Seeking new oil sources
By the turn of the century, Marcus Samuel had become the model of an Edwardian plutocrat with a grand house in London and a country mansion, which had been bought lock, stock and barrel with furniture, pictures and parkland from Lord Romney. He kept horses and a carriage and was active in public life in the City of London. He was knighted in 1898, became Lord Mayor of London and was a leading figure in the London business community. But Marcus Samuel’s dependence on Russian producers left him vulnerable and he decided to seek other sources of oil.
The Far East was the obvious place to look – and his first venture into Borneo brought him up against Royal Dutch Petroleum, one of the region’s biggest competitors. The two companies joined forces to protect themselves against the might of Standard Oil, forming a sales organisation in 1903, the Asiatic Petroleum Company. The discovery of oil in Texas offset a series of troubles which had affected both companies.
In 1904, the scallop shell or pecten replaced Shell Transport’s first marketing logo, a mussel shell. In various forms it has remained in use ever since, becoming one of the best known corporate symbols in the world.
Merger into the Royal Dutch Shell Group
The full merger of the two companies into the Royal Dutch Shell Group came in 1907. There were two separate holding companies with Royal Dutch taking 60% of earnings and Shell Transport taking 40%. The business was run by a variety of operating companies. The merger transformed the fortunes of both companies. Under the management of Henry Deterding they turned from struggling entities to successful enterprises within twelve months.
The Group rapidly expanded across the world. Marketing companies were formed throughout Europe and in many parts of Asia. Exploration and production began in Russia, Romania, Venezuela, Mexico and the United States.
The first twelve years also provided many exciting opportunities to demonstrate the quality of the products in the new, fast-developing market for gasoline. These included record-breaking races, flights and journeys of exploration. In 1907, Prince Borghese won the Peking to Paris motor rally on Shell motor spirit. The same fuel was used at the Brooklands racing track in the UK. In the Antarctic, Shackleton and Captain Scott used Shell fuel, while Bleriot’s inaugural cross-Channel flight was made on Shell spirit.