Did you know?
Our history is a treasure trove of fascinating facts - featuring everything from world firsts to great artists. We’ve gathered a few of our favourites here to give you a different perspective on who we are and where we’ve come from.
Did you know Shell fueled the first 20,000 km flight?
The flight happened in December 1926 – it was non-stop from Zurich to Cape Town and was piloted by Walter Mittelhozer. He always took a navigator with him so he could take aerial photos of his flight. As well as being a pioneer of geo-photography, he also went on to co-found SwissAir, so he was a pioneer all-round.
Did you know Shell was a roadmap pioneer?
Sat navs might be consigning road maps to the history books these days, but Shell was one of the first to create these guides for the early motoring community. Fortunately, lots have been preserved and our archive has a great stock of examples extending from 1931 to 2010.
The earliest is Shell Autokaart van Nederland – a real collector’s item. It was published in July 1931 and is a masterpiece that covers 19 cities and national and international routes in the Netherlands. We also have less rare items. Like the Het Honderdduizend Stratenboek, which was so popular in the Netherlands from the 1980s that it became known as the Road Bible.
Did you know Shell was one of the original computer pioneers?
Shell has always been an early adopter, and computing is no exception. In 1953, Shell Labs in Amsterdam was the first site in the Netherlands to use an electronic computer in a production environment. The computer was a Ferranti Mark I*, designed at Manchester University (with help from the legendary Alan Turing). It was named the MIRACLE – which stands for Mokum's Industrial Research Automatic Calculator for Laboratory Engineering.
Did you know that Shell was the first to successfully capture CO2?
In 2015, Shell became the first company to successfully capture CO2 via CCS technology – at the Quest CCS site in Canada. The project was realised with the support of the Canadian and Albertan governments and today it’s permanently capturing over 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually – that’s the equivalent to the output of 250,000 cars.
The technology involves pre-combustion capture from hydrogen production and the use of deep onshore saline storage areas.
Did you know that the Troll A platform was the biggest thing ever moved by mankind?
Nearly 500 metres tall – that’s taller than the Eiffel Tower – Troll A is the tallest and heaviest structure that has ever been moved to another position, and also the largest concrete structure constructed offshore.
An offshore natural gas platform, Troll A was built in the early 1990s and cost approximately US$650 million at the time. The base and the deck were built separately, and the platform was towed over 200 kilometres to the Troll field over a period of 7 days.
Since harsh weather conditions prevented it from being built on-site, a deep fjord in west Norway provided the ideal location for construction.
Did you know Shell commissioned famous artists for its posters and guides?
Back in the 1920s and 30s, we bucked the trend for using illustrators in advertising and marketing – we commissioned artists instead.
And some of the people we worked with went on to become leading lights in the British art scene.
At the time, our advertising was run by Jack Beddington. He commissioned artists including John Armstrong, Ben Nicholson, Edward Ardizzone, Duncan Grant, Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and Vanessa Bell.
Our Shell County Guides were a much-loved series produced from 1934 to 1984. They were published to promote motoring as a leisure activity and, by association, the great British countryside.
Overseen by leading cultural figures like poet laureate John Betjeman and artist John Piper, they combined literature, history, art and design to share the pleasure of using the motor car to discover the country.
Did you know that Shell produced ground-breaking adverts in the 1930s?
Shell’s 1930s advertising broke new ground with the ‘People Prefer’ campaign and the timeless strapline ‘You can be sure of Shell’.
Designed to reach out to the new generation of drivers, the series showed the broad range of people that opted for Shell – from gardeners to women to film stars. No reason was given as to why these people preferred Shell, it was simply enough that they did.
Did you know that Shell were one of the first to put women in the driving seat?
In the 1920s when the motoring industry was in its infancy and was generally thought to be the sole preserve of men, Shell made a point of featuring women in its advertising.
The company publicly promoted women's right to vote and encouraged them in activities traditionally dominated by men. And as Shell’s advertising evolved, women were regularly depicted in the driver's seat.
Did you know Shell pioneered travel safety tips in the 1950s?
Back in the 1950s, the Shell PR department realised that, with the growth of family touring, the female drivers in the US were a huge untapped market. So it created a campaign directed at them and led by a fictional spokeswoman – ‘Carol Lane, Women’s Travel Director.’
The first ‘Carol Lane’ was a pioneering lady called Caroline Iverson Ackerman – herself an aviator and journalist. She travelled thousands of miles a year and gave practical tips and tricks on driving to women, raising the profile of Shell.
Did you know that Shell’s birthday is April 23rd?
It was the day when two companies – the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and the Shell Transport & Trading Company – came together over 100 years ago. The telegram announcing that famous merger is now safely held in the restricted area of our Shell archive in The Hague.
Did you know we’ve fueled Antarctic exploration?
In the Antarctic, explorers Ernest Shackleton and Captain Scott used Shell fuel, while Bleriot’s inaugural cross-Channel flight was made using Shell Spirit. More recently, Shell fuelled the South Pole Energy Challenge. Highlighting the need for more and cleaner energy solutions, the South Pole Energy Challenge team walked to the South Pole using only renewable energy sources, including advanced biofuels provided by Shell.
Did you know that Shell helped to power the industrialisation of Japan?
Shell’s origins have many ties to the Far East that go back to Marcus Samuel Senior’s import/export business which brought oriental sea shells to Europe in the mid-19th Century.
In 1878, Marcus’s sons set up in Yokohama in a move that would help to power Japan’s industrial revolution. Before long, business was booming, and large storage depots were needed to allow for bulk imports.
Did you know that the Shell Pecten has appeared on a banknote and postage stamps?
In 2014, we celebrated 100 years of operating in the Philippines. To mark the occasion, and in recognition of our contribution to the country and its people, the Philippines government printed the Shell Pecten on their currency. Official post stamps were also created for the anniversary.
Did you know Royal Dutch Shell’s first female employee joined in 1899?
Her name was Hendrika Troelstra and she was secretary to the director of Royal Dutch Shell. Fittingly for a company that was to go on to become such a global force, she was an expert linguist.
Did you know that Shell has a vast archive in The Hague?
Shell has a vast climate-controlled archive in The Hague which houses items dating back to the 1890s and tracing our history from the earliest days of the company.
There are thousands of metres of shelving housing hundreds of thousands of precious papers, books, painting, photos, films and objects.
Did you know that we have over 500 shells in our archive?
Many of them have helped us name our products. Helix lucorum inspired the name of our high-performance Helix Ultra car oil range, for example. And Microgaza Rotella and Rimula Marei became the Rotella and Rimula ranges of heavy-duty diesel engine oils.
Did you know we have a vast film collection?
We have a treasure trove of thousands of hours of rare and historic footage in our archive and we taking steps to protect this valuable record of our history. We’re currently in the process of preserving and digitising an archived collection of around 1500 Shell-owned heritage films stored in Montfoord in the Netherlands.
The collection is a mix of Shell and external films, with those in the best condition being digitised and their original film cans being stored in climate-controlled environments at the Eye FILM Institute in the Netherlands, and the British Institute (BFI) in the UK.
Did you know Shell has a rich musical history?
Our musical heritage extends from singalong 80s TV ads like ‘Do the Shell promotion’ to collaborations with Bing Crosby and Sammy Davis Jr. We even re-issued a limited LP of the original Beatles album Help! as part of a car care and travel campaign in 1979.
In 2015, we decided to create something really ownable and worked with award-winning composer Tom Howe to develop our sonic logo, the Sound of Shell, which was recorded at Abbey Road. In time, we hope it will be as instantly recognisable audibly as the Pecten is visually.
Most did you know stories are based on artefacts, photos and documents collected in Shell Historical Heritage & Archive, The Hague.
MORE ABOUT SHELL’S HERITAGE
More aspects of our heritage
With so much inspiration to draw from the past, we are committed to preserving and celebrating Shell’s heritage and sharing it with as many people as possible.
Shell has been powering aviation from its earliest beginnings…here are just a few of the milestones the company has been a part of along the way.
Shell’s history is full of examples of how we’ve powered progress through new ideas and pioneering technology. On this page, we’ve looked at some of the key areas where we’ve made breakthroughs over the years, and where we’re still pushing boundaries today.