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Because modern motorists seek environmentally friendly but low-cost transportation fuels, today’s abundance of natural gas promises innovation. City buses, taxis and interstate trucks now burn it. But before these new clean-energy transporters, a speedy blue rocket car blazed the trail.

Powered by natural gas, the Blue Flame makes a spectacular debut at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. On October 23, 1970, the rocket-car sets a new world land speed record of 630.388 mph.

Today there are more than 120,000 vehicles on U.S. roads powered by natural gas. Experts say engine design advances promise greater natural gas use for transportation. Historic pursuit of the world land speed record is the heritage of this “fuel of the future.”

The 38-foot Blue Flame’s natural gas-powered rocket motor could produce up to 58,000 horsepower.

Throughout the 20th century, land speed records were set with vehicles powered by steam, electricity, and all manner of petroleum distillates. National pride was often at stake as British, American, French, Belgian, German, and Italian teams fielded competing machines.

The first record was set by a Frenchman in 1898. Count Gaston De Chasseloup-Laubat, driving an electric-powered car, achieved 39.24 mph.

Jet Engines rule World Speed Record

Natural gas industry funding will provide Dick Keller and his team of engineers vital access to research facilities, including a supersonic wind tunnel.

After decades of more traditional internal combustion fueled records, mainly by the British, by the 1960s, American innovation – at Utah’s famed Bonneville’s Salt Flats – took mankind’s need for speed to a new level. Jet engines began pushing the land record to previously unthinkable levels. Read the rest of this entry »


New York chemist Robert Chesebrough will find a way to purify the waxy paraffin-like substance that clogged oil wells in early Pennsylvania petroleum fields.

Few associate 1860s oil wells with women’s smiling faces, but they are fashionably related.

This is the story of how the goop that accumulates around an oil well’s sucker-rod first made its way to the eyelashes of American women.

In 1865, a 22-year-old chemist left the prolific oil fields of Titusville, Pennsylvania, to return to his Brooklyn laboratory and experiment with a waxy substance that clogged well-heads.

Chesebrough experimented by inflicting minor cuts and burns on himself, then applying his purified petroleum jelly. By 1915, thrifty young ladies were using Vaseline to make mascara. Cosmetic industry giant Maybeline today can trace its roots to the petroleum product.

Chesebrough experimented by inflicting minor cuts and burns on himself, then applying his purified petroleum jelly. By 1915, thrifty young ladies were using Vaseline to make mascara. Cosmetic industry giant Maybelline today can trace its roots to the petroleum product.

Within a few years Robert Augustus Chesebrough would patent a method that turned the paraffin-like goop into a balm he called “petroleum jelly.”

In 1872, he patented his new product as “Vaseline.”

Even before America’s first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania, Chesebrough was in the “coal oil” business in Brooklyn, New York. His expertise was in the reduction of cannel coal into kerosene – a much in demand illuminant.

Chesebrough knew of the process for refining oil into kerosene, so when Edwin L. Drake’s August 27, 1859, discovery launched the American petroleum industry, he was one of many who rushed to the Titusville oil fields to make his fortune.

Scientific American reported, “Now commenced a scene of excitement beyond description. The Drake Well was immediately thronged with visitors arriving from the surrounding country, and within two or three weeks thousands began to pour in from the neighboring States.” Read the rest of this entry »


Veteran oilman George W. Strake Sr. made a major discovery eight miles southeast of Conroe, Texas, in December 1931. His wildcat well would prove historic in many ways.

Although the Conroe well’s producing sands proved to be dangerously gas-charged, shallow and unstable, the giant oil field – the third largest in the United States at the time - soon had 60 successful wells producing more than 65,000 of barrels of oil a day. The region north of Houston boomed as the Great Depression worsened.

Disaster came in January 1933 when one of the wells blew out and erupted into flame. The runaway well cratered – completely swallowing nearby drilling rigs. Read the rest of this entry »

Latest Updates at News

Oklahoma Historical Society Annual Meeting

“Music and Folklore from the Oklahoma Oil Patch” is among the planned sessions when members of the Oklahoma Historical Society gather April 18-20, 2012, in Miami, Oklahoma.

Opened in 1929 as a vaudeville theatre and movie palace, the “Coleman Theatre Beautiful” of Miami, Oklahoma, has never been “dark” since. It will host Oklahoma Historical Society members in April.

Educational sessions and evening events will take place at the elegant Coleman Theatre, according to Annual Meeting Committee Chair Leonard Logan.

“The theme of the annual meeting this year is Crossroads of Creativity: The Impact of Oklahoma on Popular Culture,” Logan explains. “Festivities will begin Wednesday evening with a Coffeehouse Concert at the Coleman Theatre featuring Mason Williams and a host of outstanding musicians who were prominent in the folk music scene as experienced in coffeehouses in Oklahoma and throughout the nation in the 1950s.”

Program sessions on Thursday, April 19, and Friday, April 20, will feature presentations on topics such as “The Image of American Indians in Movies and Popular Culture, Images of Oklahoma in Popular Culture, The Coffeehouse Era in Oklahoma, Impact of Oklahomans on Images of the American West, Music Festivals and Circuses in Rural Oklahoma, Oklahoma’s  Contributions to Jazz and Blues, Oklahoma Authors and Cartoonists  - and Music and Folklore from the Oklahoma Oil Patch. Read the rest of this entry »