November 23 – November 29, 2015

November 23, 1951 – First Superman Movie features “World’s Deepest Oil Well”

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Mole men emerge from an experimental oil well that “has broken into clear air” at beyond 32,700 feet deep.

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Deep drilling in 1951 produced mole men.

Public fear of the risk of drilling too deep highlights the theatrical release of “Superman and the Mole Men.”

The 1951 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 32,742 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 and panic ensues. It takes the compassion of Superman to calm the mob and return the mole men to the safety of the deep well.

In the end of the movie, the mole men ignite the well into flames, forever closing the connection between the two worlds.

Read about a real 31,441-foot-deep well in Anadarko Basin in Depth.

November 23, 1953 – World’s First LPG Ship

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The first vessel had an LPG capacity of 38,053 barrels in 68 vertical pressure tanks.

The first seagoing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) ship goes into service in 1953.

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 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 can carry more than 18 times the capacity of the historic first vessel.

November 25, 1875 – Continental Oil brings Kerosene to the West

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Conoco began in 1875 as Continental Oil, delivering kerosene to retail stores in Ogden, Utah.

Convinced that he can profit by purchasing bulk kerosene in cheaper eastern markets, Isaac Blake forms the Continental Oil and Transportation Company. He will soon bring Ohio kerosene to Ogden, Utah, for distribution.

Continental purchases two railroad tank cars – the first to be used west of the Mississippi River – and begins shipping kerosene from a Cleveland 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 and continues today as ConocoPhillips. Read more in ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums.

November 27, 1940 – Gas by Edward Hopper exhibited in New York

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Edward Hopper (1882-1967) oil on canvas painting “Gas” of 1940 includes the flying Pegasus logo of Mobilgas. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Edward Hopper’s painting Gas is exhibited by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1940.

Hopper began the painting a month earlier. “Ed is about to start a canvas – an effect of night on a gasoline station,” noted his wife.

Critics praise Hopper’s work and suggest that Gas with its commonplace Mobilgas sign anticipates America’s Pop Art movement that comes a decade later.

The work – which includes the flying Pegasus logo of Mobilgas – is an amalgamation of gas stations around his home in Truro, Massachusetts. Fellow artist Charles Burchfield admired Hopper’s simple title for the painting, noting that a less discerning artist would have titled it “Gas Station” or “Gas Station Attendant.”

The Vacuum Oil Company trademarked the Pegasus logo in 1911 and by the 1930s was marketing Pegasus Motor Spirits an Mobiloil. Read about the Mobilgas iconic logo in Mobil’s High Flying Trademark.

November 27, 1941 – “Oil Queen of California” dies

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Emma Summers’ “genius for affairs” put her in control of the Los Angeles City oil fields.

Mrs. Emma Summers, once known as the “Oil Queen of California” dies at the age of 83 in Los Angeles.

Forty years earlier, the San Francisco Call newspaper described Mrs. Summers as “A woman with a genius for affairs – it may sound paradoxical, but the fact exists. If Mrs. Emma A. Summers were less than a genius she could not, as she does today, control the Los Angeles oil markets.”

Summers graduated from Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music and moved to Los Angeles in 1893 to teach piano – but soon caught oil fever.

With her home not far from where Edward Doheny had discovered the Los Angeles City field just a year before, Summers invested $700 for half interest in a well just a few blocks from Doheny’s.

Summers’ first 14 oil wells came in as producers – and launched her dominance in the Los Angeles oil field. See Oil Queen of California.

November 28, 1892 – First Kansas Oil Well taps Mid-Continent Field

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A rare photograph of the 1897 Standard Oil refinery in Neodesha, Kansas, where it refined 500 barrels of oil per day – the first to process oil from the Mid-Continent field. From “Kansas Memory” collection of the Kansas Historical Society.

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Students visit the Norman No. 1 Well Museum in Neodesha to learn about the Kansas petroleum industry – where oil or natural gas today is produced in 89 of 105 counties.

The Norman No. 1 well erupts in 1892  in eastern Kansas – the first major oil well west of the Mississippi River.

Just 832 feet deep, the well reveals the vast Mid-Continent producing region, which includes five states.

Immediately following the discovery, a sample of the oil is sent to the more experienced oilmen of Pennsylvania.

“It proved that Neodesha had the riches of oil and gas in their back yard, making the area the richest bed of prehistoric decay,” explains Neodesha’s oil museum.

Abandoned in 1919, the Norman No. 1, “remained overgrown along the banks of the Verdigris River until 1961 when a replica of the original derrick was erected on the old well site as a memorial,” notes the Kansas Historical Society, which adds the oil museum is “a fitting recognition of Norman No. 1’s importance as one of the most significant oil discoveries in U. S. and Kansas history.”

Today the well is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Read more in Kansas Well reveals Mid-Continent.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © AOGHS, This Week in Petroleum History.

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