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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Harry Ford Sinclair (1876–1956) formed the Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation on May 1, 1916, as a fully integrated company with production, pipeline, refining, and product distribution capabilities. Sinclair, an Independence, Kansas, pharmacist, became engaged in trading oil leases in 1901. His work took him to the newly opened Oklahoma oil fields, which by 1912 had become so busy that he moved to Tulsa to be near the bulk of his holdings. By 1913 Sinclair owned more than sixty oil companies, most of which were in Oklahoma, making him the largest independent oil operator in the Mid-Continent Region. In 1916 he bought the Cudahy Refining Company of Chicago which owned several pipelines and refineries. Utilizing that opportunity, Sinclair moved from Tulsa to New York, secured $50 million in financing, and formed the Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation by combining all his companies into one entity.

Harry Sinclair maintained close personal control of the new firm, which operated through several subsidiaries, including the Sinclair Oil and Gas Company. It remained headquartered in Tulsa to be near its major production areas. The company expanded rapidly by developing holdings throughout the western United States and Latin America until by the 1920s it was the seventh largest oil company in the nation. In 1930 Sinclair adopted Dino the Dinosaur as its official trademark, and the symbol developed into one of the nation's best-known corporate images.

Harry Sinclair stepped down as president of the company in January 1949, and the firm flourished under a more diversified corporate management style. Twenty years later Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) purchased the company, and in 1976 ARCO released portions of it, including the name, to Robert Earl Holding. At the beginning of the twenty-first century still owned by Holding and headquartered at Salt Lake City, Utah, Sinclair operated twenty-six hundred gas stations in twenty-two western and midwestern states and owned three refineries (two in Wyoming and one in Tulsa) and one thousand miles of pipeline. Dino the Dinosaur remained as the central figure of the company's trademark.

Bobby D. Weaver


William L. Connelly, The Oil Business As I Saw It: Half a Century With Sinclair (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954).

Kenny A. Franks, The Oklahoma Petroleum Industry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980).

Sinclair Oil Corporation, A Great Name in Oil: Sinclair Through Fifty Years (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Bobby D. Weaver, “Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=SI007.

Published January 15, 2010

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