The single-best stock to own over the last half-century had nothing to do with technology, innovation, or breakthroughs. It was cigarette giant Altria Group, which has returned an average of 20.5% a year since the 1960s. Take tobacco, stuff it into a paper tube, repeat. That has turned $1,000 into $3.7 million in fewer than 50 years.

In a world where whispers of the next big thing command most of the attention, the painfully boring Altria -- which today makes a product nearly identical to what it made a century ago -- has been one of the greatest success stories of all time.

I think that's amazing.

And that story isn't rare. There are dozens of put-you-to-sleep companies that have achieved incredible returns over the last 30, 40, even 50 years.

Keep in mind: Past performance doesn't indicate future returns. This isn't a buy list, but rather a demonstration of how companies that make ordinary products can generate extraordinary returns.

All of these charts are in log scale to more accurately show change:

16 Painfully Boring Companies with Extraordinary Long-Term Returns from The Motley Fool.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Altria Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of The Clorox Company. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Family Dollar Stores, Illinois Tool Works, McCormick & Company, and Nucor. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.