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The Royal Dutch/Shell Group began selling gasoline imported from Sumatra in the United States in 1912, to capitalize on the growth of the country's automobile industry and to compete with the Standard Oil Company. Starting with the formation of the Seattle-based American Gasoline Company, Royal Dutch/Shell Group also founded Roxana Petroleum Company in 1912 in Oklahoma to locate and produce crude oil. This was followed by the opening of refineries in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1916 and in Wood River, Illinois, in 1918.
It soon became clear to Royal Dutch/Shell Group that with so much gasoline already available in nearby California, it was impractical to continue importing the product for sale in the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, it acquired California Oilfields, Ltd. in 1913, which, when coupled with a new refinery built two years later in Martinez, California, gave the company the ability to fully integrate its operations. To reflect this new capability, the name of American Gasoline was changed to Shell Company of California in 1915. At this time, the company designed and built its first gasoline service station. Dubbed 'the crackerbox,' the station was originally constructed of wood. This structure was later replaced by a model made of prefabricated steel that required only a few days to erect.