History of Exxon and Mobil, Esso, Standard Oil

Our history  

Fond memories. Major milestones. And more.

Moments from the past that are fueling the future

Our story began in 1870 when John D. Rockefeller and his associates formed the Standard Oil Company (Ohio). In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court divided Standard Oil into 33 different companies, including Standard Oil of New Jersey (Jersey Standard), Socony Oil, Vacuum Oil and some companies that retained the name Standard Oil.

In many states, Jersey Standard marketed its products under the brand ‘Esso’, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the initials ‘S’ and ‘O’ in Standard Oil. However in other states, the other Standard Oil companies objected. In those states, Jersey Standard marketed under the brands Enco (Energy Company) and Humble (an oil company they acquired). Jersey Standard became Exxon Corporation in 1972 and in 1999 joined with Mobil Oil Corporation, formerly Socony-Vacuum Oil, to form Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Gargoyles, winged horses and tigers

As we’ve made changes, mergers, and more, so too have our trademarks, icons and advertising campaigns evolved. Here are a few particularly memorable examples.
  • Gargoyle, Vacuum Oil used a stylized red gargoyle to advertise

    Gargoyle

    As early as 1869, Vacuum Oil used a stylized red gargoyle to advertise petroleum-based lubricants for horse-drawn carriages and steam engines.

  • Pegasus, The flying red horse used by Vacuum Oil in South Africa

    Pegasus

    The flying red horse was first used by Vacuum Oil in South Africa in 1911. In 1931, when Vacuum merged with Socony, the red Pegasus – a symbol of speed and power – was adopted as its U.S. trademark. In 1968, Mobil adopted new-look Pegasus service stations. The red Pegasus remains among the most recognized corporate symbols in American petroleum history.

Tiger
The tiger first appeared as a mascot for Esso in Norway around the turn of the 20th century. The tiger surfaced again in the 1950’s, when Esso started using it to represent quality and power. In 1959, the tiger rose to fame in the U.S. when an advertising copywriter coined the now famous phrase, “Put a tiger in your tank.” The phrase launched numerous ads, jingles and TV commercials that became so popular, Time Magazine dubbed 1964 "The Year of the Tiger Along Madison Avenue."



Did you know?

As a company with such a close association with the tiger, Esso, together with its parent company, ExxonMobil, was instrumental in the establishment of the Save The Tiger Fund in 1995. Today, ExxonMobil contributes $1 million a year to help conserve Asia's remaining wild tigers.

Happy motoring

From the road to the racetrack, Americans have always counted on Exxon and Mobil to get them where they want to go.
  • Happy characters

    On the road

    In 1958, Jersey Standard offered free road maps to customers as part of its Happy Motoring campaign. The maps featured ‘Happy’ the Oil Drop Man – an advertising character that was first introduced by Esso’s Danish company during World War II. Today, thousands of Exxon and Mobil customers use our online Fuel Finder to help them on their journeys.

  • Ralph De Palma, winner of the Indianapolis 500

    On the track

    In 1915, Ralph De Palma, winner of the Indianapolis 500, was the first of many Indy winners to use Mobil products. Today ExxonMobil is a proud partner and fuel supplier of the McLaren-Honda Formula 1TM team.

Did you know?

Our advanced racing formula is developed in the same technology center as the Exxon- and Mobil-branded Synergy™ fuels you use every day in Paulsboro, New Jersey, and the fuels share similar properties.

Innovation takes flight

For more than a century, we have been a leading innovator in aviation technologies.
  • The Wright brothers used Jersey Standard fuel and Mobiloil (Vacuum) lubricants

    The Wright brothers

    In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright used Jersey Standard fuel and Mobiloil (Vacuum) lubricants for their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

  • First trans-Atlantic commercial flight, Pan American Airways used Mobil aviation fuel

    Charles Lindbergh & Amelia Earhart

    Both of these famous pilots used Mobil oil in their historic cross Atlantic flights. Lindberg in the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927, and Earhart in Friendship in 1928.

  • Propeller flight

    First trans-Atlantic commercial flight

    In 1958, Pan American Airways used Mobil aviation fuel in its first transatlantic Boeing 707 flight from New York to London.

Did you know?

ExxonMobil donated aviation fuel for the first commercial flight of the Airbus A380 in 2007, as part of a global fundraiser. Passenger tickets were acquired by auction for the 8,000-mile round-trip flight, which raised $1.3 million for charity.

Famous firsts

Throughout our history, we have been pioneers in products and technology that impact the way the world uses energy. Here are a few of our more famous firsts:
  • Octane
    In 1938, the world’s first commercial production of Alkylate at a Humble Oil plant in Texas made possible the manufacturing of iso-octane as a blending agent. In 1976, Mobil invented a process for converting methanol into high-octane gasoline. Today, all North American gasoline contains octane and gasoline grades are based on octane ratings
  • Motor oil
    In 1952, Jersey Standard introduced Uniflo motor oil, the first multigrade motor oil for both summer and winter use. In 1974, Mobil introduced the first synthetic motor oil – Mobil 1TM. Today, Mobil 1 is the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand
  • Detergent gasolines
    In 1968, Mobil was the first to develop detergent gasolines. Detergents help to reduce buildup of harmful deposits inside fuel injectors. Today, all Exxon and Mobil gasoline grades contain detergent additives. In fact, our gasolines contain significantly more than the minimum quantities required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Pay at the pump
    In 1986, Mobil became the first gas retailer in the U.S. to introduce pay at the pump. In 1997, Mobil introduced Speedpass™, the first mobile payment device. Speedpass key tags use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology
  • Gasoline for better gas mileage**
    In 2016, released Fuel Technology Synergy™ gasolines. Developed with 7 key ingredients to help improve fuel economy, Synergy gasolines represent 130 years of engineering in making.

Did you know?

Today, Exxon and Mobil customers in select markets can use their smartphones to pay at the pump, with the Speedpass+™ app – another first!


  • About Exxon Mobil Corporation

    Energy to take you further

    Learn more about ExxonMobil, including milestones in our history and our ongoing commitment to environmental performance and supporting local communities.

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  • Exxon and Mobil in the community

    Investing in the communities we serve

    From supporting education at the grassroots level to combatting malaria on a global scale, ExxonMobil is committed to making a positive contribution to people’s lives.  

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  • Improving environmental performance

    Environmental performance

    Read about some of the ways we’re working to improve environmental performance while pursuing reliable and affordable energy that is essential to human progress.

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  • Careers and Job Openings at ExxonMobil

    Careers and workforce

    From joining our U.S. head office to being part of our global team, ExxonMobil is a dynamic and exciting place to work.

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Source: ExxonMobil Historical Collection, [identifier number: di_02878, di_03270, di_03441, di_03445, di_03551, di_03643, di_03787], The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

*Applies to Exxon- and Mobil-branded gasoline compared to gasoline meeting minimum U.S. government standards. Actual benefits vary depending on factors such as vehicle type, driving style and gasoline previously used.

**Fuel economy improvement is based on Synergy-branded gasoline compared to gasoline meeting minimum U.S. government standards. Actual benefits will vary based on factors such as vehicle type, driving style and gasoline previously used. Exxon, Mobil and Synergy are trademarks or registered trademarks of Exxon Mobil Corporation or one of its subsidiaries.

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