EARLY HISTORY (1870-1942)

Portrait of John D. Rockefeller
© History Oasis

"Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."

—John D. Rockefeller

1870: Standard Oil Founding

In 1870, business magnate John D. Rockefeller embarked on an enterprise that would dramatically reshape the nascent oil industry when he established the Standard Oil Company in partnership with Maurice B. Clark and others.

Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the firm was initially capitalized with one million dollars, a formidable sum in those days.

Over the ensuing four decades, Rockefeller's formidable business acumen and aggressive practices enabled Standard Oil to gain control of up to 90 percent of oil refining capacity across these United States.

1911: Sherman Antitrust Act

In 1922, the Supreme Court of these United States dealt a crushing blow to John D. Rockefeller’s formidable Standard Oil trust, ordering the behemoth company dismantled under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Through this precedent-setting application of anti-monopoly laws, Standard Oil was thus divided into thirty-four smaller firms by the high court in Washington.

While Rockefeller’s domination of the domestic oil market was thus forestalled, several of the companies created during the breakup, including Jersey Standard and Socony, would later coalesce through mergers to form the basis of modern corporate titans.

1931: The Socony-Vacuum Products Company

Seeking to re consolidate control of oil refining capacity after the breakup of Standard Oil, Standard Oil of New York, also known as Socony, merged in 1931 with the Vacuum Oil Company to form Socony-Vacuum Products Company.

This merger brought together two of the major successor firms from the Standard Oil trust under unified leadership.

1937: Humble Oil

As Jersey Standard sought to expand its oil production capacity in the 1930s, the company acquired a significant 50 percent stake in the Humble Oil & Refining Company of Texas in 1937.

This investment gave Jersey Standard part ownership of Humble Oil's substantial crude oil production assets in Texas, as well as refining and marketing infrastructure across the Southwest.

1942: Exxon

Jersey Standard changes name to Exxon to establish a unified brand in US markets.


The Exxon Valdez Disaster
© History Oasis

"If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success."

—John D. Rockefeller

1944: World War II

Seeking to diversify its energy assets beyond petroleum as the Second World War raged, Jersey Standard and its Exxon branded units significantly expanded investments in coal mining and uranium extraction beginning in 1944.

This enabled Exxon to supply important war materials for the Allied war effort while also positioning the company to benefit from peacetime nuclear energy after 1945.

1968: Economy Run Car Rally

Mobil sponsors the Economy Run car rally showcasing mileage efficiency.

1984: Superior Oil

As merger mania swept the oil industry in the 1980s, Mobil sought to expand its domestic exploration and production assets through the purchase of independent driller Superior Oil in 1984 for $5.7 billion dollars.

This major acquisition gave Mobil control over extensive oil and gas reserves across the Western and Midwestern United States previously owned by Superior.

1989: The Exxon Valdez Disaster

In March of 1989, the Exxon Shipping oil tanker Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound, rupturing its hull and spilling over 10 million gallons of crude oil in what remains one of history’s worst maritime oil spills.

The massive spill spread oil over hundreds of miles of Alaskan coastline and killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals and other marine life, triggering one of the costliest emergency responses and cleanup efforts ever.

The Exxon Valdez disaster prompted stricter regulation of the oil industry and tanker safety improvements to prevent recurrence of such a calamity.

1996: Russian Expansion

Seeking to tap into Russia’s extensive Far East oil and gas reserves after the fall of the Soviet Union, Exxon signed a landmark agreement with Russian energy ministry Rosneft in 1996 to operate the Sakhalin-1 consortium for exploration and drilling off Sakhalin Island.

This deal marked one of the largest energy investments in Russia at the time, positioning Exxon to lead development of major new oil and natural gas fields to serve energy-hungry Asian markets.


ExxonMobil fracking
© History Oasis

"I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people's efforts than 100% of my own efforts."

—John D. Rockefeller

1999: Merger of Exxon & Mobil

Facing industry consolidation pressures and seeking to craft an integrated oil giant to dominate the global energy landscape in the 21st century, longtime industry rivals Exxon and Mobil agreed to an historic $80 billion merger deal in late 1999.

The combined firm, christened Exxon Mobil Corporation, overtook Royal Dutch Shell to become the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, with extensive upstream assets , downstream capacity, massive cash flows, and unparalleled research capabilities.

The mega-merger realized decades of speculation about potential combination of two industry titans, forging a singular supermajor poised to shape oil markets and energy development for generations to come.

2010: XTO Energy

ExxonMobil acquires XTO Energy and shale gas assets.

2014: Venezuelan Settlement

After the government of Hugo Chávez expropriated ExxonMobil assets in Venezuela’s Orinoco oil region in 2007, Exxon spent seven years pursuing international arbitration over compensation, ultimately securing a $1.6 billion settlement from Venezuela in 2014 for seizure of the company’s Cerro Negro Project.

This massive award followed World Bank findings that Venezuela illegally expropriated Exxon’s property, providing some remedy for the loss of oil assets that cost ExxonMobil billions in planned investment potential.

2016: Rex Tillerson

Longtime Exxon executive Rex Tillerson ascended to the role of Chairman and CEO in 2016 after many years heading ExxonMobil's global exploration and production operations, but served only briefly before resigning in 2017 to join the Trump administration as Secretary of State.

Tillerson was succeeded by veteran refining head Darren Woods, who continues to lead ExxonMobil today with a focus on sustaining profits while pivoting toward cleaner energy and fuels.

2022: The Ukraine War

ExxonMobil exits Russia operations after invasion of Ukraine.

2023: Permian Basin Shale Boom

Seeking to capitalize on the Permian Basin shale boom, ExxonMobil announced its largest acquisition in recent history in November 2023 with a $59.5 billion purchase of independent driller Pioneer Natural Resources and its extensive Texas fracking operations.

This massive deal aims to dramatically boost ExxonMobil’s shale oil and gas portfolio to compete with rivals in the Permian while securing lower-cost reserves as the transition toward decarbonization accelerates globally.



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