Referred to as the "Old Boyer Firm." Which was a company that had been known for canal towing, and coal barge operations on the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Was reorganized in 1928, as the Interstate Oil Transportation Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 1931, the Interstate Oil Transportation Company was approached by a man by the named Thornton Dayton Hooper. Who, at the time Thornton was supporting a family of five sons. And, had been seeking out new opportunities, at the behest of his wife. After being injured in combat, during World War I. Which required that his foot to be amputated above the ankle. Thornton had been a schooner Captain, that enlisted in the American army during World War I. After the war, Thornton began working for S.C. Loveland Enterprises of Pennsville, New Jersey.
Thornton approached Lewis Boyer of Interstate Oil Transportation Company with an idea to service, and, establish a route on the Cape Fear River. From Wilmington, North Carolina to Fayettville, North Carolina. Although a route from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a to Wilmington, North Carolina had already been established via the Intercoastal Waterway, utilizing coastal tankers. An extension via the Cape Fear River would allow for product to be delivered to the Piedmont Region.
Thornton worked for a year with no salary, his agreement would result in him becoming a partner if the proposal was successful.
The refineries of Philadelphia had been established to handle product that was coming out of Oil City, Pennsylvania. Which was one of the first petroleum wells in world located in Western Pennsylvania. Philadelphia was the largest refining center until the second decade of the twentieth century. As the need for Petroleum products grew. Such as kerosene, heating oil, diesel fuel, lubricants and asphalt. However, the demand for gasoline forced the refineries to seek more crude oil, far beyond the capacity that railroads could provide.
The Interstate Oil Transportation Company began serving this demand, transporting the oil from refineries to points along the Delaware River. That included South Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. The equipment at the time, consisted of wooden scow barges, with steel tanks fitted to their decks. The tugs were powered by coal fired steam engines.
Interstate operated on the routes Thornton established for two years. In 1937, Thornton oversaw the construction of the Interstate 8. A new barge being built for the Interstate Oil Transportation Company by Gulfport Shipbuilding of Port Arthur, Texas. That particular barge remained in service forty five years after her construction.
In 1940, Thornton was brought into partial ownership of Interstate. Several managers at Interstate Oil Transport took portions of the ownership through the 1940's. Thornton Hooper oversaw operations, and participated in ownership. Throughout the 1940's, the Interstate Oil Transportation Company serviced areas along the Delaware River, the local refineries, to terminals in the Schuylkill River. These served as distribution points for heating oil. This service area included Wilmington, Delaware. The second operating area was in the Chesapeake Bay including Yorktown, Virginia; Baltimore, Annapolis; and Easton, Maryland. Service was provided in the Potomac River to Washington, D.C.
By 1977, the Interstate Oil Transportation Company was carrying approximately 230 million barrels per year. As measured in dead weight tonnage, or gross tonnage. The company represented the largest capacity fleet of United States flagged vessels. This marked the beginning of the company's expansion. At the time petroleum barges carried between 16,000(bbls) and 17,000(bbls) of product. That was the upper limitation that was imposed by the New York State Barge Canal.
The Thornton Brothers saw opportunities in moving larger barges with larger tugs. And, in 1960 the decision was made to build a new 40,000(bbl) barge. As the size of Interstate's barges grew, larger tugs where necessary to move the barges.
After Thornton visited Main Iron Works in Houma, Louisiana. The decision was made to construct the new vessels at that yard. The result was the tug Interstate Transporter , the second was the Mariner.
By the end of the construction program. Main Iron Works had constructed a total of thirty-two vessels for the Interstate Oil Transportation Company.
It was found that the tugs Mariner, and Explorer where able to operate in ice bound markets that other tugs where unable to. Other innovations included the first, twelve cylinder, Fairbanks Morse, turbo charged, engine in marine operation that was rated at 3,000 horsepower.
Although it was untested Interstate installed the engine in the tug Mariner. At the time, the largest diesel engines ranged from 1,250 horsepower to 1,600 horsepower. The company added 110 volt, A/C current, to the tug. As well as moving the crew's quarters from the fore peak, to regular quarters on the main deck level. As well as fitting fire monitors on top of the tug's wheelhouses.
The 1960's saw further expansions. By this time IOT began to focus on petroleum transportation in lieu of general towing. The Interstate Oil Transportation Company maintained two fleets. There was the Northeast Fleet, also known as the "Green Fleet." Which operated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And the Southern Fleet, also known as the "White fleet." Which operated out of Tampa, Florida.
During the 1970's the company reached the peak of it's operations. Although key members of management where approaching retirement age, with no family members of age that could assume a position within the company. In 1974, Interstate entered into a merger with Cities Service Tanker Company. Although by 1978, the merger dissolved.
In 1981, Interstate began to establish an arrangement with the Southern National Gas Company of Birmingham, Alabama. Which at the time had changed their name to the Southern Natural Resources Company.
In 1981, the company which was was also known as the SONAT Marine Company. Subsequently acquired the Interstate Oil Transportation Company. The SONAT Company maintained centers in Norfolk, Virginia; Tampa, Florida; Pascagoula, Mississippi; and Port Arthur, Texas.
They served two dozen major ports as well as smaller ports in the Delaware River, Chesapeake Bay and the East Coast from Maine to Georgia, as well as the Florida and the Gulf Coast.
(Ralph W. Hooper, Rodney P. Carlisle, Captain Eric Takakjian)