Interesting Historical Facts
Gulf Oil was a major global oil company from the 1900s to the 1980s. The eighth-largest American manufacturing company in 1941 and the ninth-largest in 1979, Gulf Oil was one of the so-called Seven Sisters oil companies. Prior to its merger with Standard Oil of California, Gulf was one of the chief instruments of the legendary Mellon family fortune; both Gulf and Mellon Financial had their headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
1901 to 1982 The business that became Gulf Oil started in 1901 with the discovery of oil at Spindletop, Texas. A group of investors came together to promote the development of a modern refinery at nearby Port Arthur to process the oil. The largest investor was William Larimer Mellon of the Pittsburgh Mellon banking family. Other investors included many of Mellon's Pennsylvania clients as well as some Texas wildcatters. Mellon Bank and Gulf Oil remained closely associated thereafter. The Gulf Oil Corporation itself was formed in 1907 through the amalgamation of a number of oil businesses, principally the J.M. Guffey Petroleum and Gulf Refining companies of Texas.
Output from Spindletop peaked at around 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d) just after it was discovered and then started to decline. Later discoveries made 1927 the peak year of Spindletop production, but Spindletop's early decline forced Gulf to seek alternative sources of supply to sustain its substantial investment in refining capacity.
This was achieved by constructing the 400-mile (640-km) Glenn Pool pipeline connecting oilfields in Oklahoma with Gulf's refinery at Port Arthur. The pipeline opened in September 1907. Gulf later built a network of pipelines and refineries in the eastern and southern United States, requiring heavy capital investment. Thus, Gulf Oil provided Mellon Bank with a secure vehicle for investing in the oil sector.
Gulf promoted the concept of branded product sales by selling gasoline in containers and from pumps marked with a distinctive orange disc logo. A customer buying Gulf-branded gasoline could be assured of its quality and consistent standard. (In the early 20th century, non branded gasoline in the U.S was often contaminated or of unreliable quality).
Gulf Oil grew steadily in the inter-war years, with its activities mainly confined to the U.S. The company was characterized by its vertically integrated business activities, and was active across the whole spectrum of the oil industry: exploration, production, transport, refining and marketing. It also involved itself in associated industries such as petrochemicals and automobile component manufacturing. It introduced significant commercial and technical innovations, including the first drive-in service station (1911),
complimentary road maps, drilling over water at Ferry Lake, and the catalytic cracking refining process (Gulf installed the world's first commercial catalytic cracking unit at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery complex in 1951). Gulf also established the model for the integrated, international "oil major," which refers to one of a group of very large companies that assumed influential and sensitive positions in the countries in which they operated.