May 3, 1870 – “Yellow Dog” Lantern with Two Spouts patented

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The 1870 “safety derrick lamp” will become known as a “yellow dog.”

Jonathan Dillen of Petroleum Centre, Pennsylvania, is awarded a patent for his “safety derrick lamp” – a two-wicked lantern that will be known in America’s early oilfields as the “yellow dog.”

Dillen’s lamp is designed “for illuminating places out of doors, especially in and about derricks, and machinery in the oil regions, whereby explosions are more dangerous and destructive to life and property than in most other places.”

How the iron or steel lamp got its unusual name remains a mystery. Oil patch lore says the two burning wicks resembled a dog’s glowing eyes at night. Others claim the lamps cast the shadow of a dog’s head on the derrick floor. Forest Oil, founded in 1916 in Bradford, Pennsylvania, will make the two-spouted lantern part of its logo in 1924. Learn more in Yellow Dog – Oilfield Lantern.

May 4, 1869 – Offshore Drilling Platform Design patented

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Although never constructed, Thomas Rowland’s 1869 offshore drilling platform with telescoping legs was ahead of its time.

The first U.S. patent for an offshore oil drilling rig is issued to Thomas Rowland, owner of Continental Iron Works in Greenpoint, New York, for his “submarine drilling apparatus.”

Many experts believe this remarkable 1869 patent will help inspire the beginning of offshore exploration. Rowland’s design for a fixed, working platform for drilling offshore to a depth of 50 feet presages modern offshore technologies.

Although his rig is designed to operate in shallow water, the anchored, four-legged tower resembles modern offshore fixed platforms. Rowland and his Continental Iron Works also will become a leader in petroleum storage tank design and construction. The Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize is instituted by the American Society of Civil Engineers at its annual meeting of 1882.

The earliest true offshore wells – completely out of sight from land – will not be drilled until 1947 in the Gulf of Mexico, as technologies advance after Rowland’s patent. See Offshore Rig Patent.

May 5, 1889 – Construction begins on Largest U.S. Refinery

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The Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, will be the company’s largest and most productive. Now owned by BP, it remains the largest U.S. refinery.

Seventeen miles east of downtown Chicago, Standard Oil Company begins construction of a 235-acre refinery complex on May 5, 1889. The refinery, using advanced processes introduced by John D. Rockefeller, will become the largest in the United States. Today owned by BP, it still is.

Using a newly patented method, the Whiting, Indiana, refinery processes sulfurous “sour crude” from the Lima, Ohio, oilfields – transported on Rockefeller-controlled railroads. The refinery is soon producing high-quality kerosene to meet the skyrocketing public demand for use in home lamps.

Although gasoline is at first a minor by-product, two brothers in Massachusetts will build a gasoline-powered horseless carriage soon after the refinery produces its first 125 railroad tank cars filled with kerosene.

May 5, 1907 – First Texas Natural Gas Well completed

The Clayco Oil & Pipeline Company claims the first commercial natural gas well in Texas when it completes its Lockridge No. 1 well near Petrolia. The company later places a granite marker at the site, a few miles northeast of Wichita Falls.

“This discovery marked the beginning of intensive development of the gas industry in Texas,” explains the Clayco Oil & Pipeline historical marker placed at the well site in the in the Henrietta-Petrolia field.

“Lone Star Gas Company built the Southwest’s first large-diameter, long-distance pipeline to transport gas from this gas field to Fort Worth & Dallas,” the marker adds.

May 7, 1920 – Erle Halliburton launches Cementing Company

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An Erle Halliburton statue was dedicated in 1993 in Duncan, Oklahoma.

Halliburton Company is founded as an oilfield well service and cementing company by Erle P. Halliburton. The Wilson, Oklahoma, company succeeds his New Method Oil Cementing Company formed a year earlier during the Burkburnett oil boom in North Texas.

The use of cement in drilling oil wells remains integral to the industry, because its injection into the well seals off water formations from the oil, protects the casing, and minimizes the danger of blowouts.

Halliburton’s company, which will reach global dimensions within his lifetime, in 1922 patents a new “jet-cement” mixer that increases the speed and quality of the mixing process. By the end of the year, 17 Halliburton trucks are cementing wells in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Halliburton introduced cement pumps powered by truck motors rather than steam from rig boilers and a device that allowed the testing of a formation without setting casing. Major advances in cementing technology soon follow. Halliburton is the first to offer self-contained cementing units operating under their own power. Learn more in Halliburton cements Wells.

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High school baseball practice in Van, Texas.

May 8, 1918 – Shreveport Gassers go Extra Innings

As baseball becomes America’s favorite pastime, the Shreveport Gassers play 20 innings against the Fort Worth Panthers before the game is called a tie. As U.S. petroleum discoveries grow, many new oilfield communities are fielding their own teams.

The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (today known as Minor League Baseball) fields 96 teams, including the Okmulgee Drillers, Tulsa Oilers, Independence Producers, Beaumont Exporters, Corsicana Oil Citys, Wichita Falls Spudders and the Iola Gasbags. Read more in Oilfields of Dreams.

May 8, 1920 – Another Giant Oklahoma Oilfield discovered

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E.W. Marland built a refinery in Ponca City in 1918 and helped triple the town’s population. A decade later he built his mansion, now a museum. Fellow Oklahoman Will Rogers was a frequent guest.

Drilling for natural gas on a lease 20 miles east of Ponca City, Oklahoma, the Kay County Gas Company finds oil instead. A lot of oil. Marland Oil Refining Company soon assumes control of the Bertha Hickman No. 1 discovery well, which produces 680 barrels of oil in its first day alone.

This well opens the 20,000-acre Burbank oilfield. Producing companies agree to drill using 10-acre spacing for oil conservation purposes. The Burbank oilfield will produce between 20 million barrels and 31 million barrels annually for the next four years.

In addition to the Burbank field, E.W. Marland’s “Midas Touch” will lead to discovery of the nearby Tonkawa field. “As money flowed like the oil beneath, Marland invested the proceeds in the industry’s first research division, which developed seismography techniques and new drilling methods to discover even more oil,” reports the Ponca City News. Learn about this future governor by visiting the Marland Estate in Ponca City.


Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio program, Exploring Energy, 9 a.m – 10 a.m., Eastern Time. On last Wednesday of each month AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells calls in to discuss petroleum history. Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © This Week in Petroleum History, AOGHS 2016.