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SINCLAIR OPALINE – In 1896, twenty-year-old Harry Sinclair of Independence, Kansas, lost the family drugstore in a speculation just as an oil boom was beginning in the area, and turned to selling lumber for oil derricks. On the side he bought and sold oil leases, traveling all over southeast Kansas and northeast Indian Territory by train and buggy. By 1907 Sinclair’s talent for picking successful oil investments made him the richest man in Kansas. In 1916 he borrowed $20 million from New York bankers to buy up undervalued assets in the Midwest, to build new refineries at Kansas City and Chicago connected by a new pipeline, and to combine those enterprises with companies he already controlled. Thus, at age thirty-nine, he established the Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation, one of the ten largest American oil companies. With the rapid rise of the automobile, the conversion of ships and railroads from coal to fuel oil, and the coming of World War I, demand surpassed supply and sales soared.

One of Sinclair’s early acquisitions was the Cudahy Refining Company, which operated chiefly in Kansas. It was the Cudahy sales organization that gave Sinclair the famous Opaline trademark, long known for superior lubricating oils and greases.


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