Skip to main content
Search

Esso: from "baby standard" to petrochemicals

In the early years, the name - Standard Oil / Esso - could be taken literally.

When John Rockefeller started his company, he found the petroleum business in chaos, with quality and price differing from place to place. So, he set up a company to sell petroleum at a standard price and standard quality throughout the United States, using a network of 'peddlers' - intermediaries selling petroleum door to door. This practice was also introduced in the Benelux. These labor-intensive sales and distribution methods required a sales force of thousands of people, who worked for APC either directly or indirectly.

There was a very dense network of main depots, depots and sub-depots. The large fleet of horse-drawn tank trucks, hand carts and dog carts was expanded considerably. APC had hundreds of draft horses, as well as an army of coachmen and stable grooms. Mindful of Rockefeller’s motto ‘don't pay anyone a profit', the company maintained control of as many activities as possible. As a result, APC became by far the principal company in the market, gaining a market share of 80%. We can well imagine our grandparents and great-grandparents all using APC petroleum for heating, lighting and cooking.

At the beginning of the century, when the first cars appeared on our roads, gasoline was still sold through the traditional channels. The good old petroleum distribution centers also supplied gasoline to motorized companies and to those who could afford to own a car. Initially, in 200-liter barrels or in crates containing six 10-liter cans. This impractical system soon gave way to a more efficient system involving garages. In 1919, just before the Belgian and the Dutch branches of APC went their separate ways, the company purchased its first tanker to transport gasoline to garages. There, the product was transferred into special cans for motorists. At one stage, there were hundreds of thousands of these cans in circulation.

There were no gas stations as such. It was not until the 1930s that APC set up a network of sales points for gasoline with manual pumps, first under the name of APC, but very soon (more precisely in 1931) under the Esso brand name. One favorite location for gas stations was just across from the café, so the needs of both car and driver could be met. Very soon, village smiths, wheel repairmen and other small businessmen were selling gasoline as a nice supplement to their income.

The following years saw the opening of more and more gas stations as we know them today.

Close