Celebrating California Petroleum Heritage

oil history events


The West Kern Oil Museum dedicated a reconstructed derrick in October 2005. Photo courtesy Taft Oildorado, Inc.

Every five years a giant oil patch party returns to Taft, California. In October, the “Taft Oildorado Days” includes the Petroleum Club’s oilfield skills competition as part of a 10-day celebration that pays homage to the community’s heritage.

For the October 9-18, 2015, events, the West Kern Oil Museum serves as the official location for the “oldtimers registration,” according to the Taft Midway Driller. “Anyone who has resided on the Westside for many years, previously or currently, is encouraged to register as an oldtimer during the Oildorado celebration.”

Oildorado Days events include a “Boomtown Days” celebration at museum on October 10. With plenty of BBQ on hand, tours of exhibits will be given. Ofter events around Taft include a first-day stamp issue, car show, concert, melodrama, carnival, queen pageant, the oilfield skills competition, dances, contests – competeing costumes, beards (called the wiskerino), and ponytails).

According to Taft Oildorado Inc., “The city’s birthday bash pays homage to the hardy men and women who migrated to this dusty southwestern corner of the San Joaquin Valley when oil seeps were detected shortly after the turn of the century.”

An October 18 grand parade will conclude this year’s celebrations, according to Oildorado President Paul Linder. Much of the entertainment takes place around a Taft College Petroleum Summit. A special Oildorado Sheriff will keep shenanigans in check.

AGI offers Earth Science Lesson Plans

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The American Geoscience Institute was founded in 1948.

An earth science information resource for classroom lessons is available from the American Geosciences Institute (AGI).

AGI’s Critical Issues Program provides easy to understand information about the geosciences, including energy, climate, water, natural hazards and mineral resources.

“Our Critical Issues Website is an information hub and an excellent resource for the classroom,” notes Charlotte Wood, an AGI/Schlumberger Fellow in Geoscience Communication.

The website offers links to detailed information in many formats, from frequently asked questions, interactive maps and visualizations, webinars, and case studies, to a database of more in-depth research publications.

In addition, AGI’s Earth Science Week takes place October 11-17. Educational activities for the 2015 annual event will celebrate the theme “Visualizing Earth Systems.”

“This year’s event is shaping up to reach even more people than last year’s audience of over 50 million,” AGI reports. “For the past 18 years, AGI has organized Earth Science Week to foster public and professional awareness of the status of Earth science in education and society.”

With a network of 51 member societies, Alexandria, Virginia-based AGI represents more than a quarter-million geoscientists.

Founder of American Oil & Gas Reporter

In Memoriam:  Charles W. “Cookie” Cookson

Oil & Gas Festivals offer Summer Fun and Education

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Among the oldest celebrations of the heritage of the oil and natural gas industry, the Shrimp & Petroleum Festival began in 1936 in Morgan City. It attracted 140,000 people in 2014.

While on vacation this summer, why not include a visit to America’s historic oil patch? Join others in celebrating the industry’s heritage at festivals.

Many communities in the 33 producing states are proud of their petroleum heritage. See if there are special petroleum-related events or a festival near you this summer (or suggest one) in Community Oil & Gas Festivals.

Since 2003, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society has been dedicated to promoting museums and oilfield communities – and their annual festivals celebrating the industry that helped make them (and the United States) prosper since August 1859.

Energy Education Calendar

 The historical solciety's 2015 calendar offers industry milestone dates with 12 historic oil patch photographs from the Library of Congress.

The historical society’s 2015 calendar offers industry milestone dates with 12 historic oil patch photographs from the Library of Congress.

The historical society prints a unique calendar – Today in American Petroleum History – which includes dates with descriptions of petroleum history milestones, technologies, inventions, oilfield discoveries, pioneers, etc.

Please call (202) 387-6996 – or simply mail, fax or email this easy order form.

These special energy education calendars, printed in partnership with the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers,are part of annual projects useful for energy workshop programs, association members, teachers, students and employees. Each month offers historical facts along with one of 12 Library of Congress oil patch photographs.

Beginning in 2016, the industry’s milestone dates will be available in editions customized for companies, museums and other industry organizations.

The history calendars are an inexpensive energy education resource. Depending on the number ordered, the price per 11 inch by 17 inch calendar is as low as $5 each. Please contact Bruce Wells at bawells@aoghs.org or call (202) 387-6996 – or fill out and mail (or email) this order form.

Editor’s Note – Help AOGHS promote the Today in American Petroleum History calendar using this 2015 news release.

Range Resources Chief is Chief Roughneck

Jeff Ventura, president and CEO of Range Resources, received the 2014 Chief Roughneck award on November 23.

The Fort Worth-based independent oil and gas company executive accepted the prestigious award at the 85th annual meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in Palm Beach, Florida.

U.S. Steel Senior Vice President of Tubular Business David Rintoul presented Ventura with the traditional Chief Roughneck bronze bust and hard hat.

Range Resources has pioneered drilling in the Marcellus Shale, the largest natural gas field in the United States, said Rintoul.

Since 1955, the Chief Roughneck award has recognized one individual whose accomplishments and character represent the highest ideals of the oil and natural gas industry. Read more in Chief Roughneck Award Winners.

Petroleum Museum prepares for Exhibit Upgrades

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“There has never been a better time to update our story, invest in our children and brighten the Permian Basin,” explained Petroleum Museum Executive Director Shannon in a 2014 fundraising brochure.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, is undertaking its first multimillion dollar update since opening in 1975, according to Executive Director Kathy Shannon.

The largest oil museum in the nation continues to educate visitors about the industry’s past and present, offering a resource for science-based education, Shannon explains.

A transportation wing added a decade ago allowed the museum to broaden its science education, she adds. The popular Chaparral Gallery, home to Jim Hall Chaparral race cars, showcases the engineering, physics and science of energy.

Shannon now is refocusing much of the museum’s core content. She is working with Ohio-based Jack Rouse Associates (JRA), which is providing project management and art direction for renovations. The museum already has raised $16.3 million. During the renovation process, the north and east wings will be closed to the public.

According to JRA, completion of the $18 million update is scheduled for September 2015 – the Petroleum Museum’s fortieth birthday. It will include 15,000 square feet of renovated gallery space, a series of high-tech presentations and upgraded core content.

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Founded by George T. Abellin in 1975, the Petroleum Museum has educated more than one million visitors. An $18 million renovation is scheduled for completion in September 2015.

“New features include an introductory film unveiling the facts and fiction behind petroleum and energy science, multimedia interactives revealing the extreme science behind global energy production, and a refreshed Hall of Fame,” JRA reports.

“This renovation will take visitors on a half-billion-year quest for the ultimate energy solution ranging from the depths of an ancient seabed to the bridge of a futuristic geo-craft,” says Shannon.

The Petroleum Museum archives contain 4,000 square feet of petroleum and local Permian Basin history, including records, logs, maps, journals, diaries and films of the industry from 1926 to today.

“The public needs a resource where they can trust, with real certainty, that they will find accurate, unvarnished information about oil, gas and energy – along with some informed insights into the abiding issues confronting modern society,” Shannon concludes.

Oil Museum celebrates “Boomtown Days”

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A roughneck monument with a 30-foot-tall derrick was dedicated in Taft, California, in October 2010.

In the 1920s more than 7,000 wooden derricks covered 21 miles in southwestern Kern County, California.

Today in Taft, West Kern Oil Museum volunteers collect and preserve artifacts. Oil patch equipment exhibits educate visitors about the petroleum industry. As in every fall, on October 25, 2014, a special event kept the volunteers even more busy.

The museum’s annual “Boomtown Days” again featured antique gas engines, blacksmith demonstrations, quilting and a popular BBQ. Taft also celebrates the town’s birthday every five years with “Oildorado Days,” which began in 1946.

The museum tells the story of the industries, communities and people that have benefitted from petroleum exploration and production. Volunteers educate visitors about the Midway Sunset field, which by 1915 produced half of the oil in California. At the time, California led the nation in oil production.

Industry Journal features Historical Society Research

The Oil & Gas Journal, a publication that traces its roots to the early Pennsylvania oil patch, recently cited American Oil & Gas Historical Society research and articles.

oil history events

History featured in September OGJ.

The September 2014 issue of the Journal included Staff Writer Matt Zborowski’s reference to what some historians consider the first raid on petroleum facilities in warfare. It took place during the Civil War. His article about an 1863 Confederate cavalry raid is part of a larger column describing “how oil has not only become a reason for war, but a strategic target as well. And it’s not a tactic exclusive to the Middle East.”

Zborowski, noting that America’s Civil War, “occurred at the dawn of the industrial age just after the first commercial oil wells were drilled in North America,” summarizes the little-known story:

In spring of 1863, Confederates moved in on the Union-controlled north-central portion of the region in an effort to cripple the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. When a unit of 1,300 soldiers led by Gen. William “Grumble” Jones marched into Burning Springs-a town named literally for the naturally rising gas from the Little Kanawha, Kanawha, and Big Sandy rivers-it happened upon one of America’s first commercial oil works, which included a spring-pole oil well that reached 303 ft, according to records from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society.

The Journal feature includes more details from the historical society article, Confederates attack Oilfield.

Coolspring Power Museum set for Fall Expo, Oct. 16 – Oct. 18, 2014

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The last of its kind, a Hanley & Bird Well Bailing Machine was once used to service Pennsylvania oil and natural gas wells. Photo courtesy the Coolspring Power Museum.

A unique Pennsylvania museum dedicated to preserving early internal combustion engines hosts many events during the spring and summer, including the popular “History Day and Car, Truck & Tractor Show” every June.

The last event before the Coolspring Power Museum closes its 2014 season is slated for Oct. 16 to 18 – the annual “Fall Expo and Swap Meet.”

The museum, established in 1985, maintains 20 buildings for exhibiting 250 stationary engines, including many used to power multiple wells in America’s first oilfields. It is midway between Punxsutawney and Brookville in western Pennsylvania. Read Cool Coolspring Power Museum.

Joe White retiring from East Texas Oil Museum

oil history events

Joe White established the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore in 1980.

“One of Kilgore College’s treasures, the East Texas Oil Museum, will bid farewell this month to a man who has been with the museum since its inception 37 years ago and who has devoted half of his life to the preservation and public education of the East Texas oil field,” notes the press release from Kilgore College.

Joe White, the only director the museum has ever had, was recently named Director Emeritus by the college’s Board of Trustees,” notes the August 27, 2014 in the Kilgore News Herald.

“White plans to retire, but he won’t be a stranger to the museum. He said he’ll return to the museum next week to work half-time to write a history of the museum” and to continue work on oil history events and fundraising.

Revealed on  October 3, 1930, the East Texas oil field remains among largest and most prolific oil reservoirs ever found in the lower-48 states. White’s East Texas Oil Museum, which includes an indoor recreated boom town, tells the story of Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt, “Dad” Joiner and “Doc” Lloyd – and one of the U.S. petroleum industry’s greatest discoveries.

Marcellus Shale sets Record, boosts Pioneer Oil Museum of New York

oil history events

The Pioneer Oil Days in Bolivar, New York, every summer brings new visitors to the Pioneer Oil Museum’s growing exhibit space.

oil history events

In four years production has increased from 2 Bcf/d to almost 16 Bcf/d. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Drilling Productivity Report.

Natural gas production in the Marcellus region exceeded 15 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) through July – the first time ever recorded, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Marcellus Region, mostly found in New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, is the largest producing shale natural gas basin in the United States.

Marcellus region production has increased dramatically over the past four years, reports EIA. It now accounts for almost 40 percent of all U.S. shale gas production.

According to the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York, public interest in petroleum history has grown as a result of this geological formation first revealed near the village of Marcellus, near Syracuse.

The Bolivar-based museum in the western part of the state is in the midst of a five-phase renovation and oil history events that include adding oilfield artifacts from throughout Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. In 1865, the Job Moses No. 1 well, about 30 miles west of Bolivar in Limestone, became the state’s first successful oil well. It produced seven barrels a day.

Most historians agree that the earliest U.S. commercial use of natural gas in a community took place about 50 miles farther west, in Fredonia, in 1825. Natural gas was piped to several stores, shops and a mill from a downtown natural gas well drilled by William Hart, today considered as the father of the natural gas industry.

Drake Well Administrator is a Keeper of the Flame

Petroleum historians have recognized the work of Melissa Mann of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Mann, site administrator of the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania, is a 2014 recipient of the Samuel T. Pees Keeper of the Flame Award.

PHI will meet in Tulsa in 2015.

PHI will meet in Tulsa in 2015.

A second Keeper of the Flame Award was presented to Harvey L. Golubock, president of American Refining Group, which owns and operates the refinery in Bradford.Mann received the award during the June 19-21, 2014, Oil History Symposium of the Petroleum History Institute (PHI) in Bradford, Pennsylvania. PHI presented seven awards to PHI members and other petroleum industry leaders at its annual awards banquet  held at the Pennhills Club, according to Marilyn Black, vice president of Heritage Development for the Oil Region Alliance, who nominated Mann.

Former PHI president Daniel J. Leech received the 2014 Distinguished Service Award. Leech a founding member of the PHI in 2003, served as president from 2005 to 2013. Long-time PHI member Larry D. Woodfork of Morgantown, West Virginia, also received the award.

Black noted in the Oil Region Alliance’s July newsletter, “The News Gusher,” other PHI award recipients included the Gerald M. Friedman Award for Excellence in Oil History Presentation/Publication presented to Mary Barrett of Shreveport, Louisiana; and the Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award presented to both Paul R. Plants of Shinglehouse and Willard M. “Bill” Cline of Bradford.

North Dakota produces One Million Barrels of Oil a Day

On June 17, 2014, North Dakota oil production surpassed one million barrels per day thanks to development of the Bakken shale in the western part of the state.

State officials reported that North Dakota produced 1,001,149 barrels of oil a day in April from a record 10,658 wells. Some industry journalists, proclaiming the milestone a sign that the United States is freeing itself from the grip of foreign oil, referred to the state as “Saudi Dakota.”

Early in the morning on April 4, 1951, after four months of drilling and with snow piled high from blizzards, the Clarence Iverson No. 1 well produced oil. Read more in First North Dakota Oil Well.

2014 Earth Science Week includes Contests

The American Geological Institute is sponsoring three national contests for Earth Science Week 2014. The photography, visual arts, and essay contests, all focused on the event theme of “Earth’s Connected Systems,” allow students to participate learn about the earth sciences – and compete for prizes.

The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on “Connections in My Community.” The the visual arts contest, open to students in grades K-5, is titled “Earth’s Connected Systems and Me.”

Students in grades six to nine are eligible to enter the essay contest: “Earth System Science in Today’s World.” Essays of up to 300 words should describe how the study of earth’s connected systems is helping to improve the world today.

Entries may be submitted any time up to the Friday of Earth Science Week, October 17, 2014. The first-place prize for each contest is $300 and a copy of AGI’s “The Geoscience Handbook.” To learn more, including how to enter, visit Earth Science Week.

Petroleum History Institute to Meet in Bradford, Pennsylvania

oil history events

The Petroleum History Institute (PHI), based in Oil City, Pennsylvania, plans to host its 2014 Oil History Symposium in Bradford, June 19 to 21. PHI has issued a call for abstracts for the PHI annual professional journal, Oil-Industry History. Planned field trips include visits to the American Refinery – the oldest operating refinery in America, the Penn-Brad Museum (which includes a 72-foot cable-tool drilling rig replica), and a tour of the Pioneer Oil Museum in Bolivar, New York.

Visit your Local Oil and Gas Museum this Summer

oil history events

The Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania, includes a replica of Drake’s derrick.

More than 100 community museums and petroleum-related exhibits are linked to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s website.

Almost all the museums host summer events and K-12 education programs – featured alongside stories of America’s exploration and production heritage.

As a recent historical society article notes, summer brings millions of Americans trekking across the U.S. oil patch while on vacation. Among the more unusual stops, perhaps less well known, are museums with exhibits chronicling the nation’s oil and natural gas discoveries.

There are several historic attractions in state where it all started, Pennsylvania. Read more in Pennsylvania Petroleum Vacation.

Historical Society partners with Oklahoma’s Exploring Energy Network

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A new partnership with Exploring Energy brings petroleum history to its radio show and monthly publication.

A weekday morning radio show – available online – now features the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s “This Week in Petroleum History” every Wednesday.

AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells will join some of the discussion on “Remember When Wednesday” on the Oklahoma radio program Exploring Energy. He also will contribute articles to the show’s monthly news publication, which is distributed to more than 20,000 readers. Read more in Radio Show features Oil History.

Ohio Celebrates 200th Anniversary of “First Oil Well in North America”

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An Ohio historical marker was erected in 1992 at the Thorla-McKee well site in Noble County, “Gateway to Appalachia.”

Long before Edwin Drake drilled his well in Pennsylvania seeking oil that would be refined and used for Kerosene, two entrepeneurs in Noble County, Ohio, recognized the potential of petroleum – as a medicine.

In 1814, frontier settlers Silas Thorla and Robert McKee used a spring pole to drill a well near a place where deer came to lick salt, according to the Ohio Exploration Society. They sought valuable brine, because salt was an important commodity for settlers. It was used to preserve meat, flavor food and raise livestock.

The Thorla and McKee well, cased with a hollow sycamore log, produced brine, notes the Ohio Exploration Society. Oil and some natural gas also flowed from the well, which today is preserved north of Marietta at state routes 78 and 546 near Caldwell.

“Thorla and McKee used wool blankets to absorb the oil from the top of the salt water,” the Society adds. “The water was then boiled down until all that remained was salt.”

Although McKee suggested burning the oil in homes, the thick smoke made it impractical. Instead, after neighbors tasted the oil, they suggested it be sold as medicine.

“So Thorla and McKee wrung the oil from the blankets into bottle and sold it as a cure-all called Seneca Oil,” the Society explains. “Their operation came to an end in 1831 when fire destroyed the works built on the site.”

Not until after Drake’s well in 1859, when refining for kerosene was perfected, did oil bring light and heat to America’s growing frontier.

Established in 1998, the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program educates the public about the state’s energy industry – past and present.

Roughnecks of Sherwood Forest

oil history events

A vintage Spitfire uses modern aviation fuel, but in 1942 U-Boat attacks on convoys threatened to cut off England’s supply.

“A ‘roughneck’ is a slang term for a person completing dangerous, hard-manual labor in the working environment of an oil rig,” notes Laura Bell, statistics editor for the Oil & Gas Journal on December 16, 2013.

“While doing research on the Worldwide Report, which reports oil production by field, this editor ran across an article from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society of how roughnecks helped save the future of Great Britain during World War II,” she adds before summarizing the AOGHS article Roughnecks of Sherwood Forest.

A Holiday Candy Petroleum Product

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Petroleum products include wax fangs and wax lips.

“Wax fangs” and “wax lips” are a little-known petroleum products.

When 4th-graders surrender wax fangs to their teacher in the 1983 classic A Christmas Story, grownups are reminded of what “a penny used to buy at their

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