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April 14, 1865 – Failed Oilman turns Assassin

John Wilkes Booth’s dreams of Pennsylvania oil wealth ended in July 1864.

After failing as an oilman in the booming Pennsylvania oilfields, John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Just one year earlier Booth left the stage to drill an oil well in Venango County.

In January 1864, Booth made the first of several trips to Franklin, Pennsylvania, where he purchased a 3.5-acre lease on the Fuller farm. Maps of the day show the three-acre strip of land on the farm, about one mile south of Franklin and on the east side of the Allegheny River.

Booth’s “Dramatic Oil Company” Wilhelmina No. 1 well will find oil – but the bore hole collapses when he and his partners try to increase production using dynamite.

As a partner’s son recalled, “the well was ‘shot’ with explosives to increase production. Instead of accomplishing that, the blast utterly ruined the hole and the well.”

Read more in The Dramatic Oil Company.

April 14, 1922 – Two Texans patent Blowout Preventer

James Abercrombie and Harry Cameron invent the hydraulic ram-type blowout preventer – ending many dangerous and wasteful oil gushers.

Seeking to end dangerous and wasteful oil gushers, James Abercrombie and Harry Cameron file a patent for a hydraulic ram-type blowout preventer on April 14, 1922.

Oil and natural gas companies embrace the new technology.

The revolutionary concept uses rams – hydrostatic pistons – to close on the drill stem and form a seal against the well pressure.

“Once nearly a victim of a disastrous blowout himself, Abercrombie had taken his idea for a ram-type preventer to Cameron’s machine shop in Humble, Texas, where they worked out the details, starting with a sketch on the sawdust floor,” notes the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

In 2003 the society recognized the invention as an “Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.”

Abercrombie had started in the oilfields as a roustabout in 1908 and by 1920 owned several rigs in south Texas. He met Harry Cameron in a machine shop, and the two soon became friends and business partners.

Cameron and Abercrombie worked out their invention’s details using simple, rugged parts. When installed on a wellhead, the rams could be closed off, allowing full control of pressure during drilling and production. Their 1922 blowout preventer – BOP – can withstand pressures of up to 3,000 psi – an industry record at the time.

Read more in Ending Oil Gushers – BOP.

April 15, 1897 – Birth of the Oklahoma Petroleum Industry

A re-enactment of the moment that changed Oklahoma history highlighted the 2008 dedication of the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 replica derrick in Bartlesville’s Discovery 1 Park.

A large crowd gathers at the Cudahy Oil Company’s Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well near Bartlesville, in the Indian Territory that will become Oklahoma.

On April 15, 1897, independent oilman George Keeler’s stepdaughter drops a “go devil” down the well bore to set off a waiting canister of nitroglycerin – producing a gusher that heralds the beginning of Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry.

As the discovery well for the giant Bartlesville-Dewey Field, the Nellie Johnstone No.1 ushers in the oil era for Oklahoma Territory. By the time of statehood in 1907, Oklahoma will lead the world in oil production.

In the ten years following the Nellie Johnstone discovery, Bartlesville’s population grew from 200 to over 4,000 while Oklahoma’s oil production grew from 1,000 barrels to over 43 million barrels annually.

Today, a 184-foot derrick and education center, renovated in 2008, tells the story in Bartlesville’s Discovery 1 Park.

Read more about the Sooner State’s first commercial oil well in Discovering Oklahoma Oil.

April 16, 1855 – Pennsylvania Rock Oil promises “Very Valuable Products”

A report about oil’s potential as an illuminant will lead to the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company discovering America’s first commercial well.

A report from Yale chemist Benjamin Silliman Jr. says Pennsylvania “rock oil” can be distilled into a high-quality illuminating oil.

The New Haven, Connecticut, professor’s “Report on Rock Oil or Petroleum” of April 16, 1855, is an analysis of samples from Cherrytree Township, Venango County.

“Gentlemen,” Silliman writes to his clients – soon to be oilmen – “it appears to me that there is much ground for encouragement in the belief that your company have in their possession a raw material from which, by simple and not expensive processes, they may manufacture very valuable products.”

According to Daniel Yergin’s The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power , Silliman’s report banishes any doubt about the potential new uses for “rock oil” and is a turning point in establishing the modern petroleum industry.

Silliman’s conclusions attract investors to George Bissell and a fledgling Pennsylvania Rock Oil CompanyFour years later, Edwin L. Drake will reward investors with the first U.S. commercial oil well near Titusville. Refineries will begin producing a new, highly sought product – Kerosene.

See Birth of the U.S. Petroleum Industry.

April 18, 1939 – Patent issued for Gun Perforator

“A device for perforating casing after it has been installed in a well” is designed by Ira J. McCullough of Los Angeles. His April 18, 1939, invention fires downhole projectiles to increase a well’s production.

McCullough receives two patents for his multiple bullet-shot casing perforator and mechanical firing system. The innovations, a technology that simultaneously fires charges at several depths, improves well production.

“It is the object of my invention to provide a device for perforating a well after the casing has been installed in the well in which there is plurality of projectiles, each of which is adapted to be propelled by the burning of a separate charge of powder,” McCullough reports.

Learn more about perforating wells in Downhole Bazooka.

April 19, 1892 – First U.S. Gasoline Powered Auto

Gasoline engines will take time to catch on with consumers.

American inventors Charles and Frank Duryea on April 19, 1892, test drive a gasoline powered automobile built in their Springfield, Massachusetts, workshop.

Considered the first automobile regularly made for sale in the United States, the model will be produced – a total of 13 – by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. Other manufacturers quickly follow the Duryea example.

In March 1896, the Duryea brothers will offer the first commercial automobile – the Duryea motor wagon. It is reported two months later that in New York City a motorist driving a Duryea hits a bicyclist. This is recorded as the nation’s first automobile traffic accident.

By the time of America’s first national automobile show in November 1900 at Madison Square Garden, of the 4,200 automobiles sold in the United States, gasoline powers less than 1,000. The most popular vehicles are powered by electricity, steam and gasoline…in that order.

See “Cantankerous Combustion.”

April 20, 1875 – New Technology links Well Pumping

Oilfield technology advances in 1875 with this “Improvement In Means For Pumping Wells.”

Pumping multiple wells with a single steam engine boosts efficiency in early oilfields when Albert Nickerson and Levi Streeter of Pennsylvania, patent their “Improvement In Means For Pumping Wells” on April 20, 1875.

The new technology uses a system of linked and balanced walking beams to pump the oil wells.

The use of wooden or iron rods instead of rope and pulleys will make their system the forerunner of rod-line (or jerk line) systems that will operate well into the 20th century and remain icons of early oilfield production.

Read more in All Pumped Up.

April 20, 1893 – Discovery of the Los Angeles Oilfield brings Economic Boom

Downtown L.A. well sites highlight field trips organized by the Center for Land Use Interpretation: “Urban Crude: The Oil Fields of the Los Angeles Basin.”

The giant Los Angeles oilfield is discovered when a struggling prospector, Edward L. Doheny, and his mining partner Charles A. Canfield drill into the tar seeps between Beverly Boulevard and Colton Avenue.

The April 20, 1893, discovery well – near present-day Dodger Stadium – sets off California’s first oil boom by producing about 45 barrels a day.

Within two years, 80 wells are producing oil and by 1897 more than 500 wells are pumping.

“Everyone thinks of Los Angeles as the ultimate car city, but the city’s relationship with petroleum products is far more significant than just consumption.”

By 1895, Los Angeles City field produces about 750,000 barrels, over half of the 1.2 million barrels produced in the entire state of California. In 1925, California supplied half of the world’s oil.

More than nine billion barrels of oil have been produced in the Los Angeles area. There are still more than 30,000 active wells pumping around 230 million barrels of oil a year, making Los Angeles County the second most productive oil county in California (Kern County is number one).

“Los Angeles is located directly above huge oil reserves and is home to a lucrative and active oil industry, an industry that prefers to remain largely hidden and unknown,” notes an article from the Center for Land Use Interpretation.

Learn more in Discovering the Los Angeles Oilfield.

April 20, 2010 – Deepwater Horizon Accident creates Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

The National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling will issue its report in 2011.

In September 2009, the Deepwater Horizon had drilled the deepest well in history at 35,050 feet vertical depth in 4,130 feet of water.

At a new site at about 10 p.m. on April 20, 2010, an explosion occurs aboard the Gulf of Mexico drilling rig, which is completing a well in almost 6,000 feet of water 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Of the 126 men and women on board, 11 are killed and 17 injured. Destroyed by the explosion and fire, the semi-submersible rig sinks.

Uncontrolled oil production from the destroyed BP well causes a massive oil spill until capped in mid-July. Among others, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (known as the Minerals Management Service until June 2010) and the U.S. Coast Guard will investigate.

A detailed report on the accident is issued in January 2011 by National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


April 7, 1902 – Texas Company founded as Spindletop Booms

A circa 1930s Texaco station is among the indoor exhibits featured at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.

A circa 1930s Texaco station is among the indoor exhibits featured at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.

According to one business historian, the most significant company started during the Spindletop oil boom was the Texas Company.

On April 7, 1902, Joseph “Buckskin Joe” Cullinan and Arnold Schlaet form the company in Beaumont to transport and refine oil from the booming oilfield. They build a kerosene refinery in Port Arthur.

A 1903 discovery – the Fee No. 3 well at nearby Sour Lake Springs – will flow at 5,000 barrels a day. It launches the company’s success in exploration and production operations.

The telegraph address of the Texas Company’s New York office is “Texaco” – a name soon applied to its products. By 1928 the company has more than 4,000 gasoline stations in 48 states.

The Texas Company officially renames itself Texaco Inc. in 1959.

Read more in Sour Lake produces Texaco.

April 7, 1966 – Offshore Cold War

Today primarily used by the offshore petroleum industry, America’s first cable-controlled underwater research vehicle (CURV) attaches cables to recover a nuclear bomb lost in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 1966.

The Navy’s CURV (Cable-Controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicle) recovers a lost nuclear bomb from the Mediterranean in 1966 near Palomares, Spain.

The 70-kiloton bomb, lost when a U.S. Air Force B-52 crashed off the coast of Spain in January, is safely hoisted from a depth of 2,850 feet.

“It was located and fished up by the most fabulous array of underwater machines ever assembled,” reports Popular Science. 

CURV was designed in 1961 to retrieve Navy torpedoes from beyond depths of  250 feet – the limit to which hard-hat divers of the day could descend. During the Cold War, the Navy has developed deep-sea technologies that the offshore petroleum industry will adopt.

See Swimming Socket Wrenches.

The first successfully use of an early tethered robot took place in 1962 at a well off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.

Read more in Deep Sea Roughnecks.

April 9, 1914 – Ohio Cities Gas Company

In Columbus, Ohio, Beman Dawes and Fletcher Heath form the Ohio Cities Gas Company on April 9, 1914. The company acquires Pennsylvania-based Pure Oil Company in 1917 and adopts the “Pure” name three years later.

Pure Oil becomes one of the 100 largest industrial corporations in the United States by 1965, when it is purchased by Union Oil Company of California, now a division of Chevron Corporation.

April 10, 1866 – Densmore Brothers patent First Railroad Oil Tank Car

Brothers Amos and James Densmore designed and built the first successful railroad tank cars used in the Pennsylvania oilfields in 1865.

Brothers Amos and James Densmore designed and built the first successful railroad tank cars used in the Pennsylvania oilfields in 1865.

Railroad oil tank cars become an oilfield innovation when James and Amos Densmore of Meadville, Pennsylvania, are granted a patent on April 10, 1866, for their “Improved Car for Transporting Petroleum,” which they developed a year earlier in the booming oil region.

The Densmore Tank Car will revolutionize the bulk transportation of crude oil to market. Hundreds of tank cars were in use by 1866.

Using an Atlantic & Great Western Railroad flatcar, the brothers secured the large wooden tanks in order to ship oil in bulk  - “instead of in barrels, casks, or other vessels or packages, as is now universally done on railway cars.”

Their patent illustrates a simple but sturdy design for two wooden tanks on a typical railroad car.

These early oil-tank cars will be gradually be replaced by the more familiar horizontal types beginning in 1868. The Densmore brothers will leave the oil patch – and become leaders in development of the typewriter.

In 1875, Amos will assist Christopher Sholes to rearrange the “type writing machine” keyboard so that commonly used letters no longer collide and get stuck.

The “QWERTY” arrangement improves the 1868 invention. James Densmore’s oilfield financial success will lead to creation of the Densmore Typewriter Company.

Read Densmore Brothers Oil Tank Car.

April 11, 1957 – Oklahoma Independent Producer William G. Skelly dies

A Skelly service station is preserved at an indoor exhibit in Science City at Union Station, a Kansas City, Missouri, museum that opened in 1940.

William Grove Skelly, founder of Skelly Oil Company, and one of Oklahoma’s great oilmen, dies in Tulsa at the age of 78 on April 11, 1957.

Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on June 10, 1878, Skelly began his petroleum career as a 15-year-old, $2.50-a-day tool dresser (tool dressers sharpened cable-tool bits among other duties on the floor of wooden derricks).

“Oil booms in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois made Skelly decide that it was time for him to become an independent producer,” explains historian Ken Anderson.

“He sought backing for money to buy leases and to drill for oil, and later moved southwest,” adds Anderson. “He first went to Texas but found a greener pasture in the El Dorado Field in Kansas, which had opened in 1916.”

Skelly incorporates Skelly Oil in Tulsa in 1919 and becomes one of the strongest independent oil companies – helping make that small town the “Oil Capital of the World,” Anderson notes in an article for the Oklahoma Historical Society.

“Over the years Skelly became the champion and leader of numerous civic, educational, and charitable causes in Tulsa. He spent many hours in Washington, D.C., and in Oklahoma City representing the petroleum industry,” Anderson concludes.

Skelly served as president of the International Petroleum Exposition from 1925 until his death, and in 1928 he founded Tulsa’s Spartan School of Aeronautics.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


April 1, 1911 – First Discovery for “Pump Jack Capital of Texas”

The April 1, 1911, well brought prosperity to Electra, Texas, where citizens celebrated the discovery’s centennial.

Just south of the Red River border with Oklahoma, near Electra, Texas, the Clayco Oil & Pipe Line Company’s Clayco No. 1 well launches an oil boom that lasts for decades.

“As news of the gusher spread through town, people thought it was an April Fools joke and didn’t take it seriously until they saw for themselves the plume of black oil spewing high into the sky,” notes one Electra historian. “That day secured Electra’s place in the history books as being one of the most significant oil discoveries in the nation.”

The oil well on cattleman William T. Waggoner’s lease settled into production of about 650 barrels per day from 1,628 feet. Hundreds of producing wells will follow, reaching the oilfield’s peak production of more than eight million barrels in 1913.

Thanks to dedicated community activists, Texas legislators designated Electra as the “Pump Jack Capital” of Texas in 2001. Restoration of the historic Grand Theatre – built in 1919 – is underway as a citywide project.

In 2011, the Electra Clayco No. 1 centennial celebration included a parade and  re-dedication ceremony of the well’s historic marker. Read more in Pump Jack Capital of Texas.

April 1, 1986 – Oil Price hits Modern Low

World oil prices fall below $10 a barrel – a modern low for the petroleum industry.

Causes include excessive OPEC production, worldwide recession (increasing supplies with declining demand) and a U.S. petroleum industry heavily regulated by production or price controls. The record peak will be $145 per barrel in July 2008 – before a price collapse to below $32 by the end of the year.

Prices had ranged between $2.50 and $3.00 from 1948 through the end of the 1960s. From the mid-1980s to September 2003, the inflation adjusted price of a barrel of oil on NYMEX was under $25 a barrel, according to Wikipedia. Oil first reached $100 per barrel in November 2007.

April 2, 1980 – President Carter signs Windfall Profit Tax

One year after lifting price controls on oil, President Jimmy Carter signs the  Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax (WPT) into law. The controversial WPT imposes an excise tax on oil production.

President Jimmy Carter signs into law the Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax.

“From 1980 to 1988, the nation levied a special tax on domestic oil production,” explains historian Joseph Thorndike. Policymakers, “imposed an excise levy on domestic oil production, taxing the difference between the market price of oil and a predetermined base price.”

The base price is derived from 1979 oil prices and requires annual adjustments for inflation. A remnant of President Richard Nixon’s general wage and price freeze of 1971 –  WPT is meant to limit increases in oil prices.

However, “the windfall profits tax has nothing to do, in fact, with profits,” observed the Washington Post in 1979. “It is an excise tax – that is, a tax on each barrel of oil produced.”

After eight years of the tax, domestic oil production falls to its lowest level in 20 years – increasing U.S. reliance on foreign oil. In August 1988, Congress decides to repeal the tax. “Few mourned its passing,” says Thorndike.

April 4, 1951 – Williston Basin Well

On the Clarence Iverson farm, near Tioga, North Dakota, the Amerada Petroleum Corporation brings in the discovery well for the Williston Basin, which stretches from North and South Dakota into Canada.

Earlier, almost two dozen previous exploratory wells had been expensive dry holes.

Although the company’s 1951 wildcat drilling attempt was earlier regarded with great skepticism, about 30 million acres are under lease just two months after the historic discovery, North Dakota’s first major find. By 2008, the Williston Basin (475 miles long and 300 miles wide) will have produced more than five billion barrels of oil.

A 1951 well in North Dakota discovers the Williston Basin, an area that includes South Dakota, Montana and two Canadian provinces. Experts predict up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil to be found in the Bakken Shale.

Snowstorms originally delayed drilling on Iverson’s farm, notes historian James Key.

Drilling resumed from 10, 500 feet on April 4, 1951, and at about 9:30 p.m., “a new industry was born in North Dakota,” Key declares.

“This was the first major discovery in a new geologic basin since before World War II,” explains Key, adding that although the Williston Basin is named after Williston, North Dakota, it was first exposed in 1912.

The first producing oil well in the Bakken Shale will be drilled within five miles of the Clarence Iverson No. 1 well. Production comes mainly from a few vertical wells – until the 1980s when horizontal technology became available.

“Only recently after the intensive application of horizontal wells combined with hydraulic fracturing technology did production really take off,” notes a 2008 article in the Oil Drum.

Occupying about 200,000 square miles within the Williston Basin, the oil shale of the Bakken formation may be the largest domestic oil resource since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, according to some experts.

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated 3 billion barrels to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in the U.S. portion of the Bakken, elevating it to a “world-class” formation.

Read more in First North Dakota Oil Well.

April 5, 1860 – Early Oil Well predicts Pennsylvania Prosperity

Discoveries near the Allegheny River and Oil Creek will establish America’s earliest petroleum companies.

Inspired by Edwin Drake’s 1859 success at Titusville, Pennsylvania, a newly formed company strikes oil near the Allegheny River at Oil City.

Five partners (William Phillips, William Frew, Charles Lockhart, John Vanausdall and A. V. Kipp) have formed one of America’s first petroleum companies – as “oil fever” attracts thousands of investors to Venango County.

After drilling more than twice as deep as Drake’s well – considered the first U.S. commercial well – their attempt produces oil from 197 feet.

The well, named Albion, produces 42 barrels in its first day, worth $882 (more than $21,000 in 2010 dollars). Within the month, the Phillips, Frew & Company’s first shipment of 60 barrels heads downriver on barges for the waiting Pittsburgh market – and kerosene refineries.

April 5, 1976 – President Ford opens Development of Naval Petroleum Reserves

The OPEC oil embargo began in October 1973.

President Gerald R. Ford signs the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act of 1976, which authorizes commercial development of the nation’s three Naval Petroleum Reserves to create a “strategic petroleum reserve.”

The legislation, an effort for “regaining energy independence for the United States,” is a result of the oil shortages created by the OPEC oil embargo of 1973-74. “The naval petroleum reserves had special importance when they were established over 50 years ago to guarantee an adequate supply of oil for the U.S. Navy,” notes President Ford.

“Today, the reserves have even greater importance to the whole nation because they can help reduce our dependence on imported oil and help stem the outflow of American dollars and jobs,” he adds.

When in full production, the three naval petroleum reserves in California and Wyoming provide more than 300,000 barrels of oil per day. The Elk Hills field will produce its one billionth barrel of oil in 1992, becoming only the thirteenth oilfield in the nation’s history to reach that milestone.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


March 24, 1989 – Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Field studies continue to examine the Exxon supertanker’s disastrous grounding on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989.

After nearly a dozen years of daily tanker passages through Prince William Sound, Alaska, the 987-foot-long Exxon Valdez runs aground on Bligh Reef.

Eight of the super-tanker’s 11 oil cargo tanks are punctured. An estimated 260,000 barrels of oil are spilled, affecting hundreds of miles of coastline.

“The vessel came to rest facing roughly southwest, perched across its middle on a pinnacle of Bligh Reef,” notes a report by the Alaska Oil Spill Commission.

“Computations aboard the Exxon Valdez showed that 5.8 million gallons had gushed out of the tanker in the first three and a quarter hours,” the report explains.

Tankers carrying North Slope crude oil had safely transited Prince William Sound more than 8,700 times during the previous 12 years. Weather conditions – 33 degrees with a light rain – and the remote location will add to the disaster, adds the Oil Commission. The spill occurs at 12:04 a.m. local time.

Exxon will launch a massive cleanup effort that includes more than 11,000 Alaskan residents and Exxon and contractor personnel. Read more in Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

March 26, 1930 – “Wild Mary Sudik” makes Worldwide Headlines

What will become one of Oklahoma’s most famous wells strikes a high-pressure formation about 6,500 feet beneath Oklahoma City – and oil erupts skyward. The Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company’s Mary Sudik No. 1 well will flow for 11 days before being brought under control.

The well, which produces 20,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, becomes a worldwide sensation known as “Wild Mary Sudik.”

Newsreel photographers will send film of the “Wild Mary Sudik” well to Hollywood, according to the Oklahoma History Center. Within a week, newsreels appear in theaters around the country. When the Mary Sudik is brought under control, crews will recover 200,000 barrels of oil from pits and ponds.

The giant discovery is featured in newsreels and on radio, according to an audio program of the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. The program’s narrator notes that after drilling to 6,471 feet, the roughnecks overlook a dangerous pressure increase in the well.

“The exhausted crew failed to fill the hole with mud,” he explains. “They didn’t know the Wilcox sand formation was permeated with natural gas under high pressure, and within minutes that sand under so much pressure found a release.”

On April 6, Floyd Gibbons of NBC Radio – who broadcast regular reports about the well – announces that after two unsuccessful attempts, the well is closed with a two-ton “overshot” cap.

With the well was brought under control, drilling continued in Oklahoma City. But the prolific, high-pressure of the Wilcox sands formation continues to challenge drillers and the technologies of the day. Read more in World Famous “Wild Mary Sudik.

March 27, 1855 – Canadian Chemist invents Kerosene

Abraham Gesner

Canadian chemist Abraham Gesner patents a process to distill bituminous shale and cannel coal into kerosene.

“I have invented and discovered a new and useful manufacture or composition of matter, being a new liquid hydrocarbon, which I denominate Kerosene,” he proclaims in his patent. Because his new lighting fluid was extracted from coal, consumers called it “coal oil” as often as they called it kerosene.

When it is found that kerosene can also be distilled from crude oil, it becomes America’s principle source of illumination until commercial electricity arrives.

March 27, 1975 – Work begins on Alaskan Pipeline

The Alaskan Pipeline system’s 420-miles above ground segments are built in a zig-zag configuration to allow for expansion or contraction of the pipe.

Construction begins on the largest private construction project in American history – the 789-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline system.

Oil from the Prudhoe Bay field will begin flowing to the ice-free port of Valdez at four miles an hour through the 48-inch-wide pipe in June 1977.

Above-ground sections of the pipeline (420 miles) are built in a zigzag configuration to allow for expansion or contraction of the pipe because of temperature changes.

The design also allows for pipeline movement caused by an earthquake.

Specially designed vertical supports were placed in drilled holes or driven into the ground, according to Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

Anchor structures, 700 to 1,800 feet apart, hold the pipe in position. In warm permafrost and other areas where heat might cause undesirable thawing, the supports contain two each, two-inch pipes called “heat pipes.”

By 2009, the pipeline – which cost $8 billion to construct, including terminal and pump stations – will have carried almost 16 billion barrels of oil. Read about other historic pipelines in WW II Big Inch and Little Big Inch Pipelines.

March 28, 1886 – Indiana Natural Gas Boom Begins

A natural gas boom comes to Portland, Indiana, when the Eureka Gas and Oil Company finds gas at 700 feet. For a time, the state becomes the world’s leading natural gas producer.

“Flambeaux” street lighting promotes natural gas use for industry. An economic boom came to central Indiana thanks to a discovery at 700 feet in the Trenton limestone formation.

By April 1887, five miles of pipe supplies natural gas to offices, residences – and 50 large torches or “flambeaux” for street lighting.

The “Trenton Field” as it would become known, spread over 17 Indiana counties and 5,120 square miles. It was the largest natural gas field known in the world. Within three years, more than 200 companies were drilling, distributing, and selling natural gas.

Indiana is among the earliest states to legislate conservation when in 1891 it passes an act forbidding the burning of natural gas in the wasteful flambeaux lights.

Read more in Indiana Natural Gas Boom.

March 28, 1905 – Caddo-Pine Oil Discovery

The Offenhauser No. 1 discovery well for the giant Caddo-Pine Island oilfield in Louisiana comes in at a depth of 1,556 feet – after drilling through a productive natural gas zone.

Although the well yields only five barrels a day and is soon plugged and abandoned, more wells follow and the northern Louisiana oilfield is soon prolific.

To prevent the loss of natural gas through venting, Louisiana passes its first conservation law in 1906. By 1918, annual production from the Caddo-Pine Island oilfield reaches 11 million barrels.

Learn more by visiting the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum in Oil City.

March 29, 1819 – Birthday of Father of the Petroleum Industry

Today is the birthday of Edwin Laurentine Drake (1819-1880), who will become the “father of the petroleum industry” when he drills America’s first commercial oil well in 1859 near Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Edwin L. Drake used a steam engine and cable-tool drilling rig to drill his famous well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. He also invented a method of driving a pipe down to protect the integrity of the well bore.

Born in Greenville, New York, Drake will overcome many financial and technical obstacles to make his historic discovery.

Drake also will pioneer new drilling technologies, including using iron casing to isolate his well bore from nearby Oil Creek. Seeking oil for the Seneca Oil Company for refining into a new product (kerosene) his shallow well creates an industry.

“In order to overcome the hurdles before him, he invented a ‘drive pipe’ or ‘conductor,’ an invention he unfortunately did not patent,” reports Pennsylvania State University’s Urja Davé in her 2008 Edwin Drake and the Oil Well Drill Pipe.

The article quotes a story in The Daily Picayune (New Orleans), which reported that “Mr. Drake conceived the idea of driving a pipe down to the rock through which to start the drill.”

On Saturday afternoon on August 27, 1859, at a depth of 69.5 feet, the drill bit had dropped into a crevice, notes one Drake expert. Late the following afternoon the oilman’s driller, “Uncle Billy” Smith, visited the site “and noticed a very dark liquid floating on top of the water in the hole.”

“Drake’s Folly,” as it was known to the local population, was not such a folly after all. So began the modern petroleum industry.

Edwin Drake, who died on November 9, 1880, is buried in Titusville’s Woodlawn Cemetery, where a monument – including a bronze statue – is dedicated on October 4, 1901. The monument is refurbished and rededicated in 2011.

“Drake is known as the ‘father of the petroleum industry’ because the technology he devised revolutionized how crude oil was produced and launched the large-scale petroleum industry,” explains William Brice, Ph.D., author of the 2009 book Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry.

“Even though the use of petroleum dates back to the first human civilizations, the events of that Saturday afternoon along the banks of Oil Creek near Titusville, Pennsylvania, provided the spark that propelled the petroleum industry toward the future,” explains Brice.

Drake will die in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on November 9, 1880. He is buried in Titusville’s Woodlawn Cemetery, where a monument – including a bronze statue “The Driller” by Charles Henry Niehaus – is dedicated on October 4, 1901.

The original tools that Drake used can be found at the Drake Well Museum in Titusville. Visitors can see a replica of the oilman’s derrick and 1859 engine house. Also available is a DVD of the museum’s three orientation films: “Born in Freedom: The Story of Colonel Drake” – produced by the American Petroleum Institute in 1954 and starring Vincent Price, “Oil! The Power of Pennsylvania Petroleum” and “Pithole USA.” Read more in Birth of the U.S. Petroleum Industry.

March 29, 1938 – Magnolia Oilfield Discovery in Arkansas

A museum one mile south of the oil town of Smackover.

“Kerlyn Wildcat Strike In Southern Arkansas is Sensation of the Oil Country,” notes an Arkansas newspaper headline as the Barnett No. 1 well opens the 100-million-barrel Magnolia oilfield.

Drilling had been suspended by the Kerlyn Oil Company (predecessor to the Kerr-McGee company) because of a recession and lack of backers, but company vice president and geologist Dean McGee persevered. He was rewarded with the giant Arkansas discovery at 7,646 feet.

Visit the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.


March 17, 1890 – Birth of Sun Oil Company of Ohio

Discoveries in the 1890s will create the Sun Oil Company.

The Peoples Natural Gas Company, founded four years earlier by Joseph Newton Pew and Edward Emerson to provide natural gas to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, expands to become the Sun Oil Company of Ohio.

The company acquires promising leases near Findlay and enters the business of “producing petroleum, rock and carbon oil; transporting and storing same; refining, purifying, manufacturing such oil and its various products.”

In 1920, Sun opens its first service station in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and then another in Toledo, Ohio. The name changes to Sun Oil Company in 1922 “to better identify the company with its business.”

March 17, 1923 – Wewoka Well leads to Greater Seminole Field

The Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole includes a diorama, maintained by volunteers, of communities that became boom towns in the 1930s. The Greater Seminole Area includes seven of Oklahoma’s 20 “giant” oilfields — Earlsboro, St. Louis, Seminole, Bowlegs, Little River, Allen, and Seminole City.

The Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole includes a diorama, maintained by volunteers, of communities that became boom towns in the 1930s. The Greater Seminole Area includes seven of Oklahoma’s 20 “giant” oilfields — Earlsboro, St. Louis, Seminole, Bowlegs, Little River, Allen, and Seminole City.

The Betsy Foster No. 1 well, a 2,800-barrel-a-day gusher near Wewoka, the county seat of Seminole County, Oklahoma, will lead to the Seminole Boom.

The discovery is followed by others in nearby Cromwell, Bethel (1924), Earlsboro and Seminole (1926) and other small towns south of Oklahoma City, notes the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Thirty-nine separate oilfields are ultimately developed within a region centering on Seminole but also including parts of Pottawatomie, Okfuskee, Hughes, and Pontotoc counties.

When over production drives oil prices to as low as 17 cents a barrel, operators meet to discuss voluntary proration, well spacing, and production control. The name Greater Seminole Field – suggested by Paul Hedrick, oil editor of the Tulsa World – is adopted in the summer of 1926. Read more in Greater Seminole Oil Boom.

March 17, 1949 – First Commercial Application of Hydraulic Fracturing

Above, the site 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma, that performed the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing in 1949.

A team of petroleum production experts converges on an oil well about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma – to perform the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing.

Later the same day, Halliburton and Stanolind company personnel successfully fracture another well near Holliday, Texas.

The technique had been developed and patented by Stanolind (later known as Pan American Oil Company) and an exclusive license issued to Halliburton to perform the process. In 1953, the license was extended to all qualified service companies.

According to a Halliburton service company spokesman, “Since that fateful day in 1949, hydraulic fracturing has done more to increase recoverable reserves than any other technique, and Halliburton has led the industry in developing and applying fracturing technology.”

In the more than 60 years following those first treatments, more than two million frac treatments have been pumped with no documented case of any treatment polluting an aquifer – not one.”

A 1947 experimental well, fractured in a natural gas field in Hugoton, Kansas, had proven the possibility of increased productivity by hydraulic fracturing. Two decades earlier, on March 1, 1921, Erle P. Halliburton (1892-1957), a native of Duncan, patents a remarkable “Method and Means for Cementing Oil Wells,” which improves oil production while protecting the environment. See Halliburton cements Wells.

The earliest attempts to increase a well’s petroleum production began in the 1860s. Read Shooters – A ‘Fracking’ History.

March 18, 1937 – Odorless Natural Gas Explosion devastates East Texas School

Roughnecks from the East Texas oilfield rushed to the school after the March 18, 1937, explosion – and searched for survivors throughout the night.

With just minutes left in the school day – and 500 students and 40 teachers inside the building – a natural gas explosion destroys the New London High School in Rusk County, Texas.

Odorless natural gas has leaked into the basement and ignited – with a force felt even four miles away. Roughnecks rush in from the nearby East Texas oilfield to save their children.

Despite rescue efforts, 298 people are killed (dozens more later die of injuries).

The cause of the school explosion is found to be an electric wood-shop sander that sparked unscented gas that had pooled beneath and in the walls of the school. As a result of this disaster, Texas and other states soon pass laws requiring that natural gas be mixed with a malodorant to give early warning of a gas leak. Read more in New London Texas School Explosion.

March 20, 1919 – American Petroleum Institute founded

Founded in New York City, the American Petroleum Institute will relocate to Washington, D.C.

Tracing its roots to World War I – when the petroleum industry and Congress worked together for the war effort – the American Petroleum Institute (API) is founded in New York City.

By 1920, API is issuing weekly statistics, beginning with crude oil production. API also develops and publishes industry-wide standards in 1924. As the only trade association representing key segments of the oil and natural gas industry, from exploration to refining and sales, API reports will expand to include oil product stocks, refinery runs and other data.

API moves its headquarters to Washington, D.C., in 1929. It today maintains standards and recommended practices to promote the use of safe equipment and proven engineering practices – and has produced more than 600 technical standards covering all aspects of the oil and natural gas industry.

March 20, 1973 – Pennsylvania Boom Town listed in Historic Registry

Managed by the Drake Well Museum, the Pithole Visitors Center includes a diorama of the vanished boomtown.

The former oil boom town of Pithole, Pennsylvania, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Discovered in January 1865, the Pithole Creek field creates a massive – although short lived – oil boom town for the young petroleum industry, which began in nearby Titusville in 1859.

Pithole’s first well produced a 250-barrel-a-day gusher. As the news spread through Venango County, “everyone came to the Pithole area to try their luck,” notes one historian.

Many more successful wells are drilled, and Pithole City springs up around them. By May of 1865, the town is home to 15,000 people, 57 hotels, many homes, shops, and a daily newspaper. It has the third busiest post office in Pennsylvania – handling 5,500 pieces of mail a day.

“Many factors fueled the Pithole oil boom,” explains an article at by historians at Scripophily, a company that buys and sells historic stock certificates.

Today, visitors can walk the grassy paths of Pithole’s former streets. Volunteers “mow the streets” on the Venango County hillside.

“The end of the Civil War found the country flooded with paper currency whose holders were anxious to invest and make more money. Thousands of soldiers had been discharged from the army,” notes the article.

Many veterans wanted jobs, others wanted to make a fortune quickly after having spent long months on army pay. “The speculative bubble of 1864 and 1865 was at its peak,” the article reports.

“Hundreds of newly-organized companies were ready to lease or buy land wherever there was even a promise of oil.

Fired by these circumstances, the Pithole Creek became spectacular,” concludes the article.

Today, a visitors’ center added in 1975 is maintained by the Drake Well Museum. The center contains exhibits, including a scale model of the city at its peak and a small theater. Volunteers “mow the streets” on the hillside so that tourists can stroll where the petroleum boom town once flourished.

Among the oil region’s early – and most infamous – investors was John Wilkes Booth. Learn more in the Dramatic Oil Company.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.


March 11, 1829 – Kentucky Salt Driller strikes “Great American Well”

An 1829 Kentucky well – drilled seeking salt water – produced oil later bottled and sold as medicine. A state geology survey map preserves the Cumberland County discovery.

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.”

Independent producer Thomas Slick, who discovered a major Oklahoma oilfield on March 12, 1912.

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

The 42 volunteers from Noble Drilling and Fain-Porter Drilling companies pictured before they embarked for England in 1943.

The 42 volunteers from Noble Drilling and Fain-Porter Drilling companies pictured before they embarked for England in 1943.

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

First development at Prudhoe Bay in 1969. Photo from the Atlantic Richfield Company collection.

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.

A monument near the West Kern Oil Museum in Taft, California, marks the site of a 1910 gusher that flowed out of control for 18 months.

“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

More than 70 years old, this 11-foot Pegasus dominates the lobby of the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture. The winged logo was originally displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair – and later atop a Mobil gas station in Casa Linda in East Dallas.

The certificate from Cape Town, South Africa, notes that the “Vacuum Oil Company of South Africa Limited” is named “as proprietor of the Trade Mark represented above.”

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

A registered historic site greets Main Street visitors in Barnsdall, Osage County, Oklahoma.

“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.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


March 3, 1879 – United States Geological Survey established

John Wesley Powell served as the director of the Geological Survey from 1881 to 1894.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is established when President Rutherford B. Hayes signs legislation that includes a brief section creating a new agency in the Department of the Interior.

The legislation results from a report by the National Academy of Sciences, which had been asked by Congress to provide a plan for surveying the territories of the United States that would secure “the best possible results at the least possible cost.”

The new agency’s mission includes “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain,” according to a USGS history.

Although the federal government owns more than 1.2 billion acres of land, only 200 million acres have been surveyed.

Clarence King is the first Geological Survey director, but its second, John Wesley Powell, is more famous. Powell, who lost an arm in the Civil War, proclaims in 1886 that “a government cannot do any scientific work of more value to the people at large than by causing the construction of proper topographic maps of the county.”

March 3, 1886 – Natural Gas brings light to Paola, Kansas

When a pipeline reaches town square in 1886, “flambeaux” lights are used to attract new businesses. Paola annually celebrates its gas heritage.

Paola becomes the first town in Kansas to use natural gas commercially for illumination.

An oil well drilled in a school yard just a few years later is the first west of the Mississippi, adds a Miami County representative.

To promote the town’s natural gas discovery – and attract businesses from nearby Kansas City – four gas-fueled arches are erected in the town square. Pipes are laid for other illuminated displays.

“Paola was lighted with Gas,” explains the Miami County Historical Museum. “The pipeline was completed from the Westfall farm to the square and a grand illumination was held.”

By the end of 1887, Paola flour mills are fueled by natural gas and a glass manufacturing factory is constructed.

“Paola has the cheapest fuel in Kansas,” the town promoted itself at the time. “Natural gas is superior to anything for convenience and cheapness, and we have it in immense volume, sufficient to supply all the manufactories that can crowd into the county. We earnestly invite inspection and comparison.”

However, with little understanding of conservation and natural gas production techniques, the town wells are soon exhausted. As visions of new manufacturing industries fade away, the gas boom’s heritage remains as oil discoveries renew interest in Miami County.

“Around the square, you can see the reproduction Wellsbach gas street lanterns that match the originals from 1882, when Paola was the first town west of the Mississippi to be completely illuminated with gas lighting,” notes Janet McRae, director of economic development.

“The first oil well west of the Mississippi River was discovered near the Lykins school site in 1888,” McRae adds. “Once a refinery was built to handle the oil, Paola became a regular stop on the Kansas City-Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad.”

For more natural gas history, see the Indiana Natural Gas Boom. Read more Kansas petroleum history in Kansas Well reveals Mid-Continent.

March 4, 1918 – West Virginia Well sets World Depth Record

The deepest well in the world in 1918, the Martha Goff well reached 7,386 feet eight miles northeast of Clarksburg, West Virginia.

The deepest well in the world in 1918, the Martha Goff well reached 7,386 feet eight miles northeast of Clarksburg, West Virginia.

On the Martha Goff farm in Harrison County, West Virginia, the Hope Natural Gas Company drills to 7,386 feet and brings the world’s deepest well record to America. Until then, the deepest well had been drilled to 7,345 feet near Czuehon, Germany.

A March 1974 well set a world record while drilling in Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin, about 12 miles west of Cordell. The Bertha Rogers No. 1 drilled almost six miles into Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin before the drill bit stuck. Visit the Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

March 4, 1933 – Oklahoma City Oilfield under Martial Law

Oklahoma Governor “Alfalfa Bill” Murray is featured on the February 29, 1932, cover of TIME magazine.

Oklahoma Governor William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray declares martial law to enforce his proration regulations limiting production in the Oklahoma City oilfield, discovered on December 4, 1928 – and one of the largest producing fields in the state.

Two years earlier, Murray called a meeting of fellow governors from Texas, Kansas and New Mexico to create an Oil States Advisory Committee, “to study the present distressed condition of the petroleum industry and to make recommendations for uniform legislation looking to the relief of said industry and the conservation of oil and gas.”

Elected in 1930, he is called “Alfalfa Bill” because of speeches urging farmers to plant alfalfa to restore nitrogen to the soil. The controversial politician is also known as the “Sage of Tishomingo.”

By the end of his administration, Murray will have called out the National Guard 47 times and declared martial law more than 30 times. His successor, famed oilman E.W. Marland, will establish the Interstate Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Oklahoma City in 1935.

March 5, 1963 – Polyethylene Invention leads to Patent of Popular “Hoop Toy”

“Extruded tubing is desirable because it may be economically fabricated in continuous lengths,” Arthur Melin notes in his patent application, describing a hoop with an outside diameter of 31 to 37 inches. “The use of plastic gives both economy and strength.”

Arthur “Spud” Melin receives a U.S. patent for his “Hoop Toy.”

A hit since going on sale in 1958, his toy – the Hula Hoop – joins the Frisbee as a popular product made from a new plastic developed by an Oklahoma oil company.

Phillips chemists invent high-density polyethylene in 1951.

“I have invented a toy which is economical to fabricate and affords physical benefits to users,” he explains in his patent application.

To make Hula Hoops and Frisbees, Melin and his Wham-O Company partner Richard Kerr have chosen Marlex, a new plastic developed by two chemists at Phillips Petroleum Company.

Paul Hogan and Robert Banks – whom had been researching gasoline additives – invented the world’s first high-density polyethylene at the company’s Bartlesville lab in 1951. As Hogan recalls, he was standing outside the laboratory when Banks came out saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got something new coming in our kettle that we’ve never seen before.”

Although Phillips begins promoting Marlex in 1954, manufacturers show little interest in the plastic. The transition from research lab to mass production proves more difficult than marketing executives anticipated. Marlex customers fail to materialize – until Wham-O.

Thanks to the Hula Hoop fad,  plastic companies in Titusville, Pennsylvania – birthplace of the U.S. petroleum industry – will work overtime to meet demand for the petroleum product. Today, Oil Creek Plastics Inc. still extrudes the “Hoop Toy,” patent no. 3,079,728.

Read more in Petroleum Product Hoopla.

March 7, 1902 – Another Texas Gusher, Sour Lake Springs 

A Texaco monument marks the site where in 1903 the Fee No. 3 well flowed at 5,000 barrels a day, resulting in “the Texas Company exercising its option on the Sour Lake Springs property.”

The Texas community of Sour Lake becomes a boom town in its own right about one year after the giant 1901 discovery at nearby Spindletop Hill.

Originally known as Sour Lake Springs – because of its sulfurous spring water known for its healing – the sulfur will lead oilmen to predict oil may be trapped similar to the Spindletop field, which produces from a salt dome.

The Great Western Oil Company completes a test well in November 1901 that encounters “hot salt water impregnated with sulfur between 800 and 850 feet…and four oil sands about 10 feet thick at a depth of approximately 1,040 feet.”

Great Western drills a second well “north of the old hotel building” in the vicinity of earlier shallow wells, according to Charles Albert Warner in his book Texas Oil & Gas Since 1543.

“This well secured gusher production at a depth of approximately 683 feet on March 7, 1902. The well penetrated 40 feet of oil sand,” Warner notes. “The flow of oil was accompanied by a considerable amount of loose sand, and it was necessary to close the well in from time to time and bail out the sand, after which the well would respond with excellent flows.”

Although the boom will be short-lived as Texas discoveries continue, Sour Lake today promotes itself as the birthplace of the Texas Company, which will become Texaco. Visit the Texas Energy Museum in Beaumont.

March 7, 1926 – Seminole City Discovery in Oklahoma

The Greater Seminole Area includes seven of Oklahoma’s 20 giant oilfields — Earlsboro, St. Louis, Seminole, Bowlegs, Little River, Allen, and Seminole City. The Oil Museum in Seminole includes a diorama maintained by volunteers that features many of the boom towns of the 1930s.

The Seminole City oilfield, which will lead to a series of discoveries revealing the Greater Seminole Area, is found by the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company.

The discovery is followed by a successful well drilled by the Amerada Petroleum Company. Then the biggest discovery, the Fixico No. 1 well, strikes oil in the Wilcox Sand formation on July 16, 1926, producing 1,500 barrels of oil a day – and starting the Greater Seminole oil boom.

At its height, the Seminole City oilfield accounts for 2.6 percent of the world’s oil production. By 1935, sixty petroleum reservoirs are discovered in the Greater Seminole Area – 1,300 square miles of east-central Oklahoma. Six of its reservoirs are “giants,” producing more than one-million barrels of oil each.

Oklahoma’s massive production will glut oil markets and result in a price collapse to as low as 15 cents per barrel – forcing the state to step in and limit production.

“Thus, the conservation movement, as far as the oil industry is concerned, started in Oklahoma and largely in the greater Seminole areas,” concludes author Louise Welsh in A History of the Greater Seminole Oil Field.

Visit the Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole. Read First Oklahoma Oil Well.

March 9, 1975 – Trans-Alaska Pipeline Construction begins

After almost three years of construction, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline will carry oil from Prudhoe Bay to Prince William Sound.

Work begins on the largest private construction project in American history – the 789 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline system.

In June 1977, oil from the Prudhoe Bay field will begin flowing to the ice-free port of Valdez at four miles an hour through the 48-inch pipe. By 2009, the pipeline will have carried almost 16 billion barrels of oil.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


February 24, 1938 – New Petroleum Product replaces Hog Bristles

A 1938 magazine advertisement for “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft.” Johnson & Johnson will introduce a competing nylon-bristle toothbrush in 1939.

The first nylon-bristle toothbrush goes on sale. Americans soon brush their teeth with nylon – instead of hog bristles, declares the New York Times.

The Weco Products Company of Chicago, Illinois, promotes its “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft,” the earliest toothbrush to use synthetic DuPont nylon bristles. This is the first commercial use of the revolutionary petroleum product – nylon, which is a synthetic polymer (a plastic). Women’s stockings will soon follow.

“Until now, all good toothbrushes were made with animal bristles,” notes a 1938 advertisement in Life magazine. “Today, Dr. West’s new Miracle-Tuft is a single exception. It is made with EXTON, a unique bristle-like filament developed by the great DuPont laboratories, and produced exclusively for Dr. West’s.”

Pricing its toothbrush at 50 cents, the Weco Products Company guarantees “no bristle shedding.” Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick, New Jersey, will introduce a competing nylon-bristle toothbrush in 1939.

February 25, 1897 – Sucker Rod Company Owner elected Mayor

The founder of the Acme Sucker Rod Company will become a popular Toledo, Ohio, 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, five percent 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.

February 25, 1919 – Oregon enacts First Gas Tax

A gasoline filling station owner’s sign, circa the 1930s.

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 will add 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’s Petroleum Investment pays off

Wyatt Earp’s investment in Kern County, California, results in a 1926 producing oil well.

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.”

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.

During WW II, nylon was used as a substitute for silk in parachutes. Above is a DuPont 1948 advertisement.

Professor Wallace Carothers, after experimenting with artificial materials for more than six years, creates a unique molecule chain – that stretches.

Carothers has previously discovered neoprene rubber (commonly used in wet-suits) and made major contributions to understanding polymers – molecules composed in long chains.

Nylon 6 fiber has six carbon atoms per molecule.

Just 32 years old, Carothers creates fibers when he combines the chemicals amine, hexamethylene diamine, and adipic acid. He forms a polymer chain using a process in which individual molecules join together with water as a byproduct.

Chemists call it Nylon 6 because the adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine each contain six carbon atoms per molecule. Each molecule consists of 100 or more repeating units of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, strung in a chain.

The first commercial use of this revolutionary petroleum product is for toothbrushes (replacing animal bristles). But it’s women’s hosiery that brings fortunes to the Delaware chemical company.

Although the company patents nylon in 1935, it is not officially announced to the public until October 1938 in New York City.

A DuPont vice president unveils the world’s first synthetic fiber – not to a scientific society – but to 3,000 Women’s Club members gathered at the site of the upcoming 1939 New York World’s Fair.

The petroleum product is an instant hit, especially as a replacement for silk in hosiery. DuPont does not register “nylon” as a trademark, choosing to allow the word to enter the American vocabulary as a synonym for “stockings.”

Read more in Nylon, a Petroleum Polymer.

March 1, 1921 – Halliburton patents Cementing Technology

Erle P. Halliburton patents his new oilfield technology – a “Method and Means for Cementing Oil Wells.”

Erle Halliburton’s 1921 well cementing process isolates down-hole zones, guards against collapse of the casing – and permits control of the well throughout its producing life.

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 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.”

See Halliburton cements Wells.

March 2, 1922 – Osage Indian Leases top $1 Million for First Time

Oklahoma’s first million-dollar oil lease is sold in the shade of an elm tree in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in 1922.

Under the shade of the “Million Dollar Elm” in front of the Osage Council House in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, Skelly Oil and Phillips Petroleum Company jointly bid more than one-million dollars for a 160-acre tract of land.

Already legendary oilmen Frank Phillips, Harry Sinclair, Bill Skelly, Jean Paul Getty and E.W. Marland are frequent bidders to lease this promising territory on the Osage Indian Reservation. This sale is Oklahoma’s first million dollar oil lease.

Learn more about the major discoveries of northeastern Oklahoma at museums in Ponca City, including the Marland Estate and the Conoco Museum. Also visit and  the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville.

March 2, 1944 – WWII Pipeline begins East Coast Petroleum Deliveries

“Little Big Inch,” the 20-inch-diameter pipeline, could carry as many as four different kinds of petroleum products, including gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil, and kerosene.

The first gasoline transported by the “Little Big Inch” pipeline arrives at Linden Station, New Jersey, from refineries near Houston and Beaumont, Texas.

This vital World War II effort culminates the “War Emergency Pipelines” project to carry both oil and refined petroleum products from the Gulf Coast region to East Coast refining and distribution centers.

German submarine attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast have made the unprecedented pipeline project essential.

Read Petroleum Survey finds U-166.

The Big Inch line carries crude oil in a 24-inch-diameter pipe, while the Little Big Inch line can carry four products:  gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil, and kerosene – each separated by solid rubber balls that are slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the 20-inch pipe.  In its first year of operation, the Little Big Inch products pipeline pumps a daily average of 199,085 barrels.

After the War, both Inch Lines are converted to carry natural gas and in 1957 the Little Big Inch Line is converted back to a common-carrier products pipeline.

Read more in World War II Big Inch and Little Big Inch Pipelines.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


February 17, 1902 – Lufkin Industries founded in East Texas

Founded in 1902 as the Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company, some modern Lufkin Industries oilfield pumps use compressed air instead of heavy cast iron counterweights.

In Lufkin, Texas, the Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company is founded as a repair shop for railroad and sawmill machinery.

When the timber supplies in East Texas begin to dwindle and the sawmill business declines, the Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company discovers new opportunities in the newly burgeoning oilfields.

Inventor Walter C. Trout will be working for Lufkin in 1925 when he sketches out his idea for what will become an icon of oilfield success known by many names – nodding donkey, grasshopper, horse-head, thirsty bird, and pump jack, among others.

Before the end of the year, a prototype is installed on a Humble Oil Company well near Hull, Texas.

“The well was perfectly balanced, but even with this result, it was such a funny looking, odd thing that it was subject to ridicule and criticism,” Trout explains.

Large crowds turn out every holiday season for the official lighting of Rudolph the Red Nosed Pumping Unit at Lufkin Mall. More than 1,000 Christmas lights decorate the 38-foot Mark 640 pump - and Santa's sleigh. Photo courtesy the Lufkin Daily News.

Large crowds turn out every holiday season for the official lighting of Rudolph the Red Nosed Pumping Unit at Lufkin Mall. More than 1,000 Christmas lights decorate the 38-foot Mark 640 pump – and Santa’s sleigh. Photo courtesy the Lufkin Daily News.

Since Trout’s invention – the now familiar counterbalanced oilfield pumping unit – the Lufkin company has sold more than 200,000 units.

Lufkin Industries, the largest employer in Lufkin, today designs and manufactures oilfield equipment and power transmission products. It also operates a foundry producing up to 300 tons a day of castings for machine tools.

During the holiday season the company assembles and operates the popular 38-foot spectacle at the Lufkin Mall.

“Every year for almost 50 years, Rudolph the Red Nosed Pumping Unit has graced the city of Lufkin,” reports Charles Roberds in a 2013 Texas Forest Country Living article. The Mark 640 pump includes and a trailer decorated to be a sleigh, complete with Santa.

In June 2013, Lufkin shareholders approved a merger agreement with General Electric Company. Read more about getting oil out of the ground in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology.

February 17, 1944 – First Alabama Oilfield Discovery

Alabama’s major producing regions are in the west, including a coalbed methane region underlying Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties.

Alabama’s first oilfield is discovered in Choctaw County when Texas oilman H.L. Hunt drills the No. 1 Jackson well.

Hunt’s wildcat well reveals the Gilbertown oilfield. Prior to finding this discovery, an incredible 350 dry holes – noncommercial wells – had been drilled in Alabama.

“Traces of petroleum, in the form of natural gas were first discovered in Alabama in Morgan and Blount counties in the late 1880s, and by 1902, natural gas was being supplied to the cities of Huntsville and Hazel Green,” notes one historian.

In 1909, a small discovery by Eureka Oil and Gas at Fayette fueled that city’s streetlights for a time, but no natural gas was recovered anywhere in the state for several decades afterward.

Hunt drilled in Choctaw County and discovered the Gilbertown oilfield in the Eutaw Sand at a depth of 3,700 feet, explains Alan Cockrell in an article for the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

The field produces 15 million barrels of oil, “not a lot by modern standards but enough to make ‘oil fever’ spread rapidly.”

However, the search for another oilfield will lead to 11 years of “dry holes,” Cockrell notes. The 1955 oil discovery at Citronelle, a town above a geologic salt dome, finally launches a new drilling boom; five new Alabama oilfields are discovered by 1967.

In 1981, Mobil Oil Company drills Alabama’s first successful offshore natural gas well in Mobile Bay.

Oil and natural gas are still being found in Alabama, especially in the western part of the state,” Cockrell concludes. “Geologists believe new opportunities exist in the hard shales of the deep Black Warrior Basin beneath Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties and in the thick fractured shales of St. Clair and neighboring counties.”

The Choctaw County Historical Museum in Gilbertown features bottles of oil from Alabama’s 1944 first oil well.

February 19, 1863 – Pennsylvania Pipeline

First pipeline from an oilfield to a refinery is completed at Oil Creek, Pennsylvania. New Jersey inventor J. L. Hutchings constructs the 2.5-mile pipeline from James Tarr’s farm near Oil Creek to the Humboldt refinery using newly patented rotary pumps to move the oil through two-inch diameter piping. Unfortunately, leaking makes this innovative pipeline impractical.

Visit the “valley that changed the world” and the Drake Well Museum in Titusville.

February 19, 1889 – Ohio acts to Conserve Natural Gas

The Ohio House of Representatives enacts the state’s first petroleum conservation measure – “an Act to prevent the wasting of Natural Gas and to Provide for the plugging of all abandoned wells.”

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association documents wells drilled/completed by County in 2010.

The state’s first commercial petroleum production had begun almost 30 years earlier in Macksburg, Washington County, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Ohio remains a leading producer, ranking in the top half of all producing states, the agency notes. As of 2010, more than 275,700 wells have been drilled in the state – yielding more than 1.1 billion barrels of oil and more than 8.52 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Modern technologies now are finding success in eastern Ohio – the Marcellus shale.

Ohio also claims an 1814 oil discovery as America’s first with a drilled well, according to the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. “Two men drilled 475 feet in search of salt in Olive Township of Noble County,” says Director Rhonda Reda. “They cursed when a black liquid oozed into the pit.”

February 20, 1959 – World’s First LNG Tanker arrives

After a three-week voyage, the Methane Pioneer – the world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker – arrives at the world’s first LNG terminal at Canvey Island, England, from Lake Charles, Louisiana. Read the rest of this entry »


February 10, 1910 – Buena Vista Oilfield discovered in California

Buena Vista oilfield will become Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2.

Buena Vista oilfield will become Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2 in 1912.

The Buena Vista oilfield is discovered in Kern County, California, by Honolulu Oil Corporation.

The well is originally known as “Honolulu’s great gasser” until it is drilled deeper into oil-producing sands. Oil production averages between 3,000 barrels and 4,000 barrels of oil per day.

As the U.S. Navy converts its vessels from coal to oil, the Buena Vista field will become Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2 in 1912. Learn more in Petroleum & Sea Power.

Steam injection operations help produce much of the “heavy” (high viscosity) oil in California, the nation’s fourth largest producing state, behind Alaska, Texas and North Dakota.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, in 2008 production from federal lands alone in California totaled more than 20.8 million barrels of oil and 5.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas – yielding more than $169 million in oil and $5.35 million in gas royalties to the federal Treasury.

Although the state’s daily production peaked at 1.1 million barrels per day in early 1986, California still produces about 530,000 barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration. Visit the West Kern Oil Museum in Bakersfield and the “Black Gold: The Oil Experience” exhibit at the Kern County Museum in Taft.

February 10, 1917  - Professional Geologists bring Science to Oil Patch

AAPG embraces a code that assures “the integrity, business ethics, personal honor, and professional conduct” of its worldwide membership.

Demand for oil is worldwide – but the science for finding it obscure – when the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) organizes as the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

About 90 geologists meet at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, and form an association “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.”

The association adopts its present name a year later and soon begins publishing a bimonthly journal. AAPG’s peer-reviewed Bulletin includes papers written by leading geologists of the day.

With a subscription price of five dollars, the journal is distributed to members, university libraries, and other industry professionals.

By 1920, one petroleum trade magazine notes that the “Association Grows in Membership and Influence; Combats the Fakers.”

An article praises AAPG professionalism and warns of “the large number of unscrupulous and inadequately prepared men who are attempting to do geological work.”

Similarly, the Oil Trade Journal praises AAPG for its efforts “to censor the great mass of inadequately prepared and sometimes unscrupulous reports on geological problems, which are wholly misleading to the industry.”

By 1953 the AAPG membership has grown to more than 10,000 and a permanent headquarters building opens Tulsa. Today, the association is the world’s largest professional geological society with more than 36,000 members in 126 countries. Read more in AAPG – Geology Pros since 1917.

February 12, 1954 – First Major Oil Discovery in Nevada

Nevada’s petroleum industry begins with the discovery of oil by Shell Oil’s Eagle Springs No. 1 well drilled in Railroad Valley in Nye County.

Shell Oil Company’s second test of its Eagle Springs No. 1 well finds oil.

This routine test becomes the discovery well for the Railroad Valley field – and Nevada’s first major producer.

“This milestone represents a great achievement for Nevada’s oil industry,” notes Alan Coyner, administrator of the Nevada Division of Minerals. “Nevada continues to have tremendous exploration potential for additional oil discoveries in the future.”

According to the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, the discovery well is 10,358 feet deep and produces 306,029 barrels of oil from a productive interval between 6,450 and 6,730 feet during its 16-year productive life.

Since 1954, there have been about 50 million barrels of oil produced from 101 wells drilled within 15 different Nevada fields.

February 12, 1987 – Court upholds Texaco Verdict and Fine

A Texas court upholds the 1985 decision against Texaco (and a $10.5 billion fine) for having initiated an illegal 1984 takeover of Getty Oil after Pennzoil had made a legally binding bid for company. Although Getty Oil had not signed a formal contract, the company had consented to Pennzoil’s $5.3 billion bid.  In the end, the biggest winners were law firms, according to investor Carl Icahn.

February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil incorporates with “Yellow Dog” Lamp Logo

Forest Oil’s logo features the “Yellow Dog” – a two-wicked lantern once used on derricks.

A corporate logo with a lantern burning two wicks? An oil company originally founded in 1916 consolidates with four other independent petroleum companies to form the Forest Oil Corporation – an early developer of secondary recovery technology.

Originally based in Bradford, Pennsylvania – home of the late 1800s “first billion dollar oilfield” in the United States – the Forest Oil logo features the lantern often seen on early wooden derricks.

Some believe the lantern’s name, “yellow dog,” comes from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s glowing eyes at night. Read Yellow Dog – Oilfield Lantern.

Today headquartered in Denver, Forest Oil (publicly held since 1969) and its subsidiaries engage in petroleum exploration, production and marketing, with principal reserves and producing properties in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

February 13, 1977 – Famed Texas Ranger  “El Lobo Solo” dies

Texas Ranger Manuel Gonzaullas will help bring order to 1930s East Texas boom towns.

Texas Ranger Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas dies in Dallas at the age of 85. During much of the 1920s and 1930s, Captain Gonzaullas enforced the law in booming oilfield towns and along the Mexican border.

By 1930 – the year the massive East Texas oilfield is discovered near Kilgore – Gonzaullas already is well known as “El Lobo Solo,” the lone wolf.

“He was a soft-spoken man and his trigger finger was slightly bent,” famed oilman Watson W. Wise characterizes the lawman in a 1985 interview. Gonzaullas is credited with bringing order to the town of Kilgore, once known as the most lawless town in Texas.

“Crime may expect no quarter in Kilgore,” the Texas Ranger warned. “Gambling houses, slot machines, whiskey rings and dope peddlers might as well save the trouble of opening, because they will not be tolerated in any degree.”

See Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger and visit the East Texas Oil Museum.

February 16, 1935 – Nine States sign Compact to Preserve Petroleum Resources

The Interstate Oil Compact Commission is founded in Dallas with the writing of the “Interstate Compact to Preserve Oil and Gas,” according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Representatives from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas meet under the leadership of Gov. Ernest W. Marland of Oklahoma.

“The compact was approved by the seventy-fourth U.S. Congress on August 27, 1935,” the historical society notes. “On September 12, 1935, an organizational meeting in Oklahoma City established the commission to implement the compact’s provisions. The commission’s first chair was Governor Marland.”

Called the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission - IOGCC - since 1991 with headquarters in Oklahoma City, the group continues as a voluntary association of petroleum-producing states dedicated to the preservation of oil and natural gas resources.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


February 3, 1868 – Pennsylvania Oil Producers seek End of Civil War Tax

Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, who during the Civil War created the first "greenbacks" as legal tender (with his image on them), attempted to charge oil producers a "war tax" of more than $10 per barrel.

Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, who during the Civil War created the first “greenbacks” as legal tender (with his image on them), at first attempted to charge oil producers a “war tax” of more than $10 per barrel.

Oil Creek refiners meet in Petroleum Center, Pennsylvania, where they pass a resolution demanding that the Civil War’s one dollar a barrel “war tax” on refined petroleum products be repealed.

As early as 1862, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase advocated a $10.50 per barrel tax on refined petroleum products,  the equivalent in 2010 dollars of $145.

Chase, responsible for the introduction of federal paper money (printed on green paper) during the Civil War, will not succeed with his massive petroleum tax, despite the Union’s need for revenue. Instead, a one-dollar excise tax is imposed in 1864.

In 1868, with the war over and Pennsylvania’s oil region production greatly in excess of demand, the price refiners get for kerosene falls to new lows. The continued Civil War tax further reduces profits. Oil Creek refiners achieve their goal within six months after the Petroleum Center meeting when Congress passes a bill exempting petroleum and its products from taxation.

February 5, 1873 – “Moonlighter” shoots his Last Illegal Well

Nitroglycerine could prove fatal to illegal oil well shooters – “moonlighters.”

Andrew J. Dalrymple is killed with his wife in a nitroglycerin explosion at his home on Dennis Run, Pennsylvania.

Dalrymple is alleged to have been “moonlighting” – the illegal oil well shooting – in the Tidioute oil field. Nitroglycerine was a powerful but dangerous means of fracturing (fracking) oil bearing strata to increase production. The technology had been patented, its use rigorously protected.

Pouring nitroglycerin was risky enough in the late 19th century oil patch. Doing it illegally at night made it into today’s lexicon.

“The Dalrymple torpedo accident at Tidioute brings to light the fact that nitroglycerine, or other dangerous explosives, are used, stored and manipulated secretly in places little suspected by the general public,” reports the Titusville Morning Herald.

“A large amount of this dangerous material has lately been stolen from the various magazines throughout the country, ” the newspaper adds. “This species of theft is winked at by some parties, who are opposed to the Roberts torpedo patent.”

The modern term moonlighting comes from this practice of surreptitious avoidance of licensing fees imposed on the use of Civil War veteran Col. E.A.L. Roberts’ patented fracking technique. Read Shooters – A “Fracking” History.

February 7, 1817 -  Manufactured Gas illuminates First Public Street Lamp

America’s first public street lamp fueled by gas illuminates the corner of Market and Lemon streets in Baltimore, Maryland. The Gas Light Company of Baltimore becomes the first U.S. commercial gas lighting company – distilling tar and wood to manufacture its gas.

The "milestone wall" at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, documents the city’s industrial history. "Some of the important features include BG&E Gas Lighting, as Baltimore was the first city with gas lights; the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the first Railroad in America; and the first manufacturing of umbrellas in the U.S."

The “milestone wall” at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, documents the city’s industrial history. “Some of the important features include BG&E Gas Lighting, as Baltimore was the first city with gas lights; the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the first Railroad in America; and the first U.S. manufacturing of umbrellas.”

Baltimore Gas & Electric celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1997.

Baltimore Gas & Electric celebrated its 150th anniversary – and street lamp – in 1997.

Today, a monument to the first public gas street lamp in the United States stands at the corner of North Holliday Street and East Baltimore Street (once Market and Lemon). Dedicated in 1997, the lamp is a replica of its original design of February 1817.

Local inventor Rembrandt Peale first illuminated a room in his Holliday Street museum a year earlier, burning his artificial gas and dazzling local businessmen and socialites gathered there with a “ring beset with gems of light.”

“During a candlelit period in American history the forward-thinking Peale aimed to form a business around his gas light innovations, the exhibition targeting potential investors,” notes a historian at the utility Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E).

The gamble worked, and several financiers aligned with Peale, forming The Gas Light Company of Baltimore (the precursor to BG&E).

“Less than a year later, on February 7, 1817, the first public gas street lamp was lit in a ceremony one block south of City Hall,” notes BG&E. The city’s popular Gayety Theatre is across the street. The City Council speedily approved Peale’s plan to light the city’s streets.

Over coming decades, two miles of gas main are completed under Baltimore streets and the company shows its first profit. Metering replaces flat-rate billing. As a result, people of moderate means could afford to light their home with gas.

By 1855, a new gas manufacturing plant is constructed where gas is distilled from coal – an improvement over the former “gasification” of tar or wood. Visit the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

February 8, 1836 – Natural Gas brightens Philadelphia

Forty-six natural gas lights along Philadelphia’s Second Street are lit for the first time by employees of the newly formed Philadelphia Gas Works.

As Philadelphia becomes the nation’s center for finance and industry, the municipally owned natural gas distribution company fuels innovations, a company historian notes.

By 1856, Philadelphia Gas completes construction of a natural gas tank at the company’s Point Breeze Plant in South Philadelphia. At the time it is the largest in the nation with a total holding capacity of 1.8 million cubic feet of natural gas.

A natural gas storage facility at Point Breeze in South Philadelphia, circa 1856.

A natural gas storage facility at Point Breeze in South Philadelphia, circa 1856. Photograph courtesy Philadelphia Gas Works.

When the American Centennial Exposition of 1876 in the city’s Fairmount Park, displays the wonders of the age in agriculture, horticulture and machinery, natural gas cooking is showcased as a novelty. Sixty miles of pipe supply natural gas for the exhibition’s lights.

The earliest commercial use of natural gas in a community, according to some historians, took place in Fredonia, New York, in 1825, when natural gas was piped to several stores, shops and a mill from a downtown natural gas well drilled by William Hart, who some consider as the father of the natural gas industry.

Hart made three attempts at drilling, according to Lois Barris in her history of the Fredonia Gas Light and Water Works Company, which incorporated in 1857.

“He left a broken drill in one shallow hole and abandoned a second site at a depth of forty feet because of the small volume of gas found,” she reports.

“In his third attempt, Mr. Hart found a good flow of gas at seventy feet,” Barris adds. “He then constructed a crude gasometer, covering it with a rough shed and proceeded to pipe and market the first natural gas sold in this country.”

Today in the United States, there are more than 900 public natural gas systems serving more than 70 million customers; the Philadelphia Gas Works is the largest.

Learn more about the early natural gas industry in “Indiana Natural Gas Boom.”

Please support this website and the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


January 28, 1969 – Santa Barbara Spill brings Environmental Movement

Earth Day is born in the spring following the January 1969 offshore spill at Santa Barbara, California, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara.

After drilling 3,500 below the Pacific Ocean floor, a Union Oil Company drilling platform six miles off Santa Barbara suffers a blowout.

The accident spills up to 100,000 barrels of oil into the ocean with some reaching southern California’s beaches, including Summerland – where the U.S. offshore industry began in 1896 with wells drilled from piers.

At the Union Oil platform, “riggers began to retrieve the pipe in order to replace a drill bit when the ‘mud’ used to maintain pressure became dangerously low,” explains a report by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“A natural gas blowout occurred. An initial attempt to cap the hole was successful but led to a tremendous buildup of pressure. The expanding mass created five breaks in an east-west fault on the ocean floor, releasing oil and gas from deep beneath the earth.”

Most of California's major oil and gas fields are in the three areas outlined on this 2010 U.S. Geological Survey map. Natural seeps - producing tarballs - dominate the coastline.

Most of California’s major fields are in areas outlined on this 2010 U.S. Geological Survey map. Natural seeps – producing tarballs – dominate the coastline.

It will take oilfield workers 12 days to control the well by pumping chemical mud down the bore hole at a rate of 1,500 barrels an hour.

“In the spring following the oil spill, Earth Day was born nationwide,” the report concludes. “Many consider the publicity surrounding the oil spill a major impetus to the environmental movement.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is established on December 2, 1970. It joins other federal agencies regulating the industry as public opinion turns against offshore exploration.

Researchers have since found that natural offshore seeps near the 1969 spill site have leaked up to 25 tons of oil every day for the last several hundred thousand years. Offshore drilling can actually reduce natural seepage, because it relieves the pressure that drives oil and natural gas up from ocean floors.

Scientists now report that daily seepage in the northern Santa Barbara Channel has been “significantly reduced by oil production.” Read more in “Santa Barbara and Oil Seeps.”

January 29, 1850 – Canadian patents Illuminating Gas Burner

Abraham Gessner

Canadian Abraham Gessner is issued a patent for “obtaining of illuminating gas from compact and fluid bitumen (crude oil), asphaltum, chapapote, or mineral pitch as found in mines, quarries and springs in the earth.”

Gessner licenses his “coal gas” distillation apparatus to manufacturers for about $1 per burner, declaring his gas “affords the cleanest, safest, and most agreeable light ever used.”

The manufactured gas industry will survive into the mid-20th century. Gessner’s research will lead him four years later to “a new and useful manufacture or composition of matter, being a new liquid hydrocarbon, which I denominate Kerosene.”

January 29,  1886 – Birth of Internal Combustion Automobile Read the rest of this entry »


January 20, 1886 – “Great Karg” Natural Gas Well of Findlay, Ohio

A plaque dedicated in 1937 commemorates Ohio’s giant natural gas discovery of January 20, 1886.

The spectacular natural gas well – the Great Karg Well of Findlay, Ohio – comes in with an initial flow of 12 million cubic feet per day.

The well’s pressure is so great that it cannot be controlled by the technology of the time. The gas will ignite and the flame becomes an Ohio tourist attraction that burns for four months.

Ohio’s first natural gas well was drilled in Findlay two years earlier by the Findlay Natural Gas Company, formed by Dr. Charles Oesterle.

However, the Karg well, then the largest in the world, launches the state’s first major natural gas boom – and brings many new industries.

Glass companies especially are “lured by free or cheap gas for fuel,” notes an historical marker at the Richardson Glass Works in Findlay. “They included eight window, two bottle, two chimney lamp, one light bulb, one novelty, and five tableware glass factories.”

By 1887, Findlay will become known as the “City of Light,” adds another nearby historical marker at the first field office for the Ohio Oil Company – established the same year by five independent oil producers.

The Findlay office building of the Ohio Oil Company will become headquarters of Marathon Petroleum.

After becoming an international exploration and production company, in 1962 Ohio Oil Company will change its name to today’s Marathon Oil Company.

The Hancock Historical Museum of Findlay includes natural gas exhibits from the region and is less than two miles from the site of the famous well. The museum also houses permanent exhibits relating to Findlay Glass Company.

Learn how other major natural gas discoveries launched new industries in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh and Indiana Natural Gas Boom.

January 21, 1865 - Civil War Veteran demonstrates his Oil Well “Torpedo”

A Pennsylvania historical marker commemorates Colonel E.A.L. Roberts, a Civil War veteran who patented oil well “torpedoes.”

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A. L. Roberts (1829-1881) conducts his first experiment to increase oil production by using an explosive charge deep in the well.

Roberts twice detonates eight pounds of black powder 465 feet deep in the bore of the Ladies Well on Watson’s Flats south of Titusville, Pennsylvania.

The “shooting” of the well increases daily production from a few barrels to more than 40 barrels. In 1866, the Titusville Morning Herald will report:

Our attention has been called to a series of experiments that have been made in the wells of various localities by Col. Roberts, with his newly patented torpedo.

The results have in many cases been astonishing.

The torpedo, which is an iron case, containing an amount of powder varying from 15 pounds to 20 pounds, is lowered into the well, down to the spot, as near as can be ascertained, where it is necessary to explode it. Read the rest of this entry »


January 13, 1957 – Wham-O launches a New Petroleum Product

Thanks to Phillips Petroleum, newly developed polyethylene plastics will be used to manufacture Frisbees. Detail from U.S. Patent No. 3,359,678. Image courtesy the Disc Golf Association, Watsonville, California.

The latest of a growing number of products made from plastic is born in California when Wham-O Manufacturing Company begins production of the Frisbee.

The toy originated in 1948 when two World War II veterans formed Partners in Plastic to sell their newly invented “Flyin’ Saucers” for 25 cents.

Wham-O bought the rights to the “flying toy” in 1955 – one year after Phillips Petroleum had introduced a high-density polyethylene under the brand name Marlex.

Although Phillips Petroleum executives expected the product to be a big hit, customers failed to materialize for the revolutionary plastic.

The Bartlesville, Oklahoma, company found itself with warehouses full of Marlex – until the phenomenal demand for Wham-O Hula Hoop and Frisbee.

Read more in Petroleum Product Hoopla. 

January 14, 1928 – Future Dr. Seuss begins Career at Standard Oil  

During the Great Depression, Theodore Geisel created advertising campaigns for Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. He said the experience taught him “how to marry pictures with words.”

New York City’s Judge magazine includes its first cartoon drawn by Theodore Seuss Geisel – who will develop his skills as “Dr. Seuss” while working for Standard Oil Company.

In the 1928 cartoon that launches his career, Geisel draws a peculiar dragon trying to dodge Flit, a popular bug spray of the day. Read the rest of this entry »


January 7, 1905 – Humble Oilfield Discovery will lead to Exxon

C.E. Barrett discovers the giant Humble oilfield in Harris County, Texas. His Beatty No. 2 well launches another Texas oil boom. The well produces 8,500 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 1,012 feet.

The Humble oilfield will lead to a major oil company - and a Texas governor. An embossed postcard cica 1905 from the Postal Card & Novelty Company, courtesy the University of Houston Digital Library.

The Humble oilfield will lead to a major oil company – and a Texas governor. An embossed postcard circa 1905 from the Postal Card & Novelty Company, courtesy the University of Houston Digital Library.

Standard Oil of New Jersey will acquire a 50 percent interest in Humble in 1919.

The small town of Humble will grow from 700 to 20,000 in a few months as production from the field – the largest in Texas in 1905 – reaches almost 16 million barrels of oil.

According to a 1972 historical marker in Humble, the oilfield leads to the founding of the Humble Oil and Refining Company in 1911 by a group that includes Ross Sterling, a future governor of Texas.

“Production from several strata here exceeded the total for fabulous Spindletop by 1946,” the marker notes. “Known as the greatest salt dome field, Humble still produces and the town for which it was named continues to thrive.”

Humble Oil Company will consolidate operations with Standard Oil of New Jersey in 1919, eventually leading to Exxon, today’s ExxonMobil. Read the rest of this entry »


December 30, 1854 – America’s First Petroleum Company incorporates

America's first oil company - the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company of New York - incorporated on December 30, 1854, in Albany. George Bissell wanted oil for a new product: kerosene.

America’s first oil company incorporated on December 30, 1854, in Albany. George Bissell wanted oil for a new product: kerosene.

America’s first oil and natural gas company – the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company of New York – incorporates in Albany.

The U.S. petroleum industry is launched when oil is struck five years later along Oil Creek in Titusville.

George Bissell, Jonathan Eveleth and five other trustees incorporate the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company of New York, capitalized at $250,000.

This is America’s first oil company and is formed “to raise, manufacture, procure and sell Rock Oil.” Read the rest of this entry »


December 23, 1927 – Bad Santa of Cisco, Texas

Adding to the lore of Cisco, Texas – near the 1917 “Roaring Ranger” oilfield and the boom town where Conrad Hilton bought his first hotel – Santa Claus attempts an ill-fated bank robbery.

When a man disguised as Santa tries to rob the First National Bank two days before Christmas, a gun battle ensues, leaving more than a dozen wounded and eight dead before he is captured.

The “Santa Claus Bank Robber” later kills a guard while trying to escape. Recaptured, Cisco citizens hang him – twice, after the first rope breaks.

Read more about Cisco’s colorful history in Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel.

December 26, 1905 – Nellie Bly patents the 55-Gallon Steel Drum

Nellie Bly – well known in her day as a journalist for the New York World newspaper – is issued a U.S. patent for the “metal barrel” that will become today’s 55-gallon steel drum. Read the rest of this entry »


December 17, 1884 –  Article features Oilfield Thunder and Lightning, Fires and Cannons

Especially in the Great Plains, frequent lightening strikes caused oil tank fires. This rare photograph is from the collection of the Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado.

“Oil fires, like battles, are fought by artillery” is the reporter’s catchy phrase in a New England magazine article.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes “A Thunder-Storm in the Oil Country” - its firsthand account of the problem of lightning strikes in America’s oilfields.

MIT not only reports on the fiery results of an lightning strike, but also the practice of using artillery to fight such conflagrations. Read the rest of this entry »


December 9, 1921 – Ethyl “Anti-Knock” Gasoline invented

Public health concerns will result in the phase-out of tetraethyl lead in gasoline beginning in 1976.

General Motors chemists Thomas Midgely Jr. and Charles F. Kettering.

General Motors scientists discover the antiknock properties of tetraethyl lead – and American motorists are soon saying “fill ‘er up with Ethyl.”

In early internal combustion engines, “knocking” resulted from the out-of-sequence detonation of the gasoline-air mixture in a cylinder. This shock frequently damaged the engine.

After five years of lab work to find an additive to eliminate pre-ignition “knock” problems of gasoline, G.M. researchers Thomas Midgely Jr. and Charles F. Kettering discover the antiknock properties of tetraethyl lead. Their experiments examine the properties of knock suppressors such as bromine, iodine and tin – and compare these to new additives such as arsenic, sulfur, silicon and lead. Read the rest of this entry »


December 4, 1928 – First Oil Discovery using Reflection Seismography 

Geologic Resources

An energy source (explosive charge, weight drop, vibration generator), creates waves reflecting from the top of bedrock to surface detectors.

Amerada Petroleum drills into a Viola limestone formation in Oklahoma – the first successful oil well produced from a geological structure identified by a reflection seismograph.

The exploration technology for the first time reveals an oil reservoir near Seminole. Successfully tested as early as June 1921, reflection seismography – seismic surveying – will lead to oilfield discoveries across the world.

Amerada Petroleum’s subsidiary Geophysical Research applies the new technology, which has evolved from the World War I and experiments of Reginald Fessenden, Ludger Mintrop of Germany – and renowned Oklahoma physicist John Karcher.

Fessenden, working as the chief physicist for the Submarine Signaling Company of Boston, makes the technology practical for use in the field. In Germany, Mintrop develops portable seismic detection equipment that uses seismic reflections from Allied artillery to aid the German army in locating the source. Read the rest of this entry »


November 25, 1875 – Continental Oil and Transportation

Railroad tank cars carry kerosene from Cleveland to Ogden in the 1870s.

Convinced that he can profit by purchasing bulk kerosene in cheaper eastern markets and shipping it by rail to Ogden, Utah, for distribution, Isaac Blake forms the Continental Oil and Transportation Company.

Continental purchases two railroad tank cars – the first to be used west of the Mississippi River – and begins shipping kerosene from a Cleveland, Ohio, refinery. The company quickly grows, expanding into Colorado in 1876 and California in 1877.

Standard Oil Company absorbs Continental Oil in 1885. Following the 1911 breakup of Standard, Continental Oil will reemerge and continues today as ConocoPhillips.

November 27, 1940 – Gas by Edward Hopper exhibited in New York

Edward Hopper’s 1940 painting “Gas” includes the flying Pegasus logo of Mobilgas. It precedes the Pop Art movement by a decade.

Edward Hopper’s painting Gas is exhibited by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

Hopper began the painting a month earlier. “Ed is about to start a canvas – an effect of night on a gasoline station,” noted his wife.

Critics praise Hopper’s work and suggest that Gas with its commonplace Mobilgas sign presages America’s Pop Art movement that comes a decade later. Read the rest of this entry »


November 19, 1861 – American exports Oil for First Time

A merchant brig set sail from Philadelphia in 1861 with a cargo of Pennsylvania oil and refined kerosene.

America exports petroleum for the first time when a merchant brig departs Philadelphia’s dockyard.

The Elizabeth Watts is bound for London with a cargo of 901 barrels of Pennsylvania oil and 428 barrels of refined kerosene.

The shippers are the highly successful Philadelphia import-export firm of Peter Wright & Sons, which since its founding in 1818 has prospered transporting “china, glass, and Queensware” among other commodities.

The company hires the Elizabeth Watts and her captain, Charles Bryant, to ship the petroleum to three British companies: G. Crowshaw & Company, Coates & Company, and Herzog & Company. Read the rest of this entry »


November 11, 1884 – Birth of Consolidated Edison Company of New York

This “bird’s-eye view” illustrates New York and Brooklyn in 1873. The Brooklyn Bridge is under construction at right.

America’s largest gas utility company is created in New York City when six gas-light companies merge to form the Consolidated Gas Company.

Today known as Consolidated Edison Company, “Con Edison” can trace its history still six decades earlier to the New York Gas Light Company.

In 1823, New York Gas received a charter from the New York State Legislature to serve all of Manhattan south of an east-west line created by Grand, Sullivan, and Canal Streets.

“Like most early gas companies, New York Gas would focus its efforts on street lighting, in this case, supplementing or replacing the whale-oil lamps that were installed by the city beginning in the 1760s,” explains Con Edison.

“With six major gas companies serving New York City, the streets were constantly being torn up by one company or another installing or repairing their own mains – or removing those of a rival,” notes a company historian.

From time to time, work crews from competing companies would inadvertently meet on the same street and literally battle for customers, giving rise to the term “gas house gangs.” Read more in Con Ed – America’s Largest Utility.

November 12, 1899 – Mrs. Alford’s Nitro Factory

The New York World profiles Mrs. Byron Alford – the “Only Woman in the World who Owns and Operates a Dynamite Factory.”

Alford’s dangerous business operates on five acres outside of Bradford, Pennsylvania, with a daily production of 3,000 pounds of “nitro-glycerine” and 6,000 pounds of dynamite. Local drillers need the explosives for “shooting” wells to boost production.

Mrs. Alford manufactures the explosives in 12 separate buildings – all unpainted and made of wood.

Read her story in Mrs. Alford’s Nitro Factory.

November 12, 1916 – Forest Oil Company formed

Forest Oil’s “yellow dog” lamp logo originated in 1916.

Forest Oil Company incorporates and begins operations in the Bradford oil field of northwestern Pennsylvania. It adopts a distinctive “yellow dog” lamp with two wicks logo.

The company adopts a new technology: water-flooding (injecting water into oil-bearing formations) to stimulate production from wells considered depleted. Forest’s production increases from 38 barrels per day in 1916 to more than 10,000 barrels by the late 1920s.

In 1924, Forest Oil consolidates with the January Oil Company, Brown Seal Oil, Andrews Petroleum and Boyd Oil to form the Forest Oil Corp., today headquartered in Denver. Read more in “Yellow Dog – Oil Field Lantern.”

November 13, 1925 – Spindletop booms Again

More than two decades after its first oil boom, Spindletop, Texas, experiences a second boom when the Yount-Lee Oil Company strikes a 5,000-barrel-a-day oil well.

The discovery is south of the 1901 “Lucas Gusher,” according to the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont.

“Yount believed that there was much more oil at Spindletop, if flank wells could be drilled deep enough. He was right, and the McFaddin No. 2 began to produce oil at 2,518 feet on November 13, 1925,” notes the museum website.

That evening, Magnolia’s radio station announced the discovery, and the second Spindletop boom began.  Although “the Hill” was once again ringed with wells, the wild atmosphere that had characterized the first boom was not repeated.

November 14, 1947 – First Offshore Oil Well Out of Sight of Land

The modern offshore oil and natural gas industry begins when an exploratory well strikes oil in the Gulf of Mexico – the first successful offshore oil well out of sight of land.

America’s first offshore Gulf of Mexico drilling platform (above) is 10 miles off the Louisiana coast in just 18 feet of water. Built by Brown & Root Company for only $230,000 — and without comparable information on how strong to make the pilings, welds and jackets — the platform will withstand hurricane-force winds.

The company of Brown & Root builds this freestanding platform 10 miles from shore for Kerr-McGee Oil Industries and partners Phillips Petroleum and Stanolind. Brown & Root has learned from a previous offshore experience. In 1938, the company constructed a 320-foot by 180-foot freestanding wooden deck in 14 feet of water about a mile offshore.

The historic “Kermac 16″ platform is included in a 1954 Bell Helicopter advertisement encouraging the use of helicopters for offshore transportation.

The latest freestanding offshore platform, called “Kermac 16,” has a loading factor of 2,000 pounds per square foot that can withstand winds as high as 125 miles per hour – despite not having supporting guide wires.

Brown & Root builds the platform at a time when no equipment specifically designed for offshore drilling yet exists.

With $450,000 invested, Kerr-McGee brings in the well as a 40-barrel-per-hour producer in about 18 feet of water off Louisiana’s gradually sloping Gulf of Mexico coast.

Kerr-McGee purchases World War II surplus utility freighters and materials to provide supplies, equipment, and crew quarters for the drilling site at Ship Shoal Block 32.

Sixteen 24-inch pilings sunk 104 feet into the ocean floor secure the 2,700 square foot wooden deck – which successfully withstands the biggest Category 5 hurricane of the 1947 season a week after spudding (the start of drilling).

“Kermac 16″ produces 1.4 million barrels of oil and 307 million cubic feet of natural gas before being shut down in 1984. Learn more about U.S. offshore pioneers and technology in “Offshore Oil History” and “Deep Sea Roughnecks.”

November 15, 1906 – Justice Department seeks Standard Oil breakup

An 1885 photograph of John D. Rockefeller.

Under Sherman Anti-Trust Act provisions, the U.S. Attorney General files suit to compel dissolution of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey – and its subsidiaries.

An 1892 court decision had previously ordered the Standard Oil Trust to be dissolved, but Standard Oil reorganized and continued to operate from headquarters in New York and later New Jersey.

The Justice Department will win this new suit, but John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirms the lower court’s decision on May 15, 1911, noting, “the combination and conspiracy in restraint of trade and its continued execution…monopolize a part of interstate and international commerce.”

November 17, 1949 – Geological Survey begins Petroleum Survey

The U.S. Geological Survey embarks on a massive geological study of the United States. More than 70 geologists engage in intensive investigations covering 22 states and Alaska. Their mission is to define areas favorable for oil and natural gas exploration.

Support “This Week in Petroleum History.” Help the society’s energy education mission with a donation.


November 6, 1860 – Refinery will produce New Light Source – Kerosene

Construction begins on the first multiple-still refinery in the booming Pennsylvania oil region, one mile south of Titusville on the north bank of Oil Creek.

William Barnsdall (driller of the first well to follow Edwin L. Drake’s historic August 1859 discovery), James Parker, and W. H. Abbott build six stills for refining kerosene at a cost of $15,000. Much of the equipment is purchased in Pittsburgh and shipped up the Allegheny River to Oil City, then up Oil Creek to the refinery site.

Completed and brought on stream in January 1861, the stills produce two grades of illuminating oil – white and the less expensive yellow. Each barrel of oil yields about 20 gallons of kerosene. Read the rest of this entry »


October 28, 1868 – Explosive Technology

In Pennsylvania, the Titusville Morning Herald reports on the latest oilfield technology – the nitroglycerin torpedo.

“It would be superfluous, at this late day, to speak of the merits of the Roberts Torpedo,” the newspaper article explains.

“For the past three years, it has been a most successful operation, and has increased the production of oil in hundreds upon hundreds of oil wells to an extent which could hardly be overestimated,” it adds.

Read more in “Shooters – a ‘Fracking’ History.”

October 28, 1926 – Yates Field discovered in West Texas

New technologies are renewing interest in the Yates field, discovered in 1926. Houston Chronicle photo.

The 26,400-acre Yates oilfield is discovered in a remote area of Pecos County, Texas, in the increasingly prolific Permian Basin.

Drilled using a $15,000 cable-tool rig, the Ira G. Yates 1-A produces 450 barrels of oil per day from just under 1,000 feet.

Prior to the historic discovery, Yates had struggled to keep his ranch on the northern border of the Chihuahua Desert, notes a 2007 article in the Austin Chronicle.

“Drought and predators nearly did him in when Yates convinced a San Angelo company to explore for oil west of the Pecos River,” the article explains.

The Yates well – completed by the Mid-Kansas and Transcontinental Oil Companies - is 30 miles from the nearest oil pipeline at McCamey in Upton County. A 55,000-barrel steel storage tank and a pipeline to McCamey are under construction when four new producers begin yielding an additional 12,000 barrels of oil daily. Read the rest of this entry »


October 21, 1921 – First Natural Gas Well in New Mexico

New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service begins soon after the 1921 discovery.

New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service began soon after a 1921 discovery near Aztec. Major oil discoveries will follow in the southeastern part of the state.

New Mexico’s natural gas industry is launched with the newly formed Aztec Oil Syndicate’s State No. 1 well about 15 miles northeast of Farmington in San Juan County.

The well produces 10 million cubic feet of natural gas daily and the crew uses a trimmed tree trunk with a two-inch pipe and shut-off valve to control the well until a proper wellhead can be shipped in from Colorado.

By Christmas, a pipeline reaches two miles into the town of Aztec where citizens celebrate New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service. By 1922, natural gas can be purchased in Aztec at a flat rate of $2 a month for a heater and $2.25 for a stove.

Read more about the state’s petroleum history in New Mexico Oil Discovery. Read the rest of this entry »


October 14, 1929 – Oilfield Discovery in East Texas

This Van Zandt County museum east of Dallas is in a warehouse originally built in 1930 by the Pure Oil Company.

This Van Zandt County museum east of Dallas is in a warehouse originally built in 1930 by the Pure Oil Company.

The discovery of oil in Van, Texas, by the Pure Oil Company creates an oil boom town 60 miles east of Dallas.

The Van oilfield produces from about 2,700 feet in a Woodbine sandstone.

By December, three more wells have been drilled and construction started on a camp for oil field workers.

By 1930, among “Cook Camp” buildings is the a sheet metal warehouse that today is the Van Area Oil and Historical Museum.

Pure Oil Company’s Jarman No. 1 discovery well initially produced 146 barrels per hour from the Woodbine. By April 1930, the oilfield is producing 20,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

Two ten-inch pipelines connect the field to refineries, one to the Pure refinery at Beaumont and the second, operated by Humble, to the Standard Oil Company pipeline to its Baton Rouge refinery.

Operators in the Van field adopt advanced production techniques – and it becomes the nation’s first field to be completely unitized. Unitization improves production efficiency by consolidating a petroleum field into a single entity. Usually, one or several of the companies involved are designated as operator.

The Van Area Oil and Historical Museum opened in 1987 and exhibits many reminders of East Texas oil boom days. Located just north of I-20, on Hwy. 16 , Van hosts an annual “Oil Festival and Van Oil Queen Pageant” in October – and an “Oil Museum Lighting and Open House” every December.

October 16, 1865 – Pennsylvanian constructs First Oil Pipeline

Van Syckel’s oil pipeline will launch a revolution, according to journalist Ida Tarbell.

Pipelines – and the technology to lay them – will revolutionize petroleum transportation in the early oil patch.

In Venango County, Pennsylvania, Samuel Van Syckel’s Oil Transportation Association puts into service a two-inch iron line linking the Frazier well to the Miller Farm Oil Creek Railroad Station – about five miles away.

With 15-foot welded joints and three 10-horsepower Reed and Cogswell steam pumps, the pipeline transports 80 barrels of oil per hour – the equivalent of 300 teamster wagons working for ten hours.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Tubing Company is laying a seven-mile, six-inch pipeline from Pithole Creek to the Island Well. With their livelihoods threatened, teamsters sabotage the pipelines, until armed guards intervene.

“The day that the Van Syckel pipe-line began to run oil a revolution began in the business. After the Drake well it is the most important event in the history of the Oil Regions,” notes Ida Tarbell in her History of the Standard Oil Company.

October 16, 1931 – Natural Gas Pipeline sets Record

The 1931 natural gas pipeline extends 980 miles across three states.

America’s first long-distance, high-pressure natural gas pipeline goes into service, linking prolific Texas Panhandle gas fields to consumers in Chicago.

A. O. Smith Corporation has developed the technology of thin-walled longitudinal pipe and Continental Construction Corporation built the 980-mile bolted flange pipeline for the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America.

The $75 million project consumes 209,000 tons of A. O. Smith’s specially fabricated 24-inch diameter steel pipe (6,500 freight car loads) and requires 2,600 separate right-of-way leases. Texoma Natural Gas provides the gas to Chicago’s Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company.

October 17, 1917 – “Roaring Ranger” Oil Discovery fuels WWI Victory

Eastland County, Texas, discoveries include oil wells near Cisco, where Conrad Hilton will witness the crowds of roughnecks – and buy his first hotel.

The J. H. McCleskey No. 1 well strikes oil at 3,432 feet, about a mile south of Ranger, Texas. Wildcatters had pursued oil with little success in Eastland County since 1904.

Texas and Pacific Coal Company’s William Knox Gordon and his driller Frank Champion bring in the well, which produces 1,600 barrels a day of high gravity oil. The discovery launches the Ranger oilfield boom. Within 20 months the company’s stock value goes from $30 a share to $1,250 a share.

The formerly quiet Eastland County farming communities fill with oilmen and entrepreneurs as oil sells for $2.60 a barrel – and many “Roaring Ranger” wells flow at 10,000 barrels a day.

Ranger’s population alone grows to more than 25,000 and its four banks hold $5 million in deposits.

Ranger oilfield production is essential to America’s victory in World War I, although the high production drops reservoir pressure and depletes the field. When the armistice is signed in November 1918, a member of the British War Cabinet declares, “the Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”

Today, Ranger annually celebrates a “Roaring Ranger Day Festival” in September. To learn more about other nearby North Texas oil booms, read Pump Jack Capital of Texas.

October 17, 1918 – End of World War I “Gasless Sundays” 

“Gasless Sundays” joined “Meatless Thursdays” and “Heatless Mondays” as a result of war shortages.

After seven voluntary “Gasless Sundays” observed east of the Mississippi River to support the World War I effort, the U.S. Fuel Administration ends the initiative, having saved an estimated one-million gallons of gasoline.

Because of depleted East Coast reserves, producers were forbidden to make deliveries of gasoline to any customer until all orders to the Army, Navy, and Allies are delivered. Other World War I conservation measures include Meatless Thursdays, Heatless Mondays, Lightless Nights, and Victory Gardens.

October 17, 1973 – OPEC declares Oil Embargo

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) implements what it calls “oil diplomacy” – prohibiting any nation that had supported Israel in its “Yom Kippur War” from buying any of the oil it sells.

“The ensuing energy crisis marked the end of the era of cheap gasoline and caused the share value of the New York Stock Exchange to drop by $97 billion. This, in turn, ushered in one of the worst recessions the United States had ever seen,” notes

Even prior to the OPEC embargo, an American oil crisis was on the horizon because of low domestic reserves, the site adds. The country was importing about 27 percent of the crude petroleum it needed every year.

Although  dependence on foreign supplies peaked in 2005, in 2010 America imported about 49 percent of the petroleum it consumed.

Now, thanks to recent advances in production technologies, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the United States will be the world’s top producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons in 2013, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

October 18, 2008 – Derrick dedicated in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Discovery 1 Park

Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville includes a replica derrick on the original site of the first commercial oil well drilled in what is now Oklahoma.

Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville  – site of a renovated Nellie Johnstone No. 1, Oklahoma’s first commercial oil well – is dedicated.

A re-enactment of the dramatic moment that changed Oklahoma history highlights the dedication ceremony.

A 2008 gusher re-enactment highlights the dedication of a new replica derrick in Bartlesville.

Events include local roughneck reenactors bringing in the 84-foot derrick’s oil well with a water gusher. A similar cable-tool drilling rig thrilled spectators in on March 25, 1897, when Jenny Cass, stepdaughter of Bartlesville co-founder George W. Keeler, was given the honor of “shooting” the oil well.

The 1948 presentation of the well to the city of Bartlesville appropriately noted:

Like the rush for Oklahoma land, the discovery of oil attracted both men and capital from far and near, these pioneers in petroleum development were as rugged and self-sufficient as those who settled the land.

Oklahoma’s two greatest industries, agriculture and petroleum, have developed largely hand in hand, and back of both developments are the pioneers, men of restless energy and unbounded faith.

The park’s first replica derrick was erected on the original site in 1948, but removed in 1962, according to the Bartlesville Area History Museum.

A new replica was erected in 1964. Attending that dedication was W.W. Keeler, grandson of Nellie Johnstone Cannon, daughter of William Johnstone and namesake of the original well.  Learn more in Discovering Oklahoma Oil.

October 20, 1861 – Pennsylvania Oil Boom

Drilling technologies evolved from from salt wells.

Just after midnight, William Phillips – a salt well driller from the Pittsburgh area – brings in his second well on the Tarr farm of Oil Creek, Pennsylvania. It produces an astounding 4,000 barrels per day from only 480 feet.

This early well taps into the Venango Third Sand’s highly pressurized oil, which flows into Oil Creek several days before being controlled. As new “oilmen” like Phillips develop production skills and technologies, pits are dug and wooden tanks assembled to accommodate the Tarr farm’s oil.

For a time, overproduction drives U.S. oil prices to 10 cents a barrel. The Phillips No. 2 well produces until 1871 and yields more than 950,000 barrels of oil, a record that stands for 27 years.

October 20, 1949 -  Rare Well in Maryland

No oil has yet been found in Maryland.

The first commercially successful natural gas well in Maryland is drilled by the Cumberland Allegheny Gas Company in the town of Mountain Lake Park, Garrett County – the westernmost county in the state.

The Elmer N. Beachy well produces almost 500 Mcf of natural gas a day.

The wildcat discovery prompts a rush of competing companies and indiscriminate, high-density drilling (an average of nine wells per acre), which depletes the field. Twenty of 29 wells drilled within the town produce natural gas, but overall production from the field is minimal.

By 1962 the site becomes part of a storage area for the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation. No oil has yet been found in Maryland.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


October 7, 1859 – America’s First Oil Well catches Fire

Visitors to the Drake Well Museum along Oil Creek in Titusville can tour a replica of the Edwin Drake’s cable-tool derrick and steam-engine house.

Visitors to the Drake Well Museum along Oil Creek in Titusville can tour a replica of the Edwin Drake’s cable-tool derrick and steam-engine house.

Along Oil Creek, near Titusville, Pennsylvania, the wooden derrick and engine house of America’s first commercial oil well erupts into flames – perhaps America’s first oil well fire.

Drilled by “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake the previous August, the well had produced oil from just 69.5 feet.

Working with his driller, William “Uncle Billy” Smith, Drake used steam-powered cable-tool technology, an advancement over the ancient spring-pole.

Although Drake initially pumped oil using a borrowed water pump, “it is estimated that his well produced between 20-40 barrels daily, using all the whiskey barrels in Titusville.” writes historian Urja Davin.

Fire at the site comes slightly more than a month after the discovery. “The first oil well fire was started by ‘Uncle Billy,’ who went to inspect the oil in the vat with an open lamp, setting the gases alight,” explains Davin. “It burned the derrick, all the stored oil, and the driller’s home.”

Drake will rebuild his derrick and engine house, including steam boiler and six-horse power engine. Read First Oil Well, First Oil Fire.

October 7, 1929 – Teapot Dome brings Jail Time for Interior Secretary

Secretary of Interior Albert B. Fall, begins serving a one-year sentence in New Mexico’s Santa Fe Penitentiary for taking a $100,000 bribe in the Teapot Dome scandal.

Almost 30,000 acres of public lands in Natrona County, Wyoming, had been established as a Naval Petroleum Reserve by President William Taft in 1910. In May 1921, President Warren G. Harding’s executive order gave Fall complete control of all Naval Reserves.

In 1922, without competitive bidding, Fall leased Teapot Dome fields to Harry Sinclair of Sinclair Oil Company and Elk Hills, California, fields to Edward Doheny. In Senate hearings, it emerged that cash was delivered to Fall in Washington, D.C. Although Fall was convicted for taking a bribe, Sinclair and Doheny were acquitted.

October 8, 1923 – Tulsa hosts First Oil Exposition


The Golden Driller, a 76-foot tall, 43,500 pound statue of an oil worker, is still a tourist attraction. Tulsa hosted the first International Petroleum Exposition in 1923.

Five thousand visitors brave torrents of rain for opening day of the first International Petroleum Exposition and Congress in downtown Tulsa, an event that will return for decades.

More than 200 exhibitors display the most complete line of oil country goods ever assembled and it is midnight before the last guest leaves the grounds. In subsequent years, attendance grows to more than 120,000 and the expo moves first to the old Tulsa circus grounds and then to the Tulsa state fairgrounds. Mid-Continent Supply Company of Fort Worth introduces the original Golden Driller at the exposition in 1953. The giant is rebuilt in 1966 as attendance peaks.

Economic shocks beginning with the 1973 OPEC oil embargo depress the petroleum industry and after 57 years, the International Petroleum Exposition closes for good in 1979 as a result of growing competition from the annual Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

October 12, 1905 – Petroleum brings Prosperity to North Louisiana

In 1955, the Shreveport chamber of commerce dedicated a 40-foot monument at the state fairgrounds commemorating the 50th anniversary of the discovery.

Oil is discovered in Caddo Parish, creating a classic boom town in Oil City – and economic prosperity for northern Louisiana that would last for decades.

The Caddo Pine Island oil field, about 20 miles northwest of Shreveport, includes more than 80,000 acres. Five years later, another major discovery will extend the Caddo field by about 1.5 miles.

Petroleum history is preserved at the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum in Oil City.

Formerly known as Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum vividly tells the story of Oil City and Louisiana petroleum history using historic buildings, a collection of outdoor displays, and interactive exhibits.

Chevron donated a drilling rig now outside the main museum in Oil City.

“This part of Louisiana, of course, was built on the oil and gas industry, and those visitors interested in the technical aspects of oilfield work will find the museum particularly appealing,” notes the museum’s website. Next to an old train depot is a collection of oilfield machinery, rigs and equipment further illustrates the industry.

More petroleum exhibits can be found in Shreveport, where natural gas was discovered in 1870 by the American Well Works – which was digging a 961-foot water well for the Shreveport Ice Plant. A night watchman struck a match to see if the wind he heard blowing from the drilling site would blow it out, but the escaping natural gas ignited.

The newly discovered gas was subsequently used to light the ice factory and became the state’s first commercial use of natural gas.

The Spring Street Historical Museum is housed in one of the oldest downtown buildings – Tally’s Bank, built in 1865. Nearby, at 90 Market Street, a statue commemorates Louisiana’s first commercial natural gas well.

Both museums note that the oil booms brought 25,000 people to the region – and some of the lawlessness that sometimes accompanies an economic boom. Historians note the influx of such famous outlaws as Tom Star and his gang from Oklahoma and Diamond Dick. Later, Bonnie and Clyde Barrow are said to have often slipped in and out of Oil City.

October 13, 1954 – First Arizona Oil Well

Apache County is Arizona’s only oil producing county.

Arizona becomes the 30th oil producing state when Shell Oil Company brings in the East Boundary Butte No. 2 well a mile south of the Utah border on Apache County’s Navajo Indian Reservation.

The well’s initial flow is small, just 2,200 cubic feet of natural gas and 11 barrels of oil per day from the Paradox Basin. Apache County remains the only petroleum producing county in Arizona.

Of more than 1,000 oil and natural gas drilled in the state since 1954, almost 90 percent have been dry holes (2009 data).  The highest producing field, Dineh-Bi-Keyeh, produced less than 43,000 barrels of oil from 23 wells in 2009.

Nevertheless, more than 21 million barrels of oil have been produced since the first discovery, according to the Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates drilling and production of oil, natural gas, helium, carbon dioxide and geothermal resources.

Support the historical society today by contributing to its energy education mission.


September 30, 2006 – Statue dedicated at Signal Hill, California

"Tribute to the Roughnecks" by Cindy Jackson stands atop Signal Hill. Long Beach is in the distance.

“Tribute to the Roughnecks” by Cindy Jackson stands atop Signal Hill. The city of Long Beach is in the distance.

A bronze statue, “Tribute to the Roughnecks,” is dedicated on Skyline Drive at Signal Hill, 20 miles south of Los Angeles.

Nearby is Discovery Well Park and the Alamitos No. 1 well, which in 1921 revealed California’s prolific Long Beach oilfield.

Once one of the world’s most famous gushers, more than one billion barrels of oil have been pumped from the Long Beach oilfield since the original strike. It still produces 1.5 million barrels of oil a year. Read the rest of this entry »


September 23, 1918 – Birth of Wood River Refinery

The Wood River Refinery History Museum is located in front of the Conoco-Phillips Refinery in Wood River, Illinois.

North of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, Roxana Petroleum Company’s Wood River (Illinois) Refinery comes online. The refinery processes more than two million barrels of Oklahoma oil in its first year of operation.

Roxana Petroleum Company is the 1912 creation of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which also founded the American Gasoline Company in Seattle to distribute gasoline on the West Coast. Roxana is established in Oklahoma to locate and produce the oil to be refined at Wood River.

Today, the Wood River Refinery is owned by ConocoPhillips and is the company’s largest. It processes 300,000 barrels of oil daily into more than nine million gallons of gasoline/fuel and 42,000 barrels of asphalt during peak season. Visit the Wood River Refinery Historical Museum.

September 24, 1943 – Natural Gas Pipeline will link Texas to Appalachia 

Getting petroleum to vital U.S. industries during World War II brought a surge in pipeline construction.

As natural gas shortages threaten World War II industrial production in northern Appalachia, the Federal Power Commission issues a “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” authorizing construction of a pipeline to link Texas natural gas fields to Appalachia by the winter of 1944.

A subsidiary of the Chicago Corporation, Tennessee Gas and Transmission Company, builds the 1,265-mile pipeline through seven states, negotiating right-of-way with more than 12,000 individual landowners in 70 counties.

After the pipeline finishes ahead of schedule and under budget, the company prospers. Tenneco Corporation is created in 1960 to manage a growing complement of company subsidiaries. In 1966 Tenneco assumes control of Tennessee Gas assets. Also see “WW II Big Inch and Little Big Inch Pipelines.”

On September 24, 1951 — Well Perforation Patent uses Bazooka Technology

On September 24, 1951, Henry Mohaupt applies for a U.S. patent for his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun” — bringing to the oil patch his World War II anti-tank “bazooka” technology patented one decade earlier.

Henry Mohaupt applies to patent his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun” – bringing World War II anti-tank technology to the petroleum industry.

Mohaupt had been in charge of a secret U.S. Army program to develop an anti-tank weapon. His idea of using a conically hollowed out explosive charge to direct and focus detonation energy ultimately produced a rocket grenade used in the bazooka.

After the war, the potential of downhole rocket grenades  to facilitate flow from oil-bearing strata is recognized by the Well Explosives Company of Fort Worth, Texas.

The company employs Mohaupt to develop new technologies for safely perforating cement casing and pipe.

In the early days of well “perforating” technology, a variety of mechanical means of penetrating casings were used. A 1902 invention used a scissors-like expanding mechanism to drive and then retract “perforating levers” through the casing.

By the 1930s, “bullet” devices using projectiles – usually steel bullets – would become the most popular among oilmen. Read more in “Downhole Bazooka.”

September 25, 1922 – First Oil Discovery in New Mexico

New Mexico has produced more than 5.5 billion barrels of oil since its September 1922 discovery well.

New Mexico’s first commercial oil well is drilled on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Shiprock by the Midwest Refining Company.

Although the Hogback No. 1 well produces a modest 375 barrels per day, New Mexico has since produced more than 5.5 billion barrels of oil.

Following the 1922 discovery, Midwest drills eleven additional wells to establish the Hogback oilfield as a major producer of the San Juan Basin. Two years later, a pipeline to Farmington is completed and oil is shipped by rail to Salt Lake City, Utah, for refining. Still more discoveries come in southeastern New Mexico.

A 1928 oil strike will bring prosperity to Lea County and the town of Hobbs, named for James Hobbs, who homesteaded there in 1907. Learn more in “New Mexico Oil Discovery.” 

September 26, 1876 – First Commercial Oil Well in California

Although Charles A. Mentry of California Star Oil Works Company drilled three wells in 1875 and 1876 that showed promise, his first “gusher” arrives with the fourth well.

Pico Well No. 4 is California’s first commercial oil well. It also will lead to the state’s first oil pipeline and refinery. Drilling with a steam-powered cable-tool rig in an area known for its many oil seeps, he discovers the Pico Canyon oilfield north of Los Angeles.

The California Star Oil Works well, which initially produces 25 barrels per day from 370 feet, will lead to construction of the first commercially successful oil refinery in California. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the well was drilled with great difficulty.

Santa Clarita acquired California's first successful refinery as a gift from Chevron in 1997. Some believe it to be the oldest existing refinery in the world.

Santa Clarita acquired California’s first successful refinery as a gift from Chevron in 1997. Some believe it to be the oldest existing refinery in the world. Photo by Konrad Summers.

“The railroad had not then been completed, there was no road into the canyon, water was almost unattainable, and there were no adequate tools or machinery to be had,” notes the Times. Mentry improvised tools, including making a drill-stem out of old railroad-car axles he welded together.

Mentry later deepens the well to 560 feet, increasing daily production to 150 barrels per day, and California Star Oil Works Company constructs the state’s first oil pipeline from Pico Canyon to a newly built refinery in Newhall.

Newhall’s Pioneer Refinery will become the first successful commercial refinery in the West, producing kerosene and lubricants. Stills were set on brick foundations and the two largest  have a capacity of 150 barrels a day.

Chevron can trace its beginnings to the 1876 Pico Canyon oil discovery. Chevron, once the Standard Oil Company of California, in 1900 acquired the Pacific Coast Oil Company, which had incorporated as the majority owner of California Star Oil Works Company three years after the historic discovery. A small town named Mentryville is a short distance from Pico Well No. 4.

September 26, 1933 – King Ranch Lease sets Record

 At the time, the King Ranch is the largest oil lease contract ever negotiated in the United States.

The King Ranch oil lease sets a record.

Despite the reservations of W. S. Parrish, president of Humble Oil and Refining Company, geologist Wallace E. Pratt convinces the company to lease the million-acre King Ranch in Texas for $127,824 per year (plus a one-eighth royalty on any discovered oil).

At the time, this is the largest oil lease contract ever negotiated in the United States.

Subsequent leases from neighboring ranches will give Humble Oil & Refining Company nearly two million acres of mineral rights between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande River.

By 1947, Humble is operating 390 producing oil wells on the King Ranch lease. Today, ExxonMobil continues to extend the oil and natural gas lease agreement that has been in effect since 1933.

September 26, 1943 – First Sunshine State Oil Discovery

Humble Oil Company brings in Florida’s first commercially successful oil well – the Sunniland No. 1 – near a watering stop on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

 After expending about $1 million and reaching a depth of 11,626, Humble Oil Company brings in Sunniland No. 1 we;; on September 26, 1943 - Florida’s first producing oil well, above.

After expending about $1 million and reaching a depth of 11,626, Humble Oil Company brings in Sunniland No. 1 well on September 26, 1943 – Florida’s first producing oil well, above.

Humble Oil spends about $1 million drilling to a depth of 11,626 feet to bring in the discovery well, located 12 miles south of Immokalee, near present day Big Cypress Preserve and the city of Naples.

Florida’s oil had eluded hundreds of wildcatters since 1901. By 1939, almost 80 dry holes had been drilled. About this time, Florida legislators – desperate for their state to become an oil producer and benefit from the tax revenue – offer a $50,000 bounty for the first discovery.

The Humble discovery of the Sunniland oilfield sparks a flurry of lease purchases and wildcat wells. By 1954, the field is producing 500,000 barrels per year from eleven wells at average depths of 11,575 feet.

The Sunniland oilfield remains Florida’s top producer until 1964, when Sun Oil Company, after spending $10 million on 34 dry holes, discovers the Felda field in nearby Hendry County.

Texas-based Humble Oil accepts the $50,000 prize offered by the Sunshine State, adds $10,000 – and donates the $60,000 equally between the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women. Humble will later become Exxon, now ExxonMobil. Read more in “First Florida Oil Well.”

September 27, 1915 – Explosion in Ardmore, Oklahoma

The accident will result in new gas transportation regulations.

Two years after Healdton oilfield’s discovery in Oklahoma, a railroad tank car of casing-head gasoline explodes at the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway depot in Ardmore – destroying most of downtown. Casing-head gasoline comes from the natural gas wells integral to Oklahoma’s early petroleum development.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, after the disaster the Natural Gasoline Manufacturers Association advocates new regulations governing casing-head gas transportation. The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway is found responsible for the explosion and pays 1,700 claims totaling $1.25 million.

September 28, 1945 – Truman claims  Outer Continental Shelf

Harry S. Truman

President Harry Truman extends U.S. jurisdiction over the offshore resources of America’s outer continental shelf, placing them under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. The presidential proclamation notes that competing boundaries will be negotiated between the United States and other nations.

Truman’s edict is codified by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, which affirms the nation’s exclusive jurisdiction over its continental shelf resources – and gives authority to the Department of the Interior “to encourage discovery and development of oil” through a leasing program.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


September 18, 1948 – Oil discovered in Utah’s Uinta Basin

Begun in 1948 in the giant Uinta Basin, Utah's petroleum boom continues today thanks to giant reserves of coalbed methane gas.

Begun in 1948 in the giant Uinta Basin, Utah’s petroleum boom continues today thanks to giant reserves of coalbed methane gas.

J. L. “Mike” Dougan, president of the small independent Equity Oil Company, completes the state’s first commercial well in the Uinta Basin.

Dougan beats out larger and better financed competitors, including  Standard Oil of California, Pure Oil, Continental, and Union Oil.

Dougan’s discovery launches a deep-drilling boom in Utah.

Unlike the earlier attempts, Dougan has drilled beyond the typical depth of 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. His Ashley Valley No. 1 well, ten miles southeast of Vernal, produces 300 barrels a day from 4,152 feet.

By the end of 1948, eight more wells are drilled and development of the field follows. Production averages just less than a million barrels a year from the approximately 30 wells in the field. Exploration companies begin drilling 5,000 feet to 8,000 feet and even deeper into the Uinta Basin.

Today, the Uinta Basin’s coalbed methane in Utah and Colorado is considered one of the major producing areas in the nation. The basin is estimated to have up to 10 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves over a 14,450-square-mile region. Read more in “Utah Uinta Basin Oil Discovery.”

September 21, 1901 – First Commercial Oil Discovery in Louisiana

Thomas Watson says oil was first discovered in Sulphur, Louisiana, in 1886. Above, the entrance to the Sulphur Mines “in its glory days,” according to the professor.

Just eight months after the giant discovery at Spindletop Hill, Texas, oil is discovered 90 miles to the east in Louisiana.

W. Scott Heywood – already successful thanks to making strikes at Spindletop – brings in a 7,000-barrel-a-day well.

The  Louisiana discovery well is on the Jules Clements farm six miles northeast of Jennings.

Although the Jules Clements No. 1 is on only a 1/32 of an acre lease, it marks the state’s first commercial oil production and opens the prolific Jennings Field, which Heywood develops by securing leases, building pipelines and storage tanks, and contracting buyers.

Heywood’s discovery finds oil at 1,700 feet – after some discouraged investors have sold their stock when drilling reached 1,000 feet.

By 1,500 feet, stock in the Jennings Oil Company sells for as little as 25 cents per share. Patient investors are rewarded at 1,700 feet. The oilfield reaches peak production of more than nine million barrels in 1906.

Editor’s Note – A retired professor recently challenged the date of Louisiana’s first commercial oil well during a presentation at Carnegie Library in Sulphur on September 6, 2011.

Thomas Watson, PhD., “has uncovered evidence that the first producing oil well in Louisiana was at the Sulphur Mines in 1886,” notes an article in the Sulphur Daily News“This information could alter the history of oil production in Louisiana.”

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.

September 9, 1855 – Birthday of Man who discovered Spindletop

Born Anton Lucic in Split, Croatia, Anthony Francis Lucas in 1875 receives an engineering degree at the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria. He then reaches the rank of captain in the Austrian navy before coming to America, where he becomes a citizen in 1885. He changes his name to Lucas and works in Washington, D.C., as a mining engineer and geologist. Read the rest of this entry »


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September 2, 2009 – Offshore Discovery at Record Depth

BP announces a major discovery 250 miles southeast of Houston in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Tiber Prospect is estimated to hold more than three billion barrels of oil. The discovery well – drilled by the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon offshore rig – sets the world oil well depth record by drilling 30,923 feet into seabed from a platform floating 4,132 feet above.

At a later site, the Deepwater Horizon will explode and sink in April 2010, creating an oil spill until the BP well is capped in mid-July. Read the rest of this entry »


August 27, 1859 – Birth of U.S. Petroleum Industry

Visitors to the Drake Well Museum along Oil Creek in Titusville can tour a replica of the Edwin Drake’s cable-tool derrick and steam-engine house.

Visitors to the Drake Well Museum along Oil Creek in Titusville, Pennsylvania, can tour a replica of the Edwin Drake’s cable-tool derrick and steam-engine house among many other indoor and outdoor exhibits..

The modern American petroleum industry is born in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The Seneca Oil Company’s highly speculative pursuit of oil is rewarded when Edwin L. Drake and his blacksmith driller, William “Uncle Billy” Smith, bring in the first commercial oil well at 69.5 feet near Oil Creek in Venango County.

For many Americans, western Pennsylvania in the 1850s was considered wilderness. When a group of New Haven, Connecticut, investors sought someone to drill in a region known for its oil seeps, they turned to a former railroad conductor already familiar with the area. It also helped that Drake was allowed free passage on trains. Read the rest of this entry »


August 19, 1909 – Butter from Oil, Milk from Kerosene?

“Skilled chemists…can convert the kerosene into sweet milk.”

As public sentiment turns against monopolies – and following journalist Ida Tarbell’s 1904 book, The History of the Standard Oil Company - the company becomes a target for humorists.

“The Standard Oil Company has decided to drive the cow and the dairyman out of business,” declares a fanciful story from Jersey City.

“Its skilled chemists have discovered a process whereby they can make gilt-edge butter as a byproduct of crude petroleum,” notes another satire, which declares Standard chemists, “in the steps leading up to the petroleum butter discovery, also have perfected a cheap process by which they can convert the kerosene into sweet milk.”

August 19, 1957 - First and Only Oil found in Washington State

Surrounded by unsuccessful attempts, Washington’s first and only commercial oil well (red) will produce 12,500 barrels before being capped in 1961.

The first and only commercial oil well in the state of Washington is discovered by the Sunshine Mining Company. The Medina No. 1 well flows 223 barrels a day from a depth of 4,135 feet near Ocean City in Gray Harbor County.

Although a well drilled six years earlier produced 35 barrels a day, the Tom Hawksworth-State well was deemed noncommercial and abandoned. The West Coast’s Medina No. 1 well will produce 12,500 barrels before being capped in 1961..

“About 600 gas and oil wells have been drilled in Washington, but large-scale commercial production has never occurred,” explains a 2010 report from the Washington Commissioner of Public Lands.

“The most recent production, which was from the Ocean City Gas and Oil Field west of Hoquiam, ceased in 1962, and no oil or gas have been produced since that time,” the commissioner adds, noting that some companies are exploring for coalbed methane in western Washington. Read the rest of this entry »


August 12, 1930 – Kentucky Oilmen organize

Kentucky salt-well drillers found oil in the 1800s – long before a 1919 discovery in Hancock County launched a true oil boom.

A group of eastern Kentucky oilmen join the Western Kentucky Oil Men’s Association in Frankfort, where articles of incorporation are amended to create a state-wide organization – today’s Kentucky Oil and Gas Association.

A 1919 oil discovery near Pellville in Hancock County had touched off an oil boom in western Kentucky. Some historians credit the state with the first U.S. commercial oil well. See “Kentucky’s Great American Well” of 1829.

August 13, 1962 – Norman Rockwell illustrates Oil and Gas Journal 

A Norman Rockwell illustration advertised a leading industry magazine.

Norman Rockwell’s art commemorated the 1959 centennial of the birth of the nation’s oil industry.

The Oil and Gas Journal advertises with an illustration from artist Norman Rockwell captioned, “Where Oil Men Invest Their Valuable Reading Time.”

Beginning in 1916, Rockwell’s renditions of American life and family brought him widespread popularity through magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Boy’s Life, and Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.

In addition to the Oil and Gas Journal illustration, in 1959 Rockwell provides artwork to the American Petroleum Institute, which sponsors a Postal Service first day of issue to commemorate the centennial of the birth of the nation’s oil industry.

Rockwell’s illustration includes the slogan “Oil’s First Century 1859-1959 Born in Freedom Working for Progress.”

The Rockwell illustration depicts “the men of science, the rugged extraction of the crude oil, and ending with your friendly service station attendant,” notes one collector. Read the rest of this entry »


August 7, 1933 – Alley Oop’s Oil Patch Roots

A 1995 postage stamp commemorates “Alley Oop” by Victor Hamlin, a cartoonist originally from Iraan, Texas.

“Alley Oop” appears for the first time when former Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reporter Victor (V.T.) Hamlin publishes the caveman as a syndicated daily cartoon in Iowa’s Des Moines Register.

The comic strip will run in more than 800 newspapers nationwide – and the West Texas oil town of Iraan proclaims itself as Hamlin’s paleontological inspiration.

Iraan (pronounced eye-rah-ann) first appeared as a company town following the discovery of the prolific Yates oilfield. The name, chosen in a contest, combines names of the townsite owners, Ira and Ann Yates.

Discovered in October 1926 in southeastern Pecos County, the Yates field will bring prosperity to Iraan, Fort Stockton, Midland, Odessa and other communities by producing more than 40 million barrels in just three years. Read the rest of this entry »


July 29, 1918 – Burkburnett becomes a North Texas Boom Town

“Burkburnett was a sleepy farm town that transformed into a ‘Boom Town’ as a result of the North Texas oil boom in 1918,” explains the Burkburnett Historical Society. A popular 1940 MGM movie results from an article in Cosmopolitan magazine.

A wildcat well comes in on S. L. Fowler’s farm near a small North Texas community on the Red River.

The subsequent drilling boom will make Burkburnett famous  – two decades before “Boom Town,” the 1940 motion picture it inspires. Future movie star Clark Gable is a teenage oilfield worker in Oklahoma.

The well is completed at the northeastern edge of Burkburnett, founded in 1907 – and named by President Theodore Roosevelt, who two years earlier hunted wolf along the Red River with rancher Burkburnett. Read the rest of this entry »


July 22, 1933 – Phillips Petroleum sponsors Solo Flight

Record-setting pilot Wiley Post was once an oilfield roughneck near Seminole, Oklahoma.

Before 50,000 cheering New York City onlookers, famed aviator Wiley Post lands his Lockheed Vega “Winnie Mae” and becomes the first man to fly solo around the world.

Post had developed a close relationship with Frank Phillips, founder of the Phillips Petroleum Company of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Phillips paid for Post’s high-altitude experimental flights. Five years earlier Phillips had sponsored the winning plane – the Woolaroc – in a dangerous air race from across the Pacific.

Post’s trademark eye-patch resulted from his days working in oilfields near Seminole, Oklahoma. When a metal splinter damaged his eye in 1926, Post used $1,700 in compensation to buy his first airplane – and launch his famed aviation career. Read the rest of this entry »


July 16, 1926 – Start of the Greater Seminole Area Oil Boom

The Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole includes a diorama of local communities that became boom towns in the 1930s. The Greater Seminole Area includes seven of Oklahoma’s 20 “giant” oilfields – Earlsboro, St. Louis, Seminole, Bowlegs, Little River, Allen, and Seminole City.

A discovery well near Seminole, Oklahoma, reveals the potential of an oil producing formation, the Wilcox sand – and launches a drilling boom that will make Oklahoma one of today’s leading producing states.

The Fixico No. 1 well penetrates the prolific Wilcox sands at 4,073 feet. By 1935, the oilfield around Seminole will become the largest supplier of oil in the world.

More than 60 petroleum reservoirs are found in 1,300 square miles of east-central Oklahoma – and six are giants that produce more than million barrels of oil each.

The greater Seminole area - several 1920s Oklahoma oilfields – will swing the United States’ oil reserves from scarcity to surplus. The Fixico well is among five Seminole-area oil reservoirs discovered by 1927.

Volunteers operate the Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole and are involved in local preservation and educational projects.

Prosperity transforms life in many central Oklahoma communities, according to historian and author Louise Welsh.

Prior to the oil boom period, the area had been one of the poorest economic areas in Oklahoma.

“It was quite natural that, under such stress, the prospect of finding oil should occasion both excitement and hope, since the prospect of leasing his land might provide the necessary funds with which the hard-pressed farmer could pay off his mortgage,” Welsh says.

At its height, the Seminole City oilfield alone will account for 2.6 percent of the world’s oil production. Read more in “Greater Seminole Oil Boom.”

July 16, 1969 – Kerosene fuels Saturn V for Apollo 11 Moon Mission

Four days after the Saturn V rocket launches Apollo 11 toward the moon on July 16, astronaut Neil Armstrong will announce, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

A 19th century petroleum product – kerosene – has made the 1969 moon landing possible.

Powered by five first-stage engines fueled by “rocket grade” kerosene, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built.

In 1926, Robert Goddard used gasoline to fuel the first liquid-fuel rocket, seen here in its launch stand.

During launch, five powerful engines of the massive Saturn V’s first stage burn “Rocket Grade Kerosene Propellant” at 2,230 gallons per second – generating almost eight million pounds of thrust.

Saturn’s rocket fuel is a highly refined kerosene which, while conforming to stringent performance specifications, is essentially “coal oil” at its heart.

Canadian physician and geologist Abraham Gesner first refined the revolutionary fuel for lamps in 1846. He coined the term kerosene from the Greek word keros (wax).

The Apollo 11 landing crowns liquid rocket fuel research in America dating back to Robert H. Goddard and his 1914 “Rocket Apparatus.”

On March 16, 1926, Goddard launched the world’s first liquid-fuel rocket from his aunt’s farm in Auburn, Massachusetts. His rocket was powered by liquid oxygen and gasoline.

"Rocket grade" kerosene fueled the Saturn V - and today's rockets.

Kerosene fueled the Saturn V – and today’s Atlas and Delta rockets.

Although gasoline will be replaced with other propellants, including the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen used in the space shuttle’s external tank, “rocket grade” kerosene continues to fuel spaceflight.

Cheaper, easily stored at room temperature, and far less of an explosive hazard, the 19th century petroleum product today fuels first-stage boosters for the Atlas and Delta II launch vehicles.

Last launched in 1972, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built.

July 17, 1973 – Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act

After three years of years of contentious congressional debate, legal challenges from environmental groups and Alaska native claims, Vice President Spiro Agnew breaks the deadlocked 49-49 vote in the U.S. Senate.

Agnew’s deciding vote passes the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act.

Construction will begin in March 1975 on the 789-mile pipeline system, the largest private construction project in American history. Oil from the Prudhoe Bay oilfield will begin flowing to the port of Valdez in June 1977.

Budgeted at $900 million, the pipeline ultimately costs about $8 billion to construct. Oil production tax revenues will earn Alaska $50 billion by 2002.

July 19, 1915 – Petroleum powers Maytag Washing Machines and Lawn Mowers

One-cylinder, air cooled, two-cycle engines could run on gasoline, kerosene or alcohol.

Howard Snyder applies to patent his internal combustion-powered washing machine, assigning rights to the Maytag Company.

Snyder’s machine for “the ordinary farmer” who does not have access to electricity - uses a one-cylinder, two-cycle engine that runs on gasoline, kerosene or alcohol.

Four years after Snyder’s innovation, Edwin George of Detroit removes the Maytag engine from his wife’s washing machine and mates it with a reel-type lawn mower.

George’s invention launches a new company, “Moto-Mower,” which sells America’s first commercially successful power mower.

July 19, 1957 – Major Oil discovery in Alaska Territory

The U.S. Congress views the discovery as the foundation for a secure economic base in Alaska. Statehood is granted two years later.

The Alaska Territory’s first commercial oilfield is discovered – two years before Alaska statehood.

The Richfield Oil Company brings in its Swanson River Unit No. 1 well, which yields 900 barrels per day from a depth of 11,150 feet to 11,215 feet.

Richfield has leased 71,680 acres of the Kenai National Moose Range, now the 1.92 million acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

More Alaska discoveries will follow and by June 1962 about 50 wells are producing more than 20,000 barrels of oil per day. Atlantic Richfield Company is better known today as ARCO.

“The U.S. Congress viewed that discovery as the foundation for a secure economic base in Alaska, and statehood was granted two years later,” explains the Alaska Resources Council.

A decade later, the discovery of the giant Prudhoe Bay oilfield on Alaska’s North Slope will make Alaska a world-class oil and natural gas producer – a status reaffirmed in 1969 with the discovery of the nearby Kuparuk field, the second largest in North America after Prudhoe Bay. Four of the ten largest U.S. oilfields are on the North Slope.

“Oil production currently accounts for approximately 93 percent of Alaska’s unrestricted general fund revenues, or $8.86 billion in fiscal year 2012,” notes the Council.

July 20, 1920 – Permian Basin Discovery Well

The Permian Basin produces 17 percent of America’s oil, about 327 million barrels per year, and contains an estimated 22 percent of proven U.S. oil reserves.

The mighty Permian Basin is discovered by a West Texas wildcat well at a depth of 2,745 feet.

The W. H. Abrams No. 1 well is named for Texas & Pacific Railway official William H. Abrams, who owns the land and leases mineral rights to the Texas Company (later Texaco).

At 7:45 p.m. – after a shot of nitroglycerine – a jet of oil and natural gas announces the discovery now known as West Columbia field. “As a crowd of 2,000 people looked on, a great eruption of oil, gas, water, and smoke shot from the mouth of the well almost to the top of the derrick,” notes an roadside marker in Westbrook, Texas.

“Three pipelines were laid at once to draw the oil to earthen tanks, filled by powerful steam pumps with over 20,000 barrels daily,” notes a 1977 historical marker one mile north of the community of West Columbia. “Locally, land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values…the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions.”

Today, about 60 major fields are located in the Permian Basin, the fourth largest oil producing area in the United States. Enhanced recovery techniques have produced 67 million barrels of the more than 100 million barrels of oil recovered from the Westbrook field alone. Visit the Petroleum Museum in Midland.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


July 8, 1937 – Gulf of Mexico Drilling Pier

The future Exxon, Humble Oil Company was founded in 1911 in Humble, Texas.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of War approves an ambitious plan to build a one-mile pier into the Gulf of Mexico to explore for oil.

War Secretary Harry Hines Woodring approves an application to drill near McFaddin Beach, Texas, by the Humble Oil and Refining Company. The 60-acre lease is about eight miles east of Galveston County’s High Island. Humble Oil builds the pier into the Gulf and erects three drilling rigs to search for oil above what geologist describe as a shallow salt dome.

All three wells are dry holes. A hurricane will destroy the pier in 1938. Visit the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center on Galveston Island.

July 9, 1815 – Early Natural Gas Discovery Read the rest of this entry »


July 1, 1859 – First Issue of a Gas Industry Journal

The first issue of the American Gas Light Journal is published. It is the first to report on the manufactured gas industry and subsequently the natural gas industry. Publication continues after 1917 as the American Gas Journal, which later combines with Pipeline Engineer International and continues today as the Pipeline & Gas Journal.

July 1, 1914 – Petroleum Technology Office established

The Office of Fossil Energy continues to support research.

Four years after the United States Bureau of Mines is organized under the Department of Interior, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Division is established. W. A. Williams is named Chief Petroleum Technologist.

The division’s Petroleum Experiment Station is in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. In 1977, under the newly created U.S. Department of Energy, the site becomes the Bartlesville Energy Technology Center (joining the Morgantown Energy Technology Center in West Virginia and the Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center in Pennsylvania).

In 1998, DOE opens the National Petroleum Technology Office in Tulsa and closes the Bartlesville Project Office. In 2000, the technology office joins DOE’s 15th national laboratory, the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Today, the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy continues to support research for “secure, reasonably priced, and environmentally sound fossil energy.” Read the rest of this entry »


June 24, 1893 – Early Petroleum Pipeline

The United States Pipeline Company delivers its first throughput of both crude and refined oil to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania – proving that petroleum products can be moved over long distances without damage.

Traverse County, Minnesota.

Traverse County, Minnesota.

June 24, 1937 – Trace of Oil found in Minnesota

Oil is discovered in Minnesota. The wildcat well (Fee No. 1) in Traverse County in the western part of the state produces just three barrels a day from 864 feet.

The discovery prompts leasing – but no commercial quantities of oil are found. This reaffirms State Geologist Newton H. Winchell’s 1889 conclusion that the geologic conditions for significant deposits of oil and natural gas do not exist in Minnesota.

June 25, 1889 – First Oil Tanker catches Fire

Fires and storm damage were familiar to the Ventura Pier, built in 1872.

The first oil tanker built for that purpose, the W. L. Hardison, burns at its Ventura, California, wharf.

The Hardison & Stewart Oil Company (forerunner of Union Oil Company) built the revolutionary schooner as an alternative to paying one-dollar per barrel railroad tank car rates to reach markets in San Francisco.

With oil-fired boilers and supplemental sail, the wooden-hulled W. L. Hardison had been capable of transporting 6,500 barrels of oil below decks in specially constructed steel tanks.

The vessel’s steel tanks are later recovered and used at the company’s Santa Paula refinery. Loss of the schooner strains Hardison & Stewart Oil Company finances; it will be 11 years before company launches a replacement tanker, the Santa Paula.

Built in 1872 for steamships, the Ventura pier was a working wharf until 1936, when it became a recreational pier.  The current wooden structure is 1,958 feet long – one of the longest in California.

Learn more petroleum history by visiting the California Oil Museum in nearby Santa Paula – the museum’s main building is the original 1890 Union Oil Company headquarters. Read the rest of this entry »


June 18, 1889 – Standard Oil Company of Indiana Incorporated

“Opened in 1889, the Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, was one of the company’s largest and most productive,” notes the Encyclopedia of Chicago.

John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company establishes an Indiana-based subsidiary when Standard Oil Company of Indiana is incorporated.

The company will begin processing oil the next year at a new refinery at Whiting, Indiana, southeast of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »


June 11, 1816 – Manufactured Gas lights Baltimore Museum

Rembrandt Peale opened his Baltimore museum at 225 North Holliday Street in 1814 – “the first building erected as a museum in the United States,” according to the National Register of Historic Places.

To impress Baltimore civic leaders, Rembrandt Peale illuminates a room in his Holliday Street Museum by burning manufactured gas.

His display dazzles museum patrons with a “ring beset with gems of light.” Within a week, the Baltimore city council approves Peale’s plan to light the city’s main streets.

“So was born the first gas company in the New World,” proclaims the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE).

BGE explains that the Gas Light Company of Baltimore, founded in 1816, is its direct predecessor and “the nation’s first gas utility and one of the earliest electric utilities.”

In 1855, the gas company completed a new manufacturing plant to distill gas from coal, an improvement over the former use of tar or wood. Read the rest of this entry »


June 4, 1892 – Floods and Fires devastate Pennsylvania Oil Region

Photographer John Mather - renowned for his images of early Pennsylvania oilfields - will lose 16,000 glass-plate negatives during the 1892 flooding of Titusville and Oil City.

Photographer John Mather – renowned for his images of early Pennsylvania oilfields – will lose 16,000 glass-plate negatives during the 1892 flooding and fires in Titusville and Oil City.

After weeks of heavy rain in Pennsylvania’s Oil Creek Valley, Thompson & Eldred’s huge mill dam on Oil Creek at Spartanburg bursts, releasing a torrent of water that kills more than 100 people and destroys homes and businesses in Titusville and Oil City. The disaster is compounded when fire breaks out in Titusville. Read the rest of this entry »


May 27, 1933 – Sinclair’s Original Dinosaur debuts in Chicago

Updated in the 1960s and today known more correctly as Apatosaurus, a 70-foot “Dino” travels more 10,000 miles through 25 states and 38 major cities.

“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 (more correctly, Apatosaurus) debuts at Chicago’s Century of Progress International Exposition. Read the rest of this entry »


May 20, 1930 – Professional “Doodlebuggers” launch a Geophysical Society 

The Society of Economic Geophysicists adopts a constitution and bylaws in Houston. The organization will become a leader in the science of petroleum exploration.

In 1937 the society adopts the name by which it is known today, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, which fosters “the ethical practice of geophysics in the exploration and development of natural resources, in characterizing the near surface, and in mitigating earth hazards.” Read the rest of this entry »


May 14, 1953 – Tulsa’s Golden Driller debuts at Petroleum Expo

 An American Oil & Gas Historical Society energy education conference in 2007 included a field trip to petroleum museums in Seminole, Drumright and Tulsa - with a stop at the Golden Driller.

A 2007 American Oil & Gas Historical Society energy education conference includes a field trip to museums in Seminole, Drumright and Tulsa – with a stop at the Golden Driller.

The Mid-Continent Supply Company of Fort Worth introduces the original Golden Driller at the International Petroleum Exposition in Tulsa, Oklahoma, May 14 to May 23, 1953.

It is temporarily erected again for the 1959 Expo – and attracts so much attention that the company refurbishes and donates it to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds Trust Authority.

The giant is rebuilt in 1966.

Today, the Golden Driller – a 76-foot tall, 43,500 pound statue of an oil worker – is the largest freestanding statue in the world, according to city officials.

The rebuilt statue  is permanently installed at the 21st Street and Pittsburg Avenue site for the 1966 International Petroleum Exposition. Refurbished again in 1979, the angle-iron structure made of plaster and concrete reportedly can withstand 200 mph winds.

The Golden Driller first appears at the 1953 International Petroleum Exposition. In 1966, Mid-Continent Supply Company builds a permanent version that can withstand 200 mph winds. Photos courtesy the Tulsa Historical Society.

The Golden Driller’s right hand rests on an old production oil derrick moved from an oil field in Seminole, Oklahoma.

Declared Oklahoma’s official state monument in 1979, a plaque at his base dedicates him “to the men of the petroleum industry who by their vision and daring have created from God’s abundance a better life for mankind.”

Tulsa’s first International Petroleum Exposition and Congress, held in 1923, helps make the city known as the “oil capital of the world.”

May 14, 2004 – Petroleum Museum Opens in Oil City, Louisiana

In 1911, Gulf Refining Company built drilling platforms to reach the oil beneath Caddo Lake in Louisiana. This early “offshore” technology worked well and production continues today — out of sight for most vacationers, water enthusiasts and young fishermen.

The first public museum in Louisiana dedicated to the oil and gas industry opens in Oil City, 30 miles northwest of Shreveport.

Chevron donated an oil derrick that stands beside the Louisiana State Oil Museum in Oil City, about a 20-minute drive from Shreveport.

The Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum, originally the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, includes the historic depot of the Kansas City Southern Railroad. The museum preserves the many Caddo Parish discoveries – and the economic prosperity brought by a North Louisiana petroleum boom.

With the first oil wells drilled in the early 1900s, by 1910 almost 25,000 people are working in and around Oil City, which becomes the first “wildcat town” in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas region.

The museum documents the historical importance of the first oil discovery in 1905 – and the technology behind the May 1911 Ferry No. 1 well at Caddo Lake, one of the nation’s earliest over-water oil wells. Gulf Refining Company completed this early “offshore” oil well on Caddo Lake, where production continues today. Read the rest of this entry »


May 7, 1920 – Erle Halliburton launches Halliburton

Innovative oilfield technologies of the 1920s include Halliburton Company trucks with “jet cement” mixers. Photograph courtesy Hart’s E&P magazine.

The Halliburton Company is organized as an oil well “cementing” company in Wilson, Oklahoma, by Erle P. Halliburton (1892–1957), succeeding his New Method Oil Cementing Company formed a year earlier during the Burkburnett boom in Texas.

The use of cement in drilling oil wells remains integral to the industry, because its injection into the well seals off water formations from the oil, protects the casing, and minimizes the danger of blowouts.

Halliburton’s company, which will reach global dimensions within his lifetime, in 1922 patents a new “jet-cement” mixer that increases the speed and quality of the mixing process.  Read the rest of this entry »