Exxon Company, U.S.A.

By: James A. Clark and Mark Odintz

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 25, 2015

Exxon Company, U.S.A., a division of Exxon Corporation, manages the corporation's oil and gas interests in the United States. Exxon U.S.A. traces its descent from the Humble Oil Company, which was chartered in Texas in February 1911 with a capital of $150,000 (raised to $300,000 in 1912). The company was reorganized in 1917 and incorporated on June 21 as the Humble Oil and Refining Company with a capitalization of $1 million based on 40,000 shares at $100 par value. The original company resulted from the collaboration of Ross S. Sterling and Walter William Fondren with Robert L. Blaffer and William Stamps Farish and others. In the new organization were merged the Paraffine Oil Company, Blaffer and Farish, Schulz Oil Company, Ardmore Oil Company, and Globe Refining Company. In February 1919, Humble doubled the number of shares authorized and sold 50 percent of its stock to Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. This initiated Humble's long-term connection with the company that eventually absorbed it as Exxon Company, U.S.A. Standard Oil of New Jersey was identified as the particular target of antitrust enforcers in Texas in the early decades of the twentieth century, and the corporation found it much easier to do business in the state through Humble, its partially owned but autonomously directed affiliate. In 1948 Humble had issued a total of eighteen million shares with a total capitalization of $475 million; Standard Oil Company of New Jersey owned 72 percent of the stock.

In 1917 Humble had 217 wells and a daily crude oil production of about 9,000 barrels. The company's production was expanded steadily. It made large additions to its reserves in the 1930s and increased production during World War II in order to meet war needs. Humble became the largest domestic producer of crude oil during the war and continued in that position into the 1950s. In 1949 the company had a net production of 275,900 barrels daily of crude oil and 15,900 barrels daily of natural-gas liquids. At the end of 1949 the company was operating 9,928 wells. Among the important fields in which Humble has participated have been East Texas, Conroe, Mexia, Powell (see WOODBINE FAULT-LINE FIELDS), Raccoon Bend, Sugarland, Thompsons, Friendswood, Tomball, Anahuac, Tomoconnor, Webster, Seeligson, and Hawkins, all in Texas. Humble established the first production of crude oil in Florida in 1943 and by 1949 had production in Louisiana, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, and California. In 1917 Humble had three miles of gathering lines at Goose Creek. At the end of 1949 the Humble Pipe Line Company, a subsidiary, had 3,233 miles of gathering lines and 5,776 miles of trunk lines. These facilities served all important producing areas in Texas and southeastern New Mexico, and the Humble Pipe Line Company was the largest transporter of crude oil in the United States. In the postwar period, the company built a pipeline from Baytown to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in June 1950 completed an eighteen-inch direct line from West Texas to the Gulf Coast.

When it was first organized, the company owned a small refinery at Humble, Texas. In 1919 construction was begun on the Baytown refinery, originally planned as a lubricant plant with a capacity of 260,000 barrels daily. In 1950 Humble's only other refinery was at San Antonio; the plant had a capacity of 7,000 barrels daily. In 1928 Humble constructed a refinery with a capacity of 12,000 barrels daily at Ingleside, near Corpus Christi. The Ingleside refinery was increased in capacity to 21,500 barrels daily by 1945. It was closed at the end of the war because the facilities could not make the quality products needed for the postwar period. Humble refineries during World War II produced high-octane aviation gasoline, toluene for explosives, Butyl rubber, and butadiene for synthetic rubber. The Baytown Ordnance Works produced nearly half of the toluene for explosives for World War II and was subsequently purchased by the company from the government. Humble continued to operate the government-owned butadiene and Butyl rubber plants at Baytown after the war. In the 1940s Humble products were retailed only in Texas, where retail sales had increased from seven million gallons of refined products in 1917 to 540 million gallons in 1949.

Humble's first home office, in Houston, was a nine-story office building at Main and Polk constructed in 1920–21. In 1934–35, a new fifteen-story building was added on the same block, and in 1940 a smaller addition was built on. Publications by the company included The Humble Way, The Humble Bee, The Humble Sales Lubricator, and the Farm Family. Early in 1963 the company moved into a new forty-five-story building, thus consolidating the work location of some 3,500 of its Houston employees. The building rose more than 600 feet above the city and at the time was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. It is still a Houston landmark and is the headquarters office of Exxon Company, U.S.A.

In the 1950s Standard Oil of New Jersey began to reconsider its relationship with Humble Oil. In spite of the fact that Standard owned almost 88 percent of Humble's stock in 1954, Humble continued to maintain its autonomy for the rest of the decade. In 1958 Standard increased its holdings to some 98 percent of Humble's stock, and the following year Humble and Standard Oil of New Jersey consolidated domestic operations. In September 1959 Humble received a new charter from the state of Delaware. By the end of the year Esso Standard and the Carter Oil Company, other affiliates of Standard of New Jersey, were incorporated into Humble, and in 1960 they were joined by other affiliates including Enjay Chemical, Pate Oil, Globe Fuel Products, and Oklahoma Oil. The restructuring allowed the new Humble company to reduce duplication and costs and to coordinate all of its domestic activities more effectively. The Humble workforce dropped by a quarter in the first five years after the merger, while its profits doubled.

In the 1960s Humble had more than 21,000 square miles of land under lease in the United States. The company operated 24,000 producing wells in twenty-one states with a daily production of 600,000 barrels of crude oil. Humble-operated wells also produced 2.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily. Six Humble refineries and plants processed about 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily and produced from that volume a great variety of products. In 1960 Humble constructed one of the world's largest gas-processing systems near the King Ranch, with extensive storage facilities for natural gas. In 1961 Humble Pipe Line Company and Interstate Oil Pipe Line Company merged to form a wholly owned affiliate of Humble Oil and Refining Company with a combined network of more than 12,000 miles of gathering and trunk lines. Humble Pipe Line system received and delivered daily more than a million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products. The company operated about 10 percent of the nation's petroleum-transportation facilities. More than two million barrels of crude oil and oil products flowed daily through company lines or moved by tanker or barge. Aided by some chartered vessels, Humble's fleet of nineteen ocean-going tankers, ranging in capacity from 140,000 to 582,000 barrels, delivered approximately 400,000 barrels of crude oil and products to the eastern seaboard each day. Tows and barges of Humble's Inland Waterways system moved 300,000 barrels a day over the nation's rivers and other inland waterways. Humble began to increase its retailing outlets in the 1950s and 1960s. By 1961 it reached markets in some twenty-one states. Humble was the leading marketer of gasoline in Texas by 1951, and its share of the state market continued to increase through the decade, furthered by its creative marketing techniques. Humble was the first gasoline company to issue plastic gasoline credit cards in Texas. In 1961 the company began to sell its gasoline as Enco gas in nineteen states, but retained the old brand name Humble in Texas and Ohio. Esso, the brand name of Standard of New Jersey, continued to be used on the east coast. In 1964 the popular "Put A Tiger In Your Tank" advertising campaign was instituted.

In the 1960s Humble played a significant role in the development of Houston through its disposition of the West Ranch property. The company had purchased the West Ranch, located some twenty-two miles south of Houston, in 1938 and developed two oilfields there, Clear Creek and Friendswood. In 1958 Humble donated some of the land to Rice Institute for use as a geology laboratory. In 1961 the company donated a larger tract to Rice, which in turn gave or sold the land to NASA for use as the site of the new Manned Space Center (now the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center). In 1962, Humble joined forces with the Del E. Webb Corporation to develop 15,000 acres of the ranch for residential and industrial use. The Humble-Webb agreement led to formation of the Friendswood Development Company, which soon began development of the residential part of Clear Lake City on the ranch site. Humble became involved in a number of other Houston-area real estate developments, including Kingwood, a joint project of the Friendswood Development Company and the King Ranch located some twenty-five miles north of Houston.

In the 1960s and early 1970s the management of both Humble and Standard Oil of New Jersey had become increasingly concerned about the lack of a unified public corporate identity. At the same time, the other Standard Oil companies were raising objections to the use of the word Esso, derived from the first letters of the words Standard Oil, as the brand name for Humble and Standard of New Jersey gasoline products. In early 1972 Humble and Standard of New Jersey announced that their gasoline products were to be marketed as Exxon, that Standard of New Jersey was changing its name to Exxon Corporation, and that, as of January 1, 1973, Humble was changing its name to Exxon Company, U.S.A. The company, which operates only in the United States, is a division of Exxon Corporation, which operates also in foreign countries. Under its new name, it embarked on a renewed search for oil sources in the continental United States. By the mid-1970s most of Exxon's Middle Eastern oil suppliers had nationalized Exxon properties and, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, had become increasingly uncertain sources of crude oil. Exxon's attempts at increasing the domestic supply met with mixed success. In the early 1980s the company unsuccessfully attempted to develop shale oil from the Western Slope of Colorado as a significant source. In 1982, after losing over a billion dollars in the Colony Shale Oil Project, the company determined that shale oil could not yet economically compete with other energy sources and shelved the project. A more productive, though also more controversial, new source of oil for the company was the development of the Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska. Humble's interest in Alaskan oil dated back to the late 1950s, when the company joined with Shell Oil in a costly drilling attempt that ended in failure. In partnership with Arco, Humble resumed its drilling activities in Alaska in the 1960s and in 1968 discovered the extensive Prudhoe Bay field, the largest oilfield discovered in North America. Development of the field had to wait for nine years, as environmentalists fought the construction of an oil pipeline through Alaska to the port of Valdez. The pipeline was finally completed in 1977, and Exxon began shipping the oil by tanker from Valdez to world markets. By 1985 the Prudhoe Bay field had produced some 800 million barrels. In March 1989 the supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled almost a quarter of a million barrels of oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Exxon organized a $2.5 billion cleanup and became involved in extended litigation over the damage caused by the spill. Exxon Company, U.S.A., was heavily involved in offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico from the 1950s and off the coast of Alaska and California from the late 1960s. It discovered and developed major gas reserves in Mobile Bay, Alabama, as well as an inland source of natural gas at LaBarge, Wyoming. Along with successive expansions of the Exxon refinery system at Baytown, new refineries were opened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Benecia, California, and Billings, Montana.

In 1990 Exxon Corporation moved its corporate headquarters from New York City to Irving, Texas. In 1994 Exxon had the largest hydrocarbon reserve base in the United States. Its domestic fields produced 562,000 barrels of oil and 2,021 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. Its annual income from exploration and production in the United States totaled some $852 million, some 30 percent of the corporate total, and its income from domestic refining and marketing was $243 million, 17 percent of the corporate total. The presidents of Humble were Ross S. Sterling (1917–22), William Stamps Farish (1922–33), Robert Lee Blaffer (1933–37), Harry Carothers Wiess (1937–48), Hines H. Baker, Sr. (1948–57), Morgan J. Davis (1957–63), Carl E. Reistle, Jr. (1963–1966), and Myron A. Wright (1966–73). The presidents of Exxon U.S.A. have been Myron A. Wright (1973–76), Randall Meyer (1976–88), William D. Stevens (1988–92), Harry J. Longwell (1992–94), and Ansel L. Condray (1995).

In December 1998, Exxon Corporation and Mobil Corporation announced their intention to merge as the companies had enjoyed a strategic business relationship for several years in a number of international ventures. After nearly a year of regulatory reviews and planning, the merger was finalized on November 30, 1999. Upon completion of the merger, Lee Raymond and Lou Noto, chairmen and chief executive officers of Exxon and Mobil, respectively, stated, “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.”

The merger proved to be a great success. With a combined workforce, expanded knowledge, and increased efficiencies, Exxon Mobil Corporation has proven itself a global energy leader, known for its focus on safety and environmental protection, project execution, capital efficiency, and technological innovation. It has pioneered advances on multiple frontiers, including oil sands development, deepwater and ultra-deepwater exploration, and in liquefied natural gas (LNG.

In the mid-2000s, the United States began to experience a boom in the production of shale gas and tight oil, led by technological advances that made it more feasible and economical to extract these resources. To capitalize on the U.S. shale revolution, ExxonMobil finalized an agreement in 2010 to merge with XTO Energy Inc., a leading producer of U.S. shale oil and natural gas. The merger combined XTO’s expertise in unconventional production with ExxonMobil’s experience and technology capabilities, enabling ExxonMobil to become the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the United States.

In 2011, ExxonMobil began construction on a new 385-acre state-of-the-art campus to house its Upstream, Downstream, and Chemicals businesses. Construction of the 10,000-employee campus 25 miles from downtown Houston, was completed in 2015, enabling collaboration and innovation to develop new and better ways to develop energy required to meet growing global demand.

Henrietta M. Larson and Kenneth Wiggins Porter, History of Humble Oil and Refining Company (New York: Harper, 1959). Bennett H. Wall, Growth in a Changing Environment: A History of Standard Oil Company (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988). Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991). William E. Hale, Robert H. Davis, and Mike Long, One Hundred and Twenty-Five Years of History: ExxonMobil (Exxon Mobil), 121-22. Stephen Brown, "The Shale Gas and Tight Oil Boom: U.S. States' Economic Gains and Vulnerabilities," Council on Foreign Relations, (October 2013).


  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Companies

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

James A. Clark and Mark Odintz, “Exxon Company, U.S.A.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 22, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/exxon-company-usa.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 25, 2015