After the news today that Royal Dutch Shell has witnessed profits in the first quarter of over 5 billion, it prompted me to write about this fascinating company. Companies who are Anglo-Dutch are some of the biggest in the world. The Netherlands and Great Britain have historically had good working relationships and continue to do so to this day. However, one Anglo-Dutch company that really is seeped in history is Royal Dutch Shell.

Royal Dutch Shell, a fascinating history of the world’s largest Anglo-Dutch company

Royal Dutch Shell

More commonly known as Shell, the petroleum giant has a very interesting historical timeline. Shopkeeper Marcus Samuel started selling oriental shells from his bric-a-brac shop in London’s East End in the 1830’s. Unbeknown to him, this would be the start of what would become the world’s second largest company in terms of revenue.

Fifty years later, his two sons (Marcus Junior Samuel and Samuel Samuel) had taken over and expanded the family business to include the import and export of machinery, tools, textiles and rice. It was around this time that Marcus became interested in oil after a visit to the Black Sea where he saw the huge potential. The market for oil at this time was limited to lubricants and lighting.

The Samuel brothers faced huge competition and embarked on a very risky strategy to be the first exporters of bulk oil. The Rothschilds at that time had huge investments in tunnels and the railways in an attempt to be able to move oil overseas by land; as transportation by sea was proving to be difficult due to spillages and weight.

The Samuel brothers revolutionised oil transportation by commissioning steamers for the very first time to transport oil via the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. They also had bulk tankers stationed at ports. The brothers formed contracts with a company called Bnito, a Russian group of producers (who were under control of the Rothschilds) to supply them with kerosene. Their first tanker passed through the Suez Canal in 1892. Using this strategy was the game changer of bulk oil transportation as it dramatically increased the amount that could be exported. They called the company The Tank Syndicate. However this was changed to Shell Transport and Trading Company in 1897. This was a very risky move by the brothers in an attempt to be the pioneers of oil transport because if news of their strategy was to spread, they would have been forced out of the oil game by Standard Oil; owned by the Rockerfeller’s at that time.

In 1886 the combustion engine had arrived and was being manufactured and distributed around the world. Around the same time Karl Benz had introduced the Mercedes which had a four-cycle horsepower engine. These two developments in engineering caused the demand for oil to rapidly rise.

In 1890, another company in Sumatra had formed in a Dutch colony in the East Indies to produce petroleum. This company was called the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company.

These two companies merged to protect their businesses from the fierce competition from larger corporation, Standard Oil. The full merger happened in 1907. In 1904, a different shell was used for the logo. It changed from a mussel shell to a scallop shell and is now recognised as one of the biggest corporate logos in the world.

After the war, Shell faced tough times. The demand for oil was increasing and they sought expansion. Refineries were built all over the world to keep up with the supply, shipping increased and cars rose by 60%. To cope with the demand, Shell partnered with Middle East Gulf Oil.

The architect of the jet engine worked for Shell and the company was part responsible for its invention. In 1950, the oil giant formed a partnership with Ferrari to help develop lubricants and oils; this partnership is still strong today.

When rationing ended in 1953, eight years after the war had ended; Shell was finally allowed to sell petrol under its own brand for the very first time. This resulted in a huge marketing and advertising campaign. The Shell campaigns travelled through the decades and have included road guides, cuddly toys, campaigns to save animals in different countries and TV commercials which have included whistling vicars, groups of bikers, dancers; and of course the Ferrari.