While many people associate Esso with Standard Oil since "Esso" is the phonetic pronunciation of the first letters in U.S. petroleum conglomerate that once owned it, its roots are actually Canadian. In 1880, 16 refineries located between Lakes Huron and Erie, an area sometimes called "Canada's Oil Lands," joined forces to create the Imperial Oil Company. By the time Standard Oil acquired it in 1898, Imperial was operating Canada's largest refinery in Sarnia, where the U.S.-Canada border meets the southern reach of Lake Huron.

In 1911, after the U.S. Department of Justice broke up Standard Oil for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, Imperial became Esso in the United States, the brand for Standard Oil of New Jersey. By 1973, Esso had rebranded itself as Exxon, but today Esso stations can still be found in Canada, Europe, and South America. Probably its most enduring branded characters are the Esso oil-drop boy (he's generally saluting or waving) and girl (she wears a red ribbon in her oil-drop hair), who appear on everything from porcelain signs to matchbooks.


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