The word Shell first appeared in 1891, as the trademark for kerosene shipped to the Far East by Marcus Samuel and Company. This small London business dealt originally in antiques, curios and oriental seashells. These became so popular – the Victorians used them to decorate trinket boxes in particular – that soon they formed the basis of the company’s profitable import and export trade with the Far East.
The word was elevated to corporate status in 1897, when Samuel formed the Shell Transport and Trading Company. The first logo in 1901 was a mussel shell, but by 1904 a scallop shell or pecten emblem had been introduced to give a visual representation of the corporate and brand name.
When the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Shell Transport and Trading merged in 1907, the latter’s brand name and symbol (Shell and the pecten) became the short-form name and emblem of the new Royal Dutch Shell Group. And so it has remained ever since.
The form of the Shell emblem has changed gradually over the years in line with trends in graphic design. The current emblem was introduced in 1971. Thirty years on it stands the test of time as one of the world’s most recognised symbols.