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August 10, 1909 – Hughes patents Twin-Cone Roller Drill Bit

petroleum history August

Howard Hughes Sr. of Houston, Texas, receives a patent in 1909 for a drill that “relates to boring drills, and particularly to roller drills such as are used for drilling holes in earth and rock.”

“Fishtail” drill bits become obsolete after Howard Hughes Sr. of Houston, Texas, patents the twin-cone roller bit consisting of two interlocking cones. By pulverizing hard rock, his bit brings faster and deeper rotary drilling.

Historians note that several men are trying to improve bit technologies at the time, but it is Hughes and business associate Walter Sharp who make it happen. Just months before receiving the 1909 bit patent, they establish the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company to manufacture the new bit.

“Instead of scraping the rock, as does the fishtail bit, the Hughes bit, with its two conical cutters, took a different engineering approach,” notes the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which on August 10, 2009, designated the invention as an Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

“By chipping, crushing, and powdering hardrock formations, the Hughes Two-Cone Drill Bit could reach vast amounts of oil in reservoirs thousands of feet below the surface,” ASME adds. “This new drilling technology would revolutionize the industry.”

Hughes engineers will invent the modern tri-cone bit in 1933. Frank and George Christensen will develop the earliest diamond bit in 1941. The tungsten carbide tooth comes into use in the early 1950s. Read Making Hole – Drilling Technology. 

August 12, 1930 – Kentucky Oilmen organize

petroleum history August

Kentucky salt-well drillers found oil in 1829 – long before the 1919 oil well that launched a true oil boom.

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

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

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

petroleum history August

A Norman Rockwell illustration advertised a leading industry magazine.

petroleum history August

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

The Oil and Gas Journal promotes itself with an illustration from artist Norman Rockwell captioned, “Where Oil Men Invest Their Valuable Reading Time.” For decades Rockwell’s renditions of American life and family brought him widespread popularity through magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Boy’s Life, and Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.

In addition to the illustrations for advertisements in the Oil and Gas Journal, in 1959 Rockwell provides artwork to the American Petroleum Institute, which sponsors a U.S. Postal Service first day of issue to commemorate the centennial of the birth of the nation’s oil industry. See Centennial Oil Stamp Issue.

Rockwell’s illustration includes the slogan “Oil’s First Century 1859-1959, Born in Freedom Working for Progress.” His illustration depicts “the men of science, the rugged extraction of the crude oil, and ending with your friendly service station attendant,” notes a collector. Learn about another oil-patch illustrator in Seuss I am, an Oilman.

petroleum history August

Only four gallons a week were allowed during WWII.

August 15, 1945 – WW II Gasoline Rationing ends

World War II gasoline rationing ends in the United States.

Since the beginning of rationing in December 1942, priority stickers and coupon books had been issued by the Office of Price Administration to conserve petroleum for the war effort. Most civilian automobiles carried “A” stickers – limiting them to four gallons a week.

Higher priority stickers were issued to emergency vehicles. A national speed limit of 35 mph was also imposed to further constrain consumption. In addition to gasoline and fuel oil, wartime rationing included tires, food, clothing, shoes, and coffee.

August 16, 1861 – World’s Oldest Producing Well

petroleum history August

The McClintock Well No. 1 well was a stop during a 2009 American Oil & Gas Historical Society field trip. The 1861 well is pumped a few times a year – supplying souvenir bottles sold at the Drake Well Museum.

petroleum history August 11 - August 17

Nearby is America’s first commercial oil well, drilled by Edwin L. Drake.

What will become the world’s oldest continuously producing oil well is completed in 1861 near Rouseville, Pennsylvania.

The McClintock No. 1 well, reaching 620 feet deep into the Venango Third Sand, initially produces 50 barrels of oil a day. The well is about 14 miles from Titusville, where the first U.S. commercial oil well produced from 69.5 feet deep in 1859.

“This is the oldest well in the world that is still producing oil at its original depth,” notes the Oil Region Alliance for Business and Tourism, which promotes the well and other historic petroleum sites in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

“Souvenir bottles of crude oil from McClintock Well No. 1 are available at the Drake Well Museum outside Titusville,” the Alliance adds. Donated to the state by Quaker State in 1995, today the McClintock well is pumped every other month, producing up to 10 barrels of oil.

Although a Pennsylvania historic marker today identifies the oldest producing well, which includes a small pump jack, a 15-horsepower Reid engine and wooden tank, “thousands of people pass it each year and don’t even know it’s there.”

August 16, 1927 – Phillips Aviation Gasoline powers Air Race to Hawaii

petroleum history August 11 - August 17

Several competitors will disappear over the Pacific during the 1927 Dole Air Race. The winning aircraft today is on display at the Woolaroc Ranch near Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

petroleum history August

Phillips Petroleum’s L. E. Phillips and Clyde Alexander, pilot Arthur Goebel Jr., and Frank Phillips in front of the “Woolaroc,” which won the dangerous air race to Hawaii in 1927.

High-octane aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum powers a monoplane on a dangerous air race over the Pacific Ocean. With a crowd of 50,000 cheering them on in 1927, eight aircraft take off from the muddy Oakland, California, airfield.

Dole Pineapple Company has offered a $25,000 first prize for an airplane race from Oakland to Honolulu. Just three months earlier, Charles Lindbergh has made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight. Aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum powers the “Woolaroc” monoplane in the air race.

A new Phillips fuel – Nu-Aviation Gasoline – is used for the 2,439-mile flight over the Pacific. The single-engine monoplane is christened Woolaroc, the name of Frank Phillips’ Bartlesville ranch and nature preserve.

At Oakland’s airport, two of the fuel-heavy planes crash on takeoff. Five aircraft eventually head out over the Pacific. Only two make it to Hawaii. Read more in Flight of the Woolaroc.

Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio program, Exploring Energy, 9 a.m – 10 a.m., eastern time. On the fourth Wednesday of each month AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells calls in to discuss petroleum history. Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © AOGHS, This Week in Petroleum History.


The first Texas oil boom arrives in the summer of 1894 when the Corsicana oilfield is discovered by a drilling contractor hired by the city to find water. Residents annually celebrate the 1894 discovery with a Derrick Day Chili & BBQ Cook-Off.

An oil well that produced less than three barrels a day transformed Corsicana, Texas, from a sleepy agricultural town into a petroleum and industrial center. It launched industries, including service companies and manufacturers of the newly invented rotary drilling rig.

Some consider the 1894 Corsicana oilfield discovery well, drilled on South 12th Street, the first commercial oil discovery west of the Mississippi.

Although it was not the first oil well in Texas, the discovery soon led to others that established the state’s exploration and production industry. Corsicana reportedly built the first refinery west of the Mississippi. It also was home to Wolf Brand Chili.

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