This Week August 6 to August 12
August 7, 1933 – Alley Oop’s Oil Field Roots
“Alley Oop” appears for the first time when former Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reporter Victor (V.T.) Hamlin publishes the caveman as a syndicated daily cartoon in Iowa’s Des Moines Register. The comic strip is a hit and ultimately appears in more than 800 newspapers. The West Texas oil town of Iraan lays claim to Hamlin’s paleontological inspiration.
Iraan (pronounced eye-rah-ann) first appeared in 1926 as a company town following the discovery of the prolific Yates oilfield. Many of its early buildings were constructed by the Big Lake Oil Company.
The Yates field will produce more than 40 million barrels in just three years, but Iraan’s best years will be over by 1960 – when the band Hollywood Argyles sings that Alley Oop is “the toughest man there is alive.”
Although Alley Oop is one of 20 comic strips commemorated in a 1995 series of U.S. postage stamps, Yates oilfield production and Iraan’s fortunes have both declined. The town opened its Alley Oop Fantasy Land theme park in 1965 with favorite son Hamlin in attendance.
Today, tourists visit the Alley Oop Museum and R.V. Park on the northwest edge of Iraan at 9261 Alley Oop Lane, off of U.S. 190. Thanks to improved technologies, production from Yates oil wells continues – and the field is estimated to have one billion barrels of recoverable oil remaining.
August 9, 1922 – Oil Patch Psychic of Luling, Texas
After drilling six consecutive dry holes near Luling, Texas, the heavily in debt United North & South Oil Company brings in the Rafael Rios No. 1 well – discovering an oilfield that is twelve miles long and two miles wide.
Local lore and abundant literature proclaim that Edgar B. Davis, president of the company, found the well only after getting a psychic reading from famed clairvoyant Edgar Cayce. Within two years the oilfield has 391 producing wells and yields about 11 million barrels annually.
Davis will sell his leases to the Magnolia Petroleum Company for $12 million – the biggest petroleum deal in Texas at the time. Psychic Edgar Cayce will claim success helping other Texas wildcatters. He leaves the oil patch for good after forming his own oil company – and drilling a series of dry holes.
Today, petroleum exhibits of the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum in a restored 1885 mercantile store describe the historic 1922 discovery. Luling also is known for its decorated pumping units and the Watermelon Thump Festival – and Seed-Spitting Contest. The Guinness Book of World Records documents the contest’s still unbeaten distance of 68 feet, 9 and 1/8 inches set in 1989.
Luling also hosts an annual Roughneck BBQ and Chili Cook-Off –and boasts of ”the best ribs in the country,” according to Reader’s Digest. Read an article about this oil patch community’s museum in the “Central Texas Oil Patch Museum.”
August 10, 1909 – Hughes patents Revolutionary Drill Bit
Petroleum historians note several men who were trying to improve on drill bit technologies at the time, but it was Hughes who made it happen.
Granville A. Humason, for example, developed a cross-roller bit before a chance meeting with Hughes in Shreveport, Louisiana – where he sold the rights to Hughes. The twin-cone roller bit, which drills faster and deeper through harder rock formations, launches the Hughes oilfield service company empire.
Hughes receives a patent, No. 930758, for a drill that “relates to boring drills, and particularly to roller drills such as are used for drilling holes in earth and rock,” and with business associate Walter Benona Sharp established Sharp-Hughes Tool Company to manufacture and market the twin-cone roller bit.
Hughes company engineers will invent the tri-cone bit in 1933. More innovations follow. Frank Christensen and George Christensen develop the earliest diamond bit in 1941. The tungsten carbide tooth comes into use in the early 1950s. The company Hughes founded merges in 1987 with one founded in 1927 by Carl Baker, Baker Oil Tools, to form today’s Baker Hughes.
In 1992 America’s first rolling-cone bit company and the first diamond-bit company merged to become today’s Hughes Christensen – a Baker Hughes company.
Hughes biographers note that he met Granville Humason in a Shreveport bar, where Humason sold his roller bit rights to Hughes for $150. The University of Texas’ Center for American History has a rare 1951 recording of Humason’s recollections of that chance meeting.
On the tape, Humason recalls that he spent $50 of his sale proceeds at the bar during the balance of the evening. See “Making Hole — Drilling Technology.”
August 11, 1998 – Amoco announces BP merger
Amoco announces plans to merge with British Petroleum in a stock swap valued at about $48 billion – at the time the world’s largest industrial merger. Amoco began in 1889 as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company of Indiana, and changed its name from Standard to Amoco in 1985.
Finalized on December 31, the combined company, BP Amoco PLC, is 60 percent owned by BP shareholders, marking the transaction the largest foreign takeover of an American company. In 2001 BP announces that Amoco service stations will be closed or renamed to BP service stations.
August 12, 1930 – Kentucky Oilmen organize
A group of eastern Kentucky oilmen join the Western Kentucky Oil Men’s Association, where the articles of incorporation are amended to become a state-wide organization – today’s Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, Frankfort. R.C. Snyder of the Kentucky Natural Gas Company in Louisville is elected the association’s first president. An oil discovery near Pellville in Hancock County had touched off an oil boom in western Kentucky in 1919.
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