This Week Sept. 3 to Sept. 9
September 4, 1841 – Early Drilling Technology
Early drilling technology advances when William Morris patents a “Rock Drill Jar” — a drilling innovation he began experimenting with 10 years earlier in Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia). His wells provide settlers with much-needed salt for preserving food.
Morris, using his experience as a brine well driller, patents his device, No. 2243 — a “manner of uniting augers to sinkers for boring artesian well.” It is a telescoping link apparatus that greatly increases the efficiency of percussion drilling because it “would slacken off as the bit hit bottom and pick up the bit with a snap on the upstroke.”
After oil is discovered in Pennsylvania, cable-tool drilling technology will evolve rapidly as drillers improve upon Morris’ patented jars. Today, cable-tool rigs and jars are still in use around the world. See the article “Making Hole — Drilling Technology.”
September 4, 1850 – Chicago Streets get Gas Light
A Chicago company delivers its first manufactured gas to customers. “The Gas Alight! — Wednesday marked an era in Chicago,” reports Gem of the Prairie. “The gas pipes were filled, and the humming noise made by the escaping gas at the tops of the lamp-posts indicated that everything was all right.”
The magazine adds: “Shortly afterward the fire was applied and brilliant torches flamed on both sides of Lake Street as far as the eye could see and wherever the posts were set.” The Chicago Gas Light & Coke Company, incorporated by special act of the Illinois State Legislature in 1849, has exclusive rights to manufacture, distribute and sell gas for 10 years. The price is set at $3.50 per thousand cubic feet and the cost of lighting Chicago city lamps is fixed at $15 per post.
By 1855 nearly 78 miles of pipe have been installed and there are almost 2,000 manufactured-gas consumers in Chicago.
September 5, 1927 – Schlumberger Brothers invent Electric Well Logging
A technology that will revolutionize the search for oil and natural gas — an electric downhole well log — is first applied near Pechelbronn, France.
After successfully developing an electrical four-probe surface approach for mineral exploration, brothers Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger adapt their surface system to operate vertically.
Lowering their new tool into a well, the Schlumberger brothers record a single lateral-resistivity curve at fixed points in the well’s borehole and graphically plot the results against depth – creating a well log of geologic formations. Changes in subsurface resistance readings show variations and possible oil and natural gas producing areas. From this well-logging beginning, Schlumberger will become a leading worldwide oilfield service company.
September 5, 1885 – Birth of the “Filling Station” Pump
The modern gasoline-pump design is invented by Sylvanus F. (Freelove) Bowser, who sells his first pump to a grocery store in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Designed to safely dispense kerosene as well as “burning fluid, and the light combustible products of petroleum,” the pump holds 42 gallons. It uses marble valves, a wooden plunger and an upright faucet.
With the pump’s popular success at Jake Gumper’s Fort Wayne grocery store, Bowser forms the S. F. Bowser Company and patents his invention in 1887.
Within a decade — as the automobile’s popularity grows — Bowser’s company adapts and becomes hugely successful. By 1905 (the same year the world’s first gasoline station is built in St. Louis, Missouri) the S. F. Bowser “Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump” is soon known to motorists as a “filling station.”
The original Bowser pump consists of a square metal tank with a wooden cabinet equipped with a suction pump operated by hand-stroke lever action. It includes a hose attachment for dispensing gasoline directly into the automobile fuel tank.
With the addition of competing businesses such as Wayne Pump Company and Tokheim Oil Tank & Pump Company, the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, becomes the gas pump capital of the world. Learn more about gas pumps, pump globes, oil cans and signs at Petroleum Collectibles Monthly.
September 7, 1917 – Hogg Wells do Well
After drilling 20 dry holes, the Tyndall-Wyoming Oil Company completes the No. 1 Hogg well as a small producer 50 miles south of Houston, Texas.
Four months later a second well produces about 600 barrels a day.
These wells end the succession of dry holes dating back to 1901 – when former Texas Governor Jim Hogg paid $30,000 for the lease. Governor Hogg dies 11 years before his two wells prove the West Columbia oilfield to be highly productive.
Fortunately for his family, he had stipulated in his will that the mineral rights should not be sold for 15 years after his death. The field yields more than 119,000 barrels of oil in 1918 alone.
September 7, 1923 – Dominguez Hills Oil Discovery
In an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County known as Dominguez Hills, independent oilman Frederick Russell Burnham brings in a well at a depth of 4,068 feet. His company, Burnham Exploration, is partnered with Union Oil Company of California.
Burnham’s 1,193 barrel per day producer opens the Dominguez Hills oilfield – a two-square mile, two-mile deep stack of eight producing zones. By 1933, Burnham’s company pays out $10.2 million to stockholders. The site is now home to a state university.
The California State University Dominguez Hills notes that it is named for Juan Jose Dominguez, a Spanish soldier who received a grant of 75,000 acres for grazing cattle from the governor of the Spanish province in 1784. “But family fortunes truly took off with discovery of oil in the 1920s, first in the Torrance area and then, most resoundingly, on Dominguez Hill itself, where productive wells functioned for a half century.”
Visit the California Oil Museum in Santa Paula – in the historic headquarters building of the Union Oil Company.
September 9, 1928 – Oklahoma governs Oil Production
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission sets the state’s oil production limit to 700,000 barrels daily and limits “production of new wildcat wells to 100 barrels a day.” The commission allocates 425,000 barrels a day for newly discovered fields such as the Greater Seminole (the premier high-gravity U.S. oilfield in 1928) and 275,000 barrels a day for older oil fields.
Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.