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Collected personal and business papers of Louis and Jacob Blaustein

 Collection
Identifier: MS-0400
Louis and Jabcob Blaustein founded the American Oil Company (Amoco) in 1910. The collection spans the years 1912 to 1970 and contains published material, transcripts of phone conversations, copies of correspondence, news clippings, invitations, legal papers, details of Blaustein’s many business and diplomatic trips, budgets and agendas related to the oil business, minutes of board meetings and philanthropic committees, and data from commissions and agencies.

Dates

  • 1912-1970

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information.

This collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Extent

1067.74 Cubic Feet (843 record center cartons, 3 legal size document boxes, 1 legal half-size document box, 3 flat boxes (15.5 x 12 x 3 inches), 1 flat box (12.5 x 9 x 3 inches), 13 oversize boxes (19 x 13 x 6 inches))

Biographical note on Louis Blaustein

Louis Blaustein was born in Lithuania, January 16, 1868 (on a statement to an insurance company, he listed the village as Pikelin, Russia). He was the son of Hyman and Sarah (Sachs) Blaustein. He came to the United States alone, arriving in New York in 1884. His first job was in a tannery in Philadelphia, but after a short time he began calling on farmers in eastern Pennsylvania to sell merchandise to them. Shortly after, he opened a small merchandising business in Downingtown, PA. In 1891, he settled in Baltimore and started a small wholesale grocery business where he was successful in the sale of coal oil (kerosene). Another happy result of the move to Baltimore was Louis’s marriage to the former Henrietta Gittelsohn. They were to become parents of three children, Jacob Blaustein (b. 1892), Fannie (b. 1895), and Ruth (b. 1899).

In 1891, kerosene was sold from wooden barrels. On hot days, the barrels leaked, and Louis soon thought of using a tin tank with an attached spigot placed on a dray wagon. This is acknowledged to be the first use of the tank wagon. In 1892, Louis accepted a position with the Standard Oil Company (NJ). During the next 18 years with Standard Oil, he learned the oil business from the ground up, but when Standard Oil wanted to send him to Europe to oversee some of its operations there, Louis decided instead to go into the oil business himself. Jacob Blaustein later noted that it was his mother who would not leave the U.S. and wished for her children to be raised here. In 1910, with one tank-wagon and a horse, Louis founded the American Oil Company (Amoco).

Biographical note on Jacob Blaustein

Jacob Blaustein was born in Baltimore on September 30, 1892. He was educated at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and took mechanical drawing lessons at the Maryland Institute of Art to prepare for a career as a mining engineer. He was a member of the class of 1913 of Lehigh University, but, as has been noted, he left the school to assist his father in business. Blaustein married Hilda Katz in 1925. They first met in religious school in the first grade at Baltimore’s Temple Oheb Shalom. Like her husband, Mrs. Blaustein was very active in local and national Jewish groups and charities. Jacob and Hilda Blaustein became the parents of three children: Morton (b. 1926), Barbara, and Elizabeth (Betty) (b.1930). It should be noted that Mrs. Blaustein was known for her own activities on behalf of Jewish charities and other philanthropic causes. Hilda Blaustein (b. April 1, 1892) was the daughter of Meier and Sophie Van Leer Katz. She attended Western High School in Baltimore, Smith College (1909-1911) and took additional courses at McCoy College, The Johns Hopkins University. She worked as advertising manager in her father’s business, K. Katz & Sons, 1917-1925. During her marriage to Jacob Blaustein, she listed her profession as "Communal Leader."

At the age of 18, Jacob Blaustein left college at Lehigh to assist his father in founding the American Oil Company (Amoco). Father and son rented a yard on the B & O railroad tracks at what was then Clarkson Street in Baltimore city. On the lot was a little stable that housed the horse (and later other horses) and a small warehouse in which a corner formed the original Blaustein office. The Blaustein business was successful from the start. Their success was later attributed to "a policy of honest values, honestly described, honestly sold."

Jacob Blaustein was eventually drawn into the complex world of government service that included diplomatic negotiation, peacekeeping missions, and the beginnings of the new nation of Israel. On a mission to Germany in 1946 at the invitation of Commanding General Joseph T. McNarney, he made a survey of Displaced Persons Camps. He often quoted his close friend, Dag Hammarskjöld, who believed that "without recognition of Human Rights we shall never have peace." Blaustein was President of the Overseas News Agency and Chairman of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency whose correspondents in Central Europe furnished background information of the anti-Semitic and other minority crimes taking place in the 1930s and 1940s. At the end of the Second World War, he headed the American Jewish Committee Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference where it called for the strengthening of human rights clauses in the treaties and the inclusion of guarantees to aid victims of persecution. In 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Blaustein to the formative meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco. He played an important role in placing the human rights provisions in the UN Charter. When Blaustein returned to Washington after the death of Roosevelt, he reported to the new president, Harry S Truman. It was the beginning of a long association with Truman.

Jacob Blaustein's service on behalf of local and national Jewish charities including the Associated Jewish Charities & Welfare Fund, his service as president of the Louis and Henrietta Blaustein Foundation, and his prominence in the petroleum industry brought him recognition as a leading American-Jewish citizen. In 1949, he was elected President of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The AJC, founded in 1906, was the oldest American organization whose charge was to protect the civil and religious rights of Jews and other minorities and to advance the cause of human rights generally. As president of the AJC (1949-1953) and later honorary president, Blaustein made several missions to Israel (in 1949, 1950, 1958, 1960, and 1961) at the invitation of David Ben-Gurion and later from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (1963, 1966). Blaustein was witness to the very beginnings of the new state of Israel and convinced Ben-Gurion that American Jews had no allegiance except to America. The two men agreed to the basic principles pertaining to the relationship of American Jews to Israel on August 23, 1950. Blaustein's diplomatic skills enabled him to be of assistance to the United States in developing a closer understanding with Israel. Abba S. Eban, Israel Ambassador to the United States, hailed Blaustein as "a foremost interpreter of the concept of American-Israel friendship." Always attuned to American interests, he was attentive to developments in the emergence of Israel’s admission to the United Nations; the Tripartite Agreement between the United States, Great Britain, and France on arms for the Middle East; Export-Import Bank loans to Israel; and the substantial economic grants-in-aid from the United States.

Some of Blaustein's efforts were devoted to securing reparations for the victims of German aggression against Jews and non-Jews during the Second World War. The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, of which Blaustein was Senior Vice President, functioned for fifteen years, 1951-1966. As the monies ($822,000,000) were received from the post-war German Government, agreement was required for the distribution of the funds. Fellowships and grants were given for scholars and rabbis to recount the experiences of Jewish people before, during, and after the war. Other funds were used for re-building institutions for the care and comfort of refugees in European countries. On July 21, 1956, Blaustein presented a statement before the Senate Appropriations Committee on behalf of refugees worldwide. In 1960, he was instrumental in winning from the Krupp armaments makers awards of $1,300 for each slave laborer employed there during the war. During this period, Blaustein had a working relationship and friendship with John J. McCloy, the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, and George McGee, Assistant Secretary of State and later Ambassador to Germany. It is a testament to Blaustein's character and strength that his many missions and attendance at conferences did not prevent his attention to his business interests. He remained in charge of Amoco and at the same time gave his attention to the process of justice for victims of human rights abuse.

Jacob Blaustein had a long record of distinguished service to the United States Government. He was a member of President Truman's National Advisory Board on Mobilization Policy, which met regularly in the Cabinet Room of the White House, often with the President in attendance. During the Second World War, he was Acting Chairman of the Marketing Committee of the U.S. Petroleum Administration for War, and a member of its Supplies and Distribution Committee and its Joint Use of Facilities Committee. He was also a member of the National Petroleum Council, Oil and Gas Division, which served as advisor to the government on petroleum and gas matters of international significance. Blaustein's association with President Harry S Truman was close and friendly. After his many missions abroad, Blaustein reported directly to the president at the White House. A special occasion occurred on September 29, 1945, when President Truman made a personal visit to the Blausteins’ Baltimore home, Alto Dale. Blaustein later served as a trustee of the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

Other presidents after Truman called on Blaustein to give further service to his country. President John F. Kennedy appointed Blaustein to the Board of Governors of the United Service Organizations and to the Advisory Committee on International Business Problems, both positions re-appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson also appointed Blaustein to the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources (COMSER). Blaustein was known to be a generous donor to the Democratic Party, but it was Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower who bypassed partisan politics with an appointment that brought to Blaustein personal satisfaction and the introduction to a special friendship. President Eisenhower appointed Blaustein as delegate to the United Nations' 10th Assembly in 1955 where he formed a personal friendship and a working relationship with Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld. Blaustein was allowed several conferences with Hammarskjöld during which they discussed Israeli/Arab problems and other issues before the Assembly. During the period when the two men enjoyed this close association and shared a common interest in the plight of refugees in the world’s trouble spots, Blaustein traveled to Israel, Iran, Morocco, Africa, Turkey, Greece, and Poland and served as a catalyst between Hammarskjöld and Israel during the Suez situation in 1959. Following his missions abroad, Blaustein also briefed representatives in the State Department and the UN, including Henry Cabot Lodge, Ralph J. Bunche, Andrew Cordier, and George V. Allen. After the untimely death of Hammarskjöld on a mission to the Congo in 1961, Blaustein commissioned the Barbara Hepworth sculpture, Single Form, in honor of Hammarskjöld, to be installed at the UN building. Like his admired friend Hammarskjöld, Blaustein believed that peace and the question of human rights were closely related. In a December 4, 1963 speech (the Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Lecture) given at Columbia University, Blaustein offered the positive proposal that a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights be appointed. This was accomplished 30 years later when the UN adopted resolution 48/141 on December 20, 1993.

Throughout his life, Blaustein was recognized as a key figure in the petroleum industry, but his service to humanitarian and benevolent organizations brought him many tributes. Blaustein served a trustee of the Truman Library, the Touro Synagogue (Newport, RI), the Maryland Academy of Science, and the Dag Hammarskjöld International Foundation. He was member of the boards of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the United Nations Association, the American Heritage Foundation, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Atlantic Council for the United States, and many others. Blaustein was honored with many awards for his services as industrialist, statesman, humanitarian, and philanthropist. In 1951, he was awarded the Richard Gottheil Medal by the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity; in May 1955, he was honored at a luncheon by the Advertising Club of Baltimore; and in June 1956, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by his alma mater, Lehigh University. Blaustein received other awards from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the University of Maryland, the New York Board of Rabbis, the American Jewish Committee, and the distinguished Scopus Award from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Blaustein kept careful control of information written about him. He was not easily given over to self-aggrandizement. He reluctantly granted an interview to Forbes magazine published September 15, 1968 and titled "A Most Unusual Oil Man." The article recounted many of his business and diplomatic accomplishments but was published only after Blaustein reviewed a draft of the piece. In a rare mention of his personal life, Blaustein described the schedule that filled his 16-hour days, his commutes to New York and Chicago for board meetings, and his belief that “work refreshes me.” At age 75 (in 1968) Blaustein had no intention of retiring. He was described as "slender and soft spoken, as a man who dressed as quietly as a bank president, who raised orchids, collected paintings (Gauguin, Derain, Utrillo), and who enjoyed listening to classical music." When the article appeared, Blaustein received an outpouring of positive and congratulatory responses from friends and colleagues worldwide. One poignant letter came from a Russian emigree who at the time was a professor of International Relations at Lehigh. Professor O.M. Smolansky learned from the article that Blaustein had been an opponent of the former Soviet Union’s demands [1945] for repatriation of Soviet citizens, and he credited Blaustein for the opportunity to emigrate to the U.S. In another rare interview, with The Sunday Sun (February 26, 1961), Blaustein described his recreation "as consisting largely in changing from one phase of my work to another."

Jacob Blaustein died in Baltimore, Maryland on November 15, 1970.

Administrative history of the American Oil Company (Amoco)

When Louis and Jacob Blaustein founded Amoco in 1910, ownership of the entire stock issue was in their hands and the operation of the enterprise entirely under their control. The business in its infancy was a jobber distribution to retail users of kerosene or, as it was then called, "coal-oil." With the advent of the automobile and the gasoline-driven internal combustion engine, the product which came into greater use was gasoline. Sensing the future in this field, the Blausteins added gasoline to their sales line, subsequently marketing lubricating oils, greases, and eventually a full line of auto accessories through their increasing American Oil Company retail outlets as automobiles came into greater and more wide-spread use.

The Blausteins developed the original anti-knock unleaded gasoline. The new gasoline sold for five cents a gallon more than regular gasoline and two cents more than competing premiums introduced later. For the protection of their customers they went a step further. The regular gasoline was dyed orange and dubbed “Orange American Gas.” This kept regular from being substituted for their Amoco premium. Louis Blaustein was innovative in his ideas to promote Amoco. Advertising in early 20th century was not the accepted or necessary process that exists today. Louis and Jacob Blaustein set out to put the Amoco name in the public eye. They did it with billboards, road signs, and newspaper advertising. They backed up the promotion with color. The first tank wagon was painted bright green, and the name of the company was white, with the letters trimmed in red. Their use of color to attract the customer’s attention was among the first attempts at color by an oil company.

By 1923 Amoco had expanded its retail marketing territory into several states adjacent to Maryland and was enjoying an ever-increasing volume of annual sales. The company was still a jobber, a large one, and dependent on major companies – principally Standard Oil Company (NJ). Jersey Standard was often accused of employing ruthless tactics, and the Blausteins decided to act to protect their gasoline supply. In 1923, the Blausteins sold a 50% interest in Amoco to the Edward Doheny-controlled fully integrated oil giant, Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company, and acquired a 10-year product-supply contract assuring them of their full needs of gasoline at a favorable price.

At that time, the Doheny interests represented a very major factor in the oil industry. Through Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company and other concerns, Doheny was a major crude oil producer and refiner in the United States, in Mexico, and elsewhere in Latin American. His “business reason” for making the deal with the Blausteins was that the deal assured Pan American for ten years of a solid and growing outlet for its crude production/refinery products.

Sometime in 1929 the Blausteins became aware that Standard Oil (IN), thru “Street Name” purchase of Pan American stock, gradually had been acquiring control of Pan American and with it, the 50% ownership interest in American Oil which Pan Am then held. The Pan Am supply contract was due to expire in 1933. Once again the Blausteins faced the same product-supply problem they thought they had solved in 1923 because they realized that after 1933 Indiana Standard would most certainly cause Pan Am to stop supplying American Oil with crude. Following extensive negotiation, the Blausteins exchanged their remaining 50% stock interest in Amoco for a minority stock interest in Pan Am, and they contained the situation until 1937, when circumstances dictated their resignation from the management position in Amoco (retaining however their Directorships and Executive Committee memberships) and the launching of a legal battle in the courts vs. Pan American/Standard (IN), which lasted for seventeen years until 1954.

Final settlement of differences came in 1954 with an exchange of the Blausteins’ Pan Am stock for that of Standard (IN) – the companies were merged. The Blausteins (including American Trading and Production Corp.) became the large owners (although a small percentage) of Standard (IN), and Jacob Blaustein was elected to the Board of Directors of Standard (IN).

References: American Trading and Production Corporation. Summary of Corporate History, Past and Current Activities, part of Ms. 400.

"From Jobbership to Integration." National Petroleum News. August 25, 1954.

Administrative history of American Trading and Production Corporation (ATAPCO)

ATAPCO as a separate corporate entity was organized on June 23, 1932 under the name American Trading Corporation, its chief purpose being to hold a large portion (but not all) of the Blaustein interest in Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company and to acquire a substantial interest in Crown Central Petroleum Corporation, together with the outside Blaustein holdings of Crown, to constitute a majority. The activities of American Trading from that time to the end of 1935 were confined to the search for other acquisitions and the development of Crown. In January 1936, Colonial Production Company, which had been organized in 1934 to acquire oil royalties in East Texas, merged with American Trading Corporation, changing the name of the new entity to its present trade style: American Trading and Production Corporation.

In May 1938, ATAPCO purchased its first tank vessel, the SS Pennsylvania Sun (renamed American Trader), from the Sun Oil Company and launched the corporation into the tanker business. A Marine Operating Office was opened in NYC, from where all of ATAPCO’s marine operations were conducted.

During WWII the Corporation acted as general agent for the War Shipping Administration, adding fifteen ships under its operation. At the close of the war, the Corporation acquired from the government two tankers of the T-2 class the SS Buena Vista (renamed the SS Baltimore Trader) and the SS Carnifex Ferry (renamed the SS Crown Trade), increasing its owned fleet to three.

In 1944, steps were taken to diversify the company’s business. At that time, consideration was given to entering the field of crude oil and gas production. A field office was opened in Midland, Texas, and a program of lease acquisition, exploration, and well-drilling began. A second field office was opened in Abilene, Texas. The Marine Division and the Oil and Gas Division were the two principal operating-revenue activities of ATAPCO until 1953.

In 1957, steps were taken to move the Corporation on a diversification program into fields of activity not associated with the petroleum industry. Blaustein Industries was formed to include the businesses of real estate and manufacturing.

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the years 1912 to 1970 and contains published material, transcripts of phone conversations, copies of correspondence, news clippings, invitations, legal papers, details of Blaustein’s many business and diplomatic trips, budgets and agendas related to the oil business, minutes of board meetings and philanthropic committees, and data from commissions and agencies. Also in the files are photographs of noted persons, awards, speeches, and a large series (Series 6) detailing the long litigious action between the Blausteins and Standard Oil (IN).

Other Finding Aids

A legacy online finding aid for this collection is available: http://bespoke.mse.jhu.edu/archives/ead.library.jhu.edu_ms400.pdf

Accruals

MS.400 consists of accession numbers: 2003-04.MS.011 and 2008-09.MS.006

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan.

Over 1400 record center boxes were originally received from several storage locations, and the entire collection was reviewed. Wherever possible, the original filing system has been retained. The sequence of numbers or number/letters assigned by Mr. Blaustein’s office staff for Series 1: Special Files, Series 2: Alto Dale Files, and Series 4: Blaustein Building Files has been retained. Assigned subject headings for the files have also been retained. An index maintained by the Blaustein Office Staff is available for Series 1, 2 and 3. Artificial arrangement of some papers was necessary in Series 3: Personal, Series 5: Philanthropy, Series 6: Lawsuit, Series 7: Business, and Series 8: Petroleum Industry for War.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Contact:
The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA