The founder of the company that would later become Sunoco, Joseph Newton Pew was born in 1848 on a farm in Mercer Pa. That farm was said to be a station on the Underground Railway. The youngest of ten children, Joseph Newton excelled in school and at eighteen was asked to teach at a one-room school house. One of his exceptional students was Isaac Ketler, who went on to found Grove City College. In 1870, Pew opened a real estate business and moved to the bustling town of Titusville, where oil had been discovered a decade earlier. In 1881 he developed the Keystone Gas Company which used the byproducts of oil, such as natural gas to produce heat and light. During this time he and his wife Mary began to raise a family and pass along those values that they believed were essential to leading a productive and faithful life. In 1895 Pew became the president of Grove City College which began his generous support of the College.
A gusher in Spindletop Texas led Joseph Newton Pew to send his nephew to the new Texas oil fields to explore the feasibility of acquiring leases. He entered into a partnership with United Gas Improvement Company to build a refinery along the Delaware River. He purchased a site at Marcus Hook, Pa. The first ocean-borne shipment of Texas crude arrived in Marcus Hook in 1902 on a converted Great Lakes ore carrier.
Upon the death of Joseph Newton Pew in 1912, the family selected J. Howard Pew to succeed his father as president of Sun Oil Company, a position he would hold for 35 years. During that period, Sun Oil expanded into shipbuilding, supporting American forces throughout two world wars, and building national and international enterprises. J. Howard Pew served as Grove City College president from 1931 until his death in 1971.
J. Howard Pew and his brother Joseph N. Pew were instrumental in the expansion and success of Sun Oil. Known for their commitment to employees, the Pews never laid off a Sun Oil employee during the Great Depression and also developed one of the first stock-sharing plans for employees. J. Howard Pew was known for his personal interest in his thousands of employees and often made the rounds to check with workers on all levels.
In 1916 they founded Sun Shipbuilding which would become the largest private shipyard and biggest producers of oil tankers in America. During World War II the company delivered 41-million barrels of aviation gasoline for Allied planes.
In 1948, The Pew Charitable Trusts was founded to serve the public interest and it became one of the nation’s wealthiest foundations. The first grant was given to education to Cornell University. In 1951, the foundation began an effort to assist traditionally black colleges.
The J. Howard Pew Freedom Trust was created to “acquaint the American people with the evils of bureaucracy and the values of a free market and to inform our people of the struggle, persecution, hardship, sacrifice and death by which freedom of the individual was won.”
Today, Sunoco is one of the largest gasoline distribution companies in the United States, with over 4,700 outlets. Sunoco is a Fortune 100 Company. Sunoco is the only major gasoline retailer to sell four grades of gasoline, due to its proprietary pumps which blend regular with Ultra93 to obtain the mid-grade products. The company has been converting Maryland and Virginia Mobil stations to the Sunoco brand, also bringing the A-Plus convenience store name with them.
In 2004, Sunoco was chosen as the official fuel of NASCAR. In addition Sunoco has deals as the gasoline suppler at the travel plazas along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, New Jersey Turnpike, Atlantic City Expressway, Palisades Parkway, Delaware Turnpike, and New York State Thruway. In 2012 Sunoco signed new contracts to operate plazas on the Garden State Parkway and the Ohio Turnpike.
Among oil corporations, Sunoco is listed as the most environmentally responsible in the latest version of the Sierras Club’s Updated Environmentalist’s Guide to Gasoline. This harkens back to some of the values that founder Joseph Newton Pew believed were essential to leading a productive and faithful life.