Top 10 Famous Companies With Unexpected Origins
We generally associate most companies with specific goods and services. For instance, we associate Shell with oil, Nokia with phones, and Nintendo with games. But these companies and a host of others never started in the niches they’re famous for today. In fact, some predate their niches and only got involved due to bizarre reasons.
10Royal Dutch Shell
The history of Royal Dutch Shell can be traced to 1833, when London shopkeeper Marcus Samuel started importing oriental shells—which was used for interior designing—from the Far East. By 1886, the business was in the care of his children, Sam and Marcus Samuel Jr, who added rice, silk, copper, and chinaware to their imports. They also exported machines and textiles to Japan and the Far East and traded in wheat, sugar, and flour.
The brothers later developed interest in the oil trade and became the first to transport oil in tankers. By transporting oil in tankers and not barrels—as was common then—the duo could transport more oil at once, reduce leakages, and sell at a cheaper price. The brothers called their new oil transport company “The Tank Syndicate,” which they changed to Shell Transport and Trading Company in 1897.
Shell Transport and Trading Company soon expanded its operation to the Far East, where it found itself in competition with the Royal Dutch petroleum company. Both companies remained in competition until 1903, when they partnered and formed the Asiatic petroleum company to compete with the bigger Standard Oil.
In 1907, the Asiatic Petroleum Company became Royal Dutch Shell, with Royal Dutch owning 60 percent of the partnership and Shell Transport and Trading Company owning 40 percent. Its famous scallop shell logo belongs to Shell Transport and Trading Company, which adopted it in 1904 after switching from a mussel shell.