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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil Corporation

Last modified: 2011-06-11 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines | exxon |
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ExxonMobil Corporation (and its corporate predecessors)

Throughout its history, this company has owned one of the largest tanker fleets in the world. It was founded in 1882 as the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, which was later the most important of the components into which John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust was broken in 1911. The name Exxon was adopted in 1972. The company was renamed Exxon Shipping Company (1982-93) and its predecessor, Marine Department of Exxon Company USA.  Both used the Exxon House Flag.  From 1993 to present, the company is SeaRiver Maritime, Inc.
Joe McMillan, 11 October 2001; Maurice Gordon, 10 October 2003

The companies that came about after the Standard Oil breakup were:

  • Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) serving Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.
  • Atlantic Refining (Atlantic) - Pennsylvania and Delaware.
  • Standard Oil of New Jersey (Jersey Standard a.k.a. "Standard") - operating in New Jersey, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, West. Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
  • Standard Oil of Ohio (The Standard Oil Company a.k.a. Sohio) in Ohio.
  • Standard Oil of Kentucky (Kyso) - Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.
  • Standard Oil of Indiana (Stanolind) - Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and northern Missouri.
  • Standard Oil Company of Louisiana (Stanocola) - eastern Louisiana (New Orleans and vicinity) and Tennessee.
  • Waters-Pierce - southern Missouri, western Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, purchased by Sinclair (1930).
  • Standard Oil of Nebraska - Nebraska.
  • Continental Oil Company (Conoco) - Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.
  • Standard Oil of California (Socal) - Washington, Oregon, Arizona, California and the territories of Alaska and Hawaii.

Phil Nelson, 20 October 2003

Standard Oil Co.

[Standard Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Standard Oil Co.  The earliest flag I have found for this company was simply white with a blue "S."
Source: Wedge (1926)
Joe McMillan
, 9 October 2001

The simple answer to this one appears to be that Wedge (1926) made a mistake in Brown's Flags and Funnels (1926), repeated 1929, in reversing the flag colours. In Brown 1934 it is corrected to show blue with a white "S", i.e. it is the flag of Standard Oil Company of New York. Browns show it under the names of Standard Oil Co. and Standard Transportation Co., both domiciled New York, which is confusing with Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey also based there.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

Standard Shipping Co.

[Standard Shipping Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Standard Shipping Co.
The Standard Shipping Company was created as a separate subsidiary in 1927 but reabsorbed into the parent company in 1934 as the Marine Department of Standard Oil of NJ. The flag shown in National Geographic (1934) is white with a red design of a circle and stripes in red with the name "Standard" superimposed.
National Geographic (1934); Talbot-Booth (1937) attributes this flag to Standard Vacuum Transportation Co., a joint venture of Standard of New Jersey and Socony-Vacuum.
Joe McMillan
, 9 October 2001

Talbot-Booth in Ships & The Sea 1936 shows the flag with a notation that "it now has a 'V' incorporated". However this appears to be a rather sweeping statement being in line with the basic design but not with the colouring of the resultant Stanvac flags. The reabsorption back into Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey in 1933 would appear to be related to the formation of the joint venture Standard-Vacuum Oil Co. in that year but going by information on the Exxon website this venture only operated in the Asia-Pacific region and it seems that there was independent operations continuing in other parts of the world and this explains the continued showing of Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey by Talbot-Booth in Merchant Ships 1942 & 1944. Unfortunately he does not show a flag but does give the funnel markings as being those of the old Standard Shipping Co.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

Esso Standard Oil Co.(?)

[Esso Standard Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Esso Standard Oil Co., New York
"Esso" came to be used as a trade name based on the phonetic spelling of the initials of the company, "S.O." Talbot-Booth says the flag was changed to this pattern, divided diagonally red and blue with a white S on the center, in 1938, but also states incorrectly that Standard Oil Co. of NJ was controlled by Standard Oil Company of California . This may therefore properly be a flag of SoCal. As of 1949, Esso had 61 tankers under U.S. flag for a total of 607,000 grt, plus foreign flag holdings.
Source: Talbot-Booth (1937)
Joe McMillan
, 9 October 2001

Talbot-Booth (1937) appears to have got confused with the connection between the various split offs of the old Standard Oil Trust in 1911 (not surprising seeing that there were 34 in the initial spin off according to the Exxon site) and going by the reference he makes in his 1949 Merchant Ships the quote is "controlled by the Standard Oil Co. of California" i.e. "of California" is a domicile and not part of the name [and of course incorrect]. Certainly Standard Oil of California are not connected by any other source that I have seen. It is actually the flag of Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey being shown by Brown 1929 to 1943 with Loughran (1979) giving it as the pre WW2 flag. However Talbot-Booth may be partly correct in alleging that it was adopted in 1938 as it could have been readopted. I would imagine that the flag of Standard Shipping Co. would have been used at sea from 1927 and possibly continued after 1933 but with its similarity to the Stanvac flags it would not surprise if they reverted to their original flag and its continued use is indicated by the other sources.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso)

[Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso)] image by Joe McMillan

The Esso Shipping Company constituted as separate entity in 1950; reabsorbed by the parent company in 1958. Esso changed its name to Exxon Corporation in 1972; the shipping arm was designated Exxon Shipping in the late 1970s. As far as I can determine, all of the tankers in the Exxon fleet (as opposed to those still under the Mobil flag) are under flags of convenience.
Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.
Joe McMillan
, 9 October 2001

Esso was used as the trade name from pre-WW2 and with its world wide associations the adoption as a name for its international shipping company network is not surprising (until of course the problem of oil spillages caused oil companies to look for anonymity). The flag appears to date from the post-WW2 formation of the Esso Group and I cannot find any source which shows it under the Standard Oil name. However this comment may only apply to the USA operations as the logo is given for the funnels of vessels of Standard Transportation Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong pre-WW2 which may indicate that a flag was also used outside of the USA although in 1949 Talbot-Booth shows the Esso funnel mark with diagonal biband flag shown under Esso Standard Oil Co. (?) for the American company Esso Standard Oil Co. so the adoption of the flag internationally may not have occurred earlier. The parent company appear to have retained the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey name, with the shipping and possibly other areas operating as "Esso", until the change to Exxon in 1972 with this brand name only relating to USA and the rest of the world still using the "Esso" name and brand. Some of the American shipping subsidiaries also then retained the Esso name e.g. Esso Tankers Inc., which were still shown in the mid 1980s. Most of the international companies used this flag as well and continued to do so.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

Exxon Mobil Corporation

[ExxonMobil] image by Jarig Bakker, 17 September 2005

Merger completed 30.11.1999 according to the Exxon website. Exxon Corporation itself is shown by Loughran (1979) as having a white flag with within a narrow black frame the red stylized legend "EXXON" with a thick blue underline [see E206 attached] with later editions of Brown showing a horizontal biband of white and blue with the white taking ľ the field and bearing the red stylized "EXXON".
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

ExxonMobil Corporation (and its Mobil corporate predecessors)

The other half of the ExxonMobil combine, the former Mobil Corporation and its predecessors, plus an earlier joint venture between Standard of NJ and Standard of NY, foreshadowed Exxon by about half a century or so.

Standard Oil Company of New York

[Standard Oil Company of New York] image by Joe McMillan

Standard Oil Company of New York
The Standard Oil Company of New York was a unit of the Standard Oil Trust and one of the major components into which the Trust was broken in 1911. The first house flag was plain blue with a white "S" (Lloyds 1912 shows the "S" with serifs, later sources without; Talbot-Booth 1937 labels this flag "Standard Shipping Co."
Sources: Lloyd's 1912, Talbot-Booth (1937), (no longer available)
Joe McMillan
, 11 October 2001

Sources vary with their portrayal of the "S". In 1931 the company, with its initials producing "Socony", merged into Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. Apparently its shipping activities went through Standard Transportation Co. Talbot-Booth's confusion with the Standard Group appears to be in action here as by 1942 he refers to this company in respect of the Socony activities whilst the noted 1937 reference, Standard Shipping Co., are given in relationship with Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey. According to Loughran 1979 the flag continued in use until 1944.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

Socony-Vacuum Oil Co.

[Socony-Vacuum Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Socony-Vacuum Oil Co, New York (Sources: Brown's Flags & Funnels (1951), Stewart (1953)
According to (no longer available) this white swallowtail with blue edges and a red Pegasus was used from the 1930s to 1966 (but see below). The Pegasus trademark came to the company from Vacuum Oil, which merged with Socony in 1931. In 1949, when this flag was in use, Socony-Vacuum had 20 tankers in service under the US flag for a total of 198,000 gross tons, plus another ten ships and 61,000 gross tons under the UK flag.
Joe McMillan
, 11 October 2001

I recall Mobil as a renaming of the Socony-Vacuum Oil company (perhaps in the 1950s?). Socony is an acronym for Standard Oil Company of New York, a product of the break-up of the Standard Oil Company of Rockefeller parentage.
Albert S. Kirsch, 19 October 2003

In 1955 the name was changed to Socony Mobil Oil Co. Talbot-Booth (1937) shows the flag as shown but other sources show a tapered swallowtail. According to the Exxon website the Pegasus actually comes from the days of the Standard Oil Trust having originated in the late 19th century when used by several members of the Standard Oil Trust. In 1911, after the breakup of the Trust, Vacuum Oil Co. registered a white Pegasus for use as a trademark in South Africa whilst in 1920 Standard Oil Co. of New York started using a red Pegasus in Japan and Indonesia. With their merger a new red Pegasus was designed, being used from 1954 with the newly adopted "Mobil" logo and then in 1965 the Pegasus was redesigned with bolder  lines and with the direction changed i.e. facing the fly of a flag. The flag shown here may have been a shore flag for service stations etc as opposed to the tapered version for at sea where it is first recorded as being used by the "Shabonee" 30.8.1944. Despite the 1955 name change the flag did not change until 1957.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

Socony Mobil Oil Co.

[Socony Mobil Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Socony Mobil Oil Co, New York
At some point in the 1950s, Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. dropped the name "Vacuum" (but kept the Pegasus) and added "Mobil," which had originated as a trade name for lubricating oils. It also added a stylized wing-like device under the Pegasus in the flag.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.
Joe McMillan
, 11 October 2001

Pegasus came into use for the Standard Oil Trust in the 1800s and has been "redesigned" several times. Vacuum Oil of South Africa first used it after Standard Oil was split. Pegasus has been redesigned several times over the years, going from a white outline to the more familiar all-red version.
Source: Mobil & Pegasus: Timeline
Phil Nelson, 19 October 2003

I have a photo of an actual flag which shows a shallow fork. The device under the Pegasus has been given as a heavily stylized "V" and the last reminder of the Vacuum Oil Co.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

[Socony Mobil Oil Co.] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 10 May 2010

From a postcard collection: 11.2.2: Socony Mobil Oil Co. Inc.
Postcard #11, 2nd row, 2nd flag of the collection reads "Socony Mobile Oil Co. Inc." and shows a very dark blue over white triband, with the white area much larger and divided with arched, not straight lines (arches bowing away from the center of the flag, but not concentrically), charged on its center with a red Pegasus rearing on a heavily stylized red "V". The Pegasus depiction matches the one for Mobil Shipping and Transportation Co., i.e., hind legs both bent inwards not the left one bent downwards, while the wide "V" makes it more like the post-1957 flag of Socony Mobil Oil Co.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 10 May 2010

A scan from the said postcard collection shows that the top blue band is in fact straight and not curved with the apparent curve resulting from the portrayal of the flag images as slightly flapping so that the "inner" curve is matched by the "outer" curve. The straightening of the upper band then makes it more in line, apart from not being a swallowtail, with Joe's image above this one. Going by the funnel colours shown on the postcard it is the livery which Loughran (1979) states as applying 1957-1964 but both he and US Navy 1961 show the flag as swallowtailed. I enclose a scan of an actual flag which shows that the tail was very shallow and could be mistaken if working from an actual flying flag. I found it interesting that the postcard collection labeled it "Socony Mobile Oil Co. Inc." and then searching that version to find "Mobile" does seem to have been an alternative spelling and indeed possibly still existing with a firm of that name noted for Waterbury CT.
Neale Rosanoski, 6 February 2011

Mobil Shipping and Transportation Co.

[Mobil Shipping and Transportation Co.] image by António Martins-Tuválkin

Mobil Shipping and Transportation Co.
The name was eventually changed to Mobil Corporation. According to Lloyd's Maritime Directory for 2001, Mobil Shipping & Transportation seems to have retained its separate identity within ExxonMobil, so this flag may still be in use.
Joe McMillan
, 11 October 2001

According to Loughran (1979) this is a shore flag used at service stations with a swallowtail for the shipping with such a version adopted 6/1967 and first flown by "Mobilgas" 1.11.1967. Subsequent sources though show the Pegasus once again facing to hoist.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

Detail of emblem


[Mobil Shipping and Transportation Co.]  image by António Martins-Tuválkin

Standard-Vacuum Oil Co.

[Standard-Vacuum Oil Co.]     [Standard-Vacuum Oil Co.] images by Joe McMillan

Standard-Vacuum Oil Co.
Standard-Vacuum (STANVAC) was a joint venture of Standard of New Jersey and Socony-Vacuum in the Far East, pairing Socony's marketing network in China with Standard of New Jersey's production capabilities in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). It was established in 1931 and somehow seems to have survived World War II. The flag followed the basic pattern of Standard of New Jersey flags of the time, the name flanked by bars above and below, all superimposed on a circle. However, the STANVAC flag had the colors reversed (red letters with blue design) and added a "V" for "Vacuum" to the circle.
Source: Wedge (1951)
Stewart (1953) shows a slightly different design, with the word "STANVAC" replacing "STANDARD" and the "V" omitted.
Joe McMillan, 11 October 2001

According to the Exxon website this venture lasted until 1962 although the company still appeared in Lloyds after this e.g. 1966-7 shows them c/- Esso International Inc. with a vessel having as "Esso" name in place of the previous "Stanvac". For both these flags sources actually show a normal circular ring effect rather than the elongated version shown here. Loughran (1979) appears to have his information in reverse for the 2 flags as he states that the 2nd came first with the other coming into use by the 1950s. The first version is therefore the likely one meant for his comment "that there were reports from the inter-war years for use by Standard-Vacuum Transportation Co. of New York, London and Hong Kong", which probably indicates the name under which their shipping interests operated. This fits with Talbot-Booth in 1936 noting for Standard Shipping Co. that a "V" had been added. However Brown 1943 and Loughran both show the horizontal lines on this flag as being red with Brown 1951 changing to blue as shown here.
Neale Rosanoski
, 6 November 2003

History of Exxon and Predecessors

Our pages on the shipping flags of oil companies for the US has some information on the flags of the companies that emerged from the Standard Oil Company, established in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler. The break-up of the Trust in 1911 resulted in the company being divided into 34 parts, of which five were later liquidated. Many of the remaining parts have been significant in the oil industry and the flags of the companies and their predecessors are shown in various locations at FOTW. This simple piece attempts to put together the relationships that developed since the 1911 break-up and particularly in the field in the last 10 years.


Chevron began as the Pacific Oil Company in 1879 before being purchased by Standard Oil Co. and consolidated with other western US operations to create Standard Oil Company (California). In 1911 it became an independent company Standard Oil Company of California (Socal) and merged with Pacific Oil in 1926. During the 1920s and 1930s it created or acquired interest in Bahrain Petroleum Corp and the California-Arabia Standard Oil Company (Casoc). Texaco would later purchase half interest in these companies and in 1936 Caltex Oil Co was formed as a joint venture between Socal and Texaco. In 1961, Socal purchased Standard Oil of Kentucky, and in 1984 purchased Gulf Oil Corporation, with the change of name to Chevron Corp. Texaco was acquired in a merger in 2001.

Gulf Oil Corp. was founded in 1907 when Gulf Refining Co. and J. M. Guffey Petroleum Co. were reorganized into a single company.

Texaco was founded in 1897 as the Texas Fuels Company and later the Texas Oil Company. It first began using its trademark Texaco in 1906. In the 1950s and 1960s it started an aggressive takeover plan which saw it purchase Regent Oil of the UK, the Paragon group, White Fuel Corporation and Superior Oil (Venezuela). In 1984 it purchased Getty Oil and formed Star Enterprise with Saudi Refining Inc. The 1990s saw it purchase Monterey Resources, a California gas and oil company and founded a joint venture with Norsk Hydro to create Hydro Texaco, a marketing arm in Scandinavia. It engaged in a variety of joint ventures
in 1998 in the mid-east.


Both Exxon and Mobil go back to Standard Oil. Mobil can date its origin to the formation of the Vacuum Oil Company and Standard Oil of New York, predating the 1911 dissolution of the trust.

Standard Oil of New York (Socony) would purchase over the years interest or in whole Magnolia Petroleum Co., General Petroleum Corps of California and White Eagle Oil and Refining. Vacuum Oil would purchase Waldhams Oil Corp and White Star Refining Co. Socony purchased all Vacuum Oil in 1931 and changed the name of the company to Socony-Vacuum Corp. It participated in joint ventures with in the mid-east, including Aramco and Iranian Oil Participants Ltd. In 1955 the company name was changed to Socony-Mobil Oil Company and in 1966 to Mobil Oil Corp. In 1985 it purchased Superior Oil and would merge with Exxon in 2001.

Exxon was formed in 1882 as the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and in 1999 it had established Anglo-American Oil Co to market in the British Isles (later Esso Petroleum Co.; Anglo-American was apparently split as a separate company in 1911, but reacquired in 1930). In 1898 it acquired Imperial Oil Limited of Canada and interests in the Turkish Petroleum Company, later known as Iraq Petroleum Co. In 1911 Humble Oil Company was formed and in 1919 Standard Jersey became the majority partner, purchasing the balance of the company in 1959. With Socony-Vacuum it established Stanvac to control common interests in the mid-east. It became a partner with Socony-Vacuum, Socal and Texaco in Aramco in 1948 and with numerous other companies in Iran Oil Participants Ltd. In 1960 it began to market under the name Esso. The 1960s were a period of growth as Standard Jersey would purchase Monterrey Oil and Honolulu Oil. In 1972, the name was changed to Exxon.


Originally Amoco was the Standard Oil Company of Indiana. In 1925 it purchased Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company although the company did not formally merge until 1954 to become American Oil Company (Amoco). The company has created joint ventures with Iran (Iranian Oil Consortium) and the UAE (Amoco Sharjah Oil Company). The company is presently a part of British Petroleum (circa 2001).

According to a chart from Chevron, Amoco also either acquired or merged with Standard Oil of Nebraska and Standard Oil of Kansas.


ARCO began operations in 1866 as Atlantic Petroleum Storage Company and became part of Standard Oil in 1874. In 1911 it became independent of the Standard Oil Trust. In 1963 Atlantic purchased Hondo Oil and Gas.

Richfield Oil began operations in 1905 and although it went into receivership in 1931 it emerged in 1936. Atlantic and Richfield merged in 1966 to create the Atlantic Richfield company (ARCO) and in 1969 the company acquired Sinclair Oil Corp (founded in 1905, Sinclair had previously merged with Prairie Oil and Gas Companies, another Standard Oil Company). ARCO is now a part of British Petroleum.

Marathon Oil

Formed in 1887 as the Ohio Oil Company, it purchased Transcontinental Oil Co., giving it access to the Marathon Brand and logos. In 1962 the company was renamed Marathon Oil Company. It was acquired by US Steel Corporation (USX) in 1982. Marathon moved its headquarters to Houston TX in 1990. (Note: the Chevron Chart shows Ohio Oil separate from Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio), which operated under the brand names Sohio and Boron. Sohio would be purchased by BP from 1978 to full control in 1987 and would run the company under the BP logo).

Phil Nelson, 20 October 2003

Exxon Mobil today

[Exxon Mobil flag today] image by Eugene Ipavec, 27 March 2006

The Exxon Mobil corporation uses a white flag with its name in red--I saw it on a deep-water drilling ship in a TV documentary.
Eugene Ipavec, 27 March 2006

US shipping lines house flags - 'F' continued