• This Week in Petroleum History, July 27 – August 2


    July 27, 1918 – Launch of First Concrete Oil Tanker

    petroleum history july 27

    Rare image of the world’s first concrete oil tanker, the 98-foot-long “Socony” built for Standard Oil Company of New York.

    America’s first concrete vessel designed to carry oil, the Socony, is launched at its shipyard on Flushing Bay, New York, in 1918.

    The reinforced concrete barge is 98-feet long with a 32-foot beam. Built for the Standard Oil Company of New York, the ship draws nine feet with a cargo of 370 tons.

    “Bulk oil is carried in six center and two wing compartments, which have been oil-proofed by a special process,” explains the journal Cement and Engineering News. “Eight-inch cast iron pipe lines lead to each compartment and the oil pump is located on a concrete pump room aft.”

    July 28, 1924 – Oil Scouts form Association

    petroleum history july 27

    Oil field Scouts began as detectives seeking the truth about new wells, which helped keep speculators in check.

    The National Oil Scouts Association of America – today the International Oil Scouts Association (IOSA– files its charter in Austin, Texas, bringing new standards to the profession.

    Since the birth of the U.S. petroleum industry in 1859, oil scouts have gathered field intelligence on drilling operations – including often sensitive information about the operator.

    They record details about the location, lease, depth of well, formations encountered, logs and other data, which may yield a competitive advantage.

    James Tennent, author of The Oil Scouts – Reminiscences of the Night Riders of the Hemlocks, proclaimed in 1915 that scouts “saved the general trade thousands and millions by holding market manipulators in check.”

    Read more in Scouts – Oil Patch Detectives.

    July 28, 1977 – First Prudhoe Bay Oil reaches Valdez

    The first barrel of oil from the North Slope’s Prudhoe Bay oilfield arrives at the Port of Valdez after a 38-day journey. The oil has traveled 800 miles in the newly completed $8 billion Trans-Alaska Pipeline. By 2010, the 48-inch-wide pipeline will have carried about 16 billion barrels of oil. Read more in Trans-Alaska Pipeline History.

    July 29, 1918 – Burkburnett becomes a North Texas Boom Town

    petroleum history july 27

    “Burkburnett was a sleepy farm town that transformed into a ‘Boom Town’ as a result of the North Texas oil boom in 1918,” explains the Burkburnett Historical Society. A 1940 MGM movie stars a former roustabout.

    A wildcat well strikes oil in July 1918 on S. L. Fowler’s farm near a small North Texas community on the Red River. By June 1919, there are more than 850 producing wells in “the world’s wonder oilfield.”

    The North Texas exploration frenzy will make Burkburnett famous  – two decades before “Boom Town,” the popular 1940 motion picture it will inspire.

    The well is completed at the northeastern edge of Burkburnett, a small town founded in 1907 and originally called Nesterville. President Theodore Roosevelt renamed it after hunting wolf along the Red River with wealthy rancher Samuel Burk Burnett.

    A detail from a circa 1919 "General view, Burkburnett oilfield" panoramic gelatin silver print (nine inches x 95 inches) courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

    A detail from the circa 1919 “General view, Burkburnett oilfield” panoramic gelatin silver print (9 inches x 95 inches) courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

    The discovery well, once called “Fowler’s Folly” by some, the brings an oil boom to Wichita County. Burkburnett’s population grows from 1,000 to 8,000. A line of derricks two-miles long greets visitors.

    Burkburnett – plus earlier discoveries in Electra in 1911 and Ranger in  1917 – make North Texas a leader in petroleum production, helping end oil shortages during World War I, and allowing the Allies to “float to victory on a wave of oil.”

    At the time of the 1918 Burkburnett discovery well, Clark Gable is a 17-year-old roustabout working with his father William Gable, a service contractor in an oil field outside Bigheart, Oklahoma.

    Gable will star in “Boom Town,” which is adapted from a 1939 article in Cosmopolitan magazine, “A Lady Comes to Burkburnett.”

    “Boom Town” is nominated for two Academy Awards in 1940. Read more in “Boom Town” Burkburnett. Also see Sunshine State Oil & Refining Company.

    July 29, 1957 – Oil Import Quotas

    As America’s reliance on foreign oil continues to grow and discourage domestic production, President Dwight Eisenhower inaugurates a Voluntary Oil Import Program, including import quotas by region. Eisenhower intends to ensure adequate domestic petroleum is available in case of national emergency. Two years later, he replaces the voluntary program with a Mandatory Oil Import Program, which will continue until suspended in 1973 as the Arab oil embargo begins.

    August 1, 1872 – First Pennsylvania Natural Gas Pipeline

    petroleum history july 27

    Natural gas powered early Pittsburgh steel mills.

    The first recorded large-scale delivery of natural gas by pipeline begins when gas is delivered to Titusville, Pennsylvania. A two-inch, wrought-iron pipeline carries the gas from a well five miles to the northeast.

    The well’s high production – four million cubic feet of natural gas a day –  is the largest in the growing petroleum region.

    The mayor of Titusville and the Keystone Gas & Water Company constructed the pipeline to deliver “the most powerful and voluminous  gas well on record” to more than 250 residential and commercial customers in Titusville.

    Once an underestimated byproduct of the new petroleum industry, practical commercial use of natural gas will be introduced by George  Westinghouse for the Pittsburgh steel and glass industries, notes David Waples in his 2005 book, The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia.

    August 2, 1938 – Petroleum Bristles

    petroleum history july 27

    A 1938 Life magazine advertisement promotes the nylon bristles of “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft.”

    Americans will soon brush their teeth with nylon-bristle toothbrushes – instead of hog bristles, declares a New York Times article.

    The  Weco Products Company of Chicago, Illinois, begins promoting its “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft,” the earliest toothbrush to use synthetic nylon bristles.

    This is the first commercial use of the revolutionary petroleum product – nylon, which is a silky synthetic polymer (a plastic). Women’s stockings will soon follow. See Nylon, a Petroleum Polymer.

    “Until now, all good toothbrushes were made with animal bristles,” notes a 1938 advertisement in Life magazine. “Today, Dr.  West’s new Miracle-Tuft is a single exception. It is made with EXTON, a unique bristle-like filament developed by the great DuPont  laboratories.”

    August 2. 1956 – Missouri begins First U.S. Interstate Highway

    petroleum history july 27

    Missouri launches the U.S. interstate system after “inking a deal for work on U.S. Route 66.” I-44 today stretches across south central Missouri and is a major corridor linking the Midwest and the West Coast.

    Missouri becomes the first state to award a contract with interstate construction funding authorized two months earlier by the  Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The Missouri highway commission signs the contract for work on the already historic Route 66.

    The Highway-Aid Act provides 90 percent federal funding for a “system of interstate and defense highways.” It makes it possible for states to afford construction of the network of national limited-access highways, which will eventually reach more than 40,000 miles.

    Missouri has agreed to work on U.S. Route 66 – now Interstate 44. “There is no question that the creation of the interstate highway system has been the most significant development in the history of  transportation in the United States,” proclaim the state’s leaders. Read more in America on the Move.


    Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio program, Exploring Energy, 9 a.m – 10 a.m., eastern time. On the fourth 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. © AOGHS, This Week in Petroleum History.