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Kendall Refining Co.

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

By Neil McElwee, 2009

The Bradford refinery that became known as the Kendall Refinery was built in 1881 on a 4.5-acre site along Kendall Creek. This plant was very small and suffered through bankruptcy, three sales and fire over the next several decades. When the very wealthy and politically powerful Lewis Emery, a Bradford resident, purchased another existing Bradford refinery on Mill St. in 1887, he considered the Kendall Refinery to be unwanted competition and did all he could to put the small firm out of business. But the little refinery survived.

In 1902, the Kendall Refinery was purchased by the Penn Lubricating Co. Otto Koch, a successful Bradford mortician and businessman, was a major Penn Lubricating Co. shareholder. Koch was elected Secretary-Treasure of Penn Lubricating and appointed General Manager of the Kendall Refinery in 1906. In the decade that followed, Koch would market the refined products manufactured by Penn Lubricating as Sunshine Oil. Koch remained with Kendall until his death in 1948 when he was Chairman of the Board. Penn Lubricating was reorganized in 1913 and given the new name, Kendall Refining Co.

Koch acquired Kendall’s first producing property in 1917 and increased the firm’s producing holdings in the Bradford Field dramatically in the early 1920’s. Kendall initiated its first national marketing program in 1923 and placed its first full-page ad in The Saturday Evening Post in 1928. It was then, Koch introduced the slogan, “Kendall, the 2,000 Mile Oil”. At a time when automobile oil changes were made every 500 miles, the familiar Kendall logo illustrating a folded right hand with two fingers extended was a graphic reference to Kendall’s revolutionary 2,000 mile oil.

Under Koch, Kendall remained an innovative leader in the lube oil industry. Kendall’s company history claims Kendall in 1933 was the first to introduce the sealed motor oil can nationally, the first Pennsylvania refiner to use propane dewaxing in 1937 and the first Pennsylvania refiner to use phenol extraction.

The Kendall Refinery grew in size and reputation after World War II. In 1953, Kendall was the first to market 10W-30 motor oil. In 1956, Kendall introduced the use of petroleum distillates as rolling mill oils for the aluminum and steel industry. In 1956, the Kendall Refinery capacity was 3,800 barrels a day. Kendall could refine 4,500 barrels a day in 1966.

In 1966, Witco Chemical acquired the Kendall Refining Co. in an exchange of stock. Witco invested $13,000,000 in the Bradford refinery in the next ten years and increased their holdings of producing property in the Bradford region. Witco moved their Amalie refining operation to Bradford in 1971 and manufactured both the Amalie and Kendall product line at the Kendall Refinery. The capacity of the refinery grew to 10,000 barrels by 1986.

Witco Chemical announced in 1995 the firm would sell the Kendall Refinery. Witco sold the Amalie and Kendall brands to the Sun Company in August 1996, but Sun did not want the Bradford refinery. Witco had no plans to continue to operate the refinery. In 1997, Witco sold the Kendall Refinery to American Refining Group, Inc.