Both Exxon and Mobil trace their roots to
the late 19th century, when American industry was booming in numerous
sectors - steel, railroads and banking, to name a few. The nation's young
petroleum industry picked up the pace, too, to meet the growth in demand for
kerosene, lubricants and greases.
John D. Rockefeller acquired a
diversity of petroleum interests during that period and, in 1882, organized
them under the Standard Oil Trust. That same year marked the incorporation
of two refining and marketing organizations -- Standard Oil Co. of New
Jersey and Standard Oil Co. of New York. "Jersey Standard" and "Socony," as
they were commonly known, were the chief predecessor companies of Exxon and
For both companies, the remainder of
the century was a time of expansion beyond America's shores. Large "kerosene
clippers" enabled overseas shipments of products in bulk quantities.
Affiliates and sales offices of the two companies spread across Europe and
Asia. Standard Oil's MEI FOO kerosene lamps introduced illumination across
China and opened a vast new market.
In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court
ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust, resulting in the spin-off
of 34 companies, including Jersey Standard and Socony. In the same year, the
nation's kerosene output was eclipsed for the first time by a formerly
discarded byproduct - gasoline. The growing automotive market ultimately
inspired the product trademark Mobiloil, registered by Socony in 1920.
After the Standard Oil breakup, Jersey
Standard and Socony separately faced rising competition with fewer resources
at their disposal. Neither company was fully integrated. Over the next two
decades, each company vigorously built up every segment of its businesses,
from production and pipelines to refining and research. They also expanded
across the U.S. and abroad.
Big acquisitions and mergers helped:
Jersey Standard acquired a 50 percent interest in Humble Oil & Refining Co.,
a Texas oil producer. Socony purchased a 45 percent interest in Magnolia
Petroleum Co., a major refiner, marketer and pipeline transporter. In 1931,
Socony merged with Vacuum Oil Co., an industry pioneer dating back to 1866
and a growing Standard Oil spin-off in its own right.
Distribution remained an issue for
both companies. In the Asia-Pacific region, Jersey Standard had oil
production and refineries in Indonesia but no marketing network. Socony-Vacuum
had Asian marketing outlets supplied remotely from California. In 1933,
Jersey Standard and Socony-Vacuum merged their interests in the region into
a 50-50 joint venture. Standard-Vacuum Oil Co., or "Stanvac,"operated in 50
countries, from East Africa to New Zealand, before it was dissolved in 1962.
The spirit of expansion was
temporarily interrupted by World War II. Each company beefed up refining
output to supply the Allied war effort. Also aiding the cause were new
technologies, such as Jersey Standard's groundbreaking process for boosting
fuel octane and Socony-Vacuum's synthetic lubricants. Both companies
suffered wartime casualties. Tankers and their crews were lost on the high
seas. Refineries and other facilities in Europe and Asia were destroyed.
In the post-war years, renewed
prosperity in the U.S. and rebuilding in Europe helped put Jersey Standard
and Socony-Vacuum firmly back on their global growth tracks. New
technologies and growing markets also spurred the development of
petrochemicals and an array of derivative products.
Over the next years, ExxonMobil's
predecessor companies learned to transform refinery by-products into many
basic petrochemicals and numerous derivatives. Since the end of World War
II, the two companies have each advanced technologies, expanded business
lines and established markets in more than 100 countries.
Mobil Chemical Company was established
in 1960. As of 1999, principal products included basic olefins and
aromatics, ethylene glycol and polyethylene. The company produced synthetic
lube base stocks as well as lube additives, propylene packaging films and
catalysts. Manufacturing facilities were located in 10 countries.
Exxon Chemical Company became a
worldwide organization in 1965 and in 1999 was a major producer and marketer
of olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene along with speciality
lines such as elastomers, plasticizers, solvents, process fluids, oxo
alcohols and adhesive resins. The company was an industry leader in
metallocene catalyst technology to make unique polymers with improved
performance. Manufacturing facilities were located in 24 countries.
The two chemical companies combined
their operations within ExxonMobil Chemical.
In 1955, Socony-Vacuum became Socony
Mobil Oil Co. and, in 1966, simply Mobil Oil Corp. . A decade later, a newly
incorporated Mobil Corporation embraced Mobil Oil as a wholly owned
subsidiary. Jersey Standard changed its name to Exxon Corporation in 1972
and established Exxon as an uncontested trademark throughout the United
States. In other parts of the world, Exxon and its affiliated companies
continued to use its long-time Esso trademark and affiliate name.
In the 1970s, the oil industry and the
world were rocked by an Arab oil embargo and by revolution in Iran. Both
events triggered disruptions in oil supplies, extreme price hikes,
conservation efforts and the development of alternative energy sources.
Exxon, Mobil and other companies escalated exploration and development
outside the Middle East - in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Africa and
Asia. By the early 1980s, oil was in surplus, and prices fell.
For the remainder of the 20th century,
Exxon and Mobil continued to operate in a relatively low-price, low-margin
environment. Markets in the United States and Europe matured. Regulations
became more stringent. Competitiveness tightened worldwide. Each company
continued to advance new technologies, introduce marketing innovations and
extend its reach into emerging, high-growth markets. The two companies
became more efficient, reduced costs and increased shareholder value
In 1998, Exxon and Mobil signed a
definitive agreement to merge and form a new company called Exxon Mobil
Corporation. "This merger will enhance our ability to be an effective global
competitor in a volatile world economy and in an industry that is more and
more competitive," said Lee Raymond and Lou Noto, chairmen and chief
executive officers of Exxon and Mobil, respectively. After shareholder and
regulatory approvals, the merger was completed November 30, 1999.