** biographies: the appeasers Henri Deterding Shell Oil

Henri Deterding and Shell Oil

Figure 1.--Dutch-born Sir Henri Deterding was knighted by King George V for his role as head of Royal Durch Shell in helping to win Workd War I. He was known as the Napooleon or King of oil in Britain. After the War because of his hatred of Communism, he became enamored weith the NAZIs and tried to do an oil deal for them (1936). He was so well known that like other industrial magnates, his movenmebts attracted press attention. The press caption here read, "British Oil King on Vacation: Sir Henry Deteerding, famous British boil magnate, takes two children for a skate on the ice at St. Moritz, Switzerland, where he vis enjoying a vacation." It is dated February 19, 1933.

Dutch-born Sir Henri Deterding did not found Royal Dutch Shell, but for nearly four decasded he becanme was synomnous with the comapny as it developed into an oil giant. He was knighted by King George V for his role as head of Royal Durch Shell in helping to win Workd War I. for the Allies. He was known as the Napooleon or King of oil in Britain. He primatily lived in Britin. After the War was horified wuth the Communist regime which took power in Russia and founded the Soviet Union. Because of his hatred of Communism, after Hitkler seized power in Germany, he became enamored with the NAZIs. e do not know to what extemt other aspects of NAZI ideology appealed to him. He even bought an estate in Germany (1936). And spent some time there. He tried to do an oil deal for them (1936). As a result he was removed as genberalk msnsger, but remined in the baord of directors.

Henri Deterding (1866-1939)

Henri Wilhelm August Deterding was born in Amnsterdam (1866). His father was a master mariner who died when he was only 6 years olds. Without the family breadwinner, thefamily was left in straitened circumstances. He managed to achieve an excelkkent education at Higher Citizens' School in Amsterdam. He ha leave scghi=ool astvthe agfe of 16 years. Deterding at first found a cleical position t the Twentsche Bank. There he exhibited a remarkabke capability for handling figures. He decided there were better opportunities working with trading companies. This was before oil had become an important commodity. He was an early and most important executives of Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, a Britih-Dutch joint vernture. He was the general manager for 36 years (1900-36). He was also chairman of the combined Royal Dutch/Shell oil company. He succeeded the founder of Royal Dutch, Jean Baptiste August Kessler, when he died, and made Royal Dutch Shell a competitor to John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil and one of the world's largest petroleum companies. He became known as 'the Napoleon of Oil'. Deterding was largely responsible for developing the tanker fleet that enabled Royal Dutch to compete with the Shell company of Marcus Samuel and eventually take it ovrr. He also was involved in acquisitions, including the purchase of Azerbaijan oil fields from the Rothschild family (1911). An uncistarikly unwise purchase as time would tell. Deterding was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to Anglo-Dutch relations and for his work in supplying the Allies with petroleum during the World War I (1920). .Deterding was a string anti-Communist and became bitter enemy of the Soviet Union when it was founded aftervthe War. He assisted thousands of White Russian exiles. He entered the appeasement debate at en end of his life. He became an admirer of the NAZI Party. He discussed he sale of a year's oil reserves on credit to tghe NAZIs (1936). We are not sure just what his attractiion to the NAZIs was, but suspect that anti-Communism was astriong part of it. He was then forced to resign from the position of general manager (1937), but remained a member of the company's board. He nought a country home in Germany, but died in Switzerland (1939). This was a year before the NAZIs invaded his birth country.

Shell Oil

The origin of the Shell name can be traced back to the seashells that Marcus Samuel imported from the Far East during the late 19th Century. Marcus Samuel decided to expand his London abtiquities business (1833). He decided to sell seashells as well. At the time they were ppopular in interior design. This was so sucessful tht he began importing shells availbke from the Far East. This was the origin of Shell oil. Marcus Samuel senior died (1870). His sons, Marcus junior and Samuel, wanted to expand it. They became interested in exporting kersoene to China. Oil at the time, primrily kersosene for home lighting, was beginning to become a major commodity. Oil for the lamps of China was a popular slogan. Shell began drilling in Kalimantan in the Dutch East Indies (1891). Drilling operations soon followed in other Borneo locations as well as welsewhere in the DEI as well as Briutish Bornei and Malaya. The major impediment was transport. Oil at the time was trasported in barrels which could leak and took up a great deal of unporofitable space. The solution was a fleet of tanker steamers to carry oil in bulk, meaning without the barrels. This essentially doubled the carrying capacity of a ship. The new General Manager, Henri Deterding, was the moving firce behind this transfornation. The Shell Murex becme the the first oil tanker to transit the Suez Canal. Kerosene sales came to dominate their business and they adopted the shell name -- the Shell Transport and Trading company (1897). They mrrged with Royal Dutch to form, the Royal Dutch Shell Group. Shell's main competitor at the time was American company, Standard Oil. The first refinery ws opened at Balik Papan in Dutch Borneo (1897). Borneo was an enormnous island, at thec time split between Britain and the Dutch East Indies (DEI). (Today split between Indonesia and Malaysa.) Royal Dutch's output from the DEI came to represent about 4 percent of total world production. . Oil usage rapidly expanded in the early-20th century, both military and civilian usage. Diesel and petrol/gasoline soon excipsed the demnd for kerosene. The result was a rapidd expoansion of borh Shell and Standard Oil. Shell opened operations throughout Europe as well as many parts of Asia. The United States dominated world oil production, but there was also substantial exploration and production in Mexico, Romania, and Russia. Venezuela proved an especially important source. And Shell opened refineries in Curaçao, a Dutch island off the Venezuelan coast. . Shell worked on product quality and participated in many high profile events to show cass its products--especially gasoline to power internal combudtion engines. These included headline-grabbing events like races, flights and journeys of exploration. Italian Prince Scipione Borghese won the Peking to Paris motor rally using Shell Spirit motor oil (1907). Btitish explorer Ernest Shackleton and Captain Scott used Shell fuel. French pilot Louis Blériot mafe the fuirst cross-Channel flight using Shell Spirit (1909). World War I was the first war in gich oil was an important factor. Anbd thanks to Shell and Standard Oil (broken up in 1911), the Allies had it and the Germans had very little. The British and American Navies began the conversion to oil before the War. The German Navy had to contibue using coal. And new vehicles needed oil (aircraft, submarines, tanks, and trucks. Shell would be a crucial partner to the Allies in both World Wars. During World War I, Shell became the main fuel supplier of the British army and also offered all of its tankers to the British Admiralty, including the Murex. One if America;s great contribution to the War was truckjs which gave the Allies greater mobility. The Germans had plsnbes and submarines, but almost no tsnks and trucks--primrily because of oil shortages. Oil companirs continued to expsnd during the inter-war years. The increasing use of automobiles, especually in America resulted in increasing demand for gasoline zbd other petroleum products. Automibles were less important in Europe. Shell fuelled the first trans-Atlantic flight made by Alcock and Brown (1919), developed new and improved drilling techniques, and, founded Shell Chemicals (1929). This helped to create even more productrs that could be refined from oil. Both the Netherlands and the DEI were occupied during Workd War II. Japan and oil prived a volitile combination. The Dutch oil fiellds were needed by the Japanese to persue a war of aggressuon. Japan had no oil of its own. The refinery in the DEI had to be destroyed when Japan attcked and declared war on the United States, Britian, and the Netherlands (December 1941). Shell’s London office dedicated itself to supporting the war effort and the company’s refineries in the United States produced high-octane aviation fuel to support the Allied air forces. This gave Anerican and British aircraft a notbvle advantafe. Sone of thuis was shipped to the Soviet Union as part of Lend Lease. Shell tankers came under Government control. The oil provided by Shell and other companies was a significant factor in the Allied victory. Again, the Allies had oil and the Germans far less than thry needed. The Japanese were in even wirse shape. And oil was far more important in World War vII which was a mechanized war of movement in shsarp contrast to the static Western Front of World War I. The War was a real catalyst for great innovation. Major advances both fuel and chemicals research.


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Created:3:07 AM 1/28/2021
Last updated: 35:07 AM 1/28/2021