“A woman with a genius for affairs – it may sound paradoxical, but the fact exists. If Mrs. Emma A. Summers were less than a genius she could not, as she does today, control the Los Angeles oil markets.” – The San Francisco Call, July 21, 1901
She would become a lady to be reckoned with in the rough and tumble world of the Los Angeles oil patch.
Emma Summers’ “genius for affairs” put her in control of the Los Angeles City oilfield’s production and earned her oil queen title.
Emma A. (McCutchen) Summers, a refined southern lady who graduated from Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, moved to Los Angeles in 1893 to teach piano. She was soon caught up in the excitement of California’s new petroleum exploration industry.
With her home not far from where Edward Doheny had discovered the Los Angeles City field just a year before, Summers invested $700 for half interest in a well just a few blocks from Doheny’s producer.
Her well was between Court and Temple Streets, about a mile west of today’s Dodger Stadium. It didn’t go well. The casing collapsed and tools were lost, but she persevered. She borrowed another $1,800 to continue drilling the well and “Night after night, by the light of a flaring torch, she hovered over it, as if it were a sick babe’s cradle.”
Weeks dragged on as the money dwindled, but the well finally came in. Encouraged, Summers drilled another well, and another, and another. She later recalled, “When I found myself $10,000 in debt, I thought if I ever got that paid and as much more in the bank, I would be glad to quit.”
But she didn’t quit. Summers became a constant presence in the forest of oil rigs that had turned the heart of Los Angeles into a “vibrant, oil-soaked little canyon.” The population doubled between 1890 and 1900 and her oil business prospered. Read the rest of this entry »