This Week Nov. 19 to Nov. 25
November 19, 1861 – American exports Oil for First Time
America exports petroleum for the first time when the Elizabeth Watts departs Philadelphia’s docks bound for London with a cargo of 901 barrels of Pennsylvania oil and 428 barrels of refined kerosene.
The shippers are the highly successful Philadelphia import-export firm of Peter Wright & Sons, which since its founding in 1818 has prospered transporting “china, glass, and Queensware” among other commodities.
The company hires the Elizabeth Watts and her captain, Charles Bryant, to ship the petroleum to three British companies: G. Crowshaw & Company, Coates & Company, and Herzog & Company.
Forty-five days later, on January 9, 1862, the U.S. brig sails down the Thames River to arrive at London’s Victoria Dock. It will take 12 days to unload the 1,329 barrels. Philadelphia exports 239,000 barrels the next year. In 1948, with the post-World War II economy booming, America for the first time becomes a net importer of oil.
Editor’s Note – U.S. dependence on imported oil has declined since peaking in 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration - “How Dependent are We on Foreign Oil?”
November 19, 1927 – Birth of Phillips 66 Gasoline
After a decade as an exploration and production company, Phillips Petroleum Company enters the highly competitive business of refining and retail gasoline distribution.
The Bartlesville, Oklahoma, company introduces a new line of gasoline – “Phillips 66″ – at its first service station, which opens in Wichita, Kansas.
The gasoline is named “Phillips 66″ after it propels company officials down U.S. Highway 66 at 66 mph in route to a meeting at their Bartlesville, Oklahoma headquarters.
Highway 66 becomes the backbone of Phillips marketing plans for the new product – which boasts “controlled volatility,” the result of a higher-gravity mix of naphtha and natural gasoline. The composition makes Phillips 66 gasoline easier to start in cold weather, and advertisements entice motorists to try the “New Winter Gasoline.”
Aggressive acquisition of new stations adds 50 new retail outlets each month to the company. By 1930, Phillips 66 gasoline is sold at 6,750 outlets in 12 states. Visit the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville.
November 20, 1866 – Petroleum Torpedo patented
Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City is awarded U.S. Patent. No. 59,936 for the latest version of what will become known as the Roberts Torpedo.
“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,” notes the Titusville Morning Herald newspaper. “The results have in many cases been astonishing.”
Roberts will receive many patents after his first – issued on April 25, 1865 – for an “Improvement in Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells” to fracture oil-bearing formations and dramatically increase oil production.
November 20, 1930 – Conrad Hilton’s High-Rise begins in Texas
Conrad Hilton opens his first high-rise hotel – 11 years after buying his first hotel in Cisco, Texas, to serve the town’s booming population of roughnecks and oilmen working the nearby “Roaring Ranger” oil field.
Conrad Hilton visited Cisco, Texas, intending to buy a bank. When the deal fell through, he went to the train station. Across the street was a two-story red brick building called the Mobley Hotel. He noticed roughnecks from the booming Ranger oil field waiting in line for a room. Read more in “Oil Boom brings First Hilton Hotel.”
Following his Cisco purchase, Hilton builds his first hotel in Dallas in 1925. A year later he builds another in Abilene, and a third in Waco in 1927. He will soon expand his Texas hotel empire to include Marlin, San Angelo, Plainview, and Lubbock.
The high-rise El Paso Hilton that opens today in 1930 will be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
November 21, 1925 – Magnolia Petroleum incorporates
Formerly an unincorporated joint-stock association – with roots dating to an 1889 refinery in Corsicana, Texas – Magnolia Petroleum Company incorporates and transfers all assets to the new company.
The original association, formed on April 24, 1911, by John H. Sealy, has grown to provide multiple grades of refined oil products through 505 service stations in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Standard Oil Company of New York purchases most of Magnolia Petroleum Company’s assets in December 1925 and operates it as a subsidiary. Magnolia Oil Company merges with Socony Mobile Oil Company in 1959 (and adopts the Pegasus logo). The company ultimately becomes part today’s ExxonMobil Corporation.
November 22, 1878 – Historic Pipeline Company
The Tidewater Pipe Company is organized in Pennsylvania by Byron Benson.
In 1879 this company will build the first oil pipeline to cross the Alleghenies from Coryville to the Philadelphia Reading Railroad 109 miles away in Williamsport.
The difficult work – much of it done in winter using sleds to move pipe sections – bypasses Standard Oil Company’s dominance in transporting petroleum.
Tidewater makes an arrangement with the Reading Railroad to haul the crude in tank cars to Philadelphia and New York. On May 28, 1879, an 80-horsepower engine in Coreyville will pump 250 barrels of oil from the Bradford oilfield across the mountains and into Williamsport.
By 1880, more than 80 percent of America’s quickly growing oil consumption is fed by Pennsylvania oil fields, notes Floyd Hartman Jr. in “Birth of Coryville’s Tidewater Pipe Line.”
November 22, 1905 – Discovery helps make Tulsa “Oil Capital of the World”
Two years before Oklahoma becomes a state, oil is discovered south of Tulsa. The Glenn Pool discovery – the greatest oil field in America at the time - 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.” It even tops the giant Spindletop Hill discovery near Beaumont, Texas, four years earlier.
The Ida Glenn No. 1 well is named for the Creek Indian woman from whom oilmen had leased 160 acres. The 1,450-foot-deep wells reveal the 12-square-mile Glenn Pool. By the time of statehood in 1907, Glenn Pool has made Oklahoma the nation’s biggest oil producer.
A number of prominent oil figures, including Harry Ford Sinclair, who later will found the Sinclair Oil and Refining Company, and J. Paul Getty, receive their initial start during the Glenn Pool boom, notes the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Oklahoma Natural Gas Company is founded and in 1907 builds a pipeline from the Glenn Pool to provide gas to Oklahoma City.
“It was Oklahoma’s first major oil field – and the richest field the world had yet seen,” explains Norman Hyne, professor of petroleum geology at the University of Tulsa.
“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,” he adds. “The reservoir was shallow, less than 1,500 feet deep, well within the range of the cable tool drilling rigs of that day.”
The giant oil field will produce 325.5 million barrels of oil by 1986 – with annual royalties of almost one million dollars paid to Creek Indians who hold 160-acre allotments in the field.
“It is said that more money was made on the Glenn Pool oil field than the California gold rush and Colorado silver rush combined,” notes Hyne. The field today uses enhanced recovery technologies to continue to produce oil, he adds.
In April 2008, a monument was unveiled in Glenpool’s Black Gold Park by the Glenn Pool Oil Field Commission.
The community celebrates its petroleum heritage by hosting an annual Black Gold Days festival with arts and crafts, a parade, concerts and other events.
Learn more in “Making Tulsa the Oil Capital.”
November 23, 1951 – Superman features “World’s Deepest Oil Well”
Public fear of the risk of drilling too deep highlights the theatrical release of “Superman and the Mole Men.”
The movie, which earns good reviews, features newspaper reporters Clark Kent (George Reeves) and Lois Lane (Phyllis Coates) traveling on assignment to the fictional town of Silsby…“Home of the World’s Deepest Oil Well.”
The National Oil Company is making news at its “Havenhurst Experimental Number One” drilling site — the drill bit “has broken into clear air” at 32,000 feet. “Good heavens, that’s practically to the center of the earth!” Lois exclaims. In fact, the deepest U.S. well in 1951 reached 20,521 feet.
Although the oilmen attempt to cap the well, small humanoid creatures emerge. The townspeople fear an invasion. It takes the compassion of Superman to resolve the crisis. He calms the mob and returns the mole men to the safety of the well. In the end, the derrick collapses in flames, forever closing the connection between the two worlds.
November 23, 1953 – First LPG Ship departs Houston
The first seagoing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) ship goes into service.
Warren Petroleum Corporation of Tulsa, Oklahoma, sends the one-of-a-kind Natalie O. Warren from the Houston Ship Channel terminal at Norsworthy, Texas, to Newark, New Jersey.
The vessel has an LPG capacity of 38,053 barrels in 68 vertical pressure tanks – the equivalent of about 339,000 standard gas grill LP tanks. The ship is the former Cape Diamond dry-cargo freighter, converted and refitted over a five-month period by the Bethlehem Steelyard in Beaumont, Texas.
The experimental design will lead to new maritime construction standards for such vessels. After 14 years of successful service, the Natalie O. Warren is scrapped in Santander, Spain. Today’s LPG tankers may carry more than 18 times the capacity of the Natalie O. Warren.
November 25, 1875 – Continental Oil and Transportation
Convinced that he can profit by purchasing bulk kerosene in cheaper eastern markets and shipping it by rail to Ogden, Utah, for distribution, Isaac Elder Blake forms the Continental Oil and Transportation Company.
Continental purchases two railroad tank cars – the first to be used west of the Mississippi River – and begins shipping kerosene from a Cleveland, Ohio, refinery. The company quickly grows, expanding into Colorado in 1876 and California in 1877.
Standard Oil Company absorbs Continental Oil in 1885. Following the 1911 breakup of Standard, Continental Oil will reemerge as an independent company. It continues today as ConocoPhillips.
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