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Joseph Stephen Cullinan (December 31, 1860 – March 11, 1937) was a U.S. oil industrialist. Although he was a native of Pennsylvania, his lifetime business endeavors would help shape the early phase of the oil industry in Texas. He founded The Texas Company, which would eventually be known as Texaco Incorporated.

Joseph S. Cullinan
Joseph S Cullinan.jpg
Joseph Stephen Cullinan

(1860-12-31)December 31, 1860
Pulaski Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania
DiedMarch 11, 1937(1937-03-11) (aged 76)


Early lifeEdit

Cullinan was born to John Francis and Mary (Considine) Cullinan on December 31, 1860, in Pulaski Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, not far from Sharon, Pennsylvania. His first experience in the oil industry was when he was 14, working as a hand in the Pennsylvania oilfields. He was responsible for various oil-related duties including an oil distribution station in Oleopolis, Pennsylvania. This familiarity with all the aspects of the industry would later on be beneficial for his wisdom and sound judgment in the oil business.[1] On April 14, 1891, he married Lucy Halm. Together, they would later have 5 children. When he was 22, he began to work for an affiliate of Standard Oil and for the next thirteen years, he performed various managerial duties. In 1895, he decided to venture into the business of manufacturing steel storage tanks and started his own company under the name Petroleum Iron Works located in New Castle, Pennsylvania.[2]

Move to TexasEdit

The previous year, oil was discovered in Corsicana, Texas by accident when a water-well company encountered the resource while attempting to establish a water source for the city.[3] By 1897, the production was so great that this prompted the mayor of the town to invite Cullinan to advise on the development of the oil production facilities there. The lack of refining facilities often resulted in the dumping of the crude oil. The wasteful and polluting practices of some irresponsible prospectors prompted Texas legislators to enforce regulations on the industry.[3] Cullinan (who was also against this wasteful practice and was a key person in the development of the state's first petroleum-conservation statute) took such an interest in the potential of refining there that he agreed to build a refinery. Using out of state funds for backing, the J. S. Cullinan Company was established which would have a facility online by 1900, processing 1,500 barrels per day (240 m3/d). His refinery there was the first of its type west of the Mississippi.[2] This company later became part of the Magnolia Petroleum Company.[4]

Operations on the Texas Gulf CoastEdit

With the breakthrough discovery of the Spindletop oilfield at Beaumont, Cullinan moved his operations to the Beaumont region to partner with Arnold Schlaet. The Texas Fuel Company was formed on March 28, 1901 and went into production on January 2, 1902 with an initial 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land at Port Arthur and a storage site 1½ miles from Spindletop. The primary product of this company was kerosene. Due to Texas law, since integrated oil companies were prohibited, Cullinan organized the Producers Oil Company on January 17, 1902.[5] One of the prominent investors in this new company was John Warne Gates, a businessman and industrialist from Illinois. The Producers Oil Company at this time explored for and supplied the oil. Within two months, The Texas Company (which took over the assets of the Texas Fuel Company) was formed for the transporting and refining of the crude.[5] From 1902 to 1913, Cullinan served as president of the company. In 1905, he began to move the headquarters of the company from Beaumont to Houston and completing this move by 1908.[6] This relocation established Houston as the center of the oil operations of the Southwest as other oil companies later followed this precedent.[2] Many years later, The Texas Company changed its corporate name to Texaco Incorporated in 1959. After leaving his position of president of the company, Cullinan continued to serve in the oil industry. He established other exploration companies and refineries, with most of the activity in the East Texas region along the Gulf Coast.

Other activities and later lifeEdit

Cullinan had a profound impact upon the city of Houston. In addition to being one of the key supporters for the development of the Houston Ship Channel, he also built the North Side belt railway. He supported venues such as the Houston Symphony Orchestra as well as the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston). He served as president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce from 1913 until 1919. During World War I, he served under Herbert Hoover as a special advisor to the Food Administration.[2] For five years starting in 1928 he served on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Committee. On March 11, 1937, Cullinan died during his visitation with Hoover in Palo Alto, California where he was overcome with pneumonia. Afterward his interest in TEXACO was split six ways between his sister Mary Nicholson and his children.

Cullinan bought the land that would become the Shadyside subdivision in 1916,[7] purchased from the estate of George H. Hermann. Cullinan said that his intention was to create a subdivision so that his business acquaintances and friends could live near him. In 1920 Cullinan put the subdivision, with 16 lots, on the market. It sold out within six weeks.[8]


  1. ^ Tommy Stringer. "Joseph S. Cullinan – Pioneer in Texas Oil (1860–1937)." Accessed December 6, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-06.
  2. ^ a b c d Tommy W. Stringer: Cullinan, Joseph Stephen from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Julia Cauble Smith: Corsicana Oilfield from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  4. ^ J. L. Terrell and James A. Clark. "Magnolia Petroleum Company." Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed December 6, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-06.
  5. ^ a b Staff Writer. "A Genealogy of Major Companies That Formed ChevronTexaco Archived 2007-07-01 at the Wayback Machine." (PDF) Accessed December 6, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-06.
  6. ^ L. W. Kemp and Cherie Voris: Texaco from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  7. ^ McCoy, Terrence. "Millionaires Clash Over Shadyside Mansion." Houston Press. Wednesday October 10, 2012. 2. Retrieved on October 18, 2012.
  8. ^ Sheridan, Mike. "For the well-to-do, Shadyside has a few homes for sale." Houston Chronicle. Sunday December 14, 1986. Business 1. Retrieved on October 18, 2012.

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