Chevron USA began in San Francisco in 1879 as the Pacific Coast Oil Company. Standard Oil Company (Iowa) acquired the Pacific Coast Oil Company in 1890, and the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) became Pacific’s new owner in 1900.
Change in name
Pacific’s name was changed to Standard Oil Company (California) in 1906. It was then a part of the Standard Oil Trust. The Standard Oil Trust was dissolved by decree of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1911, which is when Standard Oil Company (California) became independent.
The Supreme Court order provided that each of the Standard Oil companies could continue using the Standard name in its home territory. This was desirable as the motoring public knew the gasoline purchased from Standard was high quality. There was much goodwill associated with the Standard name.
Each of the Standard companies had service stations in a different region of the country. Standard Oil Company’s (California) home territory consisted of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.
First credit card issued
Standard Oil Company (California) issued its first credit card in 1924. Only 125 of its best customers got this “special card.” The card was signed by the company’s president and other top executives. A new card was issued to over 1,000 customers in 1925. This card, signed by the division sales manager, bore the customer’s account number, license plate number, name, and address. The card was issued in two versions. One was good for a year, the other was good for one month at a time.
Paper credit card
The company changed its name to Standard Oil Company of California in 1926. During the first decade, paper credit cards were issued in many different sizes, styles and formats. The cards had periods of validity from one month up to one year.
The first Standard Oil Company of California paper credit cards were issued in many different sizes, styles, and formats. During the 1930s, Standard Oil Company of Texas became a subsidiary of Standard Oil Company of California. Similar looking credit cards were issued. Standard Oil Company of Texas cards were issued to customers in West Texas and New Mexico.
Standard Oil Company of California and several other companies, which sold gasoline in different regions of the country, got together and agreed to honor each others’ credit cards. Thus, the first national credit card system was created in July, 1938. The credit card issued then is the first to have exchange companies listed. The credit card is bluish-gray and was valid for a three month period. This type of card was in use until June 30, 1941. Then a slightly different card was issued.
Varying card designs
The new style card had a flap on it which opened to show the area in the first credit cards to have exchange companies listed, on the reverse, were bluish-gray. which the card was valid. Then followed a period of time, during World War II, when credit cards were not issued.
When credit cards were reinstated, the style once again changed. The new card was light tan with a flap. Inside the card was a map of the U.S. which showed where the card could be used. Standard Oil Company of California and Standard Oil Company of Texas issued this card.
With metal plate
Another new type of paper credit card was issued in the late 1940s. It continued being used into the 1950s. It had a colored border and could be opened to see where it was valid. Soon after, a new device was introduced called the Chevronmatic card.
This was a plastic slip case with a small metal plate attached to the back. The metal plate contained the customer’s name and account number. The plate could be used in a machine to imprint its information on a credit card ticket. Up until this time, all invoices had to be handwritten. A paper credit card fits inside the Chevronmatic’s plastic slip case. The paper credit card was valid for a three month period. This method was used until 1956.
With plastic pouch
A new Chevronmatic card was used 1957 through 1960. This again was a two part card. It consisted of a plastic pouch embossed with the customer’s name and account number on the front. The customer would keep the pouch for the entire three year period. Some of the plastic pouches were printed with an oval containing the numbers 10, 15, or 20.
This indicated the number of years a customer had an account with Chevron. In addition to the pouch, the customer was sent a 3×7 inch card which was perforated so the paper credit card could be removed. The credit card would fit inside the back of the plastic pouch. The cards were valid for three months or one year, depending on the customer’s credit. When the old card expired, a new, different color paper card would be issued to replace the one in the pouch.
Expansion to other territories
In the meantime, the company had expanded out of its seven state home territories. Although there were no restrictions in doing this, it wasn’t able to go into other parts of the country using the Standard name. In the states of Colorado, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming and parts of South Dakota its stations were called “California Company.” Later the name was changed to California Oil Company, Western Division (Amoco had the right to use the Standard name in these states). These stations sold Chevron gasoline. The customers received California Company credit cards.
Esso’s Standard territory
Standard Oil Company of California also moved into Esso’s Standard territory (12 east coast states, Maine through Virginia). Stations were opened under the California Oil Company, Eastern Division’s name. The customers in these states received California Oil Company, Eastern Division credit cards. Standard Oil Company of Texas also issued paper cards and plastic pouches in its area.
The first plastic credit card was introduced in 1959. Standard Oil Company of California issued the card in its home state. The first plastic card was coded S213-1 on the reverse. The red, white and blue striped cards were issued in a sequence that ended with S213-19 in 1965. Although a change in code numbers didn’t always indicate a difference in the card, more often than not there was one.
Each time a new batch of cards was manufactured, the S213 number would change. Sometimes there would be a symbol after the number such as a plus, minus or equal sign. This would also indicate a new manufacturing run.
New card with similar design
The California Oil Company, Western Division and Standard Oil Company of
Texas issued credit cards with similar designs. California Oil Company, Eastern Division issued cards of a different design. All of these cards used the S213 codes on the reverse of the card. The Western Division used the letters CW, the Eastern Division used CE and Texas used TX in addition to other letters.
Standard Oil Company (Kentucky) became a division of Standard Oil Company of California in 1961. Shortly thereafter, its credit cards closely resembled the Standard Oil Company of California cards. A new style card was issued by Standard Oil Company of California in 1966. This was a white card with service station attendants servicing a car at a Chevron island. This card started with the code S21.3-20.
A few of the cards were issued by other offices and had a slightly different coding sequence such as S213CW8SL. That stood for Chevron West, Salt Lake offices. This style card was used until 1970. The Chevron name was becoming more familiar to the motoring public. To capitalize on this, the California Oil Company Divisions were consolidated and changed to Chevron Oil Company, Western Division and Chevron Oil Company, Eastern Division. Each division continued to issue its own
Chevron started to expand again, initially into Tennessee and later into North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana. It issued Chevron Oil Company, Southern Division credit cards to customers in those states. Chevron Oil Company, Southern Division issued the attendants servicing the car card. Standard Oil Company of Texas also issued this style card.
Standard Oil Company of Kentucky continued issuing the old style cards. There was another credit card design change beginning in 1971. It ran through 1977. The company continued to promote the Chevron name. White card with a large Chevron logo in the upper left corner was issued.
Again, each division issued a separate credit cards Standard Oil Company of California in its seven state area; Chevron Oil Company, Western Division in the five Rocky Mountain states; Chevron Oil Company, Eastern Division in the Maine through Virginia states; Chevron Oil Company, Southern Division in the four southern states; Standard Oil Company of Texas in its two state area and this time, Standard Oil Company of Kentucky issued its new credit cards in the new style.
The final move to completely change over to the now familiar Chevron trademark occurred on January 1, 1977. That’s when Standard Oil Company of California changed its name to Chevron USA. All domestic divisions changed to this new name. However, because of interchange agreements with other oil companies, it still issued two different credit cards.
An all-white credit card was issued to most customers. A white top/ blue bottom card was issued to east coast and southern customers. A “Time Honored Customer” and a special government card were also issued.
A magnetic stripe was added to the back of all credit cards in 1984. Chevron bought Gulf Oil Corporation and issued a joint Chevron/Gulf credit card in March, 1984. This card was sent to the old Gulf customers in states where Gulf stations were not converted to Chevron stations. Chevron currently has about 18,900 service stations. It markets in 42 states. It has over 15 million current credit cards in circulation – and they are very popular amongst credit card collectors.
Copyright 1988, Arthur Bloch, III