I have been trying to track my great grandfather's life as detailed as possible. In doing so, I came across two nearly identical entries for him in the Polk's Worcester City Directories, one from 1939, the other from 1941. The 1939 entry looks like this:

The 1941 entry looks like this:

I have looked on the Internet for what this abbreviation means, but I have had no luck. I read about one person theorizing that it is some sort of automotive service center, but I doubt this given my great grandfather's profession (pipe fitter). I am guessing SVO Co was some sort of construction or manufacturing company that was around in Worcester around 1940, but I cannot find anything to corroborate this.

My question is two-fold. First, what does "SVO Co" stand for? And, I'll save everyone the time of looking for the abbreviations in the reference. This is the abbreviations page from the 1939 directory:

And here is the 1941 abbreviations list:

The second part to my question is only if you are unable to find out what the abbreviation means. So, if you cannot find the full name, could you possibly point me to some resources that I could look over to find the answer? Thanks for the help, all.

  • Oddly enough, I saw this post just before I was planning to go to the hardware store now located at this address :)
    – chepner
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 14:46

3 Answers 3


You found your ancestors in a city directory, and city directories usually have business information in them; in fact, sometimes they only have business information and not residential.

In Ancestry, pulling up the 1939 Polk's City Directory for Worcester, Massachusetts, we can head for the S pages and look for SVO. However, we do not find one, so we need to get creative.

Realize that "SVO Co." could be something like "Smith-Valentine Oil Co." where it would be filed under the Ss, or it could be something like "O'Connor, Samuel Vincent Co." where it would be filed under the Os.

One cheat is that often larger companies purchased a directory entry in boldface with a slightly larger font. In Ancestry, you can see these in the filmstrip view:

filmstrip view of directory page

Skipping through the S section of the 1939 directory, we eventually find the Socony-Vacuum Oil Co Inc with district sales manager Frank J Lawless.

Socony-Vacuum Oil Co Inc

To confirm that this is the correct company, we go to the L pages and look up Frank J Lawless. We find that he is listed as "dist mgr SVO Co" so this is the right company:

Frank J Lawless SVO Co

  • 1
    You're dead on. I just posted my own answer before reading yours, but you are correct, according to his WWII draft registration card, he worked for Socony Vacuum Oil Company. I did try what you suggested, but after about 50 pages I was hoping someone else had a better idea. Again, thank you. Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 20:42
  • 2
    And of general interest: Socony-Vacuum later changed their name to "Mobil".
    – hobbs
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 2:40
  • 1
    @hobbs Say, that one sounds familiar. ;)
    – shoover
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 2:47

Another directory, this one for Waltham Ma., has an entry which may explain (all emphasis mine):

SVO Corp Socony Vacuum Oil Corp

This was one of the big oil companies of the time:

Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of New York (Socony) merged in 1931, after the government gave up attempts to prevent it. The newly-combined entity, Socony-Vacuum Corp, was the world's third-largest oil company.[3]

  • 1
    I was going to say that it's sorry to hear that the 3rd largest company in their field is totally forgotten now. But then I read the Wikipedia history, and they eventually became Mobil Oil. So the company is still well known (now part of Exxon-Mobil), but the original name has been forgotten.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 15:26

So, I appreciate everyone's help, but I found the answer in my great grandpa's second registration for the draft for both World Wars. He volunteered for WWI, but he was 45 at the time of the WWII draft. He never served in the second WW. Anyways, here's the picture that will clear everything up:

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