I have been asked to do this month’s petroleum company of the month. I hope that I can do as well, as the previous month’s authors.
First I would like to explain a little bit about why I collect Flying “A”. My history in the company started as a boy when my father bought a small Flying “A” heating oil company. I spent most of my young life riding around in trucks as the copilot. Later at the age of 15, I actually learned to drive an 1800 gallon oil truck with my learners permit. My passion for collecting has gone through the following stages. My first reason was to create a neat setting for my old cars in the garage. Secondly I became obsessed with getting my hands on every Flying “A” or related piece I could. And thirdly I began to see the historical value and the look of all the colors and shapes coming together to become a form of art. I now consider myself to be an art collector.
History of the Tidewater Oil Company (part one)
The Tidewater Oil Company is one of the oldest oil companies in the US. Back in 1859 Sir Edwin Drake struck oil in the hills of Pennsylvania. Within a 10 year period over 5500 wells had been drilled and nearly 1200 of them were producing oil. In 1861 Robert Hopkins and Byron Benson formed a company called the Enterprise Oil and Lumber Company. The name Enterprise was not the type of operation, but used because of its location in Enterprise, Pa. Because the demand for oil was not great at this time, they planned to also capitalize on the, many, old growth forest in Eastern Pennsylvania. Therefore they became an oil and lumber company. The two partners got involved in the civil war and did not really get the oil portion going until they returned in 1866. However, when they did get it going, they were so successful that by 1875 they were producing so much oil that a new problem had taken front stage. That was the transportation of the oil. The way it worked, was that the oil was carried by horse drawn wagons from the wells back in the hills, to the railroad yards. Here the oil was loaded into large vats located on flatbed rail cars. The trains then carried the oil to the refineries on the eastern coast. The sheer volume of oil caused Hopkins and Benson to think hard about a better and less costly way to move the oil. The idea they came up with was to build a pipeline from eastern PA. to a refinery on the Atlantic seaboard. With the idea to build a pipeline but not knowing exactly were it would end they renamed the Enterprise oil and lumber company. The new name would be the Tidewater Pipe Company. The thought at the time was that they would end up in or near the Tidewater seaboard. The new company would come up with all of the special equipment needed to make the pipe and pipe joints for such a pipeline. This was no small task in its self, but was only made harder by the railroad companies. They did not want to lose business to a pipe line ,after all this was fast becoming there bread and butter business. To build a pipe line, the company needed to acquire right of ways from land owners in Pennsylvania and all along the way to where the line ended. The railroad properties that the tracks were on, posed the problem. Tidewater needed the right of way to cross the tracks and the railroads would not give it to them. For many years Tidewater would pipe the oil to one side of a train track and then unload the oil into tanker trucks, which would cross the tracks to pumping stations where the oil was put back into the pipeline. By 1876 the pipeline was completed to Williamsport and by 1880 the line ended in Bayonne, NJ. The 6 inch line was 450 miles long. The company had acquired a refinery here from one of its customers and now was prepared to market its own products. The company was renamed again. It became the Tidewater Oil Company. The two main products were branded under the names Tydol and Veedol. A side note to these two great trademarks, was how they came up Veedol. A group of company exec’s were sitting in a meeting and came up with the names. Tydol was short for Tidewater oil. The letter V in the alphabet was always considered the strongest letter,(don’t ask me why) therefore V oil would work well so they thought. To tie them a little more together, they changed the V oil to Veedol. To this day, Tydol and Veedol are almost always associated with the products of Tidewater Oil Company. A company today would be willing to pay millions for a trademark like these. Tidewater Oil grew in all area’s of the oil business. By the early 1880’s The now great Standard Oil company, without success had even tried to buy them out. Tidwater marketed in the Northeast in Tydol stations and sold the Veedol product lines all over the USA and in Europe and South America. It branched out west and southwest. Oil produced in Illinois caused a pipeline to be built from Stoy,Ill to the Bayonne, NJ refinery. They also started producing products in Oklahoma and built a refinery in Drumright. The Oklahoma area is where J. Paul Getty crosses paths with Tidewater Oil Company. J Paul Getty had been working with his fathers insurance company in the Oklahoma area and been impressed by the Tidewater operation there. The main reason was because they were making so much money, and running the company so badly. The common practice of the time , was when a well hit oil, the company would keep it quite until they could buy up the rights to all of the surrounding land. This needed to happen very fast, and the Tidewater oil company would take months to make the decisions at the corporate level back on the coast. By the time the word got back to Oklahoma, there competitors would already have heard the news from workers in the local bars and bought up the rights to the oil. Getty thought that if he could make these decisions faster the company could make even more money. Getty began to acquire stock in the company in the early 30’s for less than $1.00 per share. He continued to acquire stock until 1951 when he finally took control of it the company.
Tidewater had already merged with Associated Oil Company and now through this merger and other acquisitions, Getty had taken control of Tidewater, Associated,Skelly and a few other lesser know oil companies.
Lets post any item you might have from the early Tidewater era. This would be up to the 1940’s. Most of these items are the old orange and black colors. Then in a week or so I will post a little history on the Associated Oil Company before Tidewater took it over. At this time we can post pictures of our stuff from this time frame. And then if everyone is still on board, we can end the month with our Flying “A” goodies from 1948 to the end of the company. This could include the early Getty oil era too.
[This message has been edited by Flyingaman (edited 03-01-2004).]