A fascinating retrospective of American business which focuses on the 235 corporations whose names appeared on annual listings of the nation's top 100 industrial enterprises from 1917 through 1985. Stine takes as a starting point the four broad types of industrial pursuits cited by Herman Kahn to account for the evolution of advancing societies. In brief, they are primary (resource extraction), secondary (construction and manufacturing), tertiary (support services), and quaternary (leisure or allied activities undertaken for their own sake). Stine then provides decade-by-decade rundowns on the companies that made and/or dropped from the yearend registries on the basis of assets, not revenues. Dominating the initial census were metals suppliers (e.g., US Steel, Bethlehem, Anaconda Copper); energy enterprises and food processors made excellent showings as well. By the end of WW II, six aircraft makers had joined the rolls, and 1945 marked IBM's debut. Last year's list included just 22 finns from the 1917 roster -- 9.4 percent of the total number of companies that had logged multiple appearances. Stine finds it ""somewhat disheartening"" that so few have managed to remain atop the corporate heap for any length of time. But beyond remarking on American's love of change, Stine modestly concludes that his data confirm only obvious business axioms--namely, a corporation must thrive as well as survive, but ""how it does so isn't subject to a set of hard and fast rules. . ."" He does imply, however, that companies with a capacity to endure and prosper share an ability to respond to cultural and technological change. All told, knowing commentary on Corporate America's elite.