Some companies got it. And some don't.

We're talking about the discipline and the commitment - not to mention the earnings - to raise their annual shareholder dividend every year without fail for over half a century. That's quite an accomplishment, considering the travails and vicissitudes of the American economy over that period. That a company can even stay alive for that many years should be considered an achievement. General market forces and the constant quest for innovation mitigate against any one company holding market share for decades at a time.

Below we highlight three companies shortlisted from this elite group. They're presented with salient fundamentals for your further edification.

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A Steady Yield that Gives You Gas
Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE:NWN) is a distributor of natural gas to clients in Oregon and southwest Washington state. The company also owns and operates an extensive system of underground storage and pipeline facilities.

For the past 54 years without interruption Northwest has increased shareholder dividends and currently pay a reasonable 3.5% per annum. Price/Earnings on the stock is 16.5 and the company's market cap is slightly over $1.2 billion. In the last twelve months the company's shares have also offered investors in excess of 10% capital appreciation, less than the broad utility sector as represented by the iShares Dow Jones US Utilities ETF (NYSE:IDU), which grew by better than 26% in that period.

As Simple as an ATM Withdrawal
Diebold, Inc. (NYSE:DBD) has been an uninterrupted dividend raiser for 57 years, dating back to 1953. The company's history actually reaches back better than 150 years and includes a broad scope of products and innovations that has kept the firm active on the global business scene ever since.

Today, Diebold is in the business of manufacturing and servicing everything from ATM machines to security and alarm systems to voting machines. The shares offer 3.4% annually and trade with a multiple of 29 times last year's earnings. For the last twelve months the shares are up more than 35%.

3M Company (NYSE:MMM) is a Dow Jones Industrial component with a 51 year history of raising its dividend. The current payout is 2.6% and the shares' P/E is 18.2. In the last year, the shares appreciated by 70%, against a gain of just 45% for the Dow Jones Industrials themselves, as measured by the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSE:DIA).

The Wrap
Raising a dividend every year for half a century takes tremendous dedication to shareholders. But perhaps it also takes something else. Perhaps a ticker symbol that begins and ends with the same letter? (For more, check out Dividends Still Look Good After All These Years.)

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