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Our history  

Major milestones. Fond memories. And more.

Over a century of quality and innovation

Our story began in 1880 in London, Ontario, when 16 refiners created the Imperial Oil Company. In 1898 Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon Mobil Corporation) acquired a majority interest in Imperial. In the 1900’s, Standard Oil of New Jersey started marketing its products under the brand name ‘Esso’, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the initials ‘S’ and ‘O’ in Standard Oil. Application for the Esso trademark was filed in 1923 and the Esso oval was introduced in the 1930’s as a sign of quality and a symbol of service. Since then the Esso name and oval have been used continuously in Canada and over 50 other countries.

The Esso brand is synonymous with hockey in Canada

Imperial and the Esso brand have been closely linked to Canada’s favourite sport since the 1930’s. Here are just a few highlights.
  • Hockey broadcasts

    In 1936, Esso sponsored the first national radio broadcast of an NHL game. In 1940, Esso sponsored overseas transmissions of hockey games for Canadians serving in WWII. By 1950, three million Canadians were listening to Esso hockey broadcasts each week. In 1952, Esso expanded its sponsorship to include television broadcasts.

  • Medals of Achievement

    In 1981, Imperial introduced the Esso Medals and Certificates of Achievement program for minor hockey leagues throughout Canada. To date, Esso and Hockey Canada have awarded nearly 2 million boys and girls with medals of achievement for being Most Sportsmanlike, Most Dedicated and Most Improved players, and given away 30 million certificates of participation. The program further supports youth hockey by awarding $5,000 grants to six hockey associations every year through the Esso Medals Score Big Contest.

  • Hockey Canada Partnership

    Esso has been a Premier Partner of Hockey Canada for more than 30 years. Working with Hockey Canada, Esso is proud to promote young girls’ and women’s participation in hockey with programs including Esso Fun Days to recruit beginners at no-cost and The Esso Cup, Canada’s National Female Midget Championship. Formerly the Esso Women’s Nationals, the Esso Cup was founded in 2009 and is hosted in a different community every spring. In addition, with the help of fans who use their Hockey Canada-branded price privilege cards, Esso makes an annual contribution to Hockey Canada Foundation.

  • Hockey Hall of Fame

    Esso is a founding sponsor of the Hockey Hall of Fame, which opened in 1993. In 2003, Esso sponsored the Legends of Hockey Tour, a travelling exhibit that gave hockey fans in 38 communities from Ontario to British Columbia the opportunity to view Hockey Hall of Fame memorabilia. In 2004, the Tour visited an additional 25 communities from Quebec to Newfoundland.

Did you know?

The naming of the three stars at the end of NHL games was inspired by Esso 3 Star gasoline in 1936. In 1944, Maurice “Rocket” Richard was the first player to be named all three stars, for scoring five goals for the Montréal Canadiens in a 5-1 playoff victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.


A trip down memory lane

From family road trips to supporting the war effort, Imperial has been fuelling Canadian journeys for more than a century. Here are a few of the more memorable moments we shared along the way.
  • Supporting the war effort

    During World War I, Imperial stations employed female gas attendants. During WWII, Imperial refuelled ships at sea.

  • Innovation takes flight

    During his first solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1928, Charles Lindbergh stopped in Quebec City to refuel with Imperial aviation fuel.

  • Happy motoring

    As early as the 1930’s, ‘motoring’ was becoming ever more popular. In 1935, Imperial produced free road maps for customers and also gave out free colouring books to keep kids entertained on road trips. Today, thousands of Esso customers use our online Fuel Finder to help them on their journeys.

  • Put a tiger in your tank

    The tiger first appeared as a mascot for the Esso brand in Norway around the turn of the 20th century. The tiger surfaced again in the 1950’s, when Esso started using it to represent quality and power. Thanks to the now famous advertising phrase, “Put a tiger in your tank”, the Esso tiger became extremely popular in Canada in the 1960’s and was featured in numerous ads, jingles, and TV commercials. After a 27-year hiatus, the Esso tiger once again earned his stripes in the 1990’s.

Did you know?

As a company with such a close association with the tiger, Imperial, together with our parent company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, was instrumental in establishing the Save The Tiger Fund in 1995. Today, Exxon Mobil Corporation contributes $1 million a year to help conserve Asia's remaining wild tigers.

Famous firsts

Throughout our history, we have been pioneers in products, technology and policies that impact the way Canada and the world uses energy. Here are a few of our more famous firsts.
  • World first service station

    In 1907, Imperial opens the world’s first service station in Vancouver.

  • Self-serve gas stations

    Imperial introduced the first self-serve retail stations to Canada in 1970, in Montreal and Toronto.

  • Unleaded gasoline

    Imperial first introduced low-lead gasolines at its service centres in 1970 and in 1978 became the first company in Canada to offer premium unleaded gasoline. Today, Imperial offers three levels of unleaded gasoline in most Canadian markets and four in the greater Toronto area, all of which meet TOP TIER detergent gasoline standards.

Did you know?

Imperial was the first company to introduce the eight-hour workday in Canada. And we were the second company in Canada to implement the five-day workweek (just two weeks behind Proctor & Gamble). Learn about working with Imperial today.
  • Energy to take you further

    The helpful services of Esso stations and Imperial provide the fuels and expertise to help power customers across Canada.

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  • Investing in the communities we serve

    From wholesale fuels and fuel system management to high quality marine and aviation fuel and more, Imperial can help keep businesses running more efficiently.

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  • Environmental performance

    Read about some of the ways we’re working to improve environmental performance while pursuing reliable and affordable energy that is essential to human progress.

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  • Careers and workforce

    From joining our Canadian head office to being part of our global team, Imperial is a dynamic and exciting place to work.

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