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Sinclair Oil Corporation

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Sinclair Oil Corporation
Company typePublic until 1969
Subsidiary, 1969–1976
Private, 1976–2022
IndustryOil and gasoline
FoundedMay 1, 1916; 108 years ago (1916-05-01)
FounderHarry F. Sinclair
DefunctMarch 15, 2022; 2 years ago (2022-03-15)
FateMostly acquired by HollyFrontier
SuccessorHF Sinclair Corporation
Key people
Robert E. Holding, former CEO and Owner
Carol Holding (CEO)[1]
OwnerHolding family[2]
Number of employees
1,200 (2019)[1]

Sinclair Oil Corporation was an American petroleum corporation founded by Harry F. Sinclair on May 1, 1916. The Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation amalgamated the assets of 11 small petroleum companies.[3] Originally a New York corporation, Sinclair Oil reincorporated in Wyoming in 1976.[4] The corporate logo featured the silhouette of a large green Apatosaurus dinosaur, based on the then-common idea that oil deposits beneath the earth came from the dead bodies of dinosaurs.

Sinclair was ranked as one of the largest privately owned American corporations.[1] It owned and operated refineries, gas stations, hotels, a ski resort, and a cattle ranch.[1]


Sinclair has long been a fixture on American roads with its dinosaur logo and mascot, a Brontosaurus.


A restored Sinclair station in Albany, Texas
A restored Sinclair station on the National Register of Historic Places

During September 1919, Harry Sinclair restructured Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation, Sinclair Gulf Corporation, and 26 other related entities into Sinclair Consolidated Oil Corporation.[5] In 1932, this new entity was renamed Consolidated Oil Corporation. In 1943, it was renamed Sinclair Oil Corporation.[6]

Near the beginning of the Great Depression, Sinclair sold the remaining interest in its pipeline subsidiary to Standard Oil Company (Indiana) for US$72.5 million (Standard Oil had purchased a 50% interest in the pipeline subsidiary in 1921).[7] With these funds, including an additional US$33.5 million from an additional common stock issue, Sinclair retired several promissory notes and prepared to weather the Depression with the remaining supply of cash.

Between 1921 and 1922, Sinclair leased oil production rights to Teapot Dome in Wyoming without competitive bidding. This led to the Teapot Dome scandal.[8]

At the same time, Sinclair Oil was approached by the Italian fascist government. Benito Mussolini's government wanted to increase competition in the Italian oil market, which was controlled by the Italo-American Petroleum Society (SIAP), which in turn was fully dominated by Standard Oil.[9] As the Teapot Dome scandal unfolded in the United States and reached the international press, Mussolini accelerated the negotiations, with a deal signed on May 4, 1924 (although without an official meeting, to avoid public outcry). Because of this, Sinclair Oil Company is known for having made "large payments to leading Fascists — all acting as intermediaries for Benito Mussolini — in return for an exclusive monopoly to drill for oil on Italian soil and in the Italian colonies".[10] The deal was reported in a press release by the Head of Government (Mussolini) issued on the night of May 15, 1924, and published by most newspapers on the following day. The press release assured the public that Sinclair Oil had been awarded its contract on a competitive basis and had provided guarantees it had no relations with the international oil trust.[11] This case of corruption was reported by the anti-fascist politician Giacomo Matteotti - who was later kidnapped and killed by Mussolini's newborn secret police, just before he could report his discoveries to the Parliament — in his posthumous article, published in the July issue of English Life (a magazine founded by Brendan Bracken): Matteotti accused Sinclair Oil of being a pawn of Standard Oil, as well as revealing "grave irregularities concerning the concession."[12][13] Matteotti's theses were echoed in the notes of Epifanio Pennetta, who contributed to the preliminary investigation on the murder: "To all appearances," companies like Nafta and Saper "were in competition with the Sinclair company, while in fact they were in cahoots with Sinclair" and added that Sinclair Oil was actually working "in concert" with Standard Oil.[14]

During the Great Depression, Sinclair saved many other petroleum companies from receivership or bankruptcy and acquired others to expand its operations. In 1932, Sinclair purchased the assets of Prairie Oil and Gas' pipeline and producing companies in the southern United States, and the Rio Grande Oil Company in California.[15] The purchase of Prairie also gave Sinclair a 65% interest in Producers and Refiners Corporation (or Parco), which Sinclair subsequently acquired when Parco entered receivership in 1934. Lastly, in 1936, Sinclair purchased the East Coast marketing subsidiary of Richfield Oil Company, which had operated in receivership for several years. Richfield then reorganized, resulting in the creation of the Richfield Oil Corporation. Sinclair was instrumental in transferring capital and managerial assets into Richfield. Thirty years later, Richfield merged with Atlantic Refining, located on the East Coast, forming Atlantic Richfield.[16]

Sinclair Dinoland plastic brontosaurus, 1964, in the collection of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

At the Chicago World's Fair of 1933–1934, Sinclair sponsored a dinosaur exhibit meant to play on the link between the formation of petroleum deposits and the time of dinosaurs, now a largely discredited misconception.[17][18] The exhibit included a 2-ton animated model of a Brontosaurus.[19] The exhibit proved so popular it inspired a promotional line of rubber brontosaurs at Sinclair stations, complete with wiggling heads and tails, and the eventual inclusion of the brontosaur logo. Later, inflatable dinosaurs were given as promotional items. An anthropomorphic version appeared as a service-station attendant in advertisements. Some locations have a life-size model of the mascot straddling the building's entrance.

In the early 1960s, Sinclair, along with Henry W. Peters and his son Eric Woods, developed the Turbo-S aircraft oils used for reliability in commercial jets, military jets, guided missiles and space exploration rockets.[20]

At the New York World's Fair of 1964–1965, Sinclair again sponsored a dinosaur exhibit, "Dinoland", featuring life-size replicas of nine different dinosaurs, including their signature Brontosaurus. Souvenirs from the exhibit included a brochure ("Sinclair and the Exciting World of Dinosaurs") and featured molded plastic dinosaur figurines. After the Fair closed, Dinoland remained as a traveling exhibit.[19][21][22]

Two of the replicas (Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus) are still on display at Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, Texas.[22][23][24] Another, a model of a Trachodon, has been displayed at Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago, Illinois.[22] A replica of a Triceratops is owned by the Kentucky Science Center in Louisville, Kentucky and after a 2022 restoration was mounted above their parking garage.[25] The Stegasaurus is on display in front of the Visitor Center of Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. A copy of the Triceratops is also owned by the Smithsonian Institution and is on display as "Uncle Beazley" in the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.[26]

In 1955, Sinclair ranked 21st on the Fortune 500; by 1969, it had fallen to 58th.[27]

ARCO era[edit]

In 1969, Sinclair merged with the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) after an attempted acquisition by the Gulf+Western Industries Corporation. Federal antitrust provisions required the new entity to divest itself of certain Sinclair assets. As a result, the East Coast operations of Sinclair were sold to BP (which has since purchased ARCO). After the ARCO acquisition, many Sinclair stations in the Midwest continued to use the dinosaur logo and opted out of using ARCO's "diamond spark" logo. Some northwest Sinclair stations partially retained the Sinclair brand for a time, using ARCO's blue rectangular logo, including the "spark" graphic, but with the word "Sinclair" substituted for ARCO.

Holding era[edit]

Restored Sinclair gas pump

In 1976, ARCO spun off Sinclair by selling certain assets to Robert (Earl) Holding. Assets divested in the spin-off included ARCO's retail operations in the region bounded by the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, and the rights to the Sinclair brand and logo, resulting in many stations along Interstate 80 keeping the dinosaur logo. The ARCO stations in Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, and some portions of Oklahoma were not affected by the divestiture. They continued as part of ARCO until ARCO pulled out of those states in the 1980s.

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Sinclair was the 94th-largest private company in the United States.[28] There were 2,607 Sinclair filling stations in 20 states in the Western and Midwestern United States. As of 2010, the corporation operated two refineries—one in Casper, Wyoming, and one in Sinclair, Wyoming. Sinclair operated a third refinery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, until it was sold to Holly Corporation on December 1, 2009. Sinclair's other operations included 1,000 miles of pipeline.

In the mid-2010s, Sinclair fuel stations began actively spreading across southern California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno, with holders offering attractive deals for potential clients to make the switch from a private brand to the Sinclair name brand.[29]

By 2018, Sinclair gas stations were widely distributed across the United States, with dozens of gas stations in California, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming; smaller numbers in Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Washington; and a single station in Arkansas and Wisconsin.[30]

Sinclair continued to use the green dinosaur, affectionately called "Dino", and marketed all its products under the logo. Sinclair patented the gasoline additive SG-2000. The high-octane fuel blend was called "Dino Supreme" and regular gas was "Dino", trade names used since 1961 when many oil companies still used trade names for their fuels instead of generic terms such as "regular," "premium," or "unleaded". Before that time, Sinclair's trade names for its gasoline products included "Power X" for high-octane fuel and "Sinclair H-C" for regular gas. Sinclair also has marketed products such as Dino, Dino Supreme, and Opaline motor oils.

Sinclair filling station along Idaho Street (Interstate 80 Business) near College Avenue in Elko, Nevada.

In August 2021, HollyFrontier announced the acquisition of Sinclair Oil. A new company named HF Sinclair Corporation would be formed in 2022. Under the agreements, Sinclair Oil's branded marketing business and all related commercial activities and its refineries and related operations and assets in Casper and Sinclair, Wyoming, would be combined with HollyFrontier. Sinclair Oil's logistics and storage assets, including approximately 1,200 miles of pipelines, two crude oil terminals and eight light product terminals, would be combined with Holly Energy Partners (HEP). It was expected that the vast majority of Sinclair Oil employees would be invited to continue in their positions following the combination. The transaction did not include exploration and production assets owned by Sinclair Oil & Gas Co.[31]

Sinclair Trucking Company[edit]

Company-owned Sinclair Trucking[32] provided distribution for Sinclair Oil fuels and other related products. Terminals were located in:

Grand America Hotels & Resorts[edit]

Sinclair also owned and operated Grand America Hotels & Resorts, which has hotel properties in Salt Lake City, Utah; Flagstaff, Arizona; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Little America, Wyoming; and San Diego, California, in addition to the Sun Valley and Snowbasin ski resorts. These properties were not part of the sale to HollyFrontier, and continue to be owned by the Holding Family.

HF Sinclair Corporation[edit]

In March 2022, the sale to HollyFrontier was completed, and HF Sinclair Corporation traded on the NYSE under the ticker symbol DINO.[33]

In popular culture[edit]

Old Sinclair Dino gas pump

The "Sinclair's Dino" balloon first appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1963, returning to the parade in 2015 after a nearly 40-year absence. The balloon is an honorary member of New York's Museum of Natural History as of 1977. It is 36 feet (11 m) tall, 72 feet (22 m) long, and 24 feet (7.3 m) wide.[34]

The Brontosaurus logo is parodied in the Toy Story and Cars franchise films as being the "Dinoco" gas station chain, perhaps an allusion to gasoline and its origin as a fossil fuel, as well as a portmanteau between the "dinosaur" in Sinclair's logo and the suffixes of the "Amoco", "Conoco", and "Sunoco" franchises.[citation needed]

The TV series Dinosaurs featured several characters with names derived from fossil fuel companies. The main character and his family had the surname Sinclair.

Sinclair once had a service station in Montgomery, Alabama, in the Cloverdale neighborhood, that closed in the 1970s. That location was remodeled in 1992 into a restaurant named Sinclair's in honor of the former neighborhood station. The ownership group also opened two other locations, one at Lake Martin and one on the eastside. The lake and Cloverdale locations were closed by 2018, while the eastside location has flourished for nearly 30 years as of 2023.

Joey Jordison, founding drummer of Slipknot, worked at a Sinclair's garage in Urbandale, Iowa, where late at night the band would discuss their plans.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Sinclair Oil on the Forbes America's Largest Private Companies List". Forbes.
  2. ^ "Holding family". forbes.com. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  3. ^ "Wall Street Bankers Finance Oil Combine For First Time". Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  4. ^ Wyoming Secretary of State, Corporations Division. Search keyword = Sinclair. 2nd page. CID 198000134254. Retrieved January 12, 2007. Archived August 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "New Domain is Four Times Size of Former Corporation With International Markets". Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  6. ^ "Prairie Joins Sinclair". Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  7. ^ "During Depression Years Canny Sale, Purchases Double Sinclair in Size". Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  8. ^ "Teapot Dome Scandal". HISTORY. June 10, 2019. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  9. ^ Canali, Mauro (2009). "The Matteotti murder and the origins of Mussolini's totalitarian Fascist regime in Italy". Journal of Modern Italian Studies. 14 (2): 159. doi:10.1080/13545710902826378. S2CID 143963988.
  10. ^ Canali, Mauro (2009). "The Matteotti murder and the origins of Mussolini's totalitarian Fascist regime in Italy". Journal of Modern Italian Studies. 14 (2): 143–167. doi:10.1080/13545710902826378. S2CID 143963988.
  11. ^ Italian Government (16 May 1924). "L'estrazione degli olii minerari e la convenzione con la "Sinclair" (Comunicato del Governo)" [The extraction of mineral oils and the contract with Sinclair (Government Press Release)]. La Stampa (in Italian). Turin. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  12. ^ Matteotti, Giacomo (1924). "Machiavelli, Mussolini and Fascism". English Life. 3 (2): 86–87.
  13. ^ Canali, Mauro (2009). "The Matteotti murder and the origins of Mussolini's totalitarian Fascist regime in Italy". Journal of Modern Italian Studies. 14 (2): 162. doi:10.1080/13545710902826378. S2CID 143963988.
  14. ^ Canali, Mauro (2009). "The Matteotti murder and the origins of Mussolini's totalitarian Fascist regime in Italy". Journal of Modern Italian Studies. 14 (2): 162–163. doi:10.1080/13545710902826378. S2CID 143963988.
  15. ^ Jakle, John A.; Sculle, Keith (1994). The Gas Station in America. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4723-0.
  16. ^ "Richfield Also Salvaged". Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  17. ^ "petroleum - Origin of hydrocarbons | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2021-11-23.
  18. ^ Nersesian, Roy L. (2010). Energy for the 21st Century, A Comprehensive Guide to Conventional and Alternative Sources, Second Edition. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharp, Inc. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7656-2412-3.
  19. ^ a b (1) "Dinosaur Fever – Sinclair's Icon". Petroleum History Almanac. Washington, D.C.: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. 2016. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  20. ^ Sinclair Turbo-S Oils. Aviation Week & Space Technology, May 13, 1963, v. 78, No. 19, p. 46.
  21. ^ "Sinclair's New York World's Fair (1964–65) "Dinoland" Pavilion". Sinclair History. Sinclair Oil Corporation. 2013. Archived from the original on May 9, 2015. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  22. ^ a b c "Sinclair Dinoland: New York World's Fair 1964–65". Science Leads the Way. Frank J. Leskovitz. 2016. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "Dinosaur Valley State Park – Texas Parks & Wildlife Department". tpwd.texas.gov.
  24. ^ "Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Texas". RoadsideAmerica.com.
  25. ^ "Triceratops".
  26. ^ (1} Goode, James M. (1974). Uncle Beazley. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 260. ISBN 9780881032338. OCLC 2610663. Retrieved 2016-07-04. This 25-foot long replica of a Triceratops ... was placed on the Mall in 1967 ...
    The full-size Triceratops replica and eight other types of dinosaurs were designed by two prominent paleontologists, Dr. Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, and Dr. John Ostrom of the Peabody Museum, in Peabody, Massachusetts. The sculptor, Louis Paul Jonas, executed these prehistoric animals in fiberglass, after the designs of Barnum and Ostrom, for the Sinclair Refining Company's Pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1964. After the Fair closed, the nine dinosaurs, which weighed between 2 and 4 tons each, were placed on trucks and taken on a tour of the Eastern United States. The Sinclair Refining Company promoted the tour for public relations and advertising, since their trademark was the dinosaur. In 1967, the nine dinosaurs were given to various American museums.
    This particular replica was used for the filming of The Enormous Egg, a movie made by the National Broadcasting Company for television, based on a children's book of the same name by Oliver Buttersworth. The movie features an enormous egg, out of which hatches a baby Triceratops; the boy consults with the Smithsonian Institution, which accepts Uncle Beazley for the National Zoo.
    {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
    (2)"A Dinosaur at the Zoo". Art at the National Zoo. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
    (3) "Uncle Beazley's Family Tree". Geocache: National Museum of Natural History Geotour. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. June 25, 2016. Archived from the original on July 1, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  27. ^ "FORTUNE 500: Sinclair Oil". money.cnn.com. Retrieved March 29, 2007.
  28. ^ "Sinclair Oil on the Forbes America's Largest Private Companies List". Forbes. Retrieved Feb 15, 2022.
  29. ^ "Gas from the past now pumps in Coronado". Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  30. ^ "Locations".
  31. ^ "HollyFrontier Corporation and Holly Energy Partners Announce Combination with Sinclair Oil and Formation of HF Sinclair Corporation". hollyfrontier.com. 2021-08-03. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  32. ^ "Trucking Services".
  33. ^ "HollyFrontier and Holly Energy Partners Announce Completion of Transactions with The Sinclair Companies and Establishment of New Parent Company, HF Sinclair Corporation". hfsinclair.com. 2022-03-14. Retrieved 2022-03-30.
  34. ^ "Sinclair's Dino" Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade website

External links[edit]