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Community museums exhibit America’s petroleum heritage – including technological and environmental advancements, discoveries, products – and local pioneers who created an industry that continues to define the modern world.
Hundreds of “oil patch” museums are front-line energy educators for an industry that today more than ever needs an educated public.
Museum volunteers provide trusted, science-based perspectives of the more than 150 years of U.S. exploration and production.
Visited by thousands of tourists each year, museums serve as an information desk for the petroleum industry.
Despite limited funding and staff (often retired, highly skilled industry professionals), the museums answer many skeptical inquiries — and dispel myths about the industry. They share details about the complex economic cycles of the energy business.
Visitors walk away with a new appreciation for the science of geology, petroleum engineering, and chemistry. It’s much more than sharing stories about boom towns and dry holes.
This small but notable museum features a collection of rare fossils, including the vertebrae from a giant whale that once swam in the prehistoric seas that covered Choctaw County.
Visitors can see bottles of oil from Alabama’s first oil well, discovered in 1944 at Gilbertown. A one-room cabin, located on the west side of the Museum, is constructed from logs dating back to the mid-1840s that were salvaged from the first Choctaw County Courthouse at Barrytown.
The Busey No. 1 well near El Dorado “blew-in with a gusty fury” on January 10, 1921. The Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, one mile south of the oil-rich town of Smackover, is in the heart of the oilfields.
Surrounded by 20 acres of south Arkansas woodlands, the museum collects and exhibits oil – and brine – industrial history. It also documents a fascinating social history that accompanied the state’s oil boom of the 1920s.
In 1898, four years after purchasing 1,200 acres of land to be used for oil development, the Union Oil Company discovered an oilfield with its first oil well, the Olinda Oil Well No. 1. An oil boom would follow in the hills of Brea and Olinda “paving the way for the thriving city that Brea is today,” notes the City of Brea.
The Brea Museum and Heritage Center is located in historic City Hall Park near the intersection of Brea Boulevard and Elm Street in Brea, Orange County.
The society has restored the American Legion building and turned it into the Brea Museum and Heritage Center, which today provides a place for education, scholarly research and community gatherings – and “encourages students and citizens alike to explore our roots as well as the events and people that helped mold Brea into the city it is today.
This museum in Santa Paula educates visitors with interactive displays, videos, working models, games, photographs, restored gas station memorabilia, and an authentic turn-of-the-century cable-tool drilling rig.
Teachers and students can watch a miniature drilling rig bore into the earth, experience the excitement of “wildcatting” for petroleum, and learn how Native Americans first used natural oil seeps. The Lundgren and Bennett collections of gas station memorabilia are one of largest displays of vintage gas pumps in California.
In addition to the permanent petroleum exhibits, the museum presents new exhibits of science, technology, history, and art throughout the year. The museum building is the original home of Union Oil Company and was built in 1890 for $38,000 by oil pioneers Thomas Bard, Lyman Stewart, and Wallace Hardison.
The Hathaway Ranch Museum is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving and presenting the eras of farming, ranching and oil development in early Fulton Wells and Santa Fe Springs. “We are a museum of family and community history located in the heart of Southern California, preserving five generations of memories and artifacts,” the website notes.
The museum’s predecessor, the Rancho Santa Gertrudes Historical Society, was founded in 1983, and the Hathaway Ranch Museum was incorporated in October 1986. The five-acre site — about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in Santa Fe Springs, at 11901 Florence Avenue, between Norwalk Boulevard and Pioneer Boulevard — holds more than 140 years of Hathaway family and community history.
Petroleum exhibits include a working model derrick built in 1928 by Julian Hathaway, 16 at the time. The newspaper noted that the young Hathaway, “Has Built This Complete Drilling Outfit—Engine, Derrick and Drilling Equipment—With Which He Has Sunk a Hole Ninety Feet Deep in His Father’s Citrus Ranch.”
The Kern County Museum was founded in 1941 and serves more than 85,000 people each year from its 16-acre site north of downtown Bakersfield.
The museum includes “Black Gold: The Oil Experience,” a permanent $4 million science, technology and history exhibition. It features learning environments for all ages — including a simulated undersea diving bell to learn how oil is formed. The museum also has a large collection of historic photographs.
With Kern County providing 64 percent of California’s oil production, oil has been a crucial component of the local economy since 1895. The 9,640-square foot Black Gold exhibition and surrounding 2.3 acres examine how oil is created and the many technologies used for discovering and extracting it – and the changing role of industry workers and families.
Visited by more than 550,000 people since its 2002 opening, the oil exhibition was designed and fabricated by Museum Arts of Dallas, Texas, a frequent creator of petroleum industry exhibitions.
This historic Orange County site includes Olinda Oil Well No. 1 – drilled in 1897 – the oil company field office, a jack-line pump building, and a storage vault, which some believe was once used as a jail.
Public amenities have been added, including restrooms, a popular picnic area, outdoor historical displays, and landscaping. Docents help research exhibit materials, give tours and staff the museum. They work closely with the rangers from California State Parks and staff from the City of Brea.
The museum and park provide free interior and exterior exhibits telling the story of the geological and historical significance of the site, as well as the importance of the oil industry to the development of southern California.
In June 1994, Margie and Robert Petersen fulfilled a longtime dream when they became founding benefactors to start the Petersen Automotive Museum through the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
Located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, the Petersen Automotive Museum today focuses on the interpretive study of the automobile and its effect on the culture of California — and America.
With three floors of exhibits and a collection of more than 300 rare and historic automobiles, the museum is expanding its educational programs to reach out to students, adults, families and educators. Encompassing more than 300,000 square feet, its exhibits and dioramas feature more than 150 rare and classic cars, trucks and motorcycles.
The museum occupies a space that once housed the first Baker Oil Tools machine shop. In 1903, Reuben Carlton founded the Coalinga Oil Company. He later helped to establish the first National Bank of Coalinga, California, in 1906, and assisted in creating the Power and Gas Co.
“Mr. Baker purchased the former livery stable in 1918 so he would have a place to work out his equipment designs. It was on this floor that he would get down on his hands and knees with a blacksmith named Herman James and drew his plans in yellow chalk.”
The Baker Foundation in 1958 offered the old tool shop to the city for use as a museum, which opened in 1961. The nearby “Coalinga Iron Zoo,” created in the very early 1970s, features a menagerie of decorated oilfield pump jacks. Visit this museum in the San Joaquin Basin and Coalinga oilfield at 297 W. Elm Street.
In the 1920s, more than 7,000 wooden derricks covered 21 miles in southwestern Kern County.
In Taft, the West Kern County Museum, run entirely by volunteers, is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting artifacts, books, and equipment that tell the story — particularly in West Kern County.
The museum tells the story of the many businesses, communities and people that benefit from the petroleum industry. It is dedicated to increasing the public understanding of the Midway Sunset field, which, by 1915, produced half of the oil in California. At the time, California led the nation in oil production.
Editor’s Note – Among the screen credits of the 2008 Academy Award-winning movie “There Will Be Blood” are several petroleum museums. Cable-tool derricks played a prominent role in the movie.
After several museum visits, Production Designer Jack Fisk purchased a copy of the 1914 blueprints from the West Kern Oil Museum. See the “Hollywood Goes Roughneck” article in the March 2008 Petroleum Age.
An “Ancient Denvers” permanent exhibit features the geology beneath the city:
“From massive cliffs to jagged peaks to layer upon layer below the earth’s surface, rock formations hold tantalizing clues to hundreds of millions of years of geologic history along Colorado’s Front Range. These clues have revealed that over eons of time, the region has changed dramatically.”
Many clues to the region’s storied past were unearthed when the museum drilled a 2,256-foot-deep well through the rock layers beneath Kiowa, Colorado, in 1999.
From that core, layers representing Colorado’s ancient landscapes were brought back to the surface.”
“Money and volunteers, volunteers and money,” are the biggest challenges for the Illinois Oilfield Museum and Resource Center on the outskirts of Oblong, southeast of Effingham.
The Illinois Oilfield Museum and Resource Center celebrates regional and state-wide oil heritage and history, as well and look toward the future interpreting state-of-the-art petroleum science education and related environmental sciences.
Outdoor exhibits include a pump jack and a 52-foot wooden derrick commemorating the well that launched Crawford County’s first oil boom.
Oil in the Southern Illinois Oil Basin was discovered in the early 20th century — and brought great economic development to Illinois. Today, too few of the state’s residents are aware of the significant impact the industry has had over many decades.
Petroleum Planet, an exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, explains: “Petroleum isn’t just a material – it’s a way of life.”
The Chicago museum’s oil exhibits emphasize a highly visual experience: “Greeted by a remote-operated underwater vehicle and multicolored tubes of bubbling crude oil, you’ll step into the exhibit as assume your role: a tiny hydrocarbon molecule in a vast pipeline. From there, you will embark on a journey through distillation and transportation control and the ‘pig pen,’ finally arriving at your destination as a finished product.”
The Wabash County Museum in Mt. Carmel is dedicated to preserving area history by presenting rotating exhibits about local industry – and oilfield worker families. “Oil has been important to the economy of Wabash County since 1912 when the first county well was drilled on the Lucy Courter lease,” the museum notes. “Oil had been discovered in Lawrence County, Illinois, and the same formations were producing in Wabash County. The discovery of oil at Griffin, Indiana, in 1938 led to an oil boom at Keensburg, in southern Wabash County in 1939.”
“The Museum is located in front of the refinery, in the area previously occupied by The Shell Research Laboratory and in the former Diagnostic Lab. “Step back in time more than 75 years at the Shell History Museum in Roxana, Illinois. Featuring over 1,000 artifacts and growing, the museum offers a visual review of the refinery’s many changes and significant progress from its groundbreaking in 1917 to the present.”
Exhibits, photo displays and a special videotape tell the story of how the legacy of Shell’s Wood River Refinery unfolded over three-quarters of a century. It is a story of extraordinary achievements and remarkable dedication on the part of thousands of Shell people. Today’s Wood River Manufacturing Complex is a premier refinery serving the vast Midwest market. Located along Route 111 in Roxana, Illinois the Shell History Museum is open Wednesdays and Thursdays except holidays. There is no admission charge.
The Red Crown Mini-Museum is at the corner of 6th and South Streets in downtown Lafayette, Indiana, next to Tippecanoe County Library.
“The gas station was built by Standard Oil Company of Indiana in 1927-28 and had a one garage bay attached. It was built with glazed brick on all walls and red tile on the roof. In 1935-36 a second garage bay was added. It was in operation as a gas station until 1979, in 1985 the library bought the property for a future parking area.
In 1991, Don Stein, a local business man and auto collector offered to restore the gas station and was finished later that year.”
Trumps’ Texaco Museum “offers a nostalgic trip to the 1950s, when US 40 bustled with cross-country travelers. The museum is housed in an old service station, which was once the location of Tydol Gas Station.” Harold Trump ran the station until 1941.
The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum was a dream of Bill Moon, founder of the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, just west of Davenport – and “the world’s largest truckstop.”
Moon had a passion for collecting antique trucks and other trucking memorabilia. Each of his trucks has a unique story to tell about America’s trucking industry. Many are rare and even one-of-a-kind. Educational films are shown in the trucking museum’s theater.
The museum encourages visits from schools. “It’s a great place for educators to enrich students’ learning,” notes the website. “Students can browse exhibits and view historic timelines to understand how trucking has changed over time.”
There are now more than 100 antique trucks in this Iowa museum’s collection. About 30 of these are usually on display — including a 1911 Walker Electric Model 43 that once delivered milk for Bowman Dairy of Chicago. In July 2011, the museum hosted a 100th birthday party for this rare electric truck.
The Butler County Historical Center & Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado has a large collection of artifacts from the first “scientifically discovered” oil wells, which drew the new petroleum geologists who were learning about anticlines and traps and ancient sea beds.
Three million years ago the Mid-Continent was in the middle of an ocean.
The Kansas Oil Museum’s energy-education mission is to engage audiences of all ages in meaningful experiences by promoting interpretive programs and hands-on activities in an exciting, unique and entertaining atmosphere. Programs are age-appropriate and provide a unique learning experience by bringing history out of the text books and placing it in front of the student.
In northwestern Kansas, the Hill City Oil Museum is 12 miles east of Morland. Located beneath an oil derrick on west Highway 24 in Hill City, the oil museum – built in 1958 – tells the story of petroleum from deep producing formations. I
The museum is operated by the Graham County Historical Society, which meets at 103 East Cherry, across the street from the county courthouse, in Hill City — and where more exhibits include a military artifacts, vintage clothing, quilts, photos of early-day-Graham County.
The museum creates a sense of Kansas life from the 1800s when Independence was called “Hay Town,” to the present. The museum’s permanent exhibits in 22 rooms tell stories of the early settler lifestyles — and the history of the area’s oil industry.
The museum documents the Pioneer, Sinclair and Arco oil companies. Displays include Sinclair and Arco advertising give-a-ways. Windows are from Hotel Chalmers, where oil companies had offices. An old drafting table and drafting machine are exhibited, as are many artifacts and photographs. The museum, located in the Old Post Office Building at 8th and Myrtle streets, was placed on the State and National Register for Historic Sites in 1988.
Editor’s Note –The museum celebrates Sinclair’s Mid-Continent oilfield production and refining heritage. On display at a nearby Independence public park is Corythosaurus – one the surviving dinosaurs from Sinclair’s popular (10 million visitors) “Dinoland” exhibit at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. See our Petroleum Age article “Dinosaur Fever — Sinclair Petroleum Promotion.”
Located on 10th Street in Great Bend, this museum — and energy education center — was founded in 1990 by a small but dedicated group of independent oilmen interested in preserving the region’s significant petroleum heritage.
The main building of the museum preserves rare documents, newspapers and photographs, displays phases of the industry’s Kansas development, including geology, drilling, well completion, production, refining, and products.
The building also houses a special hall of fame with biographies and pictures of inductees – including the museum’s founder, Danny Biggs (1936-2008), who was responsible for the educational exhibits.
Dedicated to his community, Biggs created and maintained unique scale models (popular with school children) and hundreds of artifacts that walk visitors through each step of petroleum exploration and production.
When natural gas was discovered near Paola. Kansas, the Miami County community shined brightly. By March 1886, “Paola was lighted with Gas” when a pipeline was completed from the Westfall farm to the town square.
By the next year, natural gas “grand illumination” arches were constructed across the four corners of the square, explains the Miami County Historical Museum. “On June 28, 1887, Paola celebrated its first Natural Gas Jubilee.
“Excursion trains brought nearly 2,000 people to town to witness the wonders of natural gas by visiting the Boon gas wells just east of town, attending an auction of new town lots (and) feasting on a free lunch provided by the townspeople.”
Although the natural has boom did not last long, Paola continues to celebrate its petroleum heritage.
In eastern Kansas, the Norman No. 1 Museum at Neodesha documents a November 28, 1892, discovery well – among the nation’s earliest.
The Kansas Historical Society says it is the first well to produce commercial quantities of oil west of the Mississippi River – and the first drilled in the vast Mid-Continent oilfield that covers parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.
The Norman No. 1 Museum offers indoor and outdoor exhibits that include a replica wooden derrick located at First and Main streets in Neodesha. The Norman No. 1 well is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Oil Patch Museum of the Russell County Historical Society exhibits Kansas petroleum heritage “that fuels man’s imagination as well as his machines — whether you are a youngster eager to explore a new subject or an experienced oil person looking to relive memories, you will catch the spirit of oil at the patch!”
The museum tells the story of the “Lucky Seven” and the drilling of Carrie Oswald No. 1, the 1923 discovery well in Russell County. Visitors can walk through an actual oil storage tank and study the geology, drilling and production and transportation exhibits.
The discovery of oil helped the entire northeastern Kansas region economically survive the Great Depression — and its impact is still felt today,” notes Dyrek Ayre of Hays. He has collected and restored historic photographs of the boom. Visit The Oswald Field. The Oil Patch Museum is located just north of Interstate 70 at the 184 exit.
The Stevens County Gas and Historical Museum — established on May 16, 1961 — preserves the heritage of the giant Hugoton Gas natural gas field and the development of Stevens County in far southwestern Kansas. A natural gas well drilled there in 1945 is still producing.
Well equipment is on display and the main museum building houses exhibits of early 1900 furnishings. Restored buildings nearby include the Santa Fe Hugoton Train Depot, an 1887 school house, one of the oldest homes in Hugoton, and an early day grocery store and barber shop. There is a “professional building” — a tribute to Hugoton’s past judges and lawyer — and the first jail house in Hugoton. An agricultural building, completed in 1995, offers extensive displays of farm equipment and implements.
Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum
Formerly known as Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum in Oil City includes a 12,000-square- building near the community’s old railroad depot, donated by Kansas City Southern Railroad.
The museum is dedicated to the history and preservation of northwestern Louisiana’s natural resources, especially its rich oil history, including the nation’s earliest offshore wells drilled on nearby Caddo Lake.
Chevron donated the derrick and other oilfield equipment that help draw visitors to the museum, which is a 20-minute drive from Shreveport. Major exhibits include three historic boom town buildings — the depot, a bank, and a post office. The museum is supported by state and the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Society, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to the preservation of the region’s oil and other historical treasures.
Editor’s Note –The earliest manufacturing plant in Caddo Parish was in Gas Center outside Shreveport, where Purified Petroleum Products Co. of Louisiana patented a process for treating gasoline and kerosene. The earliest oil pipeline in the area was completed in 1910 by Standard Oil of Louisiana to its Baton Rouge refinery.
When in Shreveport, visit the Spring Street Historical Museum — and the nearby statue at 90 Market Street that commemorates an 1870 natural gas well.
In Morgan City, the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition is a non-profit corporation established for the purpose of educating the general public, and the next generation, on the significance of the offshore oil and gas industry and its affect on the local area, the state, the nation, and the world.
The offshore Mr. CharlieRig Museum is on Front Street in Morgan City — located on the historic Atchafalaya waterfront. The center occupies one of the oldest buildings in the Historic District, the Goldman Building, circa 1910. From 1954 to 1986 Mr. Charlie drilled hundreds of offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico — and was the first transportable, submersible drilling rig and an industry springboard to the current offshore rig technology.
Located in Dearborn, the Henry Ford Henry Ford Museum and the Benson Ford Research Center include exhibits and a large selection of photographs, historical expertise and unparalleled collections documenting the “American Experience.”
The research center holds the Ford Motor Company Historical Archives from 1903-1955, as well as a nationally significant collection of business records, automotive product literature and periodicals, manuscripts, photographs, prints, postcards, maps, trade catalogs, and other library and special collection material. The complex is an nonprofit educational institution not affiliated with the Ford Motor Company or the Ford Foundation.
The Farmington Museum on East Main Street features “Dinosaurs to Drill Bits” — an energy education exhibit that tells the oil and natural gas story of the prolific San Juan Basin. “Using the latest in technology this exhibit educates and entertains visitors about an amazing resource we use everyday. Experience the thrill of riding deep into the earth in search of oil on a simulated floor shaking adventure. Learn what it takes to drill thousands of feet looking for black gold. Then discover how it’s transformed into consumer products.”
Pioneer Oil Museum of New York
The Pioneer Oil Museum of New York is located in the Village of Bolivar, Allegany County, in the heart of New York’s earliest producing area. In November 1865, Job Moses and his Hall Farm Petroleum Co. found oil in Carrollton Township, Cattaraugus County. The Moses No. 1 well was drilled to 1,165 feet and had initial production of only seven barrels per day — but the well was on the edge of what would become the giant Bradford oilfield.
Although dairying and livestock are an important parts of the local economy, the region still produces very high quality oil — and is now experience a natural gas boom thanks to new horizontal drilling and production technologies for producing from the Marcellus Shale. Geologists estimate that the Marcellus formation could contain between 168 trillion to 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Pioneer Oil Museum of New York mission statement: Believing that knowledge and understanding of the local oil and gas industries are vital to the heritage of this area, the museum will preserve the history and legacy of these businesses — and act as a repository for significant artifacts used throughout Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties.
Born in Bombay, New York, in 1896, Howard P. Sears Sr. would begin his service station career selling oil as early automobiles became popular with consumers. He purchased his first gasoline delivery truck in 1923 and built his first bulk storage terminal near a railroad on South George Street in Rome, New York.
According to his son, Howard P. Sears Jr., in 1925 the H.P. Sears Oil Company was incorporated, By 1929 the elder Howard had built his first “new, modern gasoline filling station” in Utica. He would use the same basic design in 1930 for his second station (today’s museum) at George and Liberty streets in Rome. His third station was constructed in Ilion in 1933.
The Sears Service Station Museum is the only remaining station of the original design once in Utica and Ilion. On the walkway located each side of the building are a pair of restored Erie Clock face pumps, notes Howard Sears Jr., who dedicated the museum in 2006 — and accepted an award of merit from the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica. Visit the stations at 201 North George Street, Rome, New York.
“Whether you’re an avid museum visitor, a serious historical researcher, or just looking for an enjoyable time out, the Allen County Museum has something for everyone” — and the museum’s Elizabeth M. MacDonell Memorial Library offers extensive information for genealogists.
On May 19, 1885, oil was discovered in Lima at near a paper mill along the Ottawa River. News spread and Lima became a boom town. The Allen County Historical Society’s Allen County Museum exhibits this local petroleum history. The oil well at the paper mill of Benjamin Faurot was never profitable — but it was started the area’s industry. The Lima oilfield was, for a time, the largest in the nation.
The Hancock Historical Museum in Findlay collects and exhibits artifacts that illustrate the county’s history — from prehistoric times through the present — with a unique emphasis on a natural gas boom that brought prosperity to the community. The Mae Huston Local History Resource Center is an archive and research facility that houses sources related to local history topics.
A private oil, gas, car and truck museum in Shreve, Ohio, the Ken Miller Supply Museum has grown to be among the largest U.S. collections of oilfield tools, machinery, and photos — with both indoor and outdoor displays that bring the nation’s petroleum past to life.
Founded in 1959, Ken Miller Supply, Inc. was owned and operated by Ken and Lois Miller. “The oil and gas business has been good to us, so I wanted to give something back,” explained Ken Miller. His love for history “served as motivating factors in the acquisition and preservation of a fabulous collection of oilfield antiques.”
This group of collectors began with an idea for a club or social and fraternal society for people who like old oilfield engines. Members are known as “OAFS” — and as a policy there are no officers or lists of members. As a member, “you are free to use its name in any appropriate manner.”
An “Oil Boom” exhibit educates visitors to the Wood County Historical Center in Bowling Green. The center is located on the site of what was once the Wood County Infirmary, a large brick building that served as a home to the county’s poor, sick, orphaned, elderly, and mentally ill for over 100 years.
The first natural gas discovered in Wood County was found on the infirmary grounds in 1884 — and provided the natural gas that helped heat and light the home for many years. Today, a demonstration well pumps colored water that is channeled into two storage tanks. The exhibit includes a derrick, steam boiler, an 1880s gas engine from Acme Sucker Rod Company of Toledo, Ohio, gear works from the AB Company in Findlay, and shackle rods that connect the pump jacks.
Ames Astrobleme (Crater) Museum
About 450 million years ago, a meteor struck north-central Oklahoma, creating an impact crater more than eight miles wide. Today, the small. rural community of Ames proudly claims the crater as its own – and as an important contributor to the geological knowledge of the nation’s petroleum industry.
In 2007, Ames citizens opened their astrobleme museum — describing the meteor’s (estimated to have been the size of a football) impact — and its relationship to a 1991 major oil discovery by independent oilman Harold Hamm. The museum, which requires no staff, features high-tech, all-weather video panels on its north and south walls. The panels describe the crater’s formation…and its geological significance.
The Ames crater impact site is among the largest producing craters. Read more in the Petroleum Age article, “Ames Crater Museum.”
The Anadarko Basin Museum of Natural History is located on Route 66 on Main Street in Elk City. Unfortunately, the museum, founded by oil history enthusiast John West and others, is closed because of a lack of funding. The museum building, the Casa Grande Hotel, remains listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A powerful tourist attraction stands beside the shuttered museum: Parker Drilling Co. Rig No. 114 — one of the world’s largest drilling rigs, 181 feet tall, and visible from Interstate 40.
The Bartlesville Area History Museum, established in 1965, ensures the collection, preservation and exhibition of the rich and varied history of Bartlesville and the surrounding areas. The collection includes artifacts, historical objects, photographs, art illustrations and files that focus on the development of communities.
Thousands of photographs tell the story of Bartlesville — and the first glass bottle made in Oklahoma was produced by the Great Western Glass Factory; a piece of casing from the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 recalls the oil boom; and a cowboy hat worn by an attendee of the famous “Cow-theives and Outlaws Reunion at Woolaroc Ranch.”
Of special interest is the Museum’s photographic collection which includes thousands of photographs from photographer, Frank Griggs, who came to the area in 1908, captured half a century of growth and development of the community through his camera lens.
Bartlesville’s Discovery 1 Park includes an 84-foot derrick — rebuilt and dedicated in 2008. The park’s first replica derrick was erected on the original site in 1948.
The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center tells the extraordinary story of settling the Cherokee Strip from a state-of-the-art facility that opened April 1, 2011. “The Heritage Center stands on one of the most historic spots in the history of the west,” notes the center’s website. “The grounds overlook beautiful Government Springs Park, a historic watering hole on the Chisholm Trail. The Center’s living history area, Humphrey Heritage Village, is a collection of four historically significant buildings including the only remaining 1893 U.S. Land Office.”
Multiple exhibits spotlight key industries that fostered the economic development of Northwest Oklahoma. Staking a claim to a piece of land on the day of “the land run” was only the beginning of a long and hard journey for those who poured over the border on September 16, 1893.
The center, administered by the Oklahoma Historical Society, is fully accessible to all visitors. Among the petroleum exhibits is a portable drilling rig — mounted on a Ford truck — of George Failing, a pioneer in oilfield technology. Touring the 6,000 square feet of exhibit space, visitors will discover many other educational exhibits.
The Conoco Museum opened May 12, 2007, in Ponca City. It includes five areas exhibiting the evolution of the company’s business identity, marketing – and innovative onshore and offshore technologies.
One exhibit recreates a 1950s R&D laboratory; another depicts an outdoor scene of a “doodlebugger” at work; a third explains the technology behind the world’s first tension-leg offshore platform. These and other exhibits tell the story of a major oil company’s development from a small kerosene distributor serving 19th century pioneer America into a diversified global energy company.
A March 1912 oil discovery on the Wheeler farm in Creek County started yet another Oklahoma oil boom. Thousands rushed into barren hill country to found a dozen towns. Drumright was in the heart of the oilfield.
Located near Cushing (about 50 miles west of Tulsa on highway 33), the Drumright Historical Museum is housed in a 1916 Santa Fe depot listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Five exhibit areas include the Oil Room and its large collection of memorabilia and tools used to drill the Drumright oilfield, which in 1919 produced three percent of the world’s oil.
Outside is a collection of large equipment – and a cannon on the front lawn was used to shoot the bottoms out of burning oil tanks, notes historical society member Pam Scott of Swinea Well Service, Inc. “The town has changed and the oil boom is no longer what it was, but the history remains” she notes. The museum is located at 122 East Broadway, not far from Drumright’s Boomtown Theater.
In 1897, the frontier town of Bartlesville in Indian Territory became the site of the first commercial oil well in Oklahoma. Frank Phillips, an ambitious barber-turned-bond salesman from Iowa, visited Bartlesville in 1903 to assess business possibilities in the surrounding oilfields. He returned permanently two years later with his wife Jane and a young son. After a series of failures that nearly caused him to abandon the business, a string of 81 straight successful oil wells insured his place in petroleum history.
By 1909 the oilman had completed construction of his mansion. From then until his death in 1950, the home was the setting from which he — and the Bartlesville community that grew up around his company — played a key role in the development of the oil industry in America. Tour the 26 room Neo-Classical mansion (designed by architect Walton Everman) of the Phillips Petroleum Company founder at 1107 Cherokee Avenue.
The Ardmore Chamber of Commerce website includes the history of Ardmore, born with the establishment of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1887. The Greater Southwest Historical Museum preserves the history of south-central Oklahoma with exhibits from the mid-1800s to the present. They describe early settlements from Native Americans to the farmers, ranchers and townspeople who built communities in the region. Ardmore once hosted a Black Gold Festival celebrating the history and rich heritage of its oil industry.
The opening of the Healdtonoilfieldin 1913 set in motion one of Oklahoma’s greatest oil booms. The shallow depth reduced the amount of capital necessary to drill a well. This gave the Healdton area a reputation for being a “poor man’s” field.
The low cost of drilling in the Healdton field attracted a large number of Oklahoma investors. Among those establishing a financial base through Healdton oil were Lloyd Noble, Wirt Franklin, Robert A. Hefner and former Governor Charles N. Haskell.
Also in the Healdton field, Erle Halliburton perfected his methods of oil well cementing, establishing his company as a leader in oilfield technology. The Healdton Oil Museum is located at 315 East Main Street.
The historic Robert S. Kerr Conference Center & Museum in Poteau was the home of the first native-born Governor of Oklahoma and long-time U.S. Senator, Robert S. Kerr.
The Kerr family donated the mansion to Oklahoma in 1978. It has become a bed-and-breakfast inn. Located next to the mansion is a museum depicting the history and development of Eastern Oklahoma. Kerr formed a drilling company — he would later persuade Dean McGee to leave Phillips Petroleum to become his partner.
Located on the grounds of the Marland Mansion, The Marland Oil Museum presents the saga of the amazing success of E. W. Marland’s early oil company in Ponca City. Visitors learn about the E.W. Marland family, the industry that made it all possible, and the petroleum boom town that rose from it all — Ponca City.
Marland was considered a maverick by many oilmen of his day. Others saw him as an innovative leader. He was among the first to believe in geology as a tool to help discover oil –and his methods proved to be effective. His geology department launched an innovative drilling experiment — core drilling — which became a major operation. Marland brought the seismograph from Germany and pioneered use of this geophysical method of locating favorable structures.
In 1927, Marland suggested that a statue should be erected to honor the spirit of the women who played such a significant role in the settling the region. This led to the Pioneer Woman Statue. On April 22, 1930, more than 40,000 people gathered to witness the unveiling and hear famous Oklahoma humorist, Will Rogers. Marland presented the Pioneer Woman Statue and the land surrounding it to the State of Oklahoma and her people. The historic statue stands at Monument Circle, one block from the Marland Mansion.
Twenty-four rooms trace Nowata County history, with artifacts ranging from the Civil War and Indian Territory Days to the Oil Boom, farming and cattle and much more. Includes a period dentist office, jail cell and laundry. Indoor and outdoor exhibits. The Nowata County Historical Society also owns The Glass Mansion, home of a pioneer family.
“Thanks for the list of museums. I’ve been to quite a few, as I am sure most of your sites readers have. However, I can also add that I was born in one. The museum in Nowata, Oklahoma, used to be the community hospital, in which I was born in 1964. I often tell folks my birthplace is now a museum…”
The Oklahoma Historical Society was organized at the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Press Association, held at Kingfisher, on May 27, 1893. Its extensive website provides a detailed listing of museums throughout the state. “The rich cultural heritage of Oklahoma offers many opportunities to experience history up close and personal. From the prehistoric mounds at Spiro to the Route 66 Museum there are a multitude of sites to educate and entertain.”
Located on 18 acres across from the capital building, the Oklahoma History Center is a beautifully designed, self-guided exploration of Oklahoma – past to present. Within its 215,000 square-foot learning center are five state-of-the-art galleries housing more than 200 hands-on audio, video and computer activities. The museum, a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society, collects, preserves and interprets the history of Oklahoma.
Outside the center, the Devon Oil and Gas Exploration Park interprets some of the technology that is part of the fascinating history of Oklahoma’s oil industry.
Equipment found in the park explores the drilling, production and transportation phases of the industry. Much of the equipment was donated to the Oklahoma Historical Society in the mid-1960s. Technological innovations in Oklahoma oilfields revolutionized petroleum production worldwide.
“Building a Home for Seminole’s History” — The Seminole Historical Society operates the Oklahoma Oil Museum and is involved with local preservation and educational projects, including the Strother Chapel project and the Grisso Mansion Tour.
The museum “provides an educational experience for ages six years to senior citizen, and encourages visitors to take a step back in time. The museum allows all age groups to bond together the past, present, and future. It strives to offer visual programs that improve the intellectual, cultural, economic and moral environment of our society.”
The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum opened May 12, 2007, in Bartlesville. Exhibits are displayed in seven major areas: A Pioneering Attitude — showing how the company became an industry leader, transforming basic oil and gas resources into a large number of useful products. Growing Strong — about the evolution of the Phillips and how the company survived a series of corporate battles.
The One Big Family exhibit describes how Phillips became known for promoting the well-being of its employees. Bucking the Odds — what was it like in the rough and rowdy days of the Burbank Field? Energy Provider — from refined petroleum fuels to super-cooled natural gas, creating ways to deliver energy to consumers. Taking to the Skies and Selling 66 — The Phillips Company actually produced its aviation fuels before its automotive fuels.
“In 1899, the Territorial Legislature of the future state of Oklahoma mandated the founding of a natural history museum on the campus of the University of the Territory of Oklahoma in Norman, now the University of Oklahoma. Since that time, the existing museum has acquired over 5,000,000 objects. The museum conducts scientific investigations to preserve and develop a greater understanding and appreciation of natural resources and human cultural heritage.”
The museum today includes the Robert S. Kerr 3,248-square-foot auditorium. The Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza — a special outdoor educational exhibit area at the museum — opened in 2000. “The history of the state of Oklahoma is inextricably linked with the remarkable history of the oil industry,” noted then Conoco Chairman Archie W. Dunham. “The individuals identified here are true Oklahoma oil pioneers in that their endeavors were most significant in the development of the oil and gas industry in this very young state.”
Tom Slick, Oklahoma’s “King of the Wildcatters” is among those honored in the plaza. Slick, a self-taught geologist, discovered the giant Cushing oilfield in 1912.
“The most comprehensive center of knowledge in the petroleum industry.” The University of Oklahoma Sarkeys Energy Center, completed in 1991, encompasses interdisciplinary institutes, including Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy. The institutes develop technology and programs that advance the energy industry and provide significant, “real world” research and education opportunities for students.
The center is also home to the Lawrence S. Youngblood Energy Library, which houses the combined geology and geophysics collections of the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the University of Oklahoma that began in the late 1890s, and today contains more than 90,000 catalogued volumes and more than 200,000 maps.
The Stephens County Historical Museumfeatures history lessons in the form of vignettes showcasing life in an early day town. A one-room schoolhouse, offices of a pioneer doctor, dentist and lawyer and a church.
Petroleum-related related displays and county history includie oil field service industry giant Halliburton Energy Services. The company’s history begins with founder Erle P. Halliburton, who, after borrowing a wagon, a team of mules and a pump, he built a wooden mixing box and started an oil well cementing business in Duncan.
Oil industry and area history of the “Triangle Region,” bordered by the old Pawnee reservation and the Arkansas River and Cimarron River. In Pawnee County, the museum is 1/2 mile west of Cleveland on Hwy. 64, near the Arkansas River. The town represents one of many oil boom towns of the early 1900s.
The Tulsa Geoscience Center, orginally located at the headquarters of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, today is a project of Energy America Educational Institute, Inc., an Oklahoma corporation with 501-c-3 tax status. There is one full-time Director/Teacher assisted by volunteers, many of are retired geoscientists, along with college and high school interns.
The center offer “free, enjoyable and unique geoscience educational experiences to school children. These are educational experiences that no area school has the facilities to host and very few area teachers have the expertise to present.”
The center presently occupies over 5,000 Square feet with rooms devoted to a hands-on geoscience activity such as rock and mineral identification, fossil identification and earthquakes. Each activity lasts from 20 to 40 minutes – and school groups have traveled as far as 150 miles for the center’s educational tours.
Established in 1963, the Tulsa Historical Society holds an extensive collection of resources on the city’s rich past. The collection contains nearly 5,000 still photographs, books, maps, documents, graphics, historical costumes and architectural remnants, and fine and decorative arts. The Tulsa Historical Society’s website shares photographs in the society’s collections – and there are thousands to browse!
“Hidden away in the rugged Osage Hills of Northeastern Oklahoma, Woolaroc was established in 1925 as the ranch retreat of oilman Frank Phillips.”
An oil patch exhibit opened in 1996 but is now closed to the public. It houses an authentic working powerhouse that supplied power to working equipment on the lease. A restored, working cable tool drilling rig is also preserved.
Woolaroc is operated by The Frank Phillips Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to preserve the rich heritage of Woolaroc as an educational and historical attraction.
A center dedicated to the study of the oil heritage region is housed at Clarion University–Venango Campus in Oil City. The Barbara Morgan Harvey Center for the Study of Oil Heritage features the late Barbara Harvey’s collection of books and papers donated to the university by her children.
The collection contains more than 300 titles and includes books that document the history of the region, newspaper clippings from the early 1900s, minutes from the meetings of early oil companies from the late 1800s, maps and photographs. In addition to the collection, Joseph S. Harvey, the late Mrs. Harvey’s husband, created an endowment to support ongoing educational activities at the Center.
Community history days feature folk music, barbeques, and storytelling — and videotaping residents of the area reminiscing and telling stories about the region.
This Pennsylvania musuem’s website notes: “Internal combustion engines revolutionized the world around the turn of the 20th century in much the same way that steam engines did a century before. One has only to imagine a coal-fired, steam-powered, airplane to realize how important internal combustion was to the industrialized world.”
Stationary gas hit and miss engines, throttle governed engines, flame ignition engines, hot tube ignition engines, and hot air engines ranging in size from a fractional horsepower up to 600 horsepower. All are among the permanent exhibits at the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring.
Founded in 1985, the museum collection presents an illuminating history of the evolution of internal combustion engine technology that put an end to the steam powered era. More than 250 stationary engines are housed in 20 display buildings.
The Coolspring Power Museum — among the most unique engine collections in the world — is located in western Pennsylvania off Route 36 midway between Punxsutawney and Brookville.
The Drake Well Museum in Titusville “collects, preserves, and interprets the founding of the oil industry in Pennsylvania for residents and visitors by educating its audiences about the persons, places, and events important to the development of the petroleum industry and its growth into a global enterprise.”
Friends of the Drake Well, Inc., the museum’s membership association, has reprinted the Early Days of Oil, by Dr. Paul Giddens. Also available is a DVD of the Drake Well 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.”
The Penn-Brad Oil Museum preserves the philosophy, the spirit, and the accomplishments of a little-known oil country community — taking visitors back to the early oil boom times of “The First Billion Dollar Oil Field.”
Guided tours are conducted by over petroleum exploration and production history veterans who volunteer their time to relate their oil patch knowledge — and first-hand experiences.
The Institute was founded in 2003 as a not-for-profit organization. It is the successor to the Drake Well Foundation, which in its past was a successor in 1951 to an earlier operating committee formed by the American Petroleum Institute at the Drake Well Museum. The Institute is dedicated to furthering public awareness of the history of the oil industry through research, documentation, archival activities, presentations and other outreach activities.
The Institute publishes an annual journal, Oil-Industry History and reprints old and rare books on the industry. The Institute holds symposiums on oil history, conducts field trips and prepares guide books.
The Pumping Jack Museum collects, protects, and displays the unique heritage of the town of Emlenton. “Our rich history is a convergence of early oil history and the heritage of the surrounding area. We want to honor all those who have gone before us that worked in the early western Pennsylvania oilfields, refineries, and on local farms,” says museum President Richard L. Carr.
The museum is located in the Crawford Center – the former Crawford Memorial School Building. Among the pumping jack displays are memorabilia from America’s earliest oilfields.
A small museum in Warren County features a collection of early oil and gas production equipment — and more than 80 gasoline pumps, hundreds of signs and globes. Tractors, farm equipment and engines, antique cars and many turn-of-the-century exhibits can be seen six miles north of Tidioute.
The Venango Museum, established in Venango County in 1964, works in partnership with the Oil Heritage Region, Inc. The museum interprets the significance of the early petroleum industry of Oil Creek Valley. The museum collects rare oil region artifacts and materials related to the history and culture of the Venango County. Its collection includes objects, photographs and early corporate documents from Pennzoil, Quaker State and Imperial Works, and Oil Well Supply Company.
The museum offers lectures, workshops, musical programs and visits to historic sites. It owns a fully restored 1928 Wurlitzer Theatre organ. The museum also works in partnership with the Allegheny National Forest as part of the Allegheny National Wild and Scenic River Management Plan.
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin has three floors of state-of-the-art exhibits and 17 different media and interactive experiences that trace Texas history from before European exploration. A temporary exhibit gallery on the first floor also features short-term exhibits on topics and themes related to Texas and its history. The third floor deals with “Creating Opportunity” and focuses on the perseverance and ingenuity of Texans in everything from oil exploration and drilling, to ranching.
Re-created environments and interactive media show visitors the impact Texas has had in the 20th Century frontiers of space, medicine and technology. The “Oil Tank Theater” features narration by Texan Walter Cronkite of the impact of oil on Texas. Displays and exhibits also feature Texas’ significant role in military training, while others allow visitors to see and hear Texas sports and music legends.
The “Square House” in Panhandle, Texas, was built in the 1880s with lumber from Dodge City, Kansas. It’s one of 21 buildings, galleries, and large outdoor artifacts that make up the Carson County Square House Museum. Exhibits tell the story of the Texas Panhandle and its people, from mammoth hunters 12,000 years ago, through the Indian Wars, cattle ranches, the coming of the railroad in the 19th century, to the High Plains oil boom of the 1920s.
In 1922, Edgar B. Davis brought in the Rios #1, which proved to be a part of one of the most significant fields ever discovered in the Southwest. Almost overnight, Luling was transformed from a railroad town of 500 to an oil town of 5,000.
Exhibits in Luling’s restored 1885 mercantile store describe the historic 1922 discovery — and how it changed the community for the better.
Editor’s Note – Luling is also known for its decorated pumping units, outstanding barbeque restaurants, and an annual Watermelon Thump Festival – and Seed-Spitting Contest. The Guinness Book of World Records documents the contest’s still unbeaten distance of 68 feet, 9 and 1/8 inches set in 1989.
The 1901 Missouri Pacific Railway Depot in Henderson was an important link, especially when the East Texas oilfield was discovered in 1930. Today it is the Depot Museum, which includes Rusk County oil exhibits, education curricula, and instruction for folk arts that have been preserved specific to East Texas.
Henderson was designated the county seat of Rusk County when it was formed in 1843. The business district was laid out around a courthouse square. Henderson grew into an important commercial, cultural, and governmental center for the area.
“The East Texas Historical Association began when W. F. Garner, chairman of the Department of History at Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College, now University, invited members of his faculty and of the faculties at Sam Houston State Teachers College and East Texas State Teachers College to form an organization to promote the study of East Texas history.”
The association publishes the “East Texas Historical Journal” biannually. “All Things Historical” is a weekly feature appearing in the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel each Sunday, and in more than thirty other daily and weekly newspapers in East Texas. ETHA is located in Nacadoches.
The easy-going rural life of East Texas changed drastically with the discovery of oil in 1930 and 1931 – years of hardship, scorn, luck and wealth which brought people, ideas, institutions and national attention to East Texas.
Museum Director Joe White says the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College, Kilgore, “houses the authentic recreation of oil discovery and production in the early 1930s in the largest oil field inside U.S. boundaries. Here are the people, their towns, their personal habits, their tools and their pastimes, all colorfully depicted in dioramas, movies, sound presentations and actual antiques donated by East Texas citizens.”
Mr. F.T. Felty, an independent producer, and his sons maintain a unique outdoor museum and host school tours as part of the Burkburnett “Tales and Trails” program. Local historians and the city host a website of the area’s fascinating boomtown history, including its starring role in the 1940 movie “Boom Town,” starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert. The Felty museum exhibits early oil field equipment from height of the boom and includes spudders used for drilling and cleaning out wells, a steel beam pumping unit, and a band-wheel power source. The museum is on Gresham Road in Burkburnett
Housed in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s XTO Energy Gallery, the “Energy Blast” exhibit hall is geared for guests age 11 and older. They enter through a multi-sensory prehistoric undersea environment similar to Fort Worth 300 million years ago into the 4-D theater where they embark on “Journey to the Center of the Barnett Shale,” a six-minute experience that tells the story of how natural gas formed within shale deposits of North Texas.
“When we looked at the story of energy in North Texas, the Barnett Shale became the natural story to tell,” says Van A. Romans, president of the Museum. “It is one example of how innovative energy explorers in our region have used science and technology to mine the energy we need out of the ground. But, it’s only one way. It is estimated that in the future, in the next 25 years, we are going to need 50 percent more energy.”
The museum’s history began in 1939 when the local council of Administrative Women in Education began a study of children’s museums with the idea of starting one in Fort Worth. The museum opened in early 1945 in two rooms in De Zavala Elementary School. In 1955, the Charlie Mary Noble Planetarium, the first public planetarium in the region, opened. In 1968 the museum’s name was changed to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
A treasure for any petroleum historian, located six miles west of Henderson in Joinerville — at the gateway to the historic East Texas oilfield discovered by Marion “Dad” Joiner in 1930 — the Gaston Museum in Joinerville presents life in the oil patch from the 1930s through 1960s.
The museum building is a circa 1940 snack shop beside a former Dixie service station in Gaston, hometown of Billy Jack. With the state’s only known surviving “Tent House,” museum visitors truly step back in time and see how people lived during the oil boom.
The Heritage Museum of Montgomery County details the volatile history of Conroe, Texas, including two major fires before its fortunes changed in 1931 when the discovery of oil lifted the town from the Great Depression.
One of the city’s most impressive historic structures is the 1934 Crighton Theater, named after former Mayor Harry M. Crighton, who commissioned an architect to design a building similar to Houston’s Majestic Theater. A Joe Roughneck Statue at city hall commemorates George William Strake, who became an oil millionaire thanks to the Conroe oilfield.
The Wiess Energy Hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science explores the application of scientific concepts and advanced technology in the oil and gas industry. Explore the entire process of energy development, from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways in which various types of energy are used.
“Visit the world’s most sophisticated and comprehensive energy exhibit—online! Wiess Energy Hall Onlineexplores the application of scientific concepts and advanced technology in the oil and gas industry. Explore all the processes of energy development, from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways in which various types of energy are used. This online exhibit incorporates interactive learning methods that are both educational and fun.”
The museum sells energy education programs focusing on the history of energy, the use of hydrocarbons today and the future use of energy — “Energy 101: Overview of Energy.”
The Humble Museum, 219 Main Street, “collects and displays artifacts depicting local history and heritage, highlighting oil, cattle, lumber, churches and everyday life in small town Humble and the surrounding area.”
The Museum was organized as a Bicentennial Project, and was dedicated on July 1, 1976. The original building was a replica of a one room schoolhouse. Special Displays are shown at the Main Street Museum at various times throughout the year, including a Vintage Camera Display.
In 20089, a DVD was created from vintage film footage: “In the 1930s, amateur filmmaker H. K. Pursley owned Humble Pharmacy, which was located on Main Street where the Masonic Lodge currently stands. Pursley was believed to be the first person in town to own a movie camera. He put his camera to good use filming everyday life in the charming, oil-boom town of Humble.”
In 1926, oil was discovered in Hutchinson County and “Ace Borger” laid out the town, which grew to a city of 15,000 in 90 days. The Hutchinson County Historical Museum exhibits the area’s history from the earliest beginnings to the present day.
The North Texas museum’s mission is to collect, preserve and interpret the county’s heritage — with emphasis on the oilfield and boomtown stories of the 1920-1930 era.
Borger is 41 miles northeast of Amarillo. Oil Boom Heritage Month is celebrated every March with Borger’s Birthday celebration on March 8. Special exhibits, events and school tours occur throughout the month.
The Million Barrel Museum in Monahans, Texas, is a 14.5-acre site dominated by a large elliptical oil storage tank built in 1928 by Shell Oil Company. The concrete 522 feet by 426 feet experimental tank was designed to hold more than a million barrels of oil — the highly productive region lacked oil pipelines at the time.
The 1929 stock market crash and technical problems ended the storage experiment. Abandoned for many years (and briefly turned into a water park in the 1950s), today the tank is the setting for barbeques, dances, cowboy poetry readings and fajita cook-offs. A segment of the tank wall helped create the 400 seat Meadows Amphitheater. Other exhibits include the original Monahans Jail, a section of railroad track with a vintage caboose, an eclipse windmill, and displays of antique farm equipment. Visit it at 400 Museum Boulevard, in Monahans.
The Museum of the Plains, Perryton, Texas, today includes an oil and natural gas exhibit, thanks to a gift from independent oilman Jack Allen and his wife Rita. The exhibit, designed to educate both children and adults, explains the stages of petroleum, from formation to the gas pump — and describes methods used for determining where to drill. Equipment, films and local information illustrate the economic importance of the energy industry.
The museum also contains other fascinating exhibits, including a world-class collection of American Brilliant Cut Class pieces, mammoth tusks from a local ranch, arrowheads, railroad memorabilia, and an extensive collection of early agriculture machinery.
On March 18, 1937, natural gas – odorless in those days – caused an explosion and destroyed the London School of New London, a community in Rusk County previously known as London. More than 300 students and teachers died. Many were the children of roughnecks working in the booming East Texas oilfield.
The museum began in 1980 when students asked survivor Mollie Ward what she remembered. “That’s when I really realized history was beginning to be forgotten.”
The cause of the tragic explosion was found to be a wood-shop saw that sparked unscented natural gas that had pooled beneath the school. New laws would soon require adding an odor to natural gas.
The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum is located on Galveston Island, Texas, less than an hour from downtown Houston. It is under the auspices of the Offshore Energy Center (OEC), Houston. Educational tours of the offshore rig museum are available to students aged 7-18, organized through a school, home school, scouts, or similar program. Museum staff guides the groups.
The museum is operated by the OEC, which chronicles the heritage and technological accomplishments of the offshore industry. The OEC mission is to “create awareness of the vast energy resources beneath the world’s oceans and the complex industry that delivers these resources in a safe and environmentally responsible way.”
The museum is in Batson, on State Highway 105 and Farm Road 770 in southwestern Hardin County — once was the heart of an oil boom.
A October 1903 a discovery would create a city of several thousand. By the end of 1903, Batson oilfield production averaged 4,518 barrels of oil per day. The peak yearly production was reached in 1904 when almost 11 million barrels of oil were recovered. The local population declined to 600 by 1927 as oil production decreased. Another oilfield, New Batson, was discovered in March 1935.
The discovery of the Batson oilfield — between Spindletop (1901) and Humble (1905) — established the first Gulf Coast oilfields. Today’s population is about 140.
When the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum opened its doors in 1933, it was a 12,500 square foot building. Since that time the museum has become the largest history museum in Texas with more than 285,000 square feet.
The Don D. Harrington Petroleum Wing tells the story of the oil boom years in the Texas Panhandle during the 1920s and 1930s, and the men who made it happen. Two floors of exhibits help visitors understand the oil and gas business as it was during the early days of discovery and development.
Construction of Pioneer Hall began in 1932. Finished in Texas limestone, the original structure features fine decorative stonework and carvings depicting western themes and Panhandle fauna in its facade. More than 100 famous West Texas cattle brands surround the entrance.
The building bears a state antiquities landmark designation for its unique Art Deco architectural style. After continued growth, West Texas State University donated a library on land adjacent to the museum in 1973, which provided three galleries.
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened December 1, 2012, in Dallas.
Designed by award-winning architect Thorn Mayne and his firm Morphosis Architects, the museum was named in honor of Margot and Ross Perot. Visitors can explore the Tom Hunt Energy Hall – and “turn the valves of a full-size wellhead, use 3-D technologies to map likely underground energy deposits and take a virtual trip deep underground to explore a drilling rig.”
The museum is located on a 4.7-acre site at 2201 N. Field Street, just north of downtown Dallas and in Victory Park.
Founded in 1975 by George T. Abell, this Permian Basin petroleum museum includes a 40,000-square-foot facility housing photographic wall murals depicting early life in the oilfields, a West Texas boomtown, and a marine diorama of 230 million years ago.
Texas oil history is preserved via taped interviews with petroleum pioneers and the largest permanent collection of original paintings by Prix de West Gold Medal artist Tom Lovell.
The museum’s wings include: Geological, Technical, and Cultural exhibits — and a rare collection of historic Chaparral racing cars. “Every visit to The Petroleum Museum is an opportunity to experience the fun side of science firsthand. Our spectacular exhibit wings offer remarkable insight into the scientific and technological world around us, from the age when dinosaurs roamed the Permian Basin to the Wild Oil Boom in West Texas!”
In October 1917, a coal company completed a discovery well on the J. H. McCleskey farm, one mile southwest of Ranger. “This well came in as a gusher making 1,600 barrels high gravity oil daily and was the discovery well, which started the rush to Ranger and brought about the development of one of the greatest oil fields in the country.”
The Ranger Historical Preservation Society preserves this important petroleum history of Ranger, Eastland County. The mission includes “preserving historical sites and buildings, applying for and securing historical markers — and helping others in their research.” The Ruth Terry Denney Library & Research Center houses genealogical and historical records.
Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum, operated by Lamar University in Beaumont, is a 15-building complex, which re-creates Gladys City, an early 1900s era boomtown on the historic Spindletop oilfield. Visitors can relive the boom days on a tour through the buildings representing actual businesses in operation during the boom.
In the years since its dedication in 1976, more than one-half million people have visited Gladys City. The museum provides services to the public, including school tours, adult group tours, teachers’ workshops, and historical information for researchers, journalists, and the general public. Visit this website to hear some period music as you take a virtual tour.
This museum in downtown Beaumont has educational programs designed for private school groups — including a 50 minute, interpreter-led tour. The museum is a good resource for teaching and social studies. While it offers programs for kindergarten through college level, the tour program is most effective for grades 2 to — and can be correlated to many science and social studies curriculum objectives and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements.
“Organized on March 2, 1897, the Texas State Historical Association is the oldest learned society in the state. Its mission is to foster the appreciation, understanding, and teaching of the rich and unique history of Texas and by example and through programs and activities encourage and promote research, preservation, and publication of historical material affecting the state of Texas.”
TSHA Online, is created and maintained by the association in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. The extensive “Handbook of Texas Online” is a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, geography, and culture sponsored by TSHA and the General Libraries at UT Austin.
The museum is located in an old warehouse originally built in 1930 by the Pure Oil Company to house oil field materials used in the development of the oil field.
All of the oil derricks in the Van field have disappeared; however, the museum obtained a derrick and relocated it on the grounds as a reminder of bygone days. Displays include various types of oil related memorabilia as well as history on the area and city.
Located in Mingus, between Ft. Worth and Abilene, the W. K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas, is a research facility of Tarleton State University. It is a combined museum and special collections library. Located at the site of the Thurber ghost town, its interactive exhibits explore the birth and death of a company town.
The focus of the permanent exhibits is the development of the coal, brick, and petroleum industries in the Thurber area. A special collections library and research area permits examination of life in Thurber and in other areas of industrial development in Texas and the Southwest.
Oil and Gas Museum, Parkersburg
“Both oil and natural gas were discovered in western Virginia by the first explorers in the mid-1700s. George Washington acquired 250 acres in what is now West Virginia because it contained an oil and gas spring. This was in 1771, making the father of our country the first petroleum industry speculator.”
The Oil and Gas Museum in downtown Parkersburg is housed in an historic building first built in 1874. It was burned and then rebuilt in 1900. Exterior exhibits include gas engines used at Burning Springs, circa 1910, and made in Parkersburg by the Spence Machine Company. There is an 1859 wooden oil tank from the Petroleum oilfield.
On May 9, 1863, Burning Springs oilfield was destroyed by Confederate raiders lead by General “Grumble” Jones — making it the first of many oil fields destroyed in war. Thanks to Director David McKain, a museum annex and visitors center has been added at the historic Rathbone Well at Burning Springs.
Ed Jacobsen, once a sales representative in the Chicago area for ENCO Oil Company (now ExxonMobil), once bought ailing service stations and returned them to health.
More than three decades later, retiring to his wife’s hometown of Three Lakes in the Northwoods region of upper Wisconsin, Ed missed “the world of service stations” so began visiting flea markets and garage sales. His memorabilia collection soon passed 2,700 items.
Wanting to share his collection — and needing a place to display it — Ed Jacobsen opened the Northwoods Petroleum Museum in 2006 on Highway 45 between Eagle River and Three Lakes. “I just love this stuff,” he says, noting his collection, which includes more than 50 gas pump globes, reflects a simpler time, when things were made to last.
Read more in the “Wisconsin Petroleum Museum.”
The Green River Valley Museum, 206 N. Front Street, Big Piney, began in 1990 thanks to the Big Piney Centennial Committee.
The building at various times has served as a town hall, fire station and jail. “The original structure burned in 1948, leaving the charred metal jail cell exposed to the elements. Having nowhere else to hold prisoners, law enforcement officers continued to use the cell to hold them until they could be moved to a more suitable location. When the building was rebuilt, it was constructed around the jail cell. The jail cell today is one of the museum’s most popular attractions.”
In July 2000, the top section of an old production derrick was moved from the natural gas field between Big Piney and LaBarge to Norris Park at the East end of town – as a tribute to the contributions made by the oil and gas industry to the community. The derrick first came to the area in 1955 from Casper.
Located in Thermopolis, northwest of Casper, the Hot Springs County Museum & Cultural Center includes a Petroleum Building with an “Oil and Gas: Wyoming’s Black Gold” collection of industry exhibits.
The presence of oil in the region was known throughout the 19th century. The “Great Tar Spring”, ten miles southeast of Lander, was used by Native Americans to provide liniment for their horses. Mountain men and pioneers traveling across the country used it as axle grease for their wagons.
The present Hot Springs County Museum is the outgrowth of the Hot Springs County Pioneer Association Museum, which first opened its doors on July 4, 1941. Founded to preserve the history of the region’s settlers,
The Salt Creek Museum in Midwest exhibits the Salt Creek oilfields from 1889 to the present, including oilfield workers, their families, and the history of the area. Permanent exhibits include a doctor’s office that was in use from 1937 to 1993, school room, kitchen, barber shop, and household artifacts.
The museum holds a full set of Midwest Refining Company Books from 1920-1930, which detail the operations, according to Curator Pauline Schultz, who is writing a book about the Salt Creek Oil Field.
The Tate Geological Museum, founded in 1980 through a gift from Marion and Inez Tate, is located on the Casper College campus and a popular resource to the community: local schools and other groups come to the museum to add to their students learning experience. One of a small number of geology and paleontology museums in Wyoming, the Tate houses a collection of over 3,000 fossil and mineral specimens. Exhibits include a special core exhibit, “Wyoming Geologic Time.”
The Wyoming State Historical Society began in 1953 and provides direction and support for historical research and preservation in Wyoming. Made up of members across Wyoming, as well as from outside the borders, the society is open to any individual interested in history of Wyoming and the West.
Want to add a museum or update one? Know of another petroleum-related exhibit? Please contact the society.
© Copyright 2003-2013 by Bruce Wells.All rights reserved.