Your source for energy education. Petroleum history offers a context

for teaching the modern business of meeting America's energy needs.

Oil and Natural Gas History, Education Resources, Museum News, Exhibits and Events


When a well strikes a high-pressure formation about 6,500 feet beneath Oklahoma City – and oil erupts skyward – the prolific Oklahoma oilfield will become famous worldwide.

Newsreel photographers will send film of the “Wild Mary Sudik” well to Hollywood. Within a week, newsreels appear in theaters around the country. When the Mary Sudik is brought under control, crews will recover 200,000 barrels of oil from pits and ponds.

The Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company’s Mary Sudik No. 1 well flows for 11 days before being brought under control on April 6, 1930.

The well, which produces about 20,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, becomes a public sensation known as “Wild Mary Sudik.”

The giant discovery is featured in newsreels and on radio, according to “Oklahoma Journeys,” an audio program of the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

“At about 6:30 the morning of March 26, 1930, the crew of roughnecks drilling a well on the property of Vincent Sudik paused in their work,” the program begins about the well, which is near I-240 and Bryant Street in present day Oklahoma City.

“The tired drillers had been waiting for daylight to continue their work,” the audio tape notes.

Experts control the well with “a clever ball-shaped contrivance” that lowers a two-ton “overshot” cap.

The program’s narrator Michael Dean notes that after drilling to drilling to 6,471 feet, the roughnecks overlook a dangerous pressure increase in the well.

“The exhausted crew failed to fill the hole with mud,” he explains. “They didn’t know the Wilcox sand formation was permeated with natural gas under high pressure, and within minutes that sand under so much pressure found a release.”

The drilling crew is caught off guard when oil and natural gas suddenly “came roaring out of the hole,” Dean adds.

“Pipe stems were thrown hundreds of feet into the air like so many tooth picks. First there was gas then the flow turned green gold and then black,” he reports. “Oil shot hundreds of feet into the air, and for the next eleven days, the Mary Sudik ran wild.”

“Wild Mary” Daily Updates

On April 6, Floyd Gibbons of NBC Radio – who broadcast regular reports about the well – reports that after two unsuccessful attempts, the well is closed with a two-ton “overshot” cap.

An Associated Press article describes the “clever equipment” required to control the well without sparking a fire – a “double die was screwed into four inches of casing threads…a clever ball-shaped contrivance, called a fantail, was used to affix the double die to the casing.”

The fantail was placed over the well, “and the ‘Wild Mary’s’ pressure, playing through jets in the contrivance, aided in lowering the cap through the blast,” the article explains.

“With the petroleum geyser halted, operators in the field drew sighs of relief,” it concludes. “A stray spark from two clanking pieces of steel and the territory might have become a raging inferno.”

With the well was brought under control and the danger of fire eliminated, drilling continues at a frantic pace elsewhere in Oklahoma City.

However, the prolific, high-pressure of the Wilcox sands formation continued to challenge drillers and the technologies of the day.

An article in the Southwest Missourian newspaper reported:

Oklahoma City, April 7 – A gas well, estimated to be producing at a rate of 75,000,000 cubic feet a day, blew in at the edge of the city today, creating a new fire threat less than 24 hours after the wild No. 1 Mary Sudik gusher, several miles to the south, had been brought under control.

Recognizing the risks of drilling into the Wilcox sand, Oklahoma City passes additional ordinances for safety and well spacing in the city.

Although the first ram-type blowout preventer had been patented by James Abercrombie in 1926, many high-pressure Texas and Oklahoma oilfields would take time to tame.

The Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City includes the Devon Energy Oil and Gas Park.

In December 1933, Abercrombie patented an improved blowout preventer (patent No. 1,834,922), that set a new standard for safe drilling during the Oklahoma City oilfield boom. Read more in “Ending Oil Gushers – BOP.”

Visitors today  can see the valve that split in half and view newsreel film of the Wild Mary Sudik in the oil and gas and natural resources on exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center.

There also is the Devon Energy Oil and Gas Park with drilling and production equipment at the center, located on N.E. 23rd Street just east of the state capitol.

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


In 1942, England’s vital petroleum supplies, including high-octane aviation fuel, came by convoy — and continued to be subjected to relentless U-Boat attacks.

By the summer of 1942, the situation was desperate. The future of Great Britain – and the outcome of World War II – depended on petroleum supplies.

By the end of that year, demand for 100-octane fuel would grow to more than 150,000 barrels every day – and U-Boats ruled the Atlantic.

In August 1942, British Secretary of Petroleum, Geoffrey Lloyd called an emergency meeting of the Oil Control Board to assess the “impending crisis in oil.”

This is the story of the “little-known, or at least seldom recognized, all-important role oil and oilmen played in the prosecution of the war,” note two historians who have searched archives in Great Britain and the United States.

Guy Woodward and Grace Steele Woodward published The Secret of Sherwood Forest – Oil production in England during World War II in 1973.

“The amazing and hitherto untold story, born in secrecy, has remained buried in the private diaries, corporate files and official records of government agencies,” explain the Woodwards in their fascinating book.

Dedicated in 2001, an Oil Patch Warrior stands in Memorial Square in Ardmore, Oklahoma. It is a duplicate of the statue at right, erected 10 years earlier near Nottingham, England.

“In the final analysis, oil was indeed the key to victory of the Allies over the Axis powers,” the authors conclude.


Today, two identical bronze statues separated by the Atlantic Ocean commemorate the achievements of World War II American roughnecks.

The first seven-foot statue stands in Dukes Wood near the village of Eakring in Nottinghamshire, England. Its twin greets visitors at Memorial Square in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

These oil patch warriors, separated by more than 2,400 miles, commemorate American volunteers who – during a critical time during the war – produced oil. They drilled in Sherwood Forest.

A photograph of the 42 volunteers from Noble Drilling and Fain-Porter Drilling companies before they embark for England on the troopship H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth in 1943.

England: An Unsinkable Tanker

The once top-secret story begins in August 1942, when Britain’s wartime Secretary of Petroleum, Geoffrey Lloyd, called an emergency meeting of the country’s Oil Control Board.

U-Boat attacks and the bombing of dockside storage facilities had brought the British Admiralty two million barrels below their minimum safety reserves.

The oil supply outlook was bleak.

England’s principal fuel supplies came by convoy from Trinidad and America and were subjected to relentless Nazi submarine attacks.

Meanwhile, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s rampaging North African campaign threatened England’s access to Middle East oilfield sources.

Many at the Oil Control Board meeting were surprised to learn that England had a productive oilfield of its own, first discovered in 1939 by D’Arcy Exploration.

The company was a subsidiary of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – predecessor to British Petroleum, BP.

Noble Drilling Corporation financed a May 1991 trip for 14 survivors of the original crew to return to Duke’s Wood in Sherwood Forest.

This obscure oilfield was in Sherwood Forest, near Eakring and Dukes Wood. It produced modestly – about 700 barrels per day in 1942 – from 50 shallow wells. Extreme shortages of drilling equipment and personnel kept Britain from further exploiting the field. Perhaps America might help.

Following the meeting – under great secrecy – C.A.P. Southwell, a D’Arcy representative, was sent to the Petroleum Administration for War (PAW) in Washington, D.C.

Southwell’s secret mission was to secure American assistance in expanding production from the Eakring field, regarded as an “unsinkable tanker.”

Derrickman Herman Douthit fell to his death.

Pressing his case in America, Southwell pursued the widely respected independent oilman Lloyd Noble, president of Tulsa-based Noble Drilling Corporation. They met in Noble’s hometown of Ardmore, Oklahoma, to negotiate a deal.

American oil companies were already heavily committed to wartime production. Noble nonetheless joined with Fain-Porter Drilling Company of Oklahoma City on a one-year contract to drill 100 new wells in the Eakring field. Noble and Fain-Porter volunteered to execute the contract for cost and expenses only. PAW approved their deal and the contract was signed in early February 1943.

On March 12, a 42-man team of newly recruited drillers, derrickmen, motormen and roustabouts embarked on the troopship H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth.

The Americans stayed at Kelham Hall. The Anglican Monastery was ideal for the year-long operation – it was isolated from the community.

Four drilling rigs for “The English Project” would be transported to England on four different ships. Although one ship was lost to a German submarine, another rig was subsequently shipped safely.

Top Secret: The English Project

The American oilmen joined project managers Eugene Rosser and Don Walker at billets prepared in an Anglican monastery at historic Kelham Hall, near Eakring.

The sudden influx of Americans from Oklahoma was rumored to be for making a movie, probably a western. It was said that John Wayne would arrive soon.

The roughneck workers left to return to America on March 3, 1944. They had added more than 1.2 million barrels of oil to the total output of the Eakring oilfield.

Within a month, sufficient equipment had arrived to enable spudding the first well. Two others quickly followed.

Four crews worked 12-hour tours with “National 50″ rigs equipped with 87-foot jackknife masts. The roughnecks amazed their British counterparts with their drilling speed.

Using innovative methods, the Americans drilled an average of one well per week in Duke’s Wood, while the British took at least five weeks per well.

The British crews made it a practice to change bits at 30-foot intervals. The Americans kept using the same bit as long as it was “making hole.”

By August, the Yanks of Sherwood Forest had completed 36 new wells, despite the challenges of wartime rationing of fuel, food, and other shortages.

By January of 1944, the oilmen were credited with 94 completions and 76 producers. But not without cost. While working Rig No. 148, derrickman Herman Douthit was killed when he fell from a drilling mast. He was buried with full military honors.

Today, Douthit remains the only civilian ever buried at the American Military Cemetery in Cambridge.

The English Project contract was completed in March 1944 with the Americans logging 106 completions and 94 producers. England’s oil production had shot from 300 barrels a day to more than 3,000 barrels per day.

“Ninety-four wells produced high quality oil, an amazing achievement,” the BBC would later note.

Without fanfare, the roughnecks returned to the United States and the families they had left a year before. Their mission and success remained secret until November 1944, when the Chicago Daily Tribune ran a back-page feature entitled “England’s Oil Boom.”

Few took notice at the time.

By the end of the war, more than 3.5 million barrels of crude had been pumped from England’s “unsinkable tanker” oilfields. Petroleum industry expertise would again come into action – solving the challenge of oil pipelines across the English Channel – see Secret Pipeline of World War II.

British Petroleum continued to produce oil from Dukes Wood until the field’s depletion in 1965.

Oil Patch Warrior Statues

Visiting Tulsa in 1989, a British member of Parliament was fascinated by this book by Guy and Grace Woodward.

The story remained largely unknown until the 1973 University of Oklahoma Press publication of The Secret of Sherwood Forest – Oil production in England during World War II by Guy and Grace Woodward.

Then in 1989, British member of Parliament Tony Speller visited Tulsa for a speaking engagement – and was given a copy of the book.

Surprised and intrigued by the story it told, Speller joined with the International Society of Energy Advocates, Noble Drilling Company and others who believed that the singular accomplishment of this handful of Americans should be remembered. Well-known artist Jay O’Meilia was chosen to create a bronze tribute to these men.

O’Meilia, born in 1927 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he resides today, was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1999. Interviewed for this article, he recalls, that the statue’s designed quickly evolved.

“The notion of an ‘oil patch warrior’ soon developed…at parade rest with a roughneck’s best weapon – a Stillson wrench – instead of a rifle,” he says.

O’Meilia also remembers how authenticity was critical, down to period gloves and hard hat. “They even sent me a pair of original overalls so I would get it exactly right,” he explains.

Those who look very closely will see the tell-tale impression of a pack of cigarettes in the oil patch warrior’s pocket. “Lucky Strike,” O’Meilia laughs – “because Lucky Strike Green Goes to War” was a contemporary advertising campaign.

Artist Jay O´Meilia of Tulsa, Oklahoma, traveled to England for the May 1991 dedication of his Oil Patch Warrior statue.

In May 1991, Noble Drilling Corporation funded the return of 14 surviving oilmen to the dedication of O’Meilia’s seven-foot bronze Oil Patch Warrior in Sherwood Forest. The statue was placed on the grounds of England’s Dukes Wood Oil Museum on land donated by British Petroleum.

In 2001, ten years after the ceremony in England, the citizens of Ardmore, Oklahoma, determined to honor veterans with a downtown Memorial Square. They discovered that the original molds remained in O’Meilia’s Colorado foundry.

“Our mission was to create a memorial park that would honor those who sacrificed their lives, those who served in the military during times of war and peace, and the oil drillers and energy industry that came to England’s rescue in World War II,” explains Jack Riley, chairman of the Memorial Square committee.

O’Meilia recast the Sherwood Forest Oil Patch Warrior for Ardmore from the original molds. The statue was dedicated on November 10, 2001, with representatives from Noble Oil and Fain-Porter joining veterans at the ceremony. A brick walkway through Memorial Square displays the names of Ardmore area veterans.

“Memorial Square honors veterans who are responsible for the freedom we enjoy today – and the energy industry, which is responsible for the economic strength of our community,” declared Wes Stucky, president of the Ardmore Development Authority.

Adam Sieminski and wife Laurie visited the Sherwood Forest statue in 2005.

Time has taken away many of those on both sides of the Atlantic who struggled to preserve democracy. As many as 1,100 die every day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Fortunately, in these two imposing bronze Oil Patch Warriors, separated by an ocean of history, the story of the roughnecks of Sherwood Forest can always be remembered.

Editor’s Note – Visit the Dukes Wood Oil Museum in Nottinghamshire, England. Adam Sieminski of Washington, D.C., visited the Sherwood Forest statue in 2005. He provied the historical society with photos – and donated a copy of The Secret of Sherwood Forest – Oil production in England during World War II.

Sieminski also encouraged sponsorship of this society’s participation in a two-day “rock oil tour” to Titusville, Pennsylvania. Read the “Energy Economists Rock Oil Tour” of August 2009.

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


His 1939 “Oil Fields of Graham” today remains on display in its original Texas oil patch community’s historic U.S. Postal Service building – now a museum.

Born in Memphis, Missouri, on February 22, 1898, Alexandre Hogue will become known for his paintings of southwestern scenes during the Great Depression – including murals of the 1930s petroleum industry. Read the rest of this entry »


As early 20th century worldwide demand for oil grew – but the science for finding it remained obscure – a small group of geologists organized the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

Beginning as the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma, about 90 geologists gathered at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, and on on February 10, 1917, formed an association “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.”

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

The new association’s mission included promoting the science of geology, especially as it related to oil and natural gas, and encourage “technology improvements in the methods of exploring for and exploiting these substances.”

AAPG would also “foster the spirit of scientific research among its members; to disseminate facts relating to the geology and technology of petroleum and natural gas.”

Adopted its present name a year after the meeting at Henry Kendall College, AAPG begins publishing a bimonthly journal that remains among the most respected in the industry.

AAPG launches a peer-reviewed Bulletin that includes papers written by leading geologists. With a subscription price of five dollars, the journal is distributed to members, university libraries, and other industry professionals. 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 »


December 17, 1884 –  Article features Oilfield Thunder and Lightning, Fires and Cannons

Especially in the Great Plains, frequent lightening strikes caused oil tank fires. This rare photograph is from the collection of the Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado.

“Oil fires, like battles, are fought by artillery” is the reporter’s catchy phrase in a New England magazine article.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes “A Thunder-Storm in the Oil Country” - its firsthand account of the problem of lightning strikes in America’s oilfields.

MIT not only reports on the fiery results of an lightning strike, but also the practice of using artillery to fight such conflagrations. Read the rest of this entry »


In today’s oil patch, many community museums educate visitors about petroleum technologies – including early oilfield fire fighting. Especially in the Great Plains, where frequent lightning strikes once caused dangerous oil tank fires, one exhibit draws the attention of young and old alike. 

A cloud of black smoke marks the site of an early oil tank fire being fought with oilfield artillery as spectators look on. This rare photo is from the collection of the Butler County History Center & Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado.

“Oil Fires, like battles, are fought by artillery” was the catchy phrase in an 1880s magazine article from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

“Lightning had struck the derrick, followed pipe connections into a nearby tank and ignited natural gas, which rises from freshly produced oil. Immediately following this blinding flash, the black smoke began to roll out.”

“A Thunder Storm in the Oil Country,” a December 17, 1884, first-person account in MIT’s The Tech magazine, described what happened next:

“Without stopping to watch the burning tank-house and derrick, we followed the oil to see where it would go. By some mischance the mouth of the ravine had been blocked up and the stream turned abruptly and spread out over the alluvial plain.

“Here, on a large smooth farm, were six iron storage tanks, about 80 feet in diameter and 25 feet high, each holding 30,000 barrels of oil. The burning oil spread with fearful rapidity over the level surface, and finally touched the sides of the nearest tank. Read the rest of this entry »


December 9, 1921 – Ethyl “Anti-Knock” Gasoline invented

Public health concerns will result in the phase-out of tetraethyl lead in gasoline beginning in 1976.

General Motors chemists Thomas Midgely Jr. and Charles F. Kettering.

General Motors scientists discover the antiknock properties of tetraethyl lead – and American motorists are soon saying “fill ‘er up with Ethyl.”

In early internal combustion engines, “knocking” resulted from the out-of-sequence detonation of the gasoline-air mixture in a cylinder. This shock frequently damaged the engine.

After five years of lab work to find an additive to eliminate pre-ignition “knock” problems of gasoline, G.M. researchers Thomas Midgely Jr. and Charles F. Kettering discover the antiknock properties of tetraethyl lead. Their experiments examine the properties of knock suppressors such as bromine, iodine and tin – and compare these to new additives such as arsenic, sulfur, silicon and lead. Read the rest of this entry »


A pink granite rock marks the spot where a large crowd gathered at Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well to witness history being made in 1897.

Prior to the Civil War, America’s search for oil prompted entrepreneurs, speculators, and wildcatters to seek their fortunes on the great plains of the Indian Territory.

This was land reserved for Native Americans by Congress and home to its indigenous people as well as the “Five Civilized Tribes” – Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, and Chickasaw, which had been relocated from the Southeast.

Each of the Five Civilized Tribes established national territorial boundaries, constitutional governments, and advanced judicial and public school systems. The Indian Territory included present-day Oklahoma north and east of the Red River, as well as Kansas and Nebraska. Read the rest of this entry »



Although it would be put on the “List of Get-Rich Quick Promoters” by one investment magazine, the National Union Oil & Gas Company drilled a deep well in Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin half a century before major discoveries there.

The company filed for incorporation in Oklahoma on August 25, 1916, financing its operations through the sale of stock. By May 1917, the company drilled successful wells in Sumner County, Kansas, with total production exceeding 4,000 barrels.

By February of 1919, World’s Work magazine reported National Union Oil & Gas Company’s capitalization of $1 million – but also placed the company on its “List of Get-Rich Quick Promoters.”

The company nonetheless pursued investors in Custer County, Oklahoma, and spudded a deep test well five miles north of Clinton on February 26, 1920.

“The derrick of the National Union Oil & Gas Company is among the first of the forest of derricks that will likely transform the Custer County landscape,” the Western Oil Derrick newspaper optimistically reported.

Although the company’s 1920 deep-well experiment failed to find an oilfield, in 1979 a well drilled just a few miles away produced natural gas from 24,996 feet. The No. 1 Sanders well was part of the Anadarko Basin natural gas boom.

“For 20th century’s final quarter the basin remains the frontier of deep drilling technology centered on Elk City, ‘Deep Gas Capital of the World,’” notes the According to the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association of Oklahoma.


The Anadarko Basin is a geologic feature covering about 50,000 square miles in west-central Oklahoma and northern Texas.

“The shallow horizons of Greater Anadarko account for much of this nation’s proved gas reserves,” the association adds. “The Deep Anadarko Basin of Western Oklahoma is one of the most prolific gas provinces of North America.”

Expanding operations in 1921, the National Union Oil & Gas board of directors proposed acquisition of the Modern Refining Company, which owned a 1,000 barrel a day refinery in Blackwell, Oklahoma. This required an increase of capital stock to $250,000 and a one-for-one exchange of shares with Modern Refining Company.

Still seeking new oil production, the company drilled two wells in the town of Oxford, Kansas, sharing the risk with several companies for one of the wells. The other, the Collins No. 1 well, was near the corner of today’s West College Street and North Sumner Avenue. Few details remain about either well.

In July, August and September 1922, National Union Oil & Gas produced a total of 7,572 barrels, according to Oil Weekly. Meanwhile, dozens of major discoveries were occurring in the area around Seminole, Oklahoma, and in the Texas Permian Basin. Learn more in “Greater Seminole Oil Boom” and “Santa Rita taps Permian Basin.”

As late as February 1925, the Oklahoma City company was still actively pursuing leases, paying $40,000 for one valuable 80-acre parcel. Litigation apparently followed in 1933. Thereafter, the research trail goes cold. Online collectors offer the obsolete National Union Oil & Gas stock certificates for sale.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.


July 16, 1926 – Start of the Greater Seminole Area Oil Boom

The Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole includes a diorama of local communities that became boom towns in the 1930s. The Greater Seminole Area includes seven of Oklahoma’s 20 “giant” oilfields – Earlsboro, St. Louis, Seminole, Bowlegs, Little River, Allen, and Seminole City.

A discovery well near Seminole, Oklahoma, reveals the potential of an oil producing formation, the Wilcox sand – and launches a drilling boom that will make Oklahoma one of today’s leading producing states.

The Fixico No. 1 well penetrates the prolific Wilcox sands at 4,073 feet. By 1935, the oilfield around Seminole will become the largest supplier of oil in the world.

More than 60 petroleum reservoirs are found in 1,300 square miles of east-central Oklahoma – and six are giants that produce more than million barrels of oil each.

The greater Seminole area - several 1920s Oklahoma oilfields – will swing the United States’ oil reserves from scarcity to surplus. The Fixico well is among five Seminole-area oil reservoirs discovered by 1927.

Volunteers operate the Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole and are involved in local preservation and educational projects.

Prosperity transforms life in many central Oklahoma communities, according to historian and author Louise Welsh.

Prior to the oil boom period, the area had been one of the poorest economic areas in Oklahoma.

“It was quite natural that, under such stress, the prospect of finding oil should occasion both excitement and hope, since the prospect of leasing his land might provide the necessary funds with which the hard-pressed farmer could pay off his mortgage,” Welsh says.

At its height, the Seminole City oilfield alone will account for 2.6 percent of the world’s oil production. Read more in “Greater Seminole Oil Boom.”

July 16, 1969 – Kerosene fuels Saturn V for Apollo 11 Moon Mission

Four days after the Saturn V rocket launches Apollo 11 toward the moon on July 16, astronaut Neil Armstrong will announce, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

A 19th century petroleum product – kerosene – has made the 1969 moon landing possible.

Powered by five first-stage engines fueled by “rocket grade” kerosene, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built.

In 1926, Robert Goddard used gasoline to fuel the first liquid-fuel rocket, seen here in its launch stand.

During launch, five powerful engines of the massive Saturn V’s first stage burn “Rocket Grade Kerosene Propellant” at 2,230 gallons per second – generating almost eight million pounds of thrust.

Saturn’s rocket fuel is a highly refined kerosene which, while conforming to stringent performance specifications, is essentially “coal oil” at its heart.

Canadian physician and geologist Abraham Gesner first refined the revolutionary fuel for lamps in 1846. He coined the term kerosene from the Greek word keros (wax).

The Apollo 11 landing crowns liquid rocket fuel research in America dating back to Robert H. Goddard and his 1914 “Rocket Apparatus.”

On March 16, 1926, Goddard launched the world’s first liquid-fuel rocket from his aunt’s farm in Auburn, Massachusetts. His rocket was powered by liquid oxygen and gasoline.

"Rocket grade" kerosene fueled the Saturn V - and today's rockets.

Kerosene fueled the Saturn V – and today’s Atlas and Delta rockets.

Although gasoline will be replaced with other propellants, including the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen used in the space shuttle’s external tank, “rocket grade” kerosene continues to fuel spaceflight.

Cheaper, easily stored at room temperature, and far less of an explosive hazard, the 19th century petroleum product today fuels first-stage boosters for the Atlas and Delta II launch vehicles.

Last launched in 1972, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built.

July 17, 1973 – Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act

After three years of years of contentious congressional debate, legal challenges from environmental groups and Alaska native claims, Vice President Spiro Agnew breaks the deadlocked 49-49 vote in the U.S. Senate.

Agnew’s deciding vote passes the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act.

Construction will begin in March 1975 on the 789-mile pipeline system, the largest private construction project in American history. Oil from the Prudhoe Bay oilfield will begin flowing to the port of Valdez in June 1977.

Budgeted at $900 million, the pipeline ultimately costs about $8 billion to construct. Oil production tax revenues will earn Alaska $50 billion by 2002.

July 19, 1915 – Petroleum powers Maytag Washing Machines and Lawn Mowers

One-cylinder, air cooled, two-cycle engines could run on gasoline, kerosene or alcohol.

Howard Snyder applies to patent his internal combustion-powered washing machine, assigning rights to the Maytag Company.

Snyder’s machine for “the ordinary farmer” who does not have access to electricity - uses a one-cylinder, two-cycle engine that runs on gasoline, kerosene or alcohol.

Four years after Snyder’s innovation, Edwin George of Detroit removes the Maytag engine from his wife’s washing machine and mates it with a reel-type lawn mower.

George’s invention launches a new company, “Moto-Mower,” which sells America’s first commercially successful power mower.

July 19, 1957 – Major Oil discovery in Alaska Territory

The U.S. Congress views the discovery as the foundation for a secure economic base in Alaska. Statehood is granted two years later.

The Alaska Territory’s first commercial oilfield is discovered – two years before Alaska statehood.

The Richfield Oil Company brings in its Swanson River Unit No. 1 well, which yields 900 barrels per day from a depth of 11,150 feet to 11,215 feet.

Richfield has leased 71,680 acres of the Kenai National Moose Range, now the 1.92 million acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

More Alaska discoveries will follow and by June 1962 about 50 wells are producing more than 20,000 barrels of oil per day. Atlantic Richfield Company is better known today as ARCO.

“The U.S. Congress viewed that discovery as the foundation for a secure economic base in Alaska, and statehood was granted two years later,” explains the Alaska Resources Council.

A decade later, the discovery of the giant Prudhoe Bay oilfield on Alaska’s North Slope will make Alaska a world-class oil and natural gas producer – a status reaffirmed in 1969 with the discovery of the nearby Kuparuk field, the second largest in North America after Prudhoe Bay. Four of the ten largest U.S. oilfields are on the North Slope.

“Oil production currently accounts for approximately 93 percent of Alaska’s unrestricted general fund revenues, or $8.86 billion in fiscal year 2012,” notes the Council.

July 20, 1920 – Permian Basin Discovery Well

The Permian Basin produces 17 percent of America’s oil, about 327 million barrels per year, and contains an estimated 22 percent of proven U.S. oil reserves.

The mighty Permian Basin is discovered by a West Texas wildcat well at a depth of 2,745 feet.

The W. H. Abrams No. 1 well is named for Texas & Pacific Railway official William H. Abrams, who owns the land and leases mineral rights to the Texas Company (later Texaco).

At 7:45 p.m. – after a shot of nitroglycerine – a jet of oil and natural gas announces the discovery now known as West Columbia field. “As a crowd of 2,000 people looked on, a great eruption of oil, gas, water, and smoke shot from the mouth of the well almost to the top of the derrick,” notes an roadside marker in Westbrook, Texas.

“Three pipelines were laid at once to draw the oil to earthen tanks, filled by powerful steam pumps with over 20,000 barrels daily,” notes a 1977 historical marker one mile north of the community of West Columbia. “Locally, land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values…the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions.”

Today, about 60 major fields are located in the Permian Basin, the fourth largest oil producing area in the United States. Enhanced recovery techniques have produced 67 million barrels of the more than 100 million barrels of oil recovered from the Westbrook field alone. Visit the Petroleum Museum in Midland.

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


Since 1896, when the first commercial oil well was drilled in Bartlesville, many historic Oklahoma oilfields have been discovered: Glennpool, Cushing, Three Sands, Healdton, Oklahoma City and others – including 20 “giants.” Few have had the tremendous economic impact as the late 1920s oilfields of the greater Seminole area.  Read the rest of this entry »



The Texas Oil & Refining Company (sometimes known as Douglas-Texas Oil & Refining) was organized in Fort Worth in 1919 with capital of $200,000. It acquired an oil refinery in Port Arthur.

In October 1919, Texas Oil & Refining controlled leases in Comanche and Tillman counties of southern Oklahoma -  2,000 acres northwest of the famed Burkburnett oilfield. See “Boom Town” of Burkburnett.

The company also leased land south of Tulsa, where it drilled a 1,900-foot dry hole (No. 4 Henderson well) near Okmulgee.

Texas-Oil-and-Refining-Co-stock2-aoghsAlso in 1919, the company brought in two producing wells on its 680 acre lease in Oklahoma’s Beggs-Bixby oilfield also near Okmulgee.

In 1920, the company drilled a wildcat well in South Texas’s Gonzales County (No. 1 Hassman well) a mile west of the town of Coast. No results can be found.

The October 9, 1919, issue of Oil & Gas News promoted the company’s efforts with photos and names of company sites, principals, and investors.

A fair amount of dispersed activity and apparent success mark the company’s efforts, but it nonetheless soon disappears.

The petroleum business had a lot to do with the “Roaring 20s in Okmulgee, according to local historians.

About 35 miles north, a 1905 discovery of the Glenn Pool oilfield – located between Okmulgee and Tulsa – had brought the first rush of exploration companies and prosperity.

An oil find closer to Okmulgee came in the year of Oklahoma’s statehood, 1907.

The region’s wells were relatively shallow, about 1,500 feet deep, which lowered drilling expense. The high quality of the oil produced from these Oklahoma wells also made them attractive to investors.

“Unlike the thick, sour oil from Spindletop, the famed 1901 Texas discovery that had already played out, this oil was light and sweet – just right to refine into gasoline and kerosene,” says Norman Hyne, a professor of petroleum geology at the University of Tulsa. See Making Tulsa the Oil Capital.

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


On May 12, 2007 - as part of statehood centennial celebrations – state-of-the-art petroleum museums opened in Ponca City and Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

A circa 1880s Continental Oil Company horse-drawn tank wagon welcomes visitors to the Conoco Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma, which opened in 2007. Phillips Petroleum Company, once headquartered 70 miles east in Bartlesville, merged with Conoco in 2002.

The Conoco Museum tells the story of a petroleum company that began as a small kerosene distributor serving 19th century pioneer America.

The Conoco Museum tells the story of a petroleum company that began as a small kerosene distributor serving 19th century pioneer America.

“These museums reaffirm our Oklahoma roots,” proclaimed Jim Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, which built the Conoco Museum in Ponca City and the Phillips Museum in Bartlesville as “gifts to the people of Oklahoma, visitors to the state, and our employee and retiree populations around the world.” Read the rest of this entry »


By 1920, Tulsa is home to 400 petroleum companies, two daily newspapers, seven banks, four telegraph companies – and more than 10,000 telephones.

On a chilly fall morning in 1905 – two years before Oklahoma becomes a state – oil is discovered on the Glenn farm south of Tulsa.

Soon, there are hundreds of wells producing so much oil that the land is called the “‘Glenn Pool,” now the Tulsa suburb Glenpool.

This November 22 discovery well will help make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.”

With daily production soon exceeding 120,000 barrels, Glenn Pool exceeds Tulsa County’s earlier “Red Fork Gusher” – and the giant Spindletop discovery near Beaumont, Texas, four years earlier. Read the rest of this entry »