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date: 17 October 2019

Hess, Leonlocked

(14 March 1914–07 May 1998)
  • Kenneth W. Rose

Extract

Hess, Leon (14 March 1914–07 May 1998), businessman and owner of a football team, was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey, the youngest of four children of Mores Hess, a businessman (his mother's name is not known). Leon attended public schools in Asbury Park. His parents were Jewish immigrant Lithuanians. His father established a coal and fuel oil delivery business. In 1933, unable to afford college, Leon took over his father's fuel delivery business, which was failing. He found success by marketing a substance that other companies considered a waste product: the thick residual oil that remained after lighter products, such as gasoline and kerosene, were distilled. Residual oil quickly hardened in the bottoms of barrels, but it had certain industrial uses and could be burned in some boilers. When the residual oil hardened before he could pump it from his truck on one delivery, Hess used a blowtorch to heat the oil so that it flowed. In this experience Hess recognized a business opportunity. He could buy residual oil at prices cheaper than coal, which was then the dominant fuel, and deliver it to his industrial customers in heated tankers. His customers found residual oil economical because it left almost no ash to be hauled away, thus cutting their costs. As coal customers switched to Hess oil, his business grew. By 1938 the company had grown to twelve trucks and a storage facility....

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