ExxonMobil predecessor Standard Oil faced a number of challenges in the early years of the 20th century, including the 1911 breakup, falling oil production, soaring petroleum product demand and growing international competition. But there were also internal issues that demanded the attention of management.
The company recognized the need for better employee relations and major reforms in wages, benefits and job conditions. So it embarked on a major overhaul of personnel policies. A cornerstone of those changes, which set new standards for American industry, was a commitment to greater communication between the company and its employees.
Walter Teagle, who was appointed president of Standard Oil in 1917 at the age of 39, was brought in to oversee these changes. Teagle, at the time one of the youngest men to run a large American corporation, was accessible and caring, but also intense and hard-driving. He immediately set about restructuring Standard Oil and strengthening its employee benefits with enhanced retirement and stock-purchase programs. He elevated the role of public and media relations and, as part of that effort, developed a new in-house magazine in 1918 called The Lamp, appointing himself de facto editor.
Lighting the way
As president, Teagle had other critical obligations, primarily expanding the company’s worldwide exploration and production programs. He turned the day-to-day editorship of The Lamp over to Northrup Clarey, a former financial editor of The New York Times. But Teagle kept a hand in directing the publication even from afar, suggesting articles, approving copy and submitting future story ideas.
The first issue of the publication confirmed its mission and reason for its name: “It is hoped that its rays will reach everyone interested directly or indirectly in the fortunes of the company – and that it will light the way to an understanding of one another and that no shadows of misconception nor suspicion will endure in its presence.”
From its onset, The Lamp contained detailed articles about Standard Oil’s operations, financial performance, management viewpoints, corporate milestones, employee activities and accomplishments. It also presented broader, educational features about the petroleum industry, such as how explorers find oil and how gasoline prices are determined. There were even “travelogue” stories about the search for oil with titles like “Adventures in the upper Amazon” and “Hunting for oil in Saudi Arabia,” which transported readers to new and exciting regions of the world.
Interest in the magazine quickly grew beyond its employee base to include investors, stockbrokers, students, financial writers and other external groups. Requests for the publication grew to such a level that by the early 1920s, the company actually sold subscriptions for $1.00 a year. At that time, The Lamp was printed and mailed to subscribers every other month.
As Standard’s worldwide organization grew, the corporation organized itself along affiliate lines and established stand-alone companies in the various countries where it operated. Employee communication – the initial editorial mission of The Lamp – became the responsibility of each affiliate. Additional specialized magazines proliferated among the companies highlighting particular aspects of the energy industry. These included Oilways, which showcased the company’s motor oil and lubricants business; Search magazine, highlighting exploration; Chemsphere magazine, profiling the company’s global chemical business; and numerous affiliate publications such as Esso Australia’s Connection magazine.
Beginning in the 1940s, The Lamp editors retooled the magazine away from its strictly internal focus to include external audiences, particularly shareholders. Over the years, readership expanded to government officials, regulators, policymakers and academics.
Just as The Lamp originated nearly 100 years ago due to Standard Oil’s understanding of the importance for better communications, ExxonMobil understands that readers today consume news very differently. Most receive their information on laptops and mobile devices, and they want stories and business news faster and more frequently than a print publication can deliver. Digital delivery also offers significant cost efficiencies.
We encourage readers to keep up to date on our corporate news by using a number of news sources available and accessible online:
- Energy Factor (energyfactor.com) features company news, in-depth reviews of science and technology highlights, employee profiles, and perspectives on the energy industry. You can sign up to receive regular newsletters.
- Join us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be part of our online community, stay connected to the company, and share content with family and friends.
- Our website (exxonmobil.com) is an in-depth source for news, publications and important shareholder information. Sign up for email alerts to learn whenever the company issues news releases or announcements.
- You can also find ExxonMobil on YouTube and in the App Store on your mobile devices.
The Lamp brought the stories of ExxonMobil people and places to life for nearly a century. Now, Energy Factor and our other digital tools will continue to highlight the achievements of our corporation, and the many talents and accomplishments of our employees around the world.