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Atlantic Refining Co.

Feb 23, 2009 | Posted in Essays, Pennsylvania Oil Companies

By Neil McElwee

The Atlantic Refining Co. was created in the nineteenth century by consolidating several Standard Oil Pennsylvania refining operations that were organized in the earliest days of the oil industry. Charles Lockhart and William Frew built their first Pittsburgh refinery, the Brilliant, in 1860. Throughout the 1860’s, the firm of Lockhart & Frew would build or acquire seven Pittsburgh Refineries. William Warden, living in Pittsburgh at the time, joined the Lockhart & Frew partnership about 1865.

Warden moved in 1866 to Philadelphia to look after the Pittsburgh firm’s Philadelphia storage facilities and Atlantic Coast and overseas marketing. Lockhart, Frew and Warden formed a Philadelphia-based partnership, Warden & Frew, at that time. Warden & Frew’s storage facilities were named the Atlantic Storage Co. in 1866. In 1870, the three partners built a refinery, the Atlantic, at Philadelphia. A new company, the Atlantic Refining Co., was organized to operate the Philadelphia plant and related marketing facilities. Charles Lockhart was the first president. Lockhart was succeeded by William Warden.

In 1874, the three Pennsylvania partners agreed to combine their Pittsburgh and Philadelphia properties and operations with Standard Oil of Ohio. The Pittsburgh refineries became known as Standard Oil of Pittsburgh. The Philadelphia operations continued to be known as the Atlantic Refining Co.

About this same time in the Oil Region, a group of Franklin investors led by Dr. Albert Egbert in 1872 organized the Eclipse Lubricating Oil Co. The firm built a small plant on the Franklin-Oil City Road just over the line in Sugarcreek Township. The firm failed after several years and the refinery sat idle. Henry Flagler bought the plant and property for Standard Oil in 1876. Thomas Brown was brought in from Standard’s Erie refinery in 1878 to manage and improve the Eclipse. Duncan McIntosh assisted Brown. Standard bought a large tract of land, 1200 acres, along the Allegheny River in 1884 to expand the Eclipse. S. C. Lewis was sent to Franklin to expand and operate the refinery. Lewis was named President of the Eclipse Lubricating Oil Co. and Duncan McIntosh was named Secretary and Treasure. The firm prospered greatly under their leadership throughout the balance of the nineteenth century. The Eclipse plant in Franklin was the No. 1. The Eclipse Lubricating Oil Co. also operated a refinery under its name in Olean, New York, the No. 2, and in Erie, the No. 3. The old Standard refinery in Siverly, the Imperial, was operated by the Eclipse management until it closed in 1894. The Eclipse operation was the largest in the Oil Region and among the largest in the country.

In the realignment of Standard Oil Trust activity in 1892, all of Standard’s Pennsylvania refining and marketing operations were consolidated under the Atlantic Refining Co. administrative group with headquarters in Philadelphia. Throughout the balance of the nineteenth century, the Eclipse did business under its old name, but assumed the Atlantic name in the early twentieth century.

After the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911, Atlantic Refining marketed gasoline and motor oil throughout Pennsylvania under the well-known “Atlantic” brand. The firm’s early cross arrows within concentric rings symbol was used from 1915 to 1936. The white “ATLANTIC” block letters with shading on a red rectangular field were first used in 1936 and continued to 1966. Most older audiences will remember that familiar trademark on “ATLANTIC” branded service stations. They will also remember the Atlantic billboards along Pennsylvania roads, and the familiar Atlantic jingle, “Atlantic keeps your car on the Go… For business, for pleasure, in any kind of weather… Atlantic keeps your car on the Go, Go, Go… Keep on the Go with Atlantic.”

Atlantic built a gasoline pipeline from its Philadelphia refinery to Mechanicsburg in 1936 and shortly after extended it to Pittsburgh. The Franklin Eclipse Refinery was shut down in 1937. All that remains is the plant office building on Route 8. An early Atlantic gas station still survives in Oil City on Elm St. near the railroad and McDonalds. It is currently used as an office for the O. C. & T. Railroad. You can still spot an old Atlantic station here and there.

Atlantic merged with the Richfield Oil Corporation of California in 1966. Atlantic Richfield became ARCO in 1970 with headquarters in Los Angeles. ARCO spun off its old Atlantic properties in the East to a new entity, the Atlantic Petroleum Corporation. In 1988, Sun Co. of Philadelphia purchased the Atlantic Petroleum Corporation with its remaining Atlantic service stations in the east, pipelines and the old Atlantic Refinery in Philadelphia. Sun consolidated its Atlantic Refinery with the adjacent Philadelphia Chevron Refinery purchased in 1994. The former Atlantic service stations were renamed Sunoco. Atlantic’s big terminal in Pittsburgh near the old Lockhart & Frew property along the Allegheny is now owned by Sunoco.

With the purchase of so much of the old Atlantic property in Pennsylvania by Pennsylvania-based Sunoco, we can at least say Sunoco kept the remains of the once great Atlantic Refining Co. in the family plot.