Exxon and Mobil were both formed in 1882 as components of one company, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust. Two refining and marketing organizations -- Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey (commonly known as "Jersey Standard") and Standard Oil Co. of New York (known as "Socony") were the chief predecessor companies of Exxon and Mobil, respectively.
In 1911, the United States Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust, resulting in the spin-off of Jersey Standard and Socony (along with 32 other companies). In the same year, the nation's kerosene output was eclipsed for the first time by gasoline. The growing automotive market inspired the product trademark Mobiloil, registered by Socony in 1920.
Over the next decade, both companies grew significantly. Jersey Standard acquired a 50 percent interest in Humble Oil & Refining Co., a Texas oil producer. Socony purchased a 45 percent interest in Magnolia Petroleum Co., a major refiner, marketer and pipeline transporter. In 1931, Socony merged with Vacuum Oil Co., an industry pioneer dating back to 1866 and a growing Standard Oil spin-off in its own right.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Jersey Standard had oil production and refineries in Indonesia but no marketing network. Socony-Vacuum had Asian marketing outlets supplied remotely from California. In 1933, Jersey Standard and Socony-Vacuum merged their interests in the region into a 50-50 joint venture. Standard-Vacuum Oil Co., or "Stanvac," operated in 50 countries, from East Africa to New Zealand, before it was dissolved in 1962.
Mobil Chemical Company was established in 1960. As of 1999 its principal products included basic olefins and aromatics, ethylene glycol and polyethylene. The company produced synthetic lubricant base stocks as well as lubricant additives, propylene packaging films and catalysts. Exxon Chemical Company became a worldwide organization in 1965 and in 1999 was a major producer and marketer of olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene along with specialty lines such as elastomers, plasticizers, solvents, process fluids, oxo alcohols and adhesive resins. The company was an industry leader in metallocene catalyst technology to make unique polymers with improved performance.
In 1955 Socony-Vacuum became Socony Mobil Oil Co. and in 1966 simply Mobil Oil Corp. A decade later, the newly incorporated Mobil Corporation absorbed Mobil Oil as a wholly owned subsidiary. Jersey Standard changed its name to Exxon Corporation in 1972 and established Exxon as a trademark throughout the United States. In other parts of the world, Exxon and its affiliated companies continued to use its Esso trademark.
On March 24 1989, shortly after midnight, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil. The spill was the largest in U.S. history, and in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez incident Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Exxon spent some 2 billion dollars cleaning up the spill, and a further 1 billion to settle civil and criminal charges related to the case.
In 1998, Exxon and Mobil signed a definitive agreement to merge and form a new company called Exxon Mobil Corporation. After shareholder and regulatory approvals, the merger was completed November 30, 1999.