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


Call them oilfield detectives, night riders of the hemlocks, or simply oil scouts. These early oil and gas well investigators separated fact from fiction.

oil scouts

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 »


As is often the case, several petroleum companies have shared popular names, and this is the case with Evangeline Oil Company.

A circa 1920 certificate is for one Evangeline company that drilled in Texas’ world famous Burkburnett oilfield. It was a dry hole.

That North Texas field would lead to a 1940 Academy Award-winning movie with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. Read more in “Boom Town” of Burkburnett.”

This company also explored in Louisiana’s Clairborne Parish, drilling a well that produced a disappointing  30 barrels a day. The company established offices in Brockton, New York, and sold stock to fund drilling operations.

However, by July 1922, Evangeline Oil stock had “little or no value, unlisted brokers offering but a few cents a share and the price today being considerably under what it was six months or a year ago,” reported the United States Investor.

Today the certificate has collectible value and can be found on eBay.

In 1905, Detroit millionaire Leonard Frederick Benckenstein and others incorporated another Evangeline Oil Company in New Jersey, capitalized at $125,000 and operating out of Jennings, Louisiana – probably inspired by discovery of the state’s first commercial oil well near the Acadia Parish towns of Evangeline and Jennings in 1901.

As the newly discovered oilfield profited, investors and venture capitalists scrambled to get in on the “play.”

This Evangeline Oil Company was reported to be a “highly speculative promotion in oil.” It entered into receivership by 1912. Calcasieu Trust & Savings Bank was appointed receiver and recovered some damages from Gulf Oil and the Texas Oil Company (later Texaco).

Another Evangeline Oil Company was named in Standard Oil antitrust litigation, but this nominal Standard refinery competitor was also known as Central Asphalt Works located in Port Neches, Texas.

Note that this certificate includes a vignette of derricks commonly seen on those of other companies formed (and failed) in booming oil regions: Centralized Oil & Gas Company, the Double Standard Oil & Gas Company, the Evangeline Oil Company, the Texas Production Company and the Tulsa Producing and Refining Company! See Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?”

First Commercial Well in Louisiana

Just eight months after the giant 1901 discovery at Spindletop Hill, Texas, oil was discovered on September 21 just 90 miles to the east in Louisiana.

Already successful thanks to making strikes at Spindletop, independent oilman W. Scott Heywood brought in a 7,000-barrel-a-day producer six miles northeast of the town of Jennings.

Heywood’s Jules Clements No. 1 well marked the state’s first commercial oil production and opened the prolific Jennings Field. He followed up his success by securing leases, building pipelines and storage tanks, and contracting buyers.

Heywood’s discovery found oil at 1,700 feet. Some discouraged investors had sold their Jennings Oil Company stock when drilling reached 1,000 feet. By 1,500 feet, stock in the Jennings Oil Company sold for as little as 25 cents per share.

Patient investors were rewarded at 1,700 feet. The oilfield reaches peak production of more than nine million barrels in 1906.

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


The U.S. petroleum industry was just a decade old. As oil discoveries spread from northwestern Pennsylvania, efficiently transporting the new resource became critical.

According to its 1867 prospectus, the Staveless Barrel and Tank Company was organized under the laws of New York and capitalized at $500,000 with 5,000 shares at $100 each. Read the rest of this entry »


Buck-Run Oil-and-Refining-Co-stock-AOGHS

Amidst World War I, the Buck Run Oil and Refining Company incorporated in Delaware on November 13, 1917.

After the war, on July 12, 1920, the company combined with the Republic Oil Company and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Company to form the Fulton Group of Oil Companies.

At the time of consolidation into the Fulton Group, Buck Oil & Refining was contributing “the greater part of the oil,” but production soon fell off to less than 100 barrels a day.

Producing wells in remote locations and transportation costs compounded Buck Run Oil’s problems. Read the rest of this entry »



Although William S. Pratt entered the oil business in Wyoming in 1915, he soon moved to Kansas and organized the Wichita Eagle Oil Company.

Pratt started the Texas United Oil Company in July 1919. The Texas comptroller’s office reported his Dallas company produced more than 31,000 barrels of oil in the year’s last quarter.

Pratt solicited investment capital using newspaper advertisements placed across the country – in Troy, Syracuse, and Plattsburgh, New York; Spokane, Washington; El Paso, Texas, and Washington D.C.

From December 1919 through 1920, company advertisements promised: For Quick Returns and Unlimited Profits Invest With the Texas United Oil Company… 27 Wells Showing Initial Production of 8,700 Bbls. Daily.

However, one investment magazine described the company as unlikely to prosper. The assessment was accurate. By December 1920, Texas United Oil Company entered into receivership and did not emerge until April 27, 1921, reorganized and with a new president, Aldred S. Wright of Philadelphia.

Despite the reorganization, Texas United Oil Company did not survive long.

United States Investor reported a year later that Texas United Oil Company had very little value.

“It is of course not listed on any of the principal exchanges,” the magazine noted, adding that no dividends had been issued since 1920. “The company had about $1,300,000 stock outstanding and there was one public offering by people in Hartford, Connecticut, at $2 per share. Two cents per share is approximately the price now.”

Texas United Oil Company Chronology

October 1, 1919 – The Texas United Oil Company of Dallas produces 31,541 barrels of oil valued at $10,789 between October 1 and December 31, 1919, according to the Texas comptroller.

December 21, 1919 – In one of its first newspaper appearances, Texas United Oil Company President W. S. Pratt describes the company’s leases and production success in the Northwest Extension of the Burkburnett oilfield.

Pratt announces that the company’s trustees have resolved to increase capital to $5 million and he encourages potential investors to purchase Texas United Oil Company stock at $2 per share to enable “development of our many properties and the purchase of additional production.” – ad in Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington

January 3, 1920 – Texas-United Oil Company is promoted in an open letter advertisement sent from Electra, Texas, “to our stockholders and others” from J. R. Lucore, shareowner, of Olean, New York. Lucore reports very positive on-scene observations of drilling and production in progress. His endorsement follows:

“The Texas United is a sure and safe investment for anyone to buy stock in. No one need be in the least afraid to invest as large as one see fit and his investment will be the safest and surest of any company operating in the State…I expect to arrive home in a few days and will enlarge my stock order to you in the Texas United Oil Company on my arrival.” – ad in Gloversville, N.Y., Morning Herald

Texas-United-Oil-Ad-AOGHSJanuary 31, 1920 – Texas United Oil Company is reported as formed by a Declaration of Trust filed on July 2, 1919, with trustees L. W. Harrington, Herbert Bingham, H. C. Ralph and J. M. Davis. It receives a poor recommendation:

“Our information as to the management is that it is not as economical as it might be, and that operating costs are likely to be altogether too high because of rather poor judgment in planning the work.” – article in  United States Investor

February 21, 1920 – The Texas United Oil Company of 1209 Half Main Street, Dallas, Texas, asserts that the United States Investor’s bad recommendation refers to another company of the same name whose headquarters is in Wichita and not Dallas. Texas United Oil Company protests that “conclusions relative to the Wichita enterprise cannot fairly be applied.” Investigation planned. – article in  United States Investor

February 25, 1920 – Texas United Oil Company proclaims itself as “The King of the Oil Companies” and promises 30 percent dividends and $5 million in capital stock with 12 producing wells. – ad in Spokesman Review, Spokane, Washington

March 13, 1920 – Texas United Oil Company promotion continues, citing “12 producing oil wells – over 3,000 barrels daily” and “30 percent dividends have been paid in 7 months” Shares are offered at $2. Agent is J. S. Miramon, Rensselaer Hotel, Troy “Salesmen wanted: Liberal commission. Phone for appointment.” – ad in Troy (N. Y.) Times

April 17, 1920 – J. S. Miramon, now of Barows Company, 141 Broadway, New York City, advertises “Wise Investors, Increase your income” with Texas United Oil Company’s “2% monthly dividends, with record of 39% in dividends past nine months.” – ad in El Paso (Texas) Herald

April 10, 1920 – Analysts confirm poor recommendation after consulting with Texas United Company, the New York City based owners of Texas United Oil Company. “We cannot do otherwise than classify this as the ordinary type of oil gamble, a quite unproven enterprise, depending for its future upon the skill with which it is managed. – article in United States Investor

May 15, 1920 – Tex-Uni-Co. (trademark for Texas United Oil Company) advertises 18 producing wells, two ready to come in per April 30 telegram testimonial by Ralph P Reed, president National Investors Protective Corporation.

“These dividends will make a total of 43 ½ percent in cash and stock dividends paid in less than one year.” A. E. Roberts and Co., Washington, D.C. – ad in The Federal Employee, Washington D.C.

May 30, 1920 – Texas United Company promotes its Texas United Oil Company (Tex-Uni-Co.) as having rapidly grown from its origins in July, 1919 with 389 acres and two 2 producing wells, yielding about 42 barrels a day of production grown until. – ad in Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, New York

Jun 2, 1920 – “For Quick Returns and Unlimited Profits Invest With The Texas United Oil Company” upstate New York advertisement proclaims “27 Wells Showing Initial Production of 8,700 BBls. Daily.” – ad in Daily Republican, Plattsburgh,  New York

December 1920 – Texas United Oil Company enters into receivership.

February 25, 1921 – Advertising continues for twelve producing wells 30 percent dividends.” – ad in Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington

April 16, 1921 – Value of Texas United Oil Company plummets as it is reported to have “been the subject of much litigation of late…Texas United shares have declined to around five cents since their first appearance upon the market at $2 per share.” – article in  United States Investor

April 27, 1921 – Texas United Oil Company emerges from receivership reorganized and with a new president, Aldred S. Wright of Philadelphia.

November 11, 1922 – Texas United Oil Company “is of little value …two cents per share is approximately the price now.” – article in United States Investor

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

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center opened April 1, 2011, in Enid, Oklahoma.

Honoring America’s Petroleum Pioneers

Many universities and colleges with petroleum-related curricula honor accomplishments of their oil patch alumni. Ohio’s Marietta College, with a renowned geology and petroleum engineering program, maintains a Petroleum and Geology Hall of Fame on campus.

Their reputations among peers speak of many noble achievements — and award deserving careers in the oil patch. Every year a select group oil and natural gas business leaders are honored by their colleagues, their industry, and their communities.

Among the most prestigious awards (to name only a few that take place every year) are: the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Washington, D.C., presentation of the Chief Roughneck Award at its annual meeting. The bronze “Joe Roughneck” statue has been presented since 1955. See “Meet Joe Roughneck.”

Other awards are presented by the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, the Offshore Energy Center in Houston, Kansas museums in El Dorado and Great Bend, and the Pioneer Oil Museum in Bolivar, New York. All host special award events or maintain their own halls of fame honoring men and women of the petroleum industry.

Still other organizations, including professional trade groups like the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Wichita Falls, frequently host legends or legacy award dinners and luncheons. Universities in oil producing states also honor their alumni.

Ohio’s Marietta College, with its world-renowned geology and petroleum engineering program, adds members to its Petroleum and Geology Hall of Fame. The Ohio Oil & Gas Association maintains its hall of fame “as a way to honor those who have made their own distinct contributions to the Ohio oil and gas industry.”

Petroleum Museum Hall of Fame

The Petroleum Hall of Fame at the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, is “dedicated to those who cherished the freedom to dare, and whose work and service helped build the Permian Basin.”

The Petroleum Hall of Fame at the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas — which added five distinguished members on April 14, 2011, is “dedicated to those who cherished the freedom to dare, and whose work and service helped build the Permian Basin — Let their achievements be remembered and their beliefs inspire!”

The Hall of Fame received its first member in 1968, several years before the museum itself actually opened in 1975. Induction of the 100th member came in 1999. In each odd-numbered year a maximum of four people are inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Those inducted have been elected by the museum’s governing board, after an exhaustive study of their qualifications by a special committee. Candidates not chosen in the year submitted will be automatically reconsidered in future elections.

The 2011 inductees were I. Jon Brumley, Sam G. Gibbs, William D. Kleine, and “the team of Mack C. Chase and John R. Gray,” according to museum Director Kathy Shannon. Biographical files and portraits of each honoree are available in the museum archives.

Located in the heart of the Permian Basin in West Texas, The Petroleum Museum includes a 40,000-square-foot facility housing photographic wall murals depicting early life in the oilfields, a West Texas boomtown, and a marine diorama of 230 million years ago.

Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award

The Petroleum History Institute’s Larry Woodfork, left, presented the 2011 Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award to I.L. “Ike” Morris, founder and CEO of Waco Oil and Gas Company, Inc., Glenville, West Virginia.

In late June, the Petroleum History Institute(PHI) of Oil City, Pennsylvania, presented a life-time achievement award during its History Symposium in Marietta, Ohio. Oilman I.L. “Ike” Morris received the Petroleum History Institute’s “highest honor and most prestigious award,” the Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award.

The June 23, 2011, presentation took place during the Institute’s annual symposium and field trip — as members cruised aboard a sternwheeler riverboat on the Ohio River following a reception and banquet. Larry D. Woodfork, PHI chairman of the honors and awards committee, presented this year’s award to Morris, founder and CEO of Waco Oil and Gas Company, Glenville, West Virginia.

Originally from Oklahoma, Morris established an oil service company in Gilmer County, West Virginia, in the early 1960s and eventually expanded into all exploration and production, notes an article in the Gilmer Free Press.

Every September since 1969, the West Virginia Oil and Gas Festival is hosted by Sistersville, an historic oil community on the Ohio River. In addition to antique engine shows, a parade and the crowning of an Oil and Gas Queen, festival organizers host a banquet for its West Virginia Oil and Gas Man of the Year.

The PHI 2011 award was presented by Woodfork, an independent consulting geologist and emeritus state geologist of West Virginia. He praised Morris and his “stellar business career, great successes and accomplishments in the oil and gas industry, as well as his contributions to the local community, including the very generous philanthropy of he and his wife, Sue — a Gilmer County girl and long-time school teacher — to Glenville State College, their support of W.V.U., and numerous other charitable organizations and enterprises — the list of which goes on and on.”

Both Woodfork and Morris have been previously honored as the “West Virginia Oil and Gas Man of the Year”  — Woodfork in 1991 and Morris in 1994. The award is made during the September annual West Virginia Oil and Gas Festivalheld in Sistersville, an historic oil community on the Ohio River.

Chronicle of Gulf of Mexico Petroleum History

The Offshore Oil and Gas History Project “draws from economic research, oral histories, photographs, artifacts — and personal accounts gathered to examine the historical evolution of the offshore oil and gas industry and its effects on Louisiana’s coastal culture, economy, landscape, and society.”

Is knowledge of U.S. offshore exploration and production history important?

Although America’s offshore petroleum industry began in the Pacific Ocean more than 100 years ago, it wasn’t until 1947 that a company drilled beyond the sight of land — southwest of Morgan City, Louisiana.

Now available online: the first six volumes of a project to study Louisiana offshore petroleum history — a decade in the making and still in progress.

“Understanding Louisiana’s relationship with offshore energy development must begin in the bayous, lakes and marshes of south Louisiana in the late 1920s,” notes the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), which is working with three universities to compile a history of southern Louisiana’s oil and natural gas industry.

Funded by the agency’s environmental studies program, the Offshore Oil and Gas History Project draws from economic research, oral histories, photographs, artifacts — and personal accounts gathered from former industry engineers, managers, workers, and community and political leaders, according to Ocean Science, a quarterly publication of BOEMRE, formerly the Minerals Management Service.

This offshore history project, begun in 2002 as a cooperative agreement with the Louisiana State University — which partnered with the University of Arizona and the University of Houston — has two phases. The six volumes of the completed first phase (a southern Louisiana offshore history up to 1970) are available online at the University of Arizona. The second phase focuses on the development farther offshore.

The first-quarter 2011 issue of BOEMRE’s Ocean Science notes that the two phases of the Offshore Oil and Gas History Project “forms the basis for understanding the evolution of the industry and how that is intertwined with local communities.”

Editor’s Note — The first U.S. well out of sight of land was drilled in 1947 in the Gulf of Mexico by Kerr-McGee Oil Industries partnered with Phillips Petroleum and Stanolind Oil & Gas companies. A freestanding platform was erected 10 miles offshore…in 18 feet of water. Read more at Offshore Oil History.”