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L. Sonneborn Sons, Witco Chemical Co. and Amalie

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

By Neil McElwee, 2009

In the late nineteenth century, Petrolia in Butler County was the site of the Petrolia Refining Company, a manufacturer of illuminating oils, valve and engine oils and petrolatum. In the early twentieth century, L. Sonneborn Sons of New York operated a refinery at this location.

In 1924, L. Sonneborn Sons leased in Venango County the Foco Oil Co. refinery along French Creek on Route 322 from the Lakeside Oil Refining Co. L. Sonneborn Sons eventually purchased the Foco property and renamed it the Franklin Creek Refining Corp. Refining improvements were made to this plant, a plant originally designed to process Franklin heavy crude.

L. Sonnborn Sons was renamed Sonneborn Sons, Inc. In the early 1950’s, the firm was manufacturing the “Amalie” brand of motor oil in both Petrolia and Franklin.

Sonneborn Sons became a division of Witco Chemical in 1960. This division was renamed the Amalie Refining Co. The Franklin plant became known as the Amalie Refinery. A catastrophic fire destroyed the Franklin Amalie Refinery in June 1970. Witco did not rebuild the plant.

Witco Chemical merged with Kendall Oil of Bradford in 1966. Rather than rebuild the Franklin Plant, Witco manufactured the Amalie-branded products in the Kendall plant in Bradford. The old plant in Petrolia continued to operate as Witco Chemical and remains an operating chemical plant. In 1996, Witco Chemical announced it sold the Amalie brand to Sun Oil Co.