From seashells to the world of oil
In 1833, Marcus Samuel decided to expand his London business. He already sold antiques but decided to try selling oriental seashells as well, capitalising on their popularity in the interior design industry at that time. The demand was so great that he began importing the shells from the Far East, laying the foundations for an import-export business that would ultimately become one of the world’s leading energy companies.
When Marcus Samuel senior died in 1870 he passed the business on to his two sons, Marcus junior and Samuel, who began to expand it. In the 1880s they became particularly interested in the oil exporting business but shipping still posed a problem as oil was carried in barrels which could leak and took up a lot of space. To solve the problem, they commissioned a fleet of steamers to carry oil in bulk, including the Murex which, in 1892, became the first oil tanker to pass through the Suez Canal.