House flag, Shell Tankers Ltd

The house flag of Shell Tankers Ltd, London. A red rectangular flag with a white disc in the centre bearing a gold shell. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. A rope and two Inglefield clips are attached.

The Shell Group began as a small trading company founded by London businessman Marcus Samuel. Samuel’s business originally traded small gifts and antiques, specializing in boxes decorated with seashells purchased from merchant seamen travelling back from the Orient. This was the origin of the current company’s name and logo. The business grew to include general merchandise, and by 1892, was exporting Russian kerosene to Far East ports, carried by one of the world’s first oil tankers, the Murex (named after a type of seashell; Samuel would subsequently name all of his kerosene tankers after seashells).

In 1897, the Shell Transport and Trading Company was founded, which expanded the company’s operations into producing and refining petroleum in addition to transporting it. In 1907, Shell merged with the Royal Dutch Company to create Royal Dutch Shell. This new company in turn acquired other companies in Europe, Africa, and America, one of them being the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company. Shell formed Shell-Mex Limited from this acquisition, which was then followed by a merger in 1931 which combined its marketing units in the UK with those of British Petroleum to create Shell-Mex and BP Limited.

Shell’s continued growth in the first part of the 20th century was interrupted by both world wars, as was the expansion of many other oil companies at the time. However, the development of the automobile and aviation industries quickly increased demand for Shell products in post-war times. By the 1960s, Shell provided one-seventh of the world’s oil products. The year 1975 marked the end of the Shell-Mex and BP Limited partnership, with each company again taking on its own brand. Today, the oil company continues to be one of the largest in the world, operating in 140 countries and managing 20 oil tankers and 23 liquid natural gas carriers.

The Shell logo is one of the most recognizable of all oil companies. The Shell Transport and Trading Company initially used a mussel shell as its logo in 1901, but this was changed to a scallop shell in 1904. The bright red and yellow colours were allegedly chosen by the Shell Company of California in 1915, not only to grab the attention of motorists on the road, but to indicate the state’s close ties with Spain.

Object Details

ID: AAA0362
Collection: Textiles; Flags
Type: House flag
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Unknown
Date made: 1955-1967; 1955-67
People: Shell Tankers Ltd; Pope, Charles Meredyth
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Pope Collection. We regret that Museum enquiries have not been able to identify the copyright owner of the flag's emblem and would welcome any information that would help us update our records. Please contact the Picture Library.
Measurements: flag: 1473.2 x 3225.8 mm

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