What trends occurred at the Port in the early part of the 20th century
and how did they affect the use of these facilities?
Imports and Exports of Oil
Click on the image to view a larger map
Within the first decade of the 20th century, oil companies realized the need for
port facilities able to handle the increasing quantities of oil and refined petroleum
products leaving the Los Angeles area for the east coast and other world destinations.
In 1909, the Union Oil Company authorized the financing of the Outer Harbor and
Dock and Wharf Company. Union Oil helped organize the Outer Harbor in order to
create a terminal at San Pedro Harbor to accommodate the larger and heavier ocean-going
steamers operating at the time. In addition to the terminal facility, the new
company also provided other improvements such as new sea walls, wharves, and industrial
Aerial view of berths north of Turning
During the early 1920s, petroleum product shipping and manufacturing became
a dominant industry at the Port of Los Angeles, partly because the Port lowered
wharfage rates to encourage oil trade. Exports of oil from the Port of Los Angeles
made it the largest oil port in the world at the time. In 1925, the value of oil
refinery products was twice as much as California's second-largest branch of manufacturing,
the canning and preserving of fruits and vegetables.
View of 'Dilworth' at Berth 173
Several larger regional producers, particularly Standard Oil of California
(now Chevron) and Union Oil (now Unocal), dominated the early oil industry at
the Port. The smaller, independent producers operating transshipment terminals
included California Petroleum, Julian Oil (later Sunset Oil), Hancock Oil, General
Petroleum, Pan-American Oil (later Richfield Oil), and Associated Oil. Two of
the larger out-of-state producers with a presence in the region included The Texas
Company and Shell Oil.
Aerial of Berths 171-173
Following the increased production in the Los Angeles Basin in the 1920s,
many of the major oil companies drafted plans to improve their storage facilities
in the southern region of the state. Due to the growing rate of production, new
storage facilities usually had to be expanded or constructed after a year or two.
Many oil companies produced new terminals to counteract the storage problem, some
costing as much as $1,000,000.