The “Company of the Month” for March, 2005 is Mobil. I worked at Mobil for 21 years, and most of the historical information I’ll present comes from several pamphlets issued by the company in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s…..and another entitled “The Story of Hiram B. Everest” issued by Vacuum Oil Company in 1930. If you see errors or omissions, please feel free to post corrections or additional information…..this is all about gathering and exchanging knowledge about this hobby we all love.

The two main predecessor companies of Mobil were Vacuum Oil Company and Standard of Company of New York (Socony). Both companies were formed in the state of New York and operated essentially as competitors until they merged in 1931 to form Socony-Vacuum Oil Company. I say “essentially as competitors” because for a number of years they were both part of The Standard Oil Trust, but were operated independently.

The oldest of the two, Vacuum Oil Company, got it’s start in Rochester, New York in 1866. At the time, before the invention of Edison’s light bulb, kerosene was the country’s best source of light. Matthew Ewing, a local carpenter, developed a method of distilling crude oil under a vacuum, and convinced Hiram Everest, a local grocery store owner, to invest $20 to help test his idea. Everest’s track record for investing in successful business ventures wasn’t good….he’d previously started two tree farms that were destroyed by frost, and the sawmill he built burned to the ground twice! Nonetheless, with Everest’s money they purchased a kitchen stove, a washboiler, assorted fittings, and some crude oil and constructed a makeshift still in Ewing’s backyard. Ewing thought his vacuum method of distilling would result in the entire volume of crude oil being changed into kerosene, which would have been a big improvement over other refining methods in use at the time. WRONG!! The method turned out to be no more efficient at making kerosene than any other. However, it did create a residue at the bottom of the still that turned out to be a superior product for lubricating machinery and currying leather. On September 11, 1866 a patent application was submitted for this vacuum process of creating lubricants, and the Vacuum Oil Company was incorporated in Rochester on October 4, 1866.

What amazes me is that most people experienced in the lubrication of modern industrial machinery and equipment agree that Mobil STILL makes the best lubrication products available, almost 140 years later!!
Maintaining a competitive advantage for that long is truly a rare occurrence. As an example, Gargoyle 600-W Steam Cylinder Oil, which was patented in 1869, is still in demand today.

The formation of Socony isn’t quite as interesting as that of Vacuum Oil. When John D. Rockefeller formed his Standard Oil Trust in 1882, the headquarters were moved from Cleveland to New York City and Socony was created to serve as the administrative arm of the trust. It also refined and marketed products in the New York – New England area.

Following is a diagram I created depicting the time-lines and the various major component companies that ended up being part of the Mobil Oil Corporation. I use it as a reference when trying to date various items in my collection.

There’s more history to follow later, but for now it’s your turn. Mobil has had marketing operations in all the lower 48 states, so I’d guess that just about everyone’s had at least one Mobil item in their collection at one time or another. So show us what you’ve got !!! This is one of my favorites…….the earliest Pegasus image, first used by Vacuum Oil Co. South Africa in 1911.

If you need help posting an image, send it to me in an email and I’ll post it for you (click the email icon on the first line of this post).

[This message has been edited by pegasus (edited 03-01-2005).]

[This message has been edited by pegasus (edited 03-01-2005).]

Richard Weir
Corinth, Texas