Last modified: 2010-12-04 by ivan sache
Keywords: desmarais |
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House flag of Desmarais - Image by Ivan Sache, 6 October 2010
Desmarais Frères is considered as the earliest French oil company of significance.
The company, founded in 1861 by Charles (1824-1878) and Henri (1825-1887) Desmarais, was originally involved in plant oil refinery and supply. In 1886, the company created Automobiline, "an homogeneous gasoline for automobiles, small cars and tricycles", sold in 5-L containers, and the Oriflamme extra-white petrol, sold for lighting. The company also manufactured the Notre-Dame-de-l'Océan soap in Le Havre, as well as groundnut and rapeseed oil.
In 1921, the Économique company, founded by the Standard Oil, introduced gasoline pumps in France; the next year, Desmarais set up his own network of pumps for the Automobiline gasoline. Competition with the American companies was harsh; in 1926, there remained only three independent French oil companies, Desmarais Frères, Lille-Bonnières-Colombes and Raffinerie des Pétroles du Nord. Desmarais became the main private shareholder of the state-owned Compagnie Française des Pétroles (CFP), founded in 1924 to organize the French oil market.
In the late 1920s, Desmarais produced the Déesse gasoline, registered in 1932 as Azur; made of alcohol, benzol and gasoline in equal proportions, Azur could be used by nearly all kinds of cars. Azur dominated the gasoline market until the prohibition in the 1950s of ternary mixtures including alcohol. Desmarais was absorbed in 1965 by CFP, subsequently renamed Total, which eventually dropped the Azur brand from its petrol stations in 1970.
Desmarais operated a big fleet of barges and ships named for French rivers (Allier, Cher and Gironde) and regions and colonies (Algérie, Anjou, Annam, Ardennes, Béarn, Berry, Bretagne, Camargue, Catalogne, Champagne, Cochinchine, Flandres, Forez, Orléanais, Picardie, Savoie, Tonkin and Vercors).
Ivan Sache, 6 October 2010
In their book Les navires citernes français : des origines à nos jours (2000), P. Bois and H. Pedersen show the house flag of Desmarais as white with a red ring.
Dominique Cureau, 6 October 2010