Bearsted, Marcus Samuel, First Viscount

   British founder of the Shell Oil Company. Marcus Samuel’s father was an importer of goods from the Far East, especially ornamental shells that had a great vogue in the Victorian period. He and his brothers followed the same line of business, and developed contacts in Japan. When Marcus founded an oil company in 1892, he called it Shell. Shell formed a merger with the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company in 1902. By World War I, the company was the best-known supplier in Britain of petrol and petroleum products.
   At the beginning of the war, Samuel tried without success to interest the Admiralty and the War Office in ensuring a supply of toluol, a vital ingredient of TNT explosives, which he could produce from Borneo crude oil. Becoming impatient, he transported his toluol factory from Rotterdam to Britain overnight, and two months later was producing toluol for a now grateful government. Samuel was created a baron and then a viscount in 1925, with the title of Lord Bearsted. He was not an observant Jew but proud of his race. When he was elected lord mayor of the City of London in 1902, he caused diplomatic embarrassment by refusing to invite the ambassador of Romania to the official banquet because of that country’s treatment of its Jews. He was active in helping Jewish refugees, and endowed a Jewish maternity hospital named after him.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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