Socony-Vacuum Oil Company produced this diagram, meant as a tool to show off the diversity of products made from crude oil, in 1957. The image showcases the industry’s progress by including a comparatively miniature “Petroleum Tree of 60 Years Ago” diagram in the bottom left-hand corner. The visual reference to the familiar family tree conveys Socony-Vacuum’s pride in the oil industry’s reach.
In the years after the government ordered the dissolution of Standard Oil in 1911, the smaller companies that resulted from the split combined and recombined. Socony-Vacuum, formed in 1931 when Standard Oil Company of New York merged with Vacuum Oil Company in 1966, becoming Mobil Oil Corporation. Mobil merged with Exxon in 1999 to become today’s ExxonMobil.
Socony-Vacuum’s product tree shows how quickly the uses for crude oil expanded in the twentieth century, in both the industrial and consumer markets. It also shows how much of the famous material abundance of the postwar era had oil at its heart. Oil could be found in all of the types of asphalt used to make the new interstate highways; the aviation fuel that powered the growth of commercial air travel; even the waxes that went into the housewife’s floor polish or the kids’ chewing gum.
I found this diagram in the new volume The Book of Trees: Visualizing Knowledge, by Manuel Lima. Lima includes it in his chapter on figurative tree charts, which are predecessors to more abstract chart techniques derived from tree structures (Sunburst, radial, and Voronoi diagrams).
TODAY IN SLATE
The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore
And schools are getting worried.
Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War
Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough
So they added a little self-immolation.
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union