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Making-Hole-cable-tool-man-AOGHSA good cable-tool man is just about the most highly skilled worker you’ll find. Besides having a feel for the job, knowing what’s going on thousands of feet under the ground just from the movement of the cable, he’s got to be something of a carpenter, a steam-fitter, an electrician, and a damned good mechanic. A cable tool driller knows more knots and splices than any six sailors you can find. – From a 1939 interview in “Voices from the Oilfield” by Paul Lambert and Kenny Franks.

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The Chinese drilled with bamboo spring poles as early as 450 A.D.

Drilling or “making hole” began long before oil or natural gas were anything more than flammable curiosities found seeping from the ground.

For centuries, digging by hand or shovel was the best technologies that existed to pry into the earth’s secrets. Oil seeps provided a balm for injuries. Natural gas seeps – when ignited – created folklore and places called “burning springs.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

December 23, 1927 – Bad Santa of Cisco, Texas

Adding to the lore of Cisco, Texas – near the 1917 “Roaring Ranger” oilfield and the boom town where Conrad Hilton bought his first hotel – Santa Claus attempts an ill-fated bank robbery.

When a man disguised as Santa tries to rob the First National Bank two days before Christmas, a gun battle ensues, leaving more than a dozen wounded and eight dead before he is captured.

The “Santa Claus Bank Robber” later kills a guard while trying to escape. Recaptured, Cisco citizens hang him – twice, after the first rope breaks.

Read more about Cisco’s colorful history in Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel.

December 26, 1905 – Nellie Bly patents the 55-Gallon Steel Drum

Nellie Bly – well known in her day as a journalist for the New York World newspaper – is issued a U.S. patent for the “metal barrel” that will become today’s 55-gallon steel drum. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Among its records for dry holes, Florida’s first – but certainly not last – unsuccessful attempt to find commercially viable oil reserves began in 1901, not far from the Gulf Coast panhandle town of Pensacola.

Florida’s first oil well’s site is by present day Big Cypress Preserve in southwest Florida, about a 30 minute drive from the resort city of Naples — where a museum exhibit describes the discovery.

Two test wells were drilled, the first to 1,620 feet and the second a hundred feet deeper. Both were abandoned. Whether that wildcatter was following science or intuition, contemporary accounts of his efforts reveal only a small historical footnote: “Florida’s first dry holes.”

Twenty years later, as America’s oil demand continued to soar, oil still had not been found in Florida. The state’s panhandle still looked promising – despite a growing list of failed drilling ventures.

Indian legends and a wildcat stock promoter’s claim of oil inspired yet another attempt near today’s Falling Waters Park, about 100 miles east of Pensacola. A tall, wooden derrick and steam-driven rig were used to drill.

At a depth 3,900 feet, a brief showing of natural gas excited area residents with a false report of a possible gusher. Undeterred, the oilmen continued to drill to a depth of 4,912 feet before finally giving up.

No oil of commercial quantity was found and the well was capped in 1921. Another dry hole. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Oil scouts like Justus McMullen often braved harsh winters (and sometimes armed guards) to visit well sites. Their intelligence debunked rumors and “demystified” reports about oil wells producing in early oil fields.

In the hard winter of 1888, famed 37-year-old “oil scout” Justus C. McMullen, succumbs to pneumonia – contracted while scouting production data from the Pittsburgh Manufacturers’ Gas Company’s well at Cannonsburg.

McMullen, publisher of the Bradford, Pennsylvania, “Petroleum Age” newspaper, already had contributed much to America’s early petroleum industry as a reliable oil field detective. Read the rest of this entry »