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


January 20, 1886 – “Great Karg” Natural Gas Well of Findlay, Ohio

A plaque dedicated in 1937 commemorates Ohio’s giant natural gas discovery of January 20, 1886.

The spectacular natural gas well – the Great Karg Well of Findlay, Ohio – comes in with an initial flow of 12 million cubic feet per day.

The well’s pressure is so great that it cannot be controlled by the technology of the time. The gas will ignite and the flame becomes an Ohio tourist attraction that burns for four months.

Ohio’s first natural gas well was drilled in Findlay two years earlier by the Findlay Natural Gas Company, formed by Dr. Charles Oesterle.

However, the Karg well, then the largest in the world, launches the state’s first major natural gas boom – and brings many new industries.

Glass companies especially are “lured by free or cheap gas for fuel,” notes an historical marker at the Richardson Glass Works in Findlay. “They included eight window, two bottle, two chimney lamp, one light bulb, one novelty, and five tableware glass factories.”

By 1887, Findlay will become known as the “City of Light,” adds another nearby historical marker at the first field office for the Ohio Oil Company – established the same year by five independent oil producers.

The Findlay office building of the Ohio Oil Company will become headquarters of Marathon Petroleum.

After becoming an international exploration and production company, in 1962 Ohio Oil Company will change its name to today’s Marathon Oil Company.

The Hancock Historical Museum of Findlay includes natural gas exhibits from the region and is less than two miles from the site of the famous well. The museum also houses permanent exhibits relating to Findlay Glass Company.

Learn how other major natural gas discoveries launched new industries in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh and Indiana Natural Gas Boom.

January 21, 1865 – Civil War Veteran demonstrates his Oil Well “Torpedo”

A Pennsylvania historical marker commemorates Colonel E.A.L. Roberts, a Civil War veteran who patented oil well “torpedoes.”

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A. L. Roberts (1829-1881) conducts his first experiment to increase oil production by using an explosive charge deep in the well.

Roberts twice detonates eight pounds of black powder 465 feet deep in the bore of the Ladies Well on Watson’s Flats south of Titusville, Pennsylvania.

The “shooting” of the well increases daily production from a few barrels to more than 40 barrels. In 1866, the Titusville Morning Herald will report:

Our attention has been called to a series of experiments that have been made in the wells of various localities by Col. Roberts, with his newly patented torpedo.

The results have in many cases been astonishing.

The torpedo, which is an iron case, containing an amount of powder varying from 15 pounds to 20 pounds, is lowered into the well, down to the spot, as near as can be ascertained, where it is necessary to explode it. Read the rest of this entry »


January 13, 1957 – Wham-O launches a New Petroleum Product

Thanks to Phillips Petroleum, newly developed polyethylene plastics will be used to manufacture Frisbees. Detail from U.S. Patent No. 3,359,678. Image courtesy the Disc Golf Association, Watsonville, California.

The latest of a growing number of products made from plastic is born in California when Wham-O Manufacturing Company begins production of the Frisbee.

The toy originated in 1948 when two World War II veterans formed Partners in Plastic to sell their newly invented “Flyin’ Saucers” for 25 cents.

Wham-O bought the rights to the “flying toy” in 1955 – one year after Phillips Petroleum had introduced a high-density polyethylene under the brand name Marlex.

Although Phillips Petroleum executives expected the product to be a big hit, customers failed to materialize for the revolutionary plastic.

The Bartlesville, Oklahoma, company found itself with warehouses full of Marlex – until the phenomenal demand for Wham-O Hula Hoop and Frisbee.

Read more in Petroleum Product Hoopla. 

January 14, 1928 – Future Dr. Seuss begins Career at Standard Oil  

During the Great Depression, Theodore Geisel created advertising campaigns for Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. He said the experience taught him “how to marry pictures with words.”

New York City’s Judge magazine includes its first cartoon drawn by Theodore Seuss Geisel – who will develop his skills as “Dr. Seuss” while working for Standard Oil Company.

In the 1928 cartoon that launches his career, Geisel draws a peculiar dragon trying to dodge Flit, a popular bug spray of the day. Read the rest of this entry »