March 11, 1829 – Kentucky Salt Driller strikes “Great American Well”
Boring for salt brine with a simple spring-pole device on a farm near Burkesville, Kentucky, Martin Beatty finds an oilfield at just 171 feet deep.
For his March 1829 oil gusher – decades before petroleum is searched for in northwestern Pennsylvania – Beatty drills his Cumberland County well with a spring pole made from a strong sapling.
“The salt borers were greatly disappointed,” adds an 1847 account of the discovery.
“The well was neglected for several years, until it was discovered that the oil possessed valuable medicinal qualities. It has been bottled up in large quantities and is extensively sold in nearly all the states.”
The “Great American Well” reportedly produced 50,000 barrels of oil that “ended up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Samuel Kier either sold it as medicine or refined it into lamp oil.”
Records “documenting the first commercially operated oil well in the United States” are preserved at the University of Kentucky. Edwin L. Drake is credited with launching the American petroleum industry in August 1859 at Titusville, Pennsylvania.
Learn more in “Kentucky’s Great American Well.”
March 12, 1912 – Oklahoma’s King of the Wildcatters
Thomas “Dry Hole” Slick brings in the Wheeler No. 1 well about 12 miles east of Cushing, Oklahoma – the discovery well for the prolific Drumright-Cushing oilfield.
The well produces for the next 35 years. At its peak, the oilfield will produce 330,000 barrels of oil a day. Knowing that oilmen and speculators will descend on Cushing when the word gets out, Slick posts guards at his well.
After his success in Cushing, Slick begins an incredible 18-year streak of drilling successful wells. By 1930 in the Oklahoma City field alone, he drills 45 wells with the capacity to produce 200,000 barrels of oil daily.
Today, more than 470,400 oil and natural gas wells have been drilled since Oklahoma’s first well near Bartlesville on April 15, 1879. Slick is among those honored at the Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
Read more about Tom Slick in Oklahoma’s King of the Wildcatters.
March 12, 1943 – WW II Secret Mission sends U.S. Roughnecks to England
A top-secret team of 42 American drillers, derrickmen, roustabouts, and motormen board the troopship HMS Queen Elizabeth. Their mission is to drill oil wells in England and help relieve the crisis caused by German submarines sinking Allied tankers.
Four rotary drilling rigs are shipped separately – with one of the ships going down from a submarine attack. With the future of Great Britain depending on petroleum supplies, the oilmen use innovative methods to drill an average of one well per week. Read the little-known story of the Roughnecks of Sherwood Forest.
March 12, 1968 – Prudhoe Bay Discovery Well
Two hundred and fifty miles north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oilfield is discovered by Atlantic Richfield and Exxon.
Production of about 1.5 million barrels per day from the 25-billion-barrel oilfield will not begin until June 20, 1977, when the 789-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline is completed.
For more than three decades Alaskan North Slope oilfields produces about 20 percent of the domestic oil used in the United States. At more than 213,000 acres, the Prudhoe Bay field remains the largest oilfield in North America, surpassing the 140,000 acre East Texas oilfield discovered in 1930.
March 13, 1974 – OPEC ends Oil Embargo
A five-month oil embargo against the United States is lifted by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel formed in 1960.
The embargo – imposed in response to America supplying the Israeli military during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War – is lifted after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiates an Israeli troop withdrawal from parts of the Sinai.
The crisis created gasoline shortages. President Richard Nixon proposed and Congress approved voluntary rationing – and a ban of gasoline sales on Sundays.
March 14, 1909 – California’s Lake View Gusher sets Record
The Lake View well near Maricopa in California’s Midway-Sunset oilfield blows in at dawn — and flows until September 1911.
“The San Joaquin Valley has had many gushers, starting with the Shamrock gusher in 1896 and continuing with the spectacular Midway Gusher in 1909,” notes The Lakeview Gusher by San Joaquin Geology Service.
“But none of these wells came close to rivaling the Lakeview No. 1 which flowed, uncapped and untamed, at 18,000 barrels a day for 18 months in 1910 and 1911,” the geologists note.
Oil flows from the well as and hundreds of men work night and day to control it. The Lakeview No. 1 discovery, which becomes America’s most famous gusher, is brought under control in October 1910 by a massive embankment built around the well.
“When this embankment reached a height of twenty feet, it created an oil pool over the crater that was deep enough to reduce the oil flow from a rushing column to a gurgling spout,” the Geology Service explains. The famous well dies out when the bottom of the crater collapses in September 1911.
Although Lakeview No. 1 produces 9.4 million barrels during the 544 days it flowed, more than half evaporates or seeps back into the ground. Invention of the blowout preventer in 1922 will greatly reduce catastrophic oilfield gushers.
See the article, Ending Oil Gushers – BOP.
March 15, 1946 – TIPRO founded
The Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) is founded “to preserve the ability to explore and produce oil and natural gas and to promote the general welfare of its members.”
March 16, 1911 – A High-Flying Petroleum Trademark
Once among the most recognized corporate symbols in American history, the Pegasus logo is trademarked by Vacuum Oil Company.
The winged-horse icon begins its journey when a Vacuum Oil subsidiary receives the 1911 trademark in Cape Town, South Africa.
Based in Rochester, New York, Vacuum Oil has built a successful petroleum lubricants business around an 1869 refining patent long before gasoline is a branded product. The company produces the earliest petroleum-based lubricants for horse-drawn carriages and steam engines.
Although a stylized red gargoyle advertises the company’s products in the early 20th century, the Pegasus trademark will prove to be a far more enduring image. In Greek mythology, Pegasus – a winged horse – carried thunderbolts for Zeus.
By 1931 automobile demand has expanded the Vacuum Oil product lineup to include Pegasus Spirits and Mobilgas – later simplified to Mobil. When Standard Oil of New York and Vacuum Oil merge, the new company adopts the trademark, as does an affiliate, Magnolia Petroleum.
In 1934, a neon Pegasus begins rotating atop Magnolia’s Dallas, Texas, headquarters. The 35-foot by 40-foot sign welcomes members of the American Petroleum Institute to their first convention in Dallas.
Read more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.
March 16, 1914 – “Main Street” Oil Well completed
“The World’s Only Main Street Well” is completed at a depth of 1,1771 feet in Barnsdall, Oklahoma. Ripley’s Believe It or Not will designate Barnsdall well the world’s only oil well in the middle of a town’s Main Street. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
Located in Osage County and originally named Bigheart, for the Osage Chief James Bigheart, Barnsdall is renamed in 1922 for Theodore Newton Barnsdall, owner of Barnsdall Oil Company, who discovered a nearby oilfield in 1916.
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