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Logo Lowdown: Why a Shell?

Jennie McRae - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Have you ever found yourself wondering why Shell Oil Company uses a shell as their logo? Or why they're called "Shell" at all? 


...Us, too!


Legend has it that there was a small London business, Marcus Samuel and Company, that dealt in kerosene, antiques and oriental seashells. (Seashells were apparently a hot commodity in the Victorian era!--people used to decorate things like trinket boxes with them.) The company capitalized on this demand so much so that they changed their name to the the "Shell Transport and Trading Company" in 1897. Soon to follow was the first mussel shell logo in 1901. By 1904, a scallop shell or "pecten" emplem was introduced.  


There have been contradicting reports, however, that the reason why the shell actually stuck as the brand's image and name is because of Mr. Graham, or Graham Oil, who eventually became director of the Shell Oil Company. Mr. Graham's family's coat of arms included a shell emblem.


Whatever its origins, the shell logo was originally a faithful reproduction on the pecten or scallop shell. And when the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Shell Transport and Trading merged in 1907, it was the "shell" brand name that was chosen to bring the company into a new era.


The form of the shell emblem has certainly changed over the years to keep in line with current graphic design trends of the time--to learn more about the history of Shell Oil Company and to see the evolution of their logo, visit their history page at http://www.shell.com/global/aboutshell/who-we-are/our-history/history-of-pecten.html.




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