This Week in Petroleum History, April 24 – 30
April 24, 1911 – Magnolia Petroleum founded
The Magnolia Petroleum Company was founded as an unincorporated joint-stock association – a consolidation of several companies, the first of which began as a small refinery in Corsicana, Texas, in 1898.
Standard Oil Company of New York began acquiring Magnolia in 1925. When Standard Oil of New York and the Vacuum Oil Company merged in 1931 to form Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, Magnolia became the leading affiliate of the new nationwide company.
Headquartered in its iconic Dallas skyscraper by the early 1930s, Magnolia operated in 20 states and employed 12,500 people. The company adopted the Socony-Vacuum Oil (the future Mobil) red Pegasus logo, which began rotating atop the Magnolia Building in 1934. Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.
April 25, 1865 – Civil War Veteran patents Explosive Technology
Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City received the first of his many U.S. patents for an “Improvement in Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells.” The invention used controlled downhole explosions “to fracture oil-bearing formations and increase oil production.”
Roberts torpedoes were filled with gunpowder, lowered into wells, and ignited by a weight dropped along a suspension wire to percussion caps. In later models, nitroglycerin replaced gunpowder. Before the well torpedo’s invention, many early wells in the new oil regions of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia produced only small amounts of oil.
The invention was among the major technological achievements of the U.S. petroleum industry. With its exclusive patent licenses, the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company charged up to $200 per torpedo “shoot” and a one-fifteenth royalty. Seeking to avoid the expense, some oilmen secretly hire unlicensed practitioners who operate at night with their own devices, leading to the term “moonlighter.”
For enhancing modern oil production, Halliburton and the Stanolind companies completed the first commercial hydraulic frack in March 1949 near Duncan, Oklahoma. Modern oil and natural gas production relies on the technology. Learn more in Shooters – A “Fracking” History.
April 26, 1947 – Petroleum Industry promotes Oil on Radio
For the first time since its establishment in 1919, the American Petroleum Institute launched a national advertising campaign.
“The theme of the drive is that the petroleum industry is a modern and progressive one, and is now turning out the best products in its history,” noted Billboard magazine. “Radio this week struck real pay dirt as a ‘Gusher’ will come mainly from expansion of current air time on spot local or regional levels by the thousands of petroleum and related corporations.”
API, representing the largest U.S. petroleum companies, today issues recommended practices “to promote the use of safe equipment and proven engineering.”
April 27, 1966 – Ariel Corporation founded
After receiving a degree in mechanical engineering in 1954, former eighth-grade teacher Jim Buchwald founded Ariel Corporation in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
“With little money to pay for a facility to house the tools, a room in the basement of the Buchwald family home is cleaned up,” explains a company historian. “This room becomes the first Ariel machine shop, with an adjoining room functioning as Ariel’s first official engineering department.”
Buchwald bought a lathe, a small hand-cranked rotary table and a vertical drill for manufacturing valves. By 1968 he built a prototype gas compressor that ran at the unprecedented speed of 1,800 RPM. Buchwald named his company after his beloved 1948 Ariel motorcycle.
April 30, 1929 – Marland Oil and Continental Oil become Conoco
After discovering several prolific Oklahoma oilfields, Marland Oil Company acquired Continental Oil Company to create a network of service stations in 30 states. Future Oklahoma Governor Ernest W. Marland had founded Marland Oil in 1921; Continental Oil Company was founded in 1875 in Utah. Headquartered in Ponca City, the new company retained the name of Continental Oil, but adopted the well-known Marland red triangle trademark, replacing the “Marland Oils” text with “CONOCO.” In 2002, the company merged with Phillips Petroleum, which had incorporated in 1917, and became today’s ConocoPhillips. Learn more by visiting the ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums.
April 30, 1955 – “Landmen” form Trade Association
Today’s American Association of Professional Landmen was organized as a petroleum landmen trade association in Fort Worth, Texas.
Landmen research records to determine ownership, locate mineral and land owners and negotiate oil and natural gas leases, deals, trades and contracts. They also help ensure compliance with governmental regulations. The association’s mission has grown since 1955, according to the AAPL website:
“With over 15,000 members nationwide, AAPL serves as a guiding resource to support landmen as they continue their education in an ever evolving industry, work closely with the public to advance oil and gas interests, and to ensure America’s energy independence.”
Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells calls in on the last Wednesday of each month. AOGHS welcomes sponsors to help maintain this website and preserve U.S. petroleum heritage. Please support our energy education mission with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships. © 2017 Bruce A. Wells.