Gulf Oil Corporation Records

What's online?

The Gulf Oil Corporation Records online photograph collection contains images dating between the 1860s and 1980s. The collection includes images of the Gulf Oil’s research facilities, promotional activities, and drilling operations.

What’s in the entire collection?

The Gulf Corporation Records comprise 70 linear feet and date between 1865 and 1985. The records contain annual reports, correspondence, moving images, photographs, publications, and reports. These materials document Gulf Oil’s business strategies, research initiatives, public affairs efforts, international activities, drilling operations, and the hostile takeover attempt led by T. Boone Pickens in the 1980s.

About the Gulf Oil Corporation

The Gulf Oil Corporation began as a joint-business venture between the J.M Guffey Petroleum Company and the Gulf Refining Company in Texas in 1901. That year, former Austrian Navy officer Anthony F. Lucas successfully established an oil well south of Beaumont, Texas which became known as Spindletop. Needing additional resources to continue the venture, Lucas traveled to Pittsburgh to solicit the assistance of two established oil prospectors, James M. Guffey and John H. Galey, who in turn received financing from brothers Andrew W. and Richard K. Mellon through the Mellon National Bank and Trust Company.

Gulf Oil expanded rapidly in the early years of the 20th century. William Larimer Mellon, nephew of A.W. and R.K Mellon, assumed executive management over the organization as new wells were tapped in Oklahoma and sales offices were opened in Houston, New Orleans, Tampa, Philadelphia, and Boston. With production and business foundations firmly set, Gulf began taking the steps that would make it one of the world’s largest petroleum producers by mid-century. Gulf pioneered the world’s first overwater drilling operation in Louisiana in 1910. Gulf’s first foreign production venture was formed as the Mexican Gulf Oil Company in 1912 to explore and produce petroleum in that country. Over the next 50 years, Gulf would expand to Venezuela, Canada, Europe, the Arabian Gulf, and across the entire globe. Gulf Oil also was the innovator of the world’s first automobile service station on Pittsburgh’s Baum Boulevard in 1913.

After half a century of existence, Gulf had positioned itself as the eighth largest manufacturing concern in the United States and was considered a member of the “Seven Sisters,” a global petroleum consortium that dominated the market from the mid-1940s through the 1970s. By the early 1980s, Gulf was showing signs of overall depreciation, with assets performing poorly, declining reserves, and stock prices dipping. In 1983, Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens and his company Mesa Petroleum initiated a series of business maneuvers intended to gain a controlling interest in Gulf, beginning with an acquisition of 11 percent of company stock and proposals for a controversial business restructuring program. James Lee, Gulf’s CEO and Chairman, resisted Pickens actions throughout 1984, even going as far as re-filing the corporation in Delaware to mitigate the voting power of shareholders. As a result of the takeover attempt, Gulf merged with Standard Oil of California (SOCAL) in 1985, which in turn was folded into Chevron. The deal represented the largest petroleum company merger up to that time.

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