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Vessels In China
To supply and draw on this network of storage tanks, Standard Oil launched its own fleet and constructed its own
canneries. From the United States, it exported kerosene to China in large steel tank steamers capable of docking
in coastal and riverine deep-water ports. To reach tanks in less accessible Chinese cities, it transferred the ke-
rosene onto its own low-draft steamers, iron and wooden barges, railway tank cars, and motor tank trucks. Of all
these vehicles, perhaps the most famous were its riverine vessels, which numbered in the hundreds--several
times more than those of the leading Chinese shipping firm, China Merchants' Steam and Navigation Com-
Like Standard Oil itself, these ships had Chinese names that began with the Chinese character for "beautiful"
(mei), which can also mean "American": the Meifu, Mei'an, and Meiping on the lower reaches of the Yangzi
River; the Meichuan, Meitan, Meixia, and Meilu on the Chuan River in the Upper Yangzi region; the Meiyun
and Meiying on smaller waterways. From the tanks, Standard Oil's canneries in China drew kerosene that was
poured into five-gallon cans and then packed into wooden cases, two cans per case. To reach cities lacking
canneries, Standard Oil loaded cases onto ships, junks, sampans, pack animals, and other forms of conveyan-
With the benefit of this logistical infrastructure, Standard Oil gained access to all parts of China. To manage
distribution wherever its tanks were located, it recruited Western--mainly American--sales representatives.