May 26, 1891 – Patent will lead to Crayola Crayons
Petroleum products like carbon-black and paraffin will lead to Crayola crayons in 1903.
Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith receive an patent for an “Apparatus for the Manufacture of Carbon Black.”
Their 1891 refining process produces a fine, soot-like substance intensely black – a better pigment than any other in use at the time.
The booming Pennsylvania oil industry supplies the feedstock for the Easton-based Binney & Smith Company’s carbon black – which wins a quality award at the 1900 Paris Exposition.
Binney & Smith mixes carbon black with oilfield paraffin to introduce a black crayon marker. It is promoted as being able to “stay on all” and accordingly named “Staonal,” which is still sold.
Today known as Crayola, Binney & Smith will produce its first box of eight crayons in 1903 – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown…and black. Read Carbon Black and Oilfield Crayons.
May 26, 1934 – Diesel-Electric Power sets Train Speed Record
During its “dawn to dusk” record-breaking run, the Zephyr burned only $16.72 worth of diesel fuel.
A new diesel-electric “streamliner,” the Burlington Zephyr, pulls into Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition after a nonstop 13 hour “dawn to dusk” run from Denver – cutting traditional steam locomotive time by half.
Powered by one eight-cylinder diesel engine, the passenger train has traveled 1,015 miles. On its record-breaking run, Zephyr burns just $16.72 worth of diesel fuel. The same distance for a coal-burning train would cost $255.
It has been just 60 years since steam locomotives and the transcontinental railroad have linked America’s coasts. Read more in Adding Wings to the Iron Horse.
May 27, 1933 – Giant Green Sinclair Dinosaur debuts in Chicago
Refurbished for the road, Sinclair’s iconic 70-foot “Dino” traveled more 10,000 miles through 25 states and 38 major cities after the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.
“Dino” will become an icon of successful marketing. It again draws crowds at the 1936 Texas Centennial and the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
The Sinclair Oil Corporation trademark Brontosaurus (now known as Apatosaurus) debuts at Chicago’s Century of Progress International Exposition in 1933.
This giant, soon known as “Dino,” and his prehistoric dinosaur companions are favorites with thousands of world’s fair visitors.
Sinclair’s exhibit draws crowds again at the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition and the 1939 New York World’s Fair as Dino becomes a marketing icon.
Refurbished, the 70-foot-long fiberglass green giant and his eight companions – including a 45-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex - will return for another New York World’s Fair in 1964-1965.
Today, the Independence, Kansas, Historical Museum and Art Center exhibits Sinclair Oil’s Mid-Continent production and refining heritage. A nearby park includes one of the original dinosaurs. Read Dinosaur Fever — Sinclair’s Icon.
May 28, 1923 – “Well of the Century” taps Permian Basin in West Texas
In 1958, the University of Texas moved the Santa Rita No. 1 well’s walking beam and other equipment to the Austin campus, where it stands today. The student newspaper once described the well “as one that made the difference between pine-shack classrooms and modern buildings.”
It takes 646 days of difficult cable-tool drilling before U.S. petroleum history is made in West Texas On May 28, 1923.
Near Big Lake, on the surrounding arid land once thought to be worthless, the Santa Rita No. 1 well strikes oil, discovers an oilfield – and reveals the vast Permian Basin.
Until now, experts have considered West Texas barren of oil.
Discovered after 21 months of drilling that averaged less than five feet a day, the Santa Rita – named for the patron saint of the impossible - will produce for seven decades.
Within three years of the discovery by Texon Oil and Land Company, petroleum royalties endow the University of Texas with $4 million. In 1999, Santa Rita No. 1 is named “Oil Well of the Century” by Texas Monthly. Read more in Santa Rita taps Permian Basin.
May 29, 1940 – Nebraska’s First Oil Well
Nebraska’s oil production, which began in 1940 in its most southeastern county, was more than 2.51 million barrels of oil in 2012, according to the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
After more than a half century of dry holes, Nebraska’s first commercial oil well is completed in 1940 near Falls City in the southeastern corner of the state.
Eager to become an oil-producing state, the legislature has offered a $15,000 bonus for the first well to produce 50 barrels daily for two months.
Drilled by by Pawnee Royalty Company, the Bucholz No. 1 discovery well produces an average of more than 169 barrels a day in its first 60 days. Richardson County enjoys an oil boom. The well is about five miles east of a “vein of petroleum” first reported in 1883.
Today’s Nebraska petroleum production is largely in the southwestern panhandle – where a discovery well came in for 225 barrels of oil per day in 1949. Read more in First Nebraska Oil Well.
May 30, 1911 – First Indianapolis 500 Winner drives Alone
All of the cars except the winner had a mechanic to manually pump oil.
The first Indianapolis 500 begins with a 40-car field; only a dozen will finish the 1911 test of automotive technology. The winner averages almost 75 mph.
All the cars – except the No. 32 Marmon Wasp – have two seats. Drivers travel with “riding mechanics,” who manually pump oil.
Created to showcase the new sport of automobile racing, early races emphasize engine endurance. Ray Harroun, driver of the winning Marmon Wasp, later develops a kerosene carburetor.
“Let the fuel people fight it out amongst themselves, I’ll have a car soon that will burn anything they send,” he declares. Of the 4,200 automobiles sold in America just a decade before the first Indy 500, gasoline powered less than 1,000. Learn more at Cantankerous Combustion – 1st U.S. Auto Show.
Read about a record setting, natural gas fueled motor in The Blue Flame – Natural Gas Rocket Car.
May 30, 1987 – Million Barrel Museum Opens in West Texas
The West Texas community of Monahans boasts of an oil museum like no other.
The Million Barrel Museum opens in 1987 on a 14.5-acre site in Monahans, Texas. The museum’s main attraction is a large elliptical oil storage tank built in 1928 to store Permian Basin oil.
The experimental concrete tank – 522 feet by 426 feet – is designed to hold more than a million barrels of oil. The highly productive West Texas region lacks oil pipelines.
The tank’s 30 foot earthen walls slope at a 45 degree angle and are covered in concrete. It includes a roof made of California redwood.
Unfortunately, repeated efforts cannot stop oil from leaking at seams. Shell eventually abandons the giant structure, which will be patched and briefly become a water park in the 1950s - until it leaks again.
With the help of local teachers and historians, construction of the Million Barrel Museum began in 1986 – as part of the Ward County sesquicentennial. Read Million Barrel Museum of Monahans.
June 1, 1860 – First U.S. Petroleum Book published in Pennsylvania
Reprinted in 2006, “Rock Oil” is available from the Oil Region Alliance in Oil City, Pennsylvania.
Less than a year after Edwin Drake’s historic discovery of oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania, Thomas Gale publishes an 80-page pamphlet many regard as the first book about petroleum.
The 1860 Rock Oil, The Wonder of the Nineteenth Century in Pennsylvania and Elsewhere describes the new, revolutionary fuel source for illumination.
“Those who have not seen it burn, may rest assured its light is no moonshine; but something nearer the clear, strong, brilliant light of day,” Gale writes. “In other words, rock oil emits a dainty light; the brightest and yet the cheapest in the world; a light fit for Kings and Royalists, and not unsuitable for Republicans and Democrats.”
In 1952, the Ethyl Corporation of New York republishes the book, noting “this first book about petroleum following the Drake well was written to satisfy public desire for more information about rock oil, its origin, geology, production, costs, uses, history, prospects; invaluable eyewitness descriptions of early oil wells.”
June 1, 1909 – Howard Hughes Sr. tests Twin-Cone Drill Bit
Howard Hughes Sr. introduced the twin-cone roller bit in 1909.
Drilling near Goose Creek, Texas, a crew of workers watch as Hughes demonstrates his new creation – a dual-cone roller rock bit that will ultimately allow oilmen around the world to tap into previously unreachable oil reserves.
“In the early morning hours of June 1, 1909, Howard Hughes Sr. packed a secret invention into the trunk of his car and drove off into the Texas plains,” notes Gwen Wright of the PBS program History Detectives. The drilling site was near Galveston Bay.
The bit used in rotary drilling at the time, called a fishtail, was “nearly worthless when it hit hard rock.”
The innovation of the Hughes dual-cone bit changed everything – and created many Texas millionaires, explains Don Clutterbuck, one of the PBS show’s sources.
“When the Hughes twin-cones hit hard rock, they kept turning, their dozens (166 on each cone) of sharp teeth grinding through the hard stone,” Clutterbuck says. Howard Hughes filed his drill bit invention with the U.S. Patent Office in 1908 and on August 10, 1909, is granted patent number 930,759.
Read more in Making Hole – Drilling Technology.
June 1, 1940 – Dallas Artist exhibits West Texas Oil Patch
Artist Jerry Bywaters exhibits his newly completed Oil Field Girls in the Fine Arts Palace of San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exposition. His 1940 image of two young women framed in a West Texas oilfield becomes one of Bywaters’ best known works.
Dallas artist Jerry Bywaters painted Oil Field Girls in 1940 for the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition. He titled its companion piece Oil Rig Workers (Roughnecks).
Almost 70 artists, including famed Mexican painter Diego Rivera, participate in the International Exposition’s Art in Action exhibition. Oil Field Girls will move on to the Dallas Museum of Art and eventually into the collection of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas.
“A canny mixture of reportage and editorial commentary, Oil Field Girls is a history painting that captures a surprisingly humane narrative of a specific time and place,” notes the museum. The oil-on-board painting’s companion piece, Oil Rig Workers (Roughnecks), also painted in 1940, is in a private collection.
Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.