Tidewater Oil Company (rendered as Tide Water Oil Company from 1887 to 1936) was a major petroleum refining and marketing concern in the United States for more than 80 years. Tidewater was best known for its Flying A–branded products and gas stations, and for Veedol motor oil, which was known throughout the world.
Tide Water was founded in New York City in 1887. The company entered the gasoline market just before World War I, and by 1920 was selling gasoline, oil and other products on the East Coast under its Tydol brand. In 1926, control of Tide Water Oil passed to a new holding company, Tide Water Associated Oil Company, which also acquired a controlling interest in California’s Associated Oil Company. In 1931, Tide Water expanded its reach into the midwestern U.S. by purchasing Northwestern Oil Company of Superior, Wisconsin.
Soon thereafter, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (now ExxonMobil), the largest stockholder in the original Tide Water company, set up the holding company Mission Corporation, to hold the stock of Tide Water Associated. J. Paul Getty's purchase of Mission in 1937 set the stage for the birth of Tidewater as a major national player in the oil industry.
In 1936, the separate companies, Associated Oil Company and Tide Water, were dissolved into the holding company, now renamed Tidewater Associated Oil Company. Associated was based in San Francisco with a market area limited to the Far West. Associated, founded in 1901, had created the prominent Flying A brand for its premium-grade gasoline in 1932.
With the merger and creation of Tidewater Associated Oil Company, Flying A became the primary brand name for the company, though the Tydol and Associated names were also retained in their respective marketing areas. During the 1950s, the Associated and Tydol brands gradually fell into disuse, and were dropped entirely in 1956. That same year, "Associated" was removed from the corporate name. The Veedol trademark was retained for motor oils and lubricants. BP acquired the Veedol brand when it bought Burmah-Castrol (who then owned the Veedol brand). In February 2011, BP announced that it wished to sell the Veedol brand. Tidewater operated refineries on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as a small fleet of West Coast-based tankers.
The last years
In the early 1960s, Humble Oil & Refining Company purchased Tidewater's western refining and marketing properties, with the intention of rebranding Flying A stations in the western U.S. to Enco (later Exxon). In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court nullified the purchase on anti-trust grounds.
In 1966, Phillips Petroleum Company (now ConocoPhillips) purchased Tidewater's western refining, distribution and retailing network. Phillips immediately rebranded all Flying A stations in the region to Phillips 66.
On the East Coast that year, Getty merged his numerous oil interests into Getty Oil Company, and Tidewater Oil was dropped as a corporate brand. Getty retained the Flying A brand for its East Coast stations until 1970, then dropped it in favor of its own Getty trademark. Texaco acquired Getty in 1984.
In 1928-30, the Tide Water Oil Company supplied Veedol motor oils, Tydol gasoline and Tycol industrial lubricants to Richard E. Byrd's expedition (the first flight to the South Pole) for the aircraft and snowmobiles. They afterwards widely distributed a promotional 32-page brochure to schools and colleges containing Byrd's appreciation.
Flying A was closely linked with Far West college football and basketball between the late 1920s and early 1960s, and "Play ball with Flying A!" was a familiar slogan to sports fans. Associated, and then post-merger Tidewater, owned the radio-broadcast rights to Pacific Coast Conference (now the Pac-12) football and basketball during most of that period. The Flying A brand was also prominently linked with scoreboard and public-address system sponsorships at most major college stadiums and arenas on the West Coast.
Tidewater also sponsored New York Yankees baseball telecasts during the 1960s.
- "Tydol, Tidewater Associated Oil Company, 49th & Grays". 1938 aerial photo of Tydol plant along the Schuylkill River in southwest Philadelphia.
- Walker's Manual of Pacific Coast Securities, 1927
- Robert Lenzner, The Great Getty, Crown, New York, 1986, page 48.
- Highlights of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition