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February 10, 1910 – Buena Vista Oilfield discovered in California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 12, 1954 – First Major Oil Discovery in Nevada

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 12, 1987 – Court upholds Texaco Verdict and Fine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Signal Hill circa 1930 – at the corner of 1st Street and Belmont Street. Photo courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.

In the summer of 1921, one of the world’s most famous wells strikes oil on the southeast side of Signal Hill, 20 miles south of Los Angeles.

The Alamitos No. 1 well erupts “black gold” on June 23, announcing discovery of California’s prolific Long Beach oilfield.

The natural gas pressure is so great the gusher rises 114 feet. The well produces almost 600 barrels a day when it is completed on June 25. It will eventually produce 700,000 barrels.

The oilfield Alamitos No. 1 reveals still produces 1.5 million barrels of oil a year.

Signal Hill, incorporated three years after the Alamitos discovery well, remains the only city in America completely surrounded by another city – Long Beach. More than one billion barrels of oil have been pumped from the Long Beach oilfield since the original strike. Read the rest of this entry »


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

Emma Summers’ “genius for affairs” put her in control of the Los Angeles City oilfield’s production and earned her oil queen title.

Emma Summers’ business acumen put her in control of the Los Angeles City oilfield’s production – and earned her oil queen title.

She would become a lady to be reckoned with in the rough and tumble world of the Los Angeles oil patch.

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.

Summers 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.

“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,” she later recalled.

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.

By 1901, Summers was operating fourteen paying wells of her own and leasing others to meet the market demand. “It has been like this with me always,” she recalled.

The Los Angeles City oilfield at the turn of the century. Photograph courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento.

“I saw a chance in the oil business and sunk a well, and that carried me on and on until I couldn’t stop,” she added.

Her wells produced 50,000 barrels each month. At first she sold her oil through local brokers, but eventually took on that challenge in addition to managing her supplies, 40 horses, 10 wagons and a blacksmith shop.

Summers sold her oil to downtown hotels, factories, Pacific Light & Power Company and railroads.

“There are men in Los Angeles who do not like Emma A. Summers,” proclaimed the July 1911 issue of Sunset magazine.

The former piano teacher had made enemies along the way to becoming known as the “Oil Queen” of California.

Summers expanded her holdings into real estate as World War I demand for petroleum increased her profits. She bought some of the first motion picture theaters in Los Angeles as well as apartment houses, several San Fernando Valley ranches, and a Wilshire Boulevard mansion.

As the Los Angeles oil boom waned, Summers moved into her elegant hotel appropriately named the Queen. Years later she recalled, “Oh, how scared I was sometimes! I would start in on a big deal and then get scared and wonder where I’d land. But I usually came out all right.”

Summers lived out her last years at the Biltmore and Alexandria hotels. She died in a Glendale nursing home in 1941 at age 83. Her “genius for affairs” put Emma Summers in control of the Los Angeles City field’s production – and earned a piano teacher the title of California’s oil queen.

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


Outside the Page Museum of Los Angeles, life-size replicas of several extinct mammals are featured at the Rancho La Brea in Hancock Park. Although commonly called the “tar pits,” the pools are actually comprised of asphalt.

“Tar pits” form when crude oil seeps to the surface through fissures in the earth’s crust and part of the oil evaporates.

The La Brea “tar pits,” discovered on August 3, 1769, by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola, exemplify the many natural petroleum seeps of southern California.

“We proceeded for three hours on a good road; to the right were extensive swamps of bitumen which is called chapapote,” Franciscan friar Juan Crespi noted in a diary of the expedition.

“We debated whether this substance, which flows melted from underneath the earth, could occasion so many earthquakes,” he added.

Crespi – the first person to use the term bitumen – described the sticky pools in southern California where crude oil had been seeping from the ground through fissures in the coastal plain sediments for more than 40,000 years. Read the rest of this entry »


“There’s an oil spill every day off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, where oil is seeping naturally from cracks in the seafloor into the ocean,” notes the the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In 1969, an oil spill from a California offshore platform will lead to creation of the modern environmental movement. Today, some Santa Barbara County residents want to lift the state’s drilling ban – to reduce the relentless flow of the region’s underwater natural oil seeps.

“The techniques, equipment and resources necessary to combat an oil spill of this magnitude did not exist at the time,” notes one expert about the 1969 well blowout.

On January 28, after drilling 3,500 below the ocean floor, a Union Oil Company drilling platform six miles off Santa Barbara, suffered a blowout.

Between 80,000 barrels and 100,000 barrels of oil flowed into the Pacific Ocean and onto beaches, including Summerland – where the U.S. offshore industry began in 1896 with wells drilled from piers.

Problems at the Union Oil platform began when roughnecks began to retrieve the pipe in order to replace a drill bit and pressure became dangerously low,  according to a report by the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

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