The History of McColl Frontenac &  Red Indian

The History of McColl Frontenac & Red Indian

Posted by Lance Skoreyko on 2018 Oct 19th

The company had its origins at the beginning of Canada’s oil history in the Ontario oil fields of Oil Springs and Petrolia where it started as McColl and Anderson in 1873. That was when Jon B. McColl and William Anderson formed a partnership to go into the lubricating oil business in Toronto. The company name was changed in 1876 to McColl Brothers and Company and the McColl family continued to operate under this name until the end of the first world war.

The McColl Brothers and Company primarily provided oils, greases, paints and varnishes to the railways presently under construction. As the Grand Trunk, Michigan Centre and later the Canadian Pacific, moved westward, McColl built plants at Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary and Vancouver as well as to the east at Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Realizing the potential of the fast growing gasoline market, the company reorganized and re-capitalized and in 1916, began importing gasoline from the United States to supply to motorists through its marketing network.

On December 12, 1918, the old McColl Brothers and Company partnership of John W. McColl was converted into a private limited liability company under Dominion charter effective January 1, 1919. The company’s new name was McColl Brothers Ltd.

In the early 1920's the company’s gasoline marketing business was confined to Ontario and Quebec. In 1925, a new refinery was built in Toronto which started operations on August 1, and by 1927, had expanded gasoline sales to Winnipeg. Lubricants were marketed across Canada under the brand name “Red Indian.”

Early in 1927, the Montreal financial house of Nesbitt, Thompson and Company purchased all the outstanding stocks of McColl Brothers, and in late 1927, merged the company with Frontenac Oil Refineries of Montreal, a company they also owned which had emerged from the bankrupt Nation’s Oil Refineries. The company’s newly acquired Nation’s Oil Refineries of Montreal was the second largest in Quebec, and crude oil was supplied from Trinidad through a wholly-owned subsidiary Antilles Petroleum Company. In 1929, the company purchased perfection Petroleum company of Toronto.

During the depression and because of stiff competition in Quebec from B-A and Shell, the company began to struggle, and in 1936, the predatory Texas Corporation of the United States secretly began buying up shares of McColl Frontenac. By 1938, the company owned enough shares to muscles out the McColl Frontenac board of directors and set up its own slate of directors.

Through this new board of directors, the Texas Corporation purchased the Texas Company of Canada, a company which had been marketing in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. At this same time the company purchased the Empire Oil Company of Winnipeg. The company furthered its position in British Columbia by buying, in 1940, the majority interest in BC. Fuel Co. Ltd. had changed its name to McColl Frontenac Oil Co. (BC) Ltd.

McColl Frontenac marketed gasoline and other products across Canada through some 4,000 retail outlets of which 85% were owned by others. In 1941, “Sky Chief” was the first Texaco brand name introduced and gradually the “Red Indian” and other McColl Frontenac brands were replaced by those of Texaco.

In 1957, McColl Frontenac sold its Antilles Petroleum Co. to the Texas Corporation for $11 million and at the same time, purchased a refinery in Toronto from Regent Refining in exchange for a block of shares worth some $15 million. Since Texaco had previously purchased Trinidad Laeseholds Ltd., the parent company of Regent Refining, it received most of the shares issued by McColl Frontenac for the Toronto refinery, further increasing its own partnership of McColl Frontenac.

In 1959, McColl Frontenac changed its name to Texaco Canada Limited.