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