Our history

Over the past 135 years ExxonMobil has evolved from a regional marketer of kerosene in the U.S. to the largest publicly traded petroleum and petrochemical enterprise in the world.

Article Sept. 4, 2018

Our history

Today we operate in most of the world's countries and are best-known by our familiar brand names: Exxon, Esso and Mobil. We make the products that drive modern transportation, power cities, lubricate industry and provide petrochemical building blocks that lead to thousands of consumer goods.

1859

Colonel Edwin Drake and Uncle Billy Smith drill the first successful oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The colonel's discovery triggers an oil boom that parallels the gold rush of a decade earlier.

Colonel Edwin Drake and Uncle Billy Smith drill the first successful oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania
1870

Rockefeller and his associates form the Standard Oil Company (Ohio), with combined facilities constituting the largest refining capacity of any single firm in the world. The name Standard is chosen to signify high, uniform quality.

Rockefeller
1879

Standard Oil Co. purchases a three-quarters interest in Vacuum Oil Company for $200,000. As a lubricants pioneer, Vacuum Oil introduces a number of popular products, including the revolutionary Gargoyle 600-W Steam Cylinder Oil.

Vacuum oil works black and white photo from 1879
1882

Standard Oil lubricates Thomas Edison's first central generating system. Also in this year, Standard Oil Trust forms to include the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (Jersey Standard) and the Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony).

Standard Oil Company illustration of workers on site
1885

The Standard Oil Trust moves its headquarters to 26 Broadway, New York City. The nine-story office building becomes a landmark. The same year, Vacuum develops Gargoyle Arctic engine oils for newly designed generators and motors that operate at speeds of up to 1,000 rpm.

Drawing of the Standard Oil Trust  headquarters at 26 Broadway, New York City in 1885
1903

The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, use both Jersey Standard fuel and Mobiloil (Vacuum) lubricants for their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright brothers with plane model
1906

Socony gains a strong foothold in the vast market for kerosene in China by developing small lamps that burned kerosene efficiently. The lamps become known as Mei-Foo, from the Chinese symbols for Socony, meaning "beautiful confidence."

Mei-Foo, kerosene lamp
1911

Following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Standard Oil breaks up into 34 unrelated companies, including Jersey Standard, Socony and Vacuum Oil.  The year also marks the first time Jersey Standard's sales of kerosene are surpassed by gasoline, a product that in the early days had often been discarded as a nuisance.

1911 Standard Oil break up editorial cartoon
1915

Ralph De Palma, winner of the Indianapolis 500, is the first of many Indy winners to use Mobil products. His average speed: 89.84 mph.

1915 Ralph De Palma with Mobil products
1919

Jersey Standard acquires a 50-percent interest in Humble Oil & Refining Company of Texas. It was during this year that Humble, led by its pioneering Chief Geologist Wallace Pratt, employed micropaleontology, the study of microscopic fossils contained in cuttings and core samples from drilling, as an aid in finding oil.

1919 Humble Oil trucks
1920

Jersey Standard researchers produce rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol — the first commercial petrochemical.

1920 Jersey Standard researchers group photo
1926

Embodying the phonetic rendition of the initials ‘S’ and ‘O’ in Standard Oil, Jersey Standard brings out a new blend of fuel under the trade name Esso.

1926 Esso logo
1927

Humble geophysicists use a refraction seismograph and discover an oil field in Sugarland, Texas.

1927 oil field Sugarland, Texas
1928

Amelia Earhart uses Mobiloil to protect Friendship when she makes her historic solo flight across the Atlantic. The previous year, Charles Lindbergh used Mobiloil in the Spirit of St. Louis on the first solo flight across the Atlantic.

1928 Amelia Earhart
1936

First commercial unit in a cat-cracking refinery begins operation at Socony-Vacuum’s Paulsboro, New Jersey, refinery. The unit used a process developed by French scientist Eugene P. Houdry with the financial backing of Socony-Vacuum. The process added a clay-like catalyst to the cracking process to boost gasoline yields and octane rating.

1936 Socony Vacuum Paulsboro refinery
1937

Jersey Standard researchers produce an artificial rubber, butyl. Today, butyl is used in the creation of tires, surgical tapes, protective coatings and more.

artificial rubber, butyl
1938

The world's first commercial production of alkylate begins at a Humble plant in Baytown, Texas. Alkylation made possible the manufacturing of iso-octane, used as a blending agent to produce 100-octane aviation gasoline.

1938 commercial alkylate production facility
1942

The world’s first fluid catalytic cracker goes onstream at Louisiana Standard’s Baton Rouge refinery. The process, developed by four Jersey Standard researchers known as the “four horsemen,” improved on the Houdry method for cat cracking and eventually became the industry standard for producing gasoline. Fortune magazine called it “the most revolutionary chemical-engineering achievement of the last 50 years.”

1942 ExxonMobil scientists discuss fluid catalytic cracker
1952

Jersey Standard introduces Uniflo motor oil, the first multigrade motor oil recommended for both summer and winter use.

1952 Uniflo motor oil
1955

Jersey Standard establishes the Esso Education Foundation, a program that gives financial aid to private colleges and universities.

1955 Esso Education Foundation poster
1958

Pan American Airways flies its first trans-Atlantic Boeing 707 flight from New York to London. The flight is fueled by Mobil aviation fuel.

1958 Pan American Airways plane
1959

An advertising copywriter in Chicago comes up with the advertising slogan “Put a tiger in your tank.”

1959 advertising poster
1963

Humble invents 3-D seismic technology, a revolution that completely changes the way the industry searches for oil and gas resources. (This breakthrough technology, coupled with the use of massive parallel computers in seismic imaging, has helped our geologists sharply reduce finding costs since the 1980s while increasing new field resource additions.)

man standing in front of 3D seismic technology visualization
1966

Mobil celebrates 100 years since the founding of the Vacuum Oil Company in 1866 and changes its name to Mobil Oil Corporation. The company launches a wide-reaching identity program to emphasize the Mobil trade name.

Mobil gas station worker
1972

Jersey Standard officially changes its name to Exxon Corporation. The name change is approved by Jersey Standard shareholders in a special shareholders’ meeting.

Man working on ExxonMobil signs in 1972
1974

Mobil introduces a synthetic automotive engine lubricant — Mobil 1. Today, Mobil 1 is the world’s leading synthetic motor oil.

Mobil oil can
1975

Mobil participates in completion of Beryl A, the world's first concrete production platform. The 50-story-high structure was the prototype for other concrete deepwater facilities operating in the North Sea.

1975 Beryl A, concrete deepwater facility
1976

Mobil invents a process for converting methanol into high-octane gasoline through the use of the company’s versatile ZSM-5 catalyst.

scientific sketch of ZSM5 catalyst
1980

Exxon opens its own facility for environmental health research at East Millstone, New Jersey. Exxon Biomedical Sciences, Inc. conducts research to further assure the safety of Exxon operations and products.

1980 Exxon Biomedical Sciences scientist at work
1982

Exxon celebrates 100 years since the formation of the Standard Oil Trust in 1882. In its first 100 years, the company evolved from a domestic refiner and distributor of kerosene to a large multinational corporation, involved at every level of oil and gas exploration, production, refining and marketing, and petrochemicals manufacturing.

1982 ExxonMobil centennial signage
1986

Exxon Research and Engineering invents a powerful new imaging technique called 3-D microtomography to study the internal structure of opaque objects without damaging them.

1986 ExxonMobil scientists working on 3D microtomography
1989

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground in Prince William Sound in Alaska. The Valdez oil spill was a tragic accident that ExxonMobil deeply regrets. The company took immediate responsibility for the spill, cleaned it up and voluntarily compensated those who claimed direct damages. Learn more about the Exxon Valdez.

Valdez oil spill ExxonMobil cleanup crew at work 1989
1989

Exxon introduces Exxpol, a single-site metallocene catalyst used to produce consistent, controllable molecular structures that make plastic and rubber products tougher and impact-resistant, with less haze and with excellent organoleptics (low off-taste and odor).

Exxon scientist at work
1995

Exxon establishes the Save The Tiger Fund in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Save The Tiger Fund is dedicated to supporting the conservation of Asia’s remaining wild tigers. Since its establishment, ExxonMobil has provided $1 million annually in support of the Save The Tiger Fund.

1995 Save The Tiger Fund signage
1997

Mobil introduces Speedpass, an electronic system which automatically activates the pump and charges purchases to a credit card. Speedpass is similar to the electronic toll technology successfully used on subway, bus and highway systems around the world.

1997 Speedpass supporting
1999

On November 30, 1999, Exxon and Mobil join to form 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.

1999 Exxon Mobil Corporation founding
2001

ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company (EMRE) develops the SCANfining process, which uses a new proprietary catalyst to selectively remove more than 95 percent of the sulfur from gasoline while minimizing octane loss.

2001 SCANfining
2002

ExxonMobil, joined by other sponsors, initiates the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University — a pioneering research effort to identify technologies that can meet energy demand with dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions.

2002 GCEP
2005

ExxonMobil partners with professional golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, to launch the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. The academy is designed to provide third- through fifth-grade teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to motivate kids to pursue careers in science and math.

ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum, with other joint-venture partners, expand development of the giant North Field offshore Qatar, the largest nonassociated gas field in the world.

 

Math And Science Mickelson Exxonmobil Teachers Academy Supporting
2007

Exxon Neftegas Limited (a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation) completes the drilling of the Z-11 well, the longest measured depth extended-reach drilling (ERD) well in the world. (Located on Sakhalin Island offshore eastern Russia, the record-setting Z-11 achieved a total measured depth of 37,016 feet [11,282 meters], or more than seven miles.)

2007 Exxon Neftegas Limited
2008

ExxonMobil's donation through “Idol Gives Back” enables the distribution of hundreds of thousands of bed nets throughout disease-stricken communities in Angola.

2008 Idol Gives Back family smiling
2009

Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) and Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) announced the opening of a greenhouse facility enabling the next level of research and testing in their algae biofuels program. In 2017, these efforts will yield a breakthrough involving modification of an algae strain that more than doubles its oil content without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth.

2009 greenhouse facility
2010

ExxonMobil finalizes its agreement with XTO Energy Inc., creating a new organization to focus on global development and production of unconventional resources. A plan to build and deploy a rapid response system that will be available to capture and contain oil in the event of a potential future underwater well blowout in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico is announced by Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell. ExxonMobil leads the containment system efforts on behalf of the sponsor companies.

2010 XTO Energy
2011

Exxon Mobil Corporation announced two major oil discoveries and a gas discovery in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico after drilling the company's first post-moratorium deep-water exploration well. This is one of the largest discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in the last decade.

2011 Gulf of Mexico
2014
The first shipment of liquefied natural gas from ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG Project in Papua New Guinea is delivered to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc. in Japan.
PNG LNG plant overview
2015
ExxonMobil safely and successfully drills its first exploration well offshore Guyana. Subsequent exploratory activity will confirm a world-class resource discovery in excess of 5 billion oil-equivalent barrels.
Group of three Guyana workers
2016
ExxonMobil and Georgia Tech researchers develop a potentially revolutionary “reverse osmosis” technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics manufacturing. By using a molecular filter — rather than energy and heat — to perform a key step in the plastics-making process, this new process offers the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of energy required in petrochemical facilities.
2017
Working jointly with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, ExxonMobil sets a record in high-performance computing by using more than four times the previous number of processors used on complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models to improve exploration and production results. The breakthrough in parallel simulation uses 716,800 processors, the equivalent of harnessing the power of 22,400 computers with 32 processors per computer.
two men stand in front of seismic imaging readout
2017
ExxonMobil doubles its Permian Basin resource to 6 billion barrels of oil equivalent through the acquisition of companies owned by the Bass family of Fort Worth, TX.
ExxonMobil engineers at the Permian Basin.

Related content

The true energy of the Permian Basin

Today, the Permian Basin is one of America’s most bountiful unconventional fields, a new frontier of resource development that is drawing energy pioneers looking to revolutionize how oil and natural gas are produced.

Who we are Energy Factor June 11, 2019

Sarah Torkamani

Sarah Torkamani: Reaching out and lifting up

Ever since I was a little girl, as my grandma always reminds me, I wanted to be a scientist and wanted to help the planet. Since those early days, I’ve had a unique life journey living and studying overseas before moving back to the U.S. to continue my research as a chemical and environmental engineer.

Who we are Energy Factor March 27, 2019

ExxonMobil employee onsite

Our guiding principles

Exxon Mobil Corporation is committed to being the world's premier petroleum and chemical manufacturing company. To that end, we must continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to high ethical standards.

Who we are Article Sept. 4, 2018

drilling rig

Business divisions

An industry leader in almost every aspect of the energy and chemical manufacturing businesses, we operate facilities or market products in most of the world’s countries and explore for oil and natural gas on six continents.

Who we are Article Sept. 4, 2018

Technology at the core of what we do

At heart, ExxonMobil has always been a technology company — pioneering the technological solutions to solve society’s most pressing challenges and support its progress.

Who we are Blog July 14, 2017

The future of energy — Opportunities and challenges

We all generally share similar aspirations: jobs and good health, comfortable and safe places to live and a clean environment. That’s true in U.S. cities like Dallas — where ExxonMobil, the company I now have the privilege to lead, is headquartered — and it’s true all over the world. What’s also true, and too often overlooked, is the vital role that energy and energy technologies play in fulfilling these shared aspirations.

Who we are Blog Feb. 23, 2017