February 23, 1942 – WWII Refinery Attack brings Invasion Hysteria
At 7:15 p.m. on February 23, 1942, Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-17 begins firing shells at the Bankline Oil Company refinery in Ellwood City, California.
Less than three months after the start of World War II, the enemy shelling near Santa Barbara continues for 20 minutes before I-17 escapes into the darkness.
Damage from the submarine’s attack is minimal – but the incident creates invasion hysteria along the West Coast. A record number of UFO sightings will follow in what some newspapers call the “Battle of Los Angeles.”
A 1982 Parade magazine article suggests that Commander Kozo Nishino targeted the Bankline Refinery because of a prewar affront. While serving on an oil tanker docked near the refinery, and being given a courtesy tour of the facilities, the Japanese officer reportedly slipped and fell into a cactus – prompting laughter from his hosts. The Parade article claims the commander got his revenge by shelling the same refinery. Read more in WWII Sub attacks Oilfield.
February 25, 1897 – Sucker Rod Company Owner elected Mayor
Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones, the founder of an early oilfield service company, is elected Mayor of Toledo, Ohio, on a progressive Republican ticket.
Jones, a 40-year veteran of the Pennsylvania oilfields, first earns his nickname in 1894 when he posts the biblical admonition at his newly formed Acme Sucker Rod Company.
Jones will introduce better wages, paid vacations, bonuses – and become an advocate for eight-hour workdays as a means to increase employment opportunities. Jones is elected Toledo’s mayor four times and serves until dying on the job in 1904. Read more in “Golden Rule” Jones of Ohio.
February 25, 1919 – Oregon enacts First Gas Tax
A state taxes gasoline for the first time. Oil is selling for about $2 per barrel when Oregon enacts the one-cent gasoline tax to be used for road construction and maintenance. Less than two months later, Colorado and New Mexico have followed Oregon’s example.
By 1929, every state has added a tax of up to three cents per gallon. Faced with $2.1 billion federal deficit and declining revenue, President Herbert Hoover adds another one-cent per gallon federal excise tax in 1932.
State taxes now vary from less than 10 cents per gallon to about 70 cents. Consumers pay an additional 18.4 cents for a federal excise tax (unchanged since October 1997), which mainly supports a highway trust fund.
February 25, 1926 – Wyatt Earp, Oilman
Former lawman Wyatt Earp’s oil well investment north of Bakersfield, California, pays off with a 150-barrel-a-day producer.
In his later years, long after his famous 1881 gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona, the former lawman has invested in the Kern River and Kern Front oilfields.
At age 75 – as Earp begins focusing on his biography and movie ambitions – he turns management of his oilfield properties over to “Hattie” Lehnhardt, sister to his wife Josie. Disappointing results will later prompt Josie to write a family friend, “I was in hopes they would bring in a two or three hundred barrel well. But I must be satisfied as it could have been a duster, too.”
Read about another famous westerner who explored the oil business in Buffalo Bill Shoshone Oil Company.
February 26, 1866 – Eaton Mining & Gas joins Indiana Gas Boom
Eaton Mining & Gas Company is established in Eaton, Indiana, as rapidly growing natural gas production begins changing the state’s economy.
Recent discoveries in the giant Trenton field spread over 17 Indiana counties – about 5,120 square miles. At the time, it is the largest known natural gas field in the world.
Within three years, Eaton Mining & Gas Company is joined by more than 200 companies drilling for and producing natural gas. Natural gas is so plentiful that customers are charged by the month or year rather than using a meter.
By 1890, more than 100 new industries, including 21 new glass factories, have hired 10,000 workers in what becomes know as Indiana’s “Gas Belt.” To attract businesses, communities erect natural gas flambeaux torches – arches of perforated iron pipe – and let them burn day and night. Read more in Indiana Natural Gas Boom.
February 28, 1935 – Chemist invents Nylon – World’s First Synthetic Fiber
The world’s first synthetic fiber – nylon – is discovered by a former Harvard professor working at a DuPont Corporation research laboratory. The revolutionary polymer fiber comes from chemicals found in petroleum.
Professor Wallace Carothers, after experimenting with artificial materials for more than six years, creates a unique molecule chain. It stretches.
Carothers has previously discovered neoprene rubber (commonly used in wet-suits) and made major contributions to understanding polymers – molecules composed in long chains.
Just 32 years old, Carothers creates fibers when he forms a polymer chain using a process in which individual molecules join together with water as a byproduct. Each molecule consists of 100 or more repeating units of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, strung in a chain.
Although the company patents nylon in 1935, it is not officially announced to the public until 1938 in New York City.
The first commercial use of this revolutionary petroleum product is for toothbrushes. The first nylon-bristle toothbrush goes on sale in February 1938.
“Until now, all good toothbrushes were made with animal bristles,” notes one advertisement. The “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft” company guarantees “no bristle shedding.”
Americans are soon brushing their teeth with nylon fibers instead of hog bristles. But it’s women’s hosiery that will bring a fortune to the Delaware chemical company.
March 1, 1921 – Halliburton patents Cementing Technology
Erle P. Halliburton patents his new oilfield technology – a “Method and Means for Cementing Oil Wells.”
After working in Burkburnett, Texas, Halliburton had moved to the Healdton oilfield near Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he established the New Method Oil Well Cementing Company in 1919.
“It is well known to those skilled in the art of oil well drilling that one of the greatest obstacles to successful development of oil bearing sands has been the encountering of liquid mud water and the like during and after the process of drilling the wells,” Halliburton notes in his 1921 patent application.
His well cementing process isolates the various down-hole zones, guards against collapse of the casing and permits control of the well throughout its producing life. It also helps protect the environment.
The revolutionary patent explains that oil well production, hampered by water intrusion that requires time and expense for pumping out, “has caused the abandonment of many wells which would have developed a profitable output.”
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