to maintain a secret intelligence service in a democracy. The Company point of view is that nothing should be written about secret operations except what those who control secret operations would like to see in print. The point of view of reporters and historians is that … “

  • Stephen Goranson

    amed Anto June 27, 1963,  an AP story inThe Times-Picayune [New Orleans]. section 2, p. 22, col. a.
    headline: No Rebel Boats Off Cuba–Exiles
    Miami, Fla. (AP)
    ….[paragraph 2;]
    have checked all commando groups and find the only possibility is the
    company (exile term for CIA), Carlos Bandin’s group of the revolutionary
    movement, or a small band from Oriente province headed by a man named Anton,” said the leader of a major commando organization.

  • Bryn_OED

    GoogleBooks threw up an intriguing potential usage, within a digitised volume of “Foreign Relations of the United States” *
    A reproduction of a [27th June] 1951 memorandum, from Director of Central Intelligence (Smith) ** to W. Park Armstrong [Special Assistant for Intelligence to the Secretary of State], showed the passage:
    “… Department of Defense for an opinion regarding the effect, if any, of the Company’s decision upon the security interests of the United States in the Far East.”
    Although GoogleBooks only offered a snippet and whilst “Foreign Relations of the United States” material can include `less than one sentence’ redactions, the structure of that phrase did seem to imply a government agency, rather than a commercial company.
    * GoogleBooks showed:
    – the listing as “Foreign Relations of the United States – Vol 7, p.1995”
    – a thumbnail cover, with “Foreign Relations of the United States  1951 Volume 7  Korea and China”
    The US Dept. of State archive for “Foreign Relations of the United States” didn’t help with triangulating the original memo:
    ** “Director of Central Intelligence (Smith)” would refer to General Walter Bedell Smith [Director of Central Intelligence, at the CIA; 1950 – 1953]

    • Bryn_OED

      This [1953] CIA usage seems close to the Central America / Latin America context that the OED is seeking and, hence, worth considering:
      A memorandum, from a CIA folder, within “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954: Retrospective Volume, Guatemala, Document 46”:
      Subject: PBFORTUNE – meeting with Principal Agent (KS), 3 September 1953

      3. It was evident that KS’s thinking, planning and liaison with the P/A, (R), have so far been based on estimates of relatively limited support primarily on the part of “the Company.” Hence his points of view up to now are somewhat restricted. Furthermore, it should be noted for the sake of order that KS’s views are somewhat colored by the fact that he has had to identify himself very closely with the P/A and his cause over a period of time.
      4. … Considering that the operation now will be Government (U.S.) sponsored rather than supported by “the Company” as heretofore, KS would assist in devising means of evaluating, at least to a degree, the P/A’s capabilities particularly inside the target country.
      P/A:   Political Asset
      PBFORTUNE:   CIA project to supply anti-Arbenz forces with weapons, supplies and funding
      P/A (R):   `Rufus’ – Carlos Castillo Armas

  • Bryn_OED

    Many thanks to Aaron for an alternative link to a digitized version of page 1995
    This shows that the [1951] phrase is in a footnote that actually crosses over from page 1994; a memo relating to the CalTex oil company
    Hence, the 1953 usage would seem to be the most likely first-usage, so far, for CIA / Company, within “Foreign Relations”
    United States Department of State / Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951. Korea and China (in two parts)(1951)

  • If it was ‘always pounded…’ presumably it will have been in an internal training manual