Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Marcus Samuel: Founder of the Shell Transport and Trading Company

A London slum was his birthplace and a shipping office where he was a petty clerk was the springboard to his financial career. Marcus Samuel (1853–1927) was educated at Jewish schools in London and Brussels before joining the firm established by his father Marcus Samuel, who had prospered in the Far Eastern trade, principally from selling fancy shells and ornamental shell boxes.

In 1878, the younger Marcus Samuel formed his own business partnership with his brother Sam (1855–1934), who later sat as a member of parliament for 20 years.

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.

He built an experimental oil-tanker, with money borrowed from the Rothschilds of Paris, and thus he became the first to ship an entire boat-load of oil to the Far East. He built more tankers.

In July 1882, the first oil tanker Murex threaded through the Suez filled with 4,000 tons of Russian kerosene. On 18 October 1897 the brothers formed a company dedicated to their oil and shipping interests: The “Shell” Transport and Trading Company, Ltd.

To counter Royal Dutch and Standard Oil, Samuel's company began its own production in Borneo and in Texas. Moves towards Royal Dutch-Shell co-operation began in 1903 and culminated in a merger in 1907 with Royal Dutch owning 60 per cent and Shell Transport and Trading 40 per cent in the new company.

Marcus Samuel was Lord Mayor of London from 1902 to 1903 and was made a Baronet in 1903. In recognition of Shell's contribution to the British cause in the First World War, he was created 1st Viscount Bearsted of Maidstone in 1921.
Marcus Samuel: Founder of the Shell Transport and Trading Company

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