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About 450 million years ago, a meteor struck north-central Oklahoma, creating an impact crater – an astrobleme – more than eight miles wide.

The Ames Crater impact site is one of six oil-producing craters in the United States.

As•tro•bleme (noun) – A depression, usually circular, on the surface of the Earth that is caused by the impact of a meteorite. From mid-20th century. astro- + Greek blçma “wound from a missile”

Today, the small. rural community of Ames proudly claims the crater as its own – and as an important contributor to the geological knowledge of the nation’s petroleum industry. Read the rest of this entry »


In a restored 1885 mercantile building downtown, the Luling Oil Museum (also known as the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum) displays a variety of historic equipment from the Luling oilfield. Some people say the giant field was discovered by a psychic.

luling oil field

Exhibits in Luling’s restored 1885 mercantile store educate visitors about a 1922 oil discovery – and the modern petroleum industry.

Although famous for its BBQ ribs and watermelon seed-spitting contest, Luling, Texas, still rises and falls with the fortune of am oilfield discovered more than a century ago.

In 1924, just two years after its discovery, the Luling oilfield had about 400 wells annually producing about 11 million barrels of oil.

Modern drilling and production technologies have reinvigorated the Luling oil patch, noted Luling Oil Museum Director Carol Voight in 2013, when she was featured on Austin TV news. She explained the historic oilfield’s return to prosperity thanks to horizontal drilling.

Once known as the toughest town in Texas, visitors to Luling on the first Saturday in April now find the streets crowded with families enjoying the Roughneck BBQ and Chili Cook-Off. “Best ribs in the country,” Reader’s Digest once proclaimed.

Crowds rally again in Luling beginning on the last Thursday in June for 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.

Just a few steps from the carefully calibrated arena where the watermelon seed-spitting record was set, visitors find the oil museum, housed in an 1885 former mercantile store.

luling oil field

Edgar B. Davis in 1922 discovered an oilfield 12 miles long.

The historic Walker Brothers building in the heart of the business district.

The museum “shows the contrast of the tools and technology of the past with those utilized in the oil industry today.” Exhibits trace the development of the oil industry – from the first strike in 1859 in Pennsylvania to the social and economic impact on Central Texas.

“We strive to demonstrate the struggles between the men and women who were the oil field pioneers and to create a better understanding of the process of oil exploration and production,” noted one volunteer.

“Our collection includes a working model of a modern oil rig, pump jacks, the ‘Oil Tank Theater,’ and an excellent assortment of tools from each decade of the oil industry,” added Voight.

Revealing the Luling Field

The museum’s restored building was constructed in 1885 as a place where cotton was financed and traded. But oil replaced cotton in Luling’s future thanks to Edgar B. Davis’ Rafael Rios No. 1 well of August 9, 1922.

After drilling six consecutive dry holes near Luling, the heavily in debt United North & South Oil Company brought in the Rafael Rios No. 1 well – discovering an oil field 12 miles long and two miles wide.

Local lore says Davis, a leading citizen of Luling and president of the company, found the well only after getting a psychic reading from famed clairvoyant Edgar Cayce (see below). Today, the museum introduces visitors to the science behind the discovery and to Luling’s oil boom, when the town’s population grew from 500 to 5,000 almost overnight.

luling oil field

After sampling “the best ribs in the country,” visitors to Luling, Texas, marvel at the many decorated pump jacks seen in its historic downtown.

By 1924, Luling a major U.S. oilfield. To preserve the city’s petroleum heritage, a large collection of locally donated artifacts illustrate not only how it was in “the olden days,” but also what can be accomplished with community efforts, cooperation, and creative programs.

Voight credited Luling area oilmen and especially Tracy Perryman, a multi-generation independent producer.

One of the museum’s great outreach success stories has been its “Reflections of Texas Art Exhibit,” Voight added.

For five years, the art show has brought a growing regional audience to the museum. Another unconventional program is the annual Davis Street Quilt Show, which draws yet another new audience into the museum’s exhibit space.

Educating Young People

luling oil field

Dad signs the museum guestbook for this visitor.

Like all community oil and gas museums, the Luling Oil Patch Museum must carefully manage its limited budget, said Voight. Required maintenance and repairs are expensive and the costs of a needed expansion prohibitive.

In a frugal approach to integrating downtown park expansion with outdoor exhibit space, the museum partnered with Susan Rodiek, Ph.D. and students of her graduate architectural design studio at Texas A&M University.

Voight said six teams of students were assigned to create designs that could economically exploit existing property and facilities, while providing Luling and the museum with new exhibit spaces. Students approached the project competitively, proclaiming the museum to be their “first client.”

Museum Association Board Member Trey Bailey noted, “The preliminary designs that the Aggie students presented to us were fantastic. There were some terrific concepts and the work was detailed and quite fascinating.”

luling oil field

Museum Association Board Member Trey Bailey and his children.

Voight added, “They really got it – Luling’s rich heritage in oil, the E.B. Davis story and more. Being able to get this quality of work and vision is tremendous to our efforts to showcase some of the true historic gems of Luling.

“Dr. Rodiek and her able team have again offered us the ability to get this project moving, especially considering the limited budget we have at this time.”

The Luling Oil Museum staff and the Chamber of Commerce, which share space in the historic Walker Brothers building, are interested in sharing their approaches and learning from other museums’ experience.

Psychic Edgar Cayce 

Biographers of the once famous American psychic Edgar Cayce note that he found his own mysterious path into exploring the oil patch at Luling.

In 1904, Cayce was a 27-year-old photographer when a local news-paper described his “wonderful power that is greatly puzzling physicians and scientific men.”

The Hopkinsville Kentuckian reported that Cayce – from a hypnotic state – could seemingly determine causes of ailments in patients he never met.

By 1910, the New York Times proclaimed that “the medical fraternity of the whole country is taking a lively interest in the strange power possessed by Edgar Cayce to diagnose difficult diseases while in a semi-conscious state.”

As his reputation grew, Cayce expanded his photography business with the addition of adjacent rooms and a specially made couch so he could recline to render readings. He became known as “The Sleeping Prophet” while his readings expanded beyond medical diagnoses into reincarnation, dream interpretation, psychic phenomenon…and advising oilmen.

luling oil field

Edgar Cayce visits his drilling site in San Saba County, Texas, in 1921. The famed psychic’s abilities failed him searching for oil.

Psychic Oil Company

Sidney Kirkpatrick, author of Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet, writes that Cayce in 1919 provided detailed trance revelations to several oil-men probing the prolific Desdemona oil field in Eastland County, Texas. The results inspired Cayce and several partners to form their own company.

In September 1920 he became the clairvoyant partner of Cayce Petroleum Company.

Guided by psychic readings, Cayce Petroleum Company leased acreage around Luling. But raising capital for drilling proved difficult and eventually led to loss of the lease.

Not far away, Luling’s most revered citizen, Edgar B. Davis, drilled eight dry holes and nearly went broke before bringing in Rafael Rios No. 1, the discovery well for the highly productive Luling field.

Local lore and abundant literature proclaim that Davis found his well only after getting a Cayce reading.

Undaunted by the loss of its lease in Luling, Cayce Petroleum tried again 150 miles north in San Saba County, Texas.

Psychic Dry Hole

luling oil field

A psychic’s petroleum product sold today.

Cayce’s readings included, “detailed descriptions given of the various rock geological formations that would be encountered as they drilled,” notes Kirkpatrick.

The Rocky Pasture No. 1 well would drill beyond 1,650 feet in search of what Cayce described as a 40,000 barrel per day “Mother Pool.” It was a dry hole. Cayce Petroleum Company ran out of money and failed.

Today, the psychic oilman’s legacy lives on at his Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Virginia, founded in 1931, and “the official world headquarters of the work of Edgar Cayce, considered America’s most documented psychic.”

An invention from Cayce’s venture into the oil business remains on the market – his “pure crude oil” product he recommended as a first step toward replenishing healthy hair. Cayce invented a “pure crude oil” product he called Crudoleum, which  is sold today as a cream, shampoo and conditioner.



AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


With exhibits collected over many decades by Francis “F.T.” Sr., the Felty Outdoor Oil Museum of Burkburnett, Texas, has displayed machinery from the height of a 1918 North Texas oil boom. Portable cable-tool spudders were watched over by museum founder’s son, F.T. Felty, Jr.

Francis “F.T.” Felty Jr., in 2004 stands by a photograph of himself “playing” on his father’s drilling rig.

Three generations of the Felty family have kicked historic Burkburnett oilfield mud from their boots.

The first, Francis “F.T.” Felty Sr., worked in Wichita County through the revival of a North Texas drilling boom during World War Two. Responding to the war’s steel shortages, he crisscrossed the oil patch in a truck pulling used casings. It turned into a long career in the oil patch.

When the senior Felty moved from salvaging and began drilling in the 1970s, it was within sight of the historic 1918 Burkburnett discovery well. He had begun collecting old oil field equipment in the 1950s – and a lot of rocks, noted his son, Francis “F.T.” Felty Jr., owner of the F.T. Felty Operating Company Read the rest of this entry »


desk and derrick

The first Desk and Derrick club was founded in New Orleans in 1949 Inez Awty Schaeffer, a secretary at Humble Oil & Refining.

Since the first Desk and Derrick club meeting in 1949, this national association has “ebbed and flowed with the tides of the energy and allied industries.”

“Greater Knowledge – Greater Service” is the motto of the Association of Desk and Derrick Clubs (ADDC) of North America, which began with a club founded in New Orleans.

Soon hundreds of women who worked in the petroleum industry – primarily as secretaries – were organizing clubs in other cities.

In 1951, they gathered in New Orleans to share ways to promote energy education in the United States and Canada. ADDC articles of association were signed on July 23 by presidents of the clubs founded in Los Angeles, Houston, Jackson and New Orleans.

“A New Orleans secretary working for Humble Oil & Refining organized the first Desk and Derrick,” notes a January 2012 article in PBOil&Gas magazine of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association.

“Inez Awty (later Schaeffer) was tired of writing reports about things she knew little about and believed women working for oil companies wanted to see and know more about a derrick and other aspects of the industry,” the article explains.

It quotes a 1951 Midland Reporter-Telegram that notes, “Miss Awty thought if men in the oil industry could be organized and know other men outside their own company, then the women could do likewise.”

With a combined membership of 883 women, the charter clubs dedicated themselves to “the education and professional development of individuals employed in or affiliated with the petroleum, energy and allied industries and to educate the general public about these industries.”

desk and derrick

By 1951, there were 1,500 Desk and Derrick members in the United States and Canada. Photo courtesy Permian Basin Petroleum Association.

The PBOil&Gas article says that in April 1957, a guest speaker was a young Midlander named George H.W. Bush, who reviewed offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Printing a Bit of Fun

Educating young people remains a key part of the group’s mission. Since 2004 Desk and Derrick has published in English and Spanish “Bit of Fun with PetroMolly and PetroMack,” an energy activity book designed for third and fourth graders.

In 1957 the group adopted its motto, “Greater Knowledge – Greater Service,” notes the nonprofit organization’s ADDC website.

Currently about 2,500 women – and men – employed in or affiliated with the energy and allied industries comprise the 56 clubs in seven regions. ADDC accomplishes its energy education mission using variety of programs, including seminars, field trips and individual clubs hosting the annual national ADDC convention.

“Thousands of hours of education have been provided for members through monthly programs on the many facets of this industry and given by speakers ranging from company CEO’s to oil-well-fire fighters,” explains the website.

Among ADDC’s historic milestones are:

1949 – The first club is founded in New Orleans by Inez Awty Schaeffer.

July 23, 1951 – Articles of association are signed by presidents of the clubs founded earlier in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston and Jackson, Mississippi.

December 1-2, 1951 – First Board of Directors meet in New Orleans.

1952 – A newsletter is published (today’s The Desk and Derrick Journal) after Josephine Nolen of Odessa, Texas, wins a contest for its name: The Oil and Gal Journal.

1952 – The first convention is held at the Shamrock Hotel in Houston led by the first association president, Lee Wilson Hoover. Forty member clubs are represented by almost 1,000 registrants.

desk and derrick

ADDC published its first “Bit of Fun” Energy Activity Book in 2004.

1957 – “Greater Knowledge – Greater Service” is adopted as a motto.

1977 – “of North America” is deleted from the association’s name and the acronym ADDC becomes common usage.

1987 – The ADDC Foundation is established and the first issue of The Desk and Derrick Journal published, replacing the Oil and Gal Journal.

1988 – Delegates at the annual convention approve equitable membership in the association, opening membership to men.

1996 – The first association website goes online in September.

2001 – Celebration of the association’s 50th anniversary year.

2004 – Publishes the first “Bit of Fun” Energy Activity book.

2010 – Website is revamped; updated and improved.

A West Virginia ADDC Convention

ADDC annual convention field trips have visited offshore drilling rigs, refineries, manufacturing plants, and pipeline facilities. The 2013 convention took place in late September in Charleston, West Virginia.

The West Virginia Desk and Derrick Club hosted “Autumn in Appalachia” for the 62nd annual convention, says General Arrangements Chair Melinda Johnson. The club has 95 member companies and meets the third Tuesday of each month at various locations across the state, adds Johnson.

Her convention’s program included education seminars and the choice of five day-long field trips. Among the seminar were Five Traits of Professionalism; Intro to Petroleum Engineering; Hot Oil and Gas Plays in the Appalachian Basin; Formulas and More – Excel Training; and Leadership and Effective Communication.

On one of field trip, service company representatives from Nabors Services provided a seminar and demonstration on fracturing treatments in the Marcellus Shale. Convention attendees learned the steps in performing a hydraulic fracturing treatment and the difference between how a conventional reservoir and an unconventional reservoir is fractured, says Johnson.

Another field trip visited a Halliburton oil field service yard for education on coil tubing – with a “snubbing” unit demonstration. Another trip was to a Baker Hughes‘ center in Clarksburg where visitors learned about directional drilling and viewed down hole motors, rotary steerable subs, and different kinds of drill bits.


AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


Before publishing his children’s book in 1900, L. Frank Baum sold oil products from a company he founded in Syracuse, New York.

The Tin Man’s oil can in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can trace its roots to America’s earliest oilfields. L. Frank Baum founded an axle oil business before becoming the world-famous children’s book author.

“Sometimes, when researching history, you find places where it’s still alive,” says Evan Schwartz, author of Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story. Schwartz’s search for the Tin Man’s mythic oil-can led him to finding that in the 1880s L. Frank Baum and his brother owned a petroleum products business in Syracuse, New York. The business continues to this day.

oil can

L. Frank Baum – whose father found success in Pennsylvania oilfields – served as chief salesman for Baum’s Castorine Company, which he founded with his brother on July 9, 1883.

The future world-famous author of the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz once sold cans of buggy wheel and axle oil for a living.

In 1883, Baum and his brother Benjamin launched their small business offering lubricants, oils, greases – and “Baum’s Castorine, the great axle oil.”

Reporting on the July 9, 1883, opening, the Syracuse Daily Courier newspaper noted that Baum’s Castorine was a rust-resistant axle grease concoction for machinery, buggies, and wagons. The grease was advertised to be “so smooth it makes the horses laugh.”

oil can

L. Frank Baum’s sales trips may have influenced Oz. “On one of these trips, while installing a window display for a customer, the idea of the Tin Woodman came to him.”

Baum’s Castorine Company prospered with L. Frank Baum serving as superintendent and chief salesman for the next four years.

“He was a traveling salesman for the company,” notes a 2011 exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Michigan. “On one of these trips, while installing a window display for a customer, the idea of the Tin Woodman came to him.”

The exhibit also explains that  although the company enjoyed some success, it “came to an end when the bookkeeper gambled away the profits.”

Baum wrote of Baum’s Castorine Company, “I see no future in it to warrant my wasting any more years of my life in trying to boom it.” Baum sold the business. In May 1900 he published the first of his children’s classics.

Son of a Successful Oilman

L. (Lyman) Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York, on May 15, 1856, the seventh of nine children of Cynthia Stanton and Benjamin Ward Baum – one of only five of the children to survive into adulthood.

Thanks to Benjamin Ward Baum’s financial success in the newly born Pennsylvania petroleum industry, the young Baum grew up in an environment where his imagination and love of reading flourished.

oil can

Baum’s Castorine products “are designed to extend machine life and reduce your maintenance costs.”

In 1860, just one year after America’s first commercial oil discovery, Benjamin Ward Baum closed the family barrel-making business to risk his fortunes in the western Pennsylvania oilfields. “Frankie” was then only four and a half years old.

Productive oil wells drilled near Titusville and Cherry Tree Run will bring Benjamin Ward Baum great wealth.

“Benjamin recognized a splendid opportunity and joined the crowds who moved in to exploit the oilfields and develop the area. A hundred new wells were drilled every month, ingenious mechanical contrivances were invented, towns and cities were built,” writes Katharine M. Rogers in her 2002 book, L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography.

“Benjamin began acquiring oilfields, including a particularly profitable one at Cherry Tree Run, a few miles south of Titusville,” Rogers explains. “He later bought property between Bradford, Pennsylvania, and Olean, New York, where he helped to develop the hamlet of Gilmour and built a hotel and an opera house.”

By 1862, the elder Baum owned Carbon Oil Company – and was a well-established oilman. His success helped finance diversification into dry goods and other mercantile businesses.

Son Frank found employment in several of these family ventures as a young man. When his father purchased the Cynthia Oil Works in Bolivar, New York, Frank operated a retail outlet for awhile.

“The Cynthia Oil Works, the first refinery in Bolivar Township, was erected on the Porter Cowles flats at the north end of Bolivar village in 1882,” explains historian Ronald G. Taylor.

“The plant, owned by B.W. Baum & Son, dealers in oil leases and managers of the first opera house at Richburg, was designed as a lubricating oil works and for the manufacture of ship oil of 300 fire test for illuminating on board ships,” Taylor notes.

However, there was no longer unlimited free enterprise in the oil fields, says Rogers in her book.

“John D. Rockefeller had moved in and was increasingly controlling distribution. In 1878, Benjamin organized a group of independent producers to break Rockefeller’s grip by building a pipeline from Bradford to Rochester, where the oil could be transferred to tank cars and shipped to refineries in New York and Buffalo.”

Although the Standard Oil Company used its influence with the New York Central Railroad and the state legislature to block the plan, Rogers says, Baum continued to find success by discovering productive wells in New York.

oil can

“Oz” historian and author Evan L. Schwartz’s search for the Tin Man’s oil can led him to the modern Baum’s Castorine Company in Rome, New York.

oil can

L. Frank Baum’s father once owned an oil company in Bolivar, New York, where a museum today exhibits the region’s extensive petroleum history.

In 1887, after almost 30 years in the oil business, Benjamin Ward Baum died in New York. His father’s prosperity in the oil business permitted Frank to pursue writing, publishing journals and writing for the stage.

There were nine daily and 18 weekly newspapers published in the oil region, Rogers notes, and “Benjamin Baum had used some of his oil profits to acquire a string of small theaters in New York and Pennsylvania.”

Finding the Tin Man’s Oil Can

When historian Evan L. Schwartz researched his 2009 book, Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story, he was surprised to learn of the role petroleum played in Baum’s life – and that the Tin Man’s oil can trace its roots to Baum’s Castorine Company.

L. Frank Baum featured the Tin Man in a long series of children's books.

L. Frank Baum sold his Baum’s Castorine Company in 1888; he began publishing his “Oz” series of books two years later.

“L. Frank Baum sold cans of buggy wheel oil for a living as the co-owner of Baum’s Castorine Company of Syracuse, New York,” Schwartz explains, noting the company’s troubles that led to Baum’s selling it in 1888.

Schwartz describes discovering that the company still manufactures industrial oils and lubricants under the brand name, Baum’s Castorine Company.

“So I visited the current location in Rome, New York, and sat down for a peek into the archives with owner Charles Mowry, whose grandfather was one of the investors who bought the company from Frank Baum himself,” Schwartz explains.

“The smells of fine lubricant wafted in the air as I perused the collection of historic oil cans and heard the legend of Baum’s magic balms,” he says. “What if Frank had never sold oil cans? Would we have never met the heartless Tin Man? And in 1939, why wasn’t Baum’s Castorine given the chance to pony up for some choice product placement?”

Learn about the historic Alleghany petroleum industry by visiting the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York in Bolivar.


AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry

The man who would create the American petroleum industry was down to his last few pennies in August 1859. A letter was on its way from the company that had hired him to drill a well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The letter instructed him to close operations.

“As far as the company was concerned, the project was finished,” writes William Brice, PhD, in his detailed biography of Edwin L. Drake. “Fortunately that letter was not delivered until after they found oil.”

On Saturday afternoon on August 27, at a depth of 69.5 feet, the drill bit had dropped into a crevice, Brice notes. Late the following afternoon Drake’s driller, “Uncle Billy” Smith, visited the site “and noticed a very dark liquid floating on top of the water in the hole, which, when sampled, turned out to be oil.

“Drake’s Folly, as it was known to the local population, was not such a folly after all, for Drake had shown that large quantities of oil could be found by drilling into the earth. And so began the modern petroleum industry.”

Commissioned in 2007 by the Oil Region Alliance in Oil City, Pa., to write a new Drake biography, Brice, professor emeritus in geology and planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, published his 661-page Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry.

The book, part of the 2009 celebration of the 150th anniversary of America’s first oil well, includes more than 200 pages of reference material and dozens of rare images.

“Bill dug through the history related to Drake as no one has before, and the result is a much more complete picture of the man, his family and his accomplishments,” proclaims geologist and editor of the Oilfield Journal Kathy J. Flaherty.

Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin L. Drake and the Early Oil Industry is a well-written account of Drake and his times — and the history and significance of his 1859 discovery,” adds Bruce Wells of the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. “Bill Brice provides the careful research needed to sort out the nonsense and brilliance of the man who established the American petroleum industry.”

A Johnstown resident, Pa., Brice was on the Pitt-Johnstown faculty from 1971 through 2005 and was a visiting professor in earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University from 1976 to 2002. Brice received the Distinguished Service Award from the History of Geology Division of the Geological Society of America in 2008. He currently is editor of the Petroleum History Institute journal Oil-Industry History.

“August 27, 1859, is one of those dates on which the world changed, Brice explains. “Edwin Drake’s quest to find oil by drilling was a success, and the modern oil and gas industry took a giant leap forward. Even though the use of petroleum dates back to the first human civilizations, the events of that Saturday afternoon along the banks of Oil Creek near Titusville, Pennsylvania, provided the spark that propelled the petroleum industry toward the future.”



AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


million barrel museum

In Monahans, Texas, the Million Barrel Museum tells the story of how a lack of pipelines during 1920s West Texas oil discoveries  led to the construction of a massive concrete tank. Photo courtesy Texas Historical Commission.

monahans oil museum

The Million Barrel Museum’s 525 foot by 422 foot main attraction, originally built to store Permian Basin oil in 1928, became a water park for just one day in 1958. Photo courtesy Top of Texas Gazette.

monahans oil museum

Founded in 1881, Monahans incorporated two years after oil was discovered in 1926.

Tourists traveling on I-20 in West Texas should not miss the Monahans oil museum in the heart of the Permian Basin. Not just a petroleum-related museum, it is a Million Barrel Museum whose main attraction is an elliptical cement oil tank the size of three football fields.

“There were great oil discoveries around 1926 and few places to put the oil. No pipelines or tanks,” says Elizabeth Heath, chairwoman of the Ward County Historical Commission. A single well in the Hendricks field produced 500 barrels a day.

“Unfortunately, the Roxana Petroleum Company – later absorbed by Shell Oil – did not have a pipeline to get all that oil to a refinery,” adds journalist Mike Cox in a 2006 article. To solve the problem, the company decided to build a giant concrete reservoir.

Using mule-drawn equipment, workers completed an excavation and laid wire mesh over the packed earth, Cox explains in his “Texas Tales” column. Contractors then started pouring tons of concrete.

“By late April 1928 workers hammered away at a wooden cover for the colossal tank, placing creosote-soaked support timbers at 14 foot intervals across the sprawling reservoir floor,” he reports. The timbers supported a domed redwood roof covered with tar paper. Completion of the walls, pillars and roof took just three months because construction took place 24 hours a day. Read the rest of this entry »


Natural Gas Museum

Although natural gas had been discovered as early as 1922, the vast potential of the Hugoton-Panhandle field was not known until a 1927 well about 2,600 feet below the surface southwest of Hugoton.

Natural Gas Museum

In southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton is above a giant natural gas producing area (in red) that extends 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

Natural Gas Museum

The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum includes the Santa Fe Train Depot in Hugoton, Kansas.

A small museum in western Kansas sits above a giant natural gas field.

In far southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened on May 16, 1961. It educates visitors about one of the largest natural gas fields in North America. Read the rest of this entry »


On May 12, 2007, as part of statehood centennial celebrations, ConocoPhillips museums opened with state-of-the-art petroleum exhibits in Ponca City and Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

conocophillips petroleum museum

A circa 1880s Continental Oil Company horse-drawn tank wagon welcomes visitors to the Conoco Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma, which opened in 2007. Phillips Petroleum Company, once headquartered 70 miles east in Bartlesville, merged with Conoco in 2002.

conocophillips petroleum museum

The Conoco Museum tells the story of a petroleum company that began as a small kerosene distributor serving 19th century pioneer America.

“These museums reaffirm our Oklahoma roots,” proclaimed Jim Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, which built the Conoco Museum in Ponca City and the Phillips Museum in Bartlesville as “gifts to the people of Oklahoma, visitors to the state, and our employee and retiree populations around the world.” Read the rest of this entry »


A March 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines near Shreveport brought the first petroleum riches to northern Louisiana. A museum in Oil City today tells the story. Read the rest of this entry »



AAPG members maintain a professional business code.

As early 20th century worldwide demand for oil grew – but the science for finding it remained obscure – a small group of geologists organized the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

Beginning as the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma, about 90 geologists gathered at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, and on February 10, 1917, formed an association “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.” Read the rest of this entry »


oil postcards

Published in 2013, Texas Oil and Gas, is part of Arcadia Publishing’s series of books featuring historic postcards.

For anyone interested in exploring petroleum history – or vintage oil postcards from Texas – one book combines both in an educational 128 pages.

The history of America’s petroleum industry provides an important context for teaching young people the modern energy business. Published in 2013, Texas Oil and Gas by Jeff Spencer is a teaching resource that should be in many Texas high-school classrooms.

A geologist with Amromco Energy, Houston, Spencer has authored or co-authored more than 20 oilfield history papers. He has documented petroleum-related postcards from West Virginia, California, Ontario, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Texas.

A tenacious researcher and collector – the majority of the book’s more than 200 images are from the author’s private collection – Spencer acknowledges help received from Texas oil museums. Read the rest of this entry »


The hour-long morning Exploring Energy radio show includes a Wednesday segment that offers energy education articles from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. The show, which began in January 2012, in 2014 added weekly editorial contributions from AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells, who calls in on the last Wednesday of every month to talk history with hosts Shawn Wilson and Nathan Brewer.

Exploring-Energy-Live-detail-AOGHSListeners nationwide can find the show broadcasting online weekday mornings 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The “Remember When Wednesdays” are also available an the online archive maintained by Wilson.

In addition to interviews of regularly scheduled guests from government and industry (from top executives to roughnecks and tool pushers) the Oklahoma radio program offers weekly looks at the industry’s neglected history.

As part of a partnership with the “Exploring Energy Network,” an energy education radio program and monthly publication, AOGHS contributes both feature articles and guest commentary. Since being added in April 2014, the Wednesday talk-radio show has  included stories from the historical society’s “This Month in Petroleum History.”

The Elk City KECO 96.5 FM radio program Exploring Energy is live nationwide on the Internet on most weekday mornings.

Although hosts Nathan Brewer and Shawn Wilson regularly discuss Oklahoma’s energy scene, they also look at national issues – and interview industry professionals often straight from the historic Anadarko Basin oilfields.

Elk City is above the deepest part of the Anadarko, which extends into Kansas, Colorado and the Texas Panhandle. A prominent Elk City tourist attraction is one of the largest drilling rigs in the world, the 180-foot Parker Drilling Rig 114 on display along Route 66.

Educating Listeners about the Energy Business

According to co-host Shawn Wilson, frank discussion often occur when owners and employees of area companies appear as guests.” Wilson came to Elk City working in the oilfields in 1981 – during Oklahoma’s deep-drilling natural gas boom. Read the rest of this entry »


merit badge

AAPG-inspired geology badge.

The Boy Scouts of America geology merit badge began in 1911 as a mining badge – one of less than 30 scouting merit badges. The mining merit badge evolved into the rocks and minerals badge and in 1953 became the geology merit badge.

The story behind the geology merit badge is best told by a member of the Houston Geological Society, which offers potential badge earners many resources. Geologist Jeff Spencer, himself an Eagle Scout, provided details for this article.

Spencer has published more than 20 oilfield history papers and is a frequent contributor to Oil-Industry History, the annual journal of the Petroleum History Institute, Oil City, Pennsylvania.

According to Spencer, the original mining merit badge had four basic requirements, including naming at least 50 minerals; describing the 14 great divisions of the earth’s crust; and defining terms like watershed, delta, drift, fault, glacier, terrace and stratum.

Scouts seeking the mining merit badge also were required to identify 10 different kinds of rock and describe methods for mine ventilation and safety devices.

Spencer notes that the first mention of oil and natural gas appeared in 1927 – the mining merit badge requirement asked Scouts to “explain how we locate petroleum and natural gas pools, and how we obtain oil and gas.”

merit badge

The geology merit badge replaced the rocks and minerals badge in 1953.

In 1945, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) formed a “Committee on Boy Scout Literature” at the urging of industry leaders, including A.C. Bace, a geologist with Stanolind, and George W. Pirtlem, an independent geologist from Tyler, Texas.

Oklahoma geologist Frank Gouin chaired the AAPG committee’s effort to revise the badge and its requirements, Spencer says. In 1953, the geology merit badge officially replaced the rocks and minerals badge.

Spencer notes that the 1953 merit badge’s description of what a geologist does said that four out of five geologists become “oil geologists” with an expected starting salary of $300 per month.

“You may have to be a nomad instead of settling down for life in one spot,” it continued. “You may have to ‘sit on’ a well all night and then drive a hundred miles to report on it. You may have to burn in India, freeze in Alaska, or do both in the Texas Panhandle.”

Although minor revisions of the geology merit badge occurred in 1957, the next major change came in 1982, adding anticlines, synclines, and faults with a requirement to draw simple diagrams showing unconformity, strikes and dips.

The last major revision of the geology merit badge occurred in 1985, Spencer says, again with the cooperation of AAPG leadership. The merit badge now has 13 requirements, organized under five categories: earth materials, earth processes, earth history, geology and people, and careers in geology.

The earth materials section includes the collection and identification of rocks and minerals.

The earth processes section covers geomorphology, the hydrologic cycle, volcanoes, mountain building, and the ocean floor.

The earth history section includes the geologic time chart, fossils, and continental drift. The geology and people section covers environmental geology and energy sources with a field trip option in this category.

In addition to its involvement in geology merit badges, AAPG and its chapters serve the scouting program in many ways, Spencer concludes. The Houston Geological Society has sponsored Explorer Posts and worked with the Houston Museum of Natural Science to teach elements of the merit badge.

merit badge

OPEC-inspired energy badge.

There now are more than 120 merit badges. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 – and the need for energy conservation – led to creation of an “energy” merit badge in 1977.

Editor’s Note –  In 2013, Jeff published a selection of his oil patch post cards via Arcadia Publishing’s postcard history series. His Texas Oil and Gas, which includes more than 200 vintage black-and-white images through decades of oil booms throughout the state.

Chapters reflect the Lone Star State’s petroleum heritage by region, including “Spindletop and the Golden Triangle,” the prolific area in southeast Texas between Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange.

Read about Jeff Spencer’s book in Postcards from the Texas Oil Patch.


AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


Oil Patch Artist: Black Gold, the Artwork of JoAnn Cowans

Community museums, historians, writers, and educators across the country are dedicated to preserving the heritage of an industry that shaped and defined the 20th century.

Artists have been important recorders and interpreters of petroleum’s influence in the United States. Oil patch preservationist painter JoAnn Cowans is among them – and one of the most dedicated.

JoAnn is the society’s first California volunteer and sponsor. She has donated her artwork to the society’s energy education conference events – and to many community petroleum museums.

By painting derricks in the 1960s, JoAnn documented a history when few if any of her generation thought to do so. According to the magazine American Art Review, “Few artists, however, were devoted to the subject of the oil industry in the 1960s. Stylistically, artists were interested in the modernist concerns of abstraction and expression, rather than documentation or narrative.” Read the rest of this entry »


Adding Family Petroleum Heritage to Museum Collections

Millions of Americans have worked in the petroleum industry and many have left family records and photographs of their “oil patch” careers. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s museum links offers help in locating suitable homes for preserving the histories of America’s oil families.

collage-2016-07-07Albert Jefferys in Texas, Louisiana, Rumania, Pennsylvania and England, 1904-1913.Family photography preserved by his granddaughter, Sheila Morshead.

Finding the Right Museum

California resident Sheila Morshead contacted the historical society about her family’s photo albums – a collection of petroleum-related images documenting her grandfather’s career, circa 1910.

After finishing scanning the images, Sheila said she hoped to find a good home for preserving her increasingly fragile originals. Many of her grandfather’s images came from the Beaumont, Texas, region (with others from Louisiana and as far away as England and Romania). She hoped someone would want to preserve the original album pages.

Thanks to Troy Gray, director of the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, Sheila has accomplished her mission.

Some of Sheila’s photos depict early refineries at Beaumont. Others show oil terminals in Galveston Bay, a 1909 pumping station under construction near Moores, Louisiana, and even the apparently good fishing at Port Bolivar in the Gulf of Mexico (a few examples out of more than 120 pages are below).


One of the more than 120 family album pages of the petroleum-related career of Albert Jeffreys to be part of the permanent collection of the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum thanks to his granddaughter.


Sheila Morshead continues to research details about her grandfather’s career. She believes this is a 1912 photo of Albert Jeffreys with his surveying tripod.

One page from the album depicts photos from a survey camp with tents and an equipment wagon on “the bald prairie” of Texas in July 1911. It includes a photo of “Mississippi Slim,” her grandfather’s co-worker.

“My Grandfather was Albert Jeffreys from Great Britain,” Sheila explains about the family images, adding that Albert “Jeff” Jeffreys first arrived in the United States in 1908. The next year he got married in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Albert’s wife Florence – “Flo” – also was from Great Britain, Sheila adds. “Their daughter Dorothy Kathleen Jeffreys – my mother – was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in January 1912.”

After a few busy years in Texas, Albert’s oil patch career took him to the Caucasus region of southwestern Russia in 1914. “He was sent there by the British government to work in the oilfields for his service to the country during World War I,” explains Sheila, who studied early chapters of Dan Yergin’s The Prize, to learn petroleum industry history.

“Albert eventually escaped during the Bolshevik revolution by way of Norway and returned to England,” adds his granddaughter. “I am trying to decipher the many stamps on his old passport.  Needless to say, I am getting pleasantly lost in looking up British oil companies.”

After talking with Troy about his museum’s collections at the Lamar University, she removed a few original images to keep for siblings. She plans on donating all the rest as she continues to research dates and other family documents.

The Albert Jeffreys Family Collection

“Here are some annotations about the scanned pictures,” Shelia noted when she emailed AOGHS seeking help in locating an appropriate oil museum or library to preserve them. “There are lots more pictures, and I can do more exact research on dates, but as you can see most have locations written on them and some dates.”


The family album includes a cable-tool oil well (with walking beam). Next to it is a photo of two unidentified men with surveying equipment. A third photo shows men standing in front of a New York Central and Hudson River Railroad car; another depicts a pipeline laying work crew.

Undated images from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, include Albert Jeffreys (in heart) and his surveying co-workers along with an "Ida Bunch" family photo and riding a roller coaster in Shreveport.

Undated images from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, include Albert Jeffreys (in heart) and his surveying co-workers along with an “Ida Bunch” family photo and riding a roller coaster in Shreveport.


After returning from England to Louisiana oilfields in 1909, the family made stops in Handley and Electra, Texas, which included a rare blizzard, before moving on to New Orleans.


Three of Albert Jeffreys’ images documenting the Magnolia Company refinery in Beaumont, Texas, circa 1912.


In addition to images of the Magnolia oil refinery, Albert Jeffreys photographed other circa 1910 refineries, including one near Corsicana and the “Chaison Refinery” below.



Both Albert and wife Florence enjoyed fishing in Galveston Bay between his frequent surveying trips in Texas in 1910 – and a visit to the pipeline pumping station in Moores, Louisiana.


Albert “Jeff” and “Flo” Jeffreys lived in Kirksville, Texas, and enjoyed fishing out of Port Bolivar around 1911.

With many family photos in the process of being preserved for posterity, Albert “Jeff” Jeffery’s petroleum career continues to fascinate his granddaughter. “I still intend to do more looking as it is a puzzle full of interesting pieces,” says Sheila.

“For example, my grandfather’s father worked for a British oil company and my grandfather’s son Stanley Rex Jeffreys was a geologist with the landmark geology survey of California, which I believe was completed sometime in the 1950s and was part of the concerted effort to identify oil producing areas in California,” Shelia explains. “So, there were three generations of Jeffreys oil men.”

Geologic mapping in California began in 1826 when the first geologic survey in the state was done by a British naval officer, according to History of Geologic Maps of California of the California Geological Survey.

1901 Gusher at Spindletop


A replica wooden derrick recreates the excitement of a major oil discovery of January 10, 1901. Photo courtesy Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

Albert Jeffreys worked in Texas oilfields just a few years after a famous oil discovery about three miles south of Beaumont. The January 10, 1901, “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop Hill would soon lead to southeastern Texas producing more oil in one day than the rest of the world’s oilfields combined. Major petroleum companies like Texaco got started there.

Both the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum and the Texas Energy Museum in Beaumont tell the story of the Spindletop well, a “wildcat” discovery that created the greatest petroleum boom in America – far exceeding the first U.S. oil discovery well in 1859 in Pennsylvania.

Gladys City, now partially recreated on the museum’s grounds, was originally envisioned by Patillo Higgins of the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company. Known as the Prophet of Spindletop, he predicted oil would be found near the city he designed in 1892. Spindletop launched the modern petoleum industry a few years later.

Learn more about finding a museum to preserve family photos at Oil Families. Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © AOGHS.


Summer brings millions of Americans trekking across the country on vacation. In 2016 many are geologist and petroleum engineers, who have more free time on their hands. Among the more unusual stops for others, if less well known, are community petroleum museums with exhibits chronicling the nation’s discoveries.

The Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania, includes a replica of Drake's derrick.

The Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania, includes a replica of the cable-tool derrick that drilled America’s first commercial oil well in 1859.

There are several historic attractions in the state where it all started, Pennsylvania.

East of I-79 in northwestern Pennsylvania, the Drake Well Museum in Titusville exhibits “Colonel” Edwin Drake’s famous Aug. 27, 1859, discovery well – today recognized as the first commercial oil producer.

Soon after Drake made his discovery, iron pipelines about two inches in diameter were transporting natural gas more than five miles.

The museum’s outdoor exhibits include a recreation of the original cable-tool derrick Drake used. A popular summer attraction is the “Nitro” reenactment that demonstrates the use of “go-devils” for fracturing a well.

Visit the museum gift shop to find a reprint of the Early Days of Oil, by Dr. Paul Giddens, a book considered to be the “Bible” of information about the birth of the U.S. petroleum industry. Many images are from originals made by photographer John A. Mather and today housed at the museum.

Located on 270 Seneca Street in Oil City – in a Beaux Arts building listed in the National Register of Historic Places – the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry preserves the oil region’s industrial heritage. Its exhibits include a 1928 Wurlitzer Theater Organ.

Another must-see visit, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Historic Pithole Visitors Center – site of a vanished 1865 oil boom town today managed by Drake Well Museum. The ghost town is in Oil Creek State Park.

A dedicated group of railroad enthusiasts maintain the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad, a nonprofit group that offers trips through the historic oil region. Near the railroad is the refurbished home of “Coal Oil” Johnny. Read his fascinating tale in the Legend of “Coal Oil Johnny.”

Once a world-fomous Pennsylvania boom town, visitors today can walk the grassy paths of Pithole’s former streets.

Once a world-famous Pennsylvania boom town, visitors today can walk the grassy paths of Pithole’s former streets.

In nearby by Oil City is a center dedicated to the study of the oil heritage region at Clarion University – Venango Campus.

The Barbara Morgan Harvey Center for the Study of Oil Heritage contains hundreds of rare books that document the history of the region, newspaper clippings from the early 1900s, minutes from the meetings of early companies from the late 1800s, maps and photographs.

The First Billion Dollar Oilfield

A few hours drive to the east of Titusville, the Penn-Brad Oil Museum (and historical oil well park), near Bradford, takes visitors back to the early boom times of “The First Billion Dollar Oil Field.”

Guided tours are conducted by retired geologists or petroleum engineers who volunteer their time to relate exciting first-hand experiences. The museum is located three miles south of Bradford, along Rt. 219, near Custer City.

The Penn-Brag Museum -- and Historical Oil Well Park -- is located three miles south of Bradford, Pennsylvania, on Route 219, near Custer City.

The Penn-Brad Oil Museum — and Historical Oil Well Park — is located three miles south of Bradford, Pennsylvania, on Route 219, near Custer City.

Nearby is the 125-year-old refinery of the American Refining Group – reportedly the oldest continuously operating refinery in the country.

Before leaving Pennsylvania, visit one of the world’s largest collections of oilfield engines. Century old “hit and miss” gas engines, vintage oilfield equipment, and early electric generators are among the permanent exhibits at a unique “power museum” in Coolspring.

With perhaps the largest 19th century engine collection in the world, the museum is housed in 13 buildings with about 250 engines – many of them operational.

The Coolspring Power Museum is located east of Pittsburgh just off Route 36 midway between Punxsutawney to the south and Brookville to the north.

According to Director Paul E. Harvey, the collection presents an illuminating history of the evolution of internal combustion technology that put an end to the steam powered era.

Twice a year engine collectors from around the country gather on the extensive grounds – and the “barking” of hundreds of antique engines lasts several days.

 The museum maintains stationary internal combustion engines for education and enjoyment.

The museum maintains stationary internal combustion engines for education and enjoyment.

Although not in Pennsylvania, but just across the New York border, the Pioneer Oil Museum is located in the Village of Bolivar, Allegany County.

While dairying and livestock have become the cash crops, the region still produces a small amount of very high quality oil and natural gas, says Director Kelly Lounsberry. This museum tells the story of oil and natural gas production in the region.

Most petroleum history sources agree that the first U.S. well specifically intended to obtain natural gas was dug near Fredonia by William Hart, who had noticed gas bubbles on the surface of a creek.

In 1821, Hart dug a 27-foot well to bring a larger flow of natural gas to the surface. Hart succeeded and a “log pipe” was used to bring gas to nearby houses for lighting.

Regarded by many as the father of natural gas in America, Hart’s work led to the formation of the Fredonia Gas Light and Water Works Company – the first U.S. natural gas company.

Community oil and gas museums are linked to the AOGHS website. Museum events and K-12 education efforts are featured alongside stories of America’s E&P heritage.

Editor’s Note – This article adapted from an American Oil & Gas HIstorical Society article that first appeared in American Gas, official magazine of the American Gas Association, Washington, D.C., founded in 1918.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.


It trucks petroleum history from the oil patch to teachers and students. It educates them about the modern exploration and production industry. It’s the interactive Mobile Energy Education Training Unite from the heart of the Pennsylvania oil patch. Nice to MEET-U.

Mobile Energy Education

The traveling exhibit includes a colorful exterior and the internal exhibits that “went from papers taped on the wall in 2009 to 14 televisions and three-dimensional objects,” notes the MEET-U newsletter.

When Pennsylvania students cannot find time to visit a museum to learn about energy, an 18-wheeler brings their state’s petroleum history to them: MEET-U.

Since its updated version in 2011, the Mobile Energy Education Training Unit annually tours schools.

The traveling exhibits include bright exterior graphics and internal age-adaptable exhibits that “went from papers taped on the wall in 2009 to 14 televisions and three-dimensional objects,” notes Drake Well Museum’s MEET-U website page.

Thanks to museum staff, the trailer includes historical exhibits and oil patch artifacts that educate visitors about Pennsylvania’s rich petroleum heritage – and the evolution of modern exploration and production technologies. The students’ reviews have been positive.


MEET-U includes historical exhibits that educate visitors about Pennsylvania’s rich petroleum heritage.

“Since opening in the summer of 2009, over 90,000 people have visited the educational exhibits in MEET-U in a number of cities, towns, fairs and other events in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio,” the museum proclaims. “In 2012 over 20,000 people saw MEET-U.”

MEET-U also has developed winter programs. The rig travels into classrooms targeting 4th graders and meeting state and national standards in social studies, economics, and science.

Improvements include a second touch-screen monitor. MEET-U is designed to be divided into three zones: the using zone, the finding/production zone, and the energy zone.

The energy zone asks visitors to choose energy source for the future – and presents the pros and cons to their choice.

The tractor-trailer truck logged more than 7,000 miles in 2010 – and participated in three forums, three industry functions, four fairs and five festivals to educate about 30,000 adult visitors.

MEET-U participated in the 2010 Boy Scouts of America camp at Moraine State Park in September, where 9,000 scouts registered for the three-day event.

“Due to the overwhelming success of the project, MEET-U is already scheduled for 23 schools visits, six industry events and 14 community fairs or festivals in 2011,” the website notes. “The key word here is already, because we know there will more.”

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

oil museums

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin includes the “Oil Tank Theater” — where native Texan Walter Cronkite narrates a media presentation exploring the impact of oil on Texas, and of Texas oil on the world.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin has three floors of state-of-the-art exhibits and 17 different media and interactive experiences that trace Texas history from before European exploration.

A temporary exhibit gallery on the first floor also features short-term exhibits on topics and themes related to Texas and its history. The third floor deals with “Creating Opportunity” and focuses on the perseverance and ingenuity of Texans in everything from oil exploration and drilling, to ranching.

Re-created environments and interactive media show visitors the impact Texas has had in the 20th Century frontiers of space, medicine and technology.

The “Oil Tank Theater” features narration by Texan Walter Cronkite of the impact of oil on Texas. Displays and exhibits also feature Texas’ significant role in military training, while others allow visitors to see and hear Texas sports and music legends.

Carson Country Square House Museum

The “Square House” in Panhandle, Texas, was built in the 1880s with lumber from Dodge City, Kansas. It’s one of 21 buildings, galleries, and large outdoor artifacts that make up the Carson County Square House Museum. Exhibits tell the story of the Texas Panhandle and its people, from mammoth hunters 12,000 years ago, through the Indian Wars, cattle ranches, the coming of the railroad in the 19th century, to the High Plains oil boom of the 1920s.

Central Texas Oil Patch Museum

A psychic is credited for a major discovery near Luling. After drilling a series of dry holes, Edgar B. Davis discovered an oilfield 12 miles long and two miles wide.

In 1922, Edgar B. Davis brought in the Rios #1, which proved to be a part of one of the most significant fields ever discovered in the Southwest. Almost overnight, Luling was transformed from a railroad town of 500 to an oil town of 5,000.

Exhibits in Luling’s restored 1885 mercantile store describe the historic 1922 discovery — and how it changed the community for the better.

Editor’s Note – Luling is also known for its decorated pumping units, outstanding barbeque restaurants, and an annual 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.

Depot Museum

The 1901 Missouri Pacific Railway Depot in Henderson was an important link, especially when the East Texas oilfield was discovered in 1930. Today it is the Depot Museum, which includes Rusk County oil exhibits, education curricula, and instruction for folk arts that have been preserved specific to East Texas.

Henderson was designated the county seat of Rusk County when it was formed in 1843. The business district was laid out around a courthouse square. Henderson grew into an important commercial, cultural, and governmental center for the area.

East Texas Historical Association

“The East Texas Historical Association began when W. F. Garner, chairman of the Department of History at Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College, now University, invited members of his faculty and of the faculties at Sam Houston State Teachers College and East Texas State Teachers College to form an organization to promote the study of East Texas history.”

The association publishes the “East Texas Historical Journal” biannually. “All Things Historical” is a weekly feature appearing in the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel each Sunday, and in more than thirty other daily and weekly newspapers in East Texas. ETHA is located in Nacadoches.

East Texas Oil Museum

oil museums

East Texas Oil Museum Director Joe White and residents of Kilgore celebrated the famous oilfield’s 75th anniversary in 2005. His museum opened in 1980.

The easy-going rural life of East Texas changed drastically with the discovery of oil in 1930 and 1931 – years of hardship, scorn, luck and wealth which brought people, ideas, institutions and national attention to East Texas.

Museum Director Joe White says the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College, Kilgore, “houses the authentic recreation of oil discovery and production in the early 1930s in the largest oil field inside U.S. boundaries.

Here are the people, their towns, their personal habits, their tools and their pastimes, all colorfully depicted in dioramas, movies, sound presentations and actual antiques donated by East Texas citizens.”

Felty Outdoor Oil Museum

Mr. F.T. Felty, an independent producer, and his sons maintain a unique outdoor museum and host school tours as part of the Burkburnett “Tales and Trails” program.

Local historians and the city host a website of the area’s fascinating boomtown history, including its starring role in the 1940 movie “Boom Town,” starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert.

The Felty museum exhibits early oil field equipment from height of the boom and includes spudders used for drilling and cleaning out wells, a steel beam pumping unit, and a band-wheel power source. The museum is on Gresham Road in Burkburnett

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

oil museums

A 30-foot model of a drilling rig-like apparatus is located in the exploration and production section of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s XTO Energy Gallery.

Housed in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s XTO Energy Gallery, the “Energy Blast” exhibit hall is geared for guests age 11 and older.

They enter through a multi-sensory prehistoric undersea environment similar to Fort Worth 300 million years ago into the 4-D theater where they embark on “Journey to the Center of the Barnett Shale,” a six-minute experience that tells the story of how natural gas formed within shale deposits of North Texas.

“When we looked at the story of energy in North Texas, the Barnett Shale became the natural story to tell,” says Van A. Romans, president of the Museum.

The museum’s history began in 1939 when the local council of Administrative Women in Education began a study of children’s museums with the idea of starting one in Fort Worth.

The museum opened in early 1945 in two rooms in De Zavala Elementary School. In 1955, the Charlie Mary Noble Planetarium, the first public planetarium in the region, opened.

Gaston Museum

oil museums

Off the main roads, the Gaston Museum in East Texas preserves the life of working families in the oil patch.

A treasure for any petroleum historian, located six miles west of Henderson in Joinerville – at the gateway to the historic East Texas oilfield discovered by Marion “Dad” Joiner in 1930 – the Gaston Museum in Joinerville presents life in the oil patch from the 1930s through 1960s.

The museum building is a circa 1940 snack shop beside a former Dixie service station in Gaston, hometown of Billy Jack. With the state’s only known surviving “Tent House,” museum visitors truly step back in time and see how people lived during the oil boom.

Heritage Museum of Montgomery County

The Heritage Museum of Montgomery County details the volatile history of Conroe, Texas, including two major fires before its fortunes changed in 1931 when the discovery of oil lifted the town from the Great Depression.

One of the city’s most impressive historic structures is the 1934 Crighton Theater, named after former Mayor Harry M. Crighton, who commissioned an architect to design a building similar to Houston’s Majestic Theater. A Joe Roughneck Statue at city hall commemorates George William Strake, who became an oil millionaire thanks to the Conroe oilfield.

Houston Museum of Natural Science, Wiess Energy Hall

oil museums

“Wiess Energy Hall Online” explores the science and technologies of the petroleum industry.

oil museums

Joules Kono-Wells of Austin revels at the drill bit exhibit.

The Wiess Energy Hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science explores the application of scientific concepts and advanced technology in the oil and gas industry.

Explore the entire process of energy development, from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways in which various types of energy are used.

“Visit the world’s most sophisticated and comprehensive energy exhibit—online! Wiess Energy Hall Onlineexplores the application of scientific concepts and advanced technology in the oil and gas industry. Explore all the processes of energy development, from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways in which various types of energy are used. This online exhibit incorporates interactive learning methods that are both educational and fun.”

The museum sells energy education programs focusing on the history of energy, the use of hydrocarbons today and the future use of energy — “Energy 101: Overview of Energy.”

Humble Museum

Humble, Texas, museum

The future giant Exxon, Humble Oil Company, was founded in Humble in 1911.

The Humble Museum, 219 Main Street, “collects and displays artifacts depicting local history and heritage, highlighting oil, cattle, lumber, churches and everyday life in small town Humble and the surrounding area.”

The Museum was organized as a Bicentennial Project, and was dedicated on July 1, 1976. The original building was a replica of a one room schoolhouse. Special Displays are shown at the Main Street Museum at various times throughout the year, including a Vintage Camera Display.

In 20089, a DVD was created from vintage film footage: “In the 1930s, amateur filmmaker H. K. Pursley owned Humble Pharmacy, which was located on Main Street where the Masonic Lodge currently stands. Pursley was believed to be the first person in town to own a movie camera. He put his camera to good use filming everyday life in the charming, oil-boom town of Humble.”

Hutchinson County Historical Museum

Hutchinson County Historical Museum in Borger exhibits the county’s heritage — with emphasis on the oilfield and boomtown stories of the 1920-1930 era.

In 1926, oil was discovered in Hutchinson County and “Ace Borger” laid out the town, which grew to a city of 15,000 in 90 days. The Hutchinson County Historical Museum exhibits the area’s history from the earliest beginnings to the present day.

The North Texas museum’s mission is to collect, preserve and interpret the county’s heritage — with emphasis on the oilfield and boomtown stories of the 1920-1930 era.

Borger is 41 miles northeast of Amarillo. Oil Boom Heritage Month is celebrated every March with Borger’s Birthday celebration on March 8. Special exhibits, events and school tours occur throughout the month.

Million Barrel Museum

The Million Barrel Museum in Monahans, Texas, is a 14.5-acre site dominated by a large elliptical oil storage tank built in 1928 by Shell Oil Company.

The concrete 522 feet by 426 feet experimental tank was designed to hold more than a million barrels of oil — the highly productive region lacked oil pipelines at the time.

oil museums

In the heart of the Permian Basin, the Texas community of Monahans boasts of an oil museum like no other.

The 1929 stock market crash and technical problems ended the storage experiment. Abandoned for many years (and briefly turned into a water park in the 1950s), today the tank is the setting for barbeques, dances, cowboy poetry readings and fajita cook-offs. A segment of the tank wall helped create the 400 seat Meadows Amphitheater. Other exhibits include the original Monahans Jail, a section of railroad track with a vintage caboose, an eclipse windmill, and displays of antique farm equipment. Visit it at 400 Museum Boulevard, in Monahans.

Museum of the Plains

The Museum of the Plains, Perryton, Texas, today includes an oil and natural gas exhibit, thanks to a gift from independent oilman Jack Allen and his wife Rita. The exhibit, designed to educate both children and adults, explains the stages of petroleum, from formation to the gas pump — and describes methods used for determining where to drill. Equipment, films and local information illustrate the economic importance of the energy industry.

The museum also contains other fascinating exhibits, including a world-class collection of American Brilliant Cut Class pieces, mammoth tusks from a local ranch, arrowheads, railroad memorabilia, and an extensive collection of early agriculture machinery.

New London School Explosion Museum

The museum commemorates the many lives lost in a 1937 explosion.

On March 18, 1937, natural gas – odorless in those days – caused an explosion and destroyed the London School of New London, a community in Rusk County previously known as London. More than 300 students and teachers died. Many were the children of roughnecks working in the booming East Texas oilfield.

The museum began in 1980 when students asked survivor Mollie Ward what she remembered. “That’s when I really realized history was beginning to be forgotten.”

The cause of the tragic explosion was found to be a wood-shop saw that sparked unscented natural gas that had pooled beneath the school. New laws would soon require adding an odor to natural gas.

Ocean Star Museum

oil museums

A former offshore rig is a popular museum in Galveston, Texas.

The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum is located on Galveston Island, Texas, less than an hour from downtown Houston.

It is under the auspices of the Offshore Energy Center (OEC), Houston. Educational tours of the offshore rig museum are available to students aged 7-18, organized through a school, home school, scouts, or similar program. Museum staff guides the groups.

The museum is operated by the OEC, which chronicles the heritage and technological accomplishments of the offshore industry. The OEC mission is to “create awareness of the vast energy resources beneath the world’s oceans and the complex industry that delivers these resources in a safe and environmentally responsible way.”

Oil Patch Museum

The 1903 oil discovery in Batson helped established the first Gulf Coast oilfields.

The museum is in Batson, on State Highway 105 and Farm Road 770 in southwestern Hardin County — once was the heart of an oil boom.

A October 1903 a discovery would create a city of several thousand. By the end of 1903, Batson oilfield production averaged 4,518 barrels of oil per day. The peak yearly production was reached in 1904 when almost 11 million barrels of oil were recovered. The local population declined to 600 by 1927 as oil production decreased. Another oilfield, New Batson, was discovered in March 1935.

The discovery of the Batson oilfield — between Spindletop (1901) and Humble (1905) — established the first Gulf Coast oilfields. Today’s population is about 140.

Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

Two floors of exhibits at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, help young people understand the history of the North Texas oil and natural gas industry.

When the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum opened its doors in 1933, it was a 12,500 square foot building.

Since that time the museum has become the largest history museum in Texas with more than 285,000 square feet.

The Don D. Harrington Petroleum Wing tells the story of the oil boom years in the Texas Panhandle during the 1920s and 1930s, and the men who made it happen.

Two floors of exhibits help visitors understand the oil and gas business as it was during the early days of discovery and development.

Construction of Pioneer Hall began in 1932. Finished in Texas limestone, the original structure features fine decorative stonework and carvings depicting western themes and Panhandle fauna in its facade. More than 100 famous West Texas cattle brands surround the entrance.

The building bears a state antiquities landmark designation for its unique Art Deco architectural style. After continued growth, West Texas State University donated a library on land adjacent to the museum in 1973, which provided three galleries.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science includes the Tom Hunt Energy Hall.

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened December 1, 2012, in Dallas.

Designed by award-winning architect Thorn Mayne and his firm Morphosis Architects, the museum was named in honor of Margot and Ross Perot. Visitors can explore the Tom Hunt Energy Hall – and “turn the valves of a full-size wellhead, use 3-D technologies to map likely underground energy deposits and take a virtual trip deep underground to explore a drilling rig.”

The museum is located on a 4.7-acre site at 2201 N. Field Street, just north of downtown Dallas and in Victory Park.

Petroleum Museum

President Gerald R. Ford was the keynote speaker at the Petroleum Museum’s 1975 opening.

Founded in 1975 by George T. Abell, this Permian Basin petroleum museum includes a 40,000-square-foot facility housing photographic wall murals depicting early life in the oilfields, a West Texas boomtown, and a marine diorama of 230 million years ago.

Texas oil history is preserved via taped interviews with petroleum pioneers and the largest permanent collection of original paintings by Prix de West Gold Medal artist Tom Lovell.

The museum’s wings include: Geological, Technical, and Cultural exhibits — and a rare collection of historic Chaparral racing cars. “Every visit to The Petroleum Museum is an opportunity to experience the fun side of science firsthand. Our spectacular exhibit wings offer remarkable insight into the scientific and technological world around us, from the age when dinosaurs roamed the Permian Basin to the Wild Oil Boom in West Texas!”

Roaring Ranger Oil Boom Museum

oil museums

The “Roaring Ranger” discovery gained international fame for Ranger as the town whose oil wiped out critical oil shortages during World War I, allowing the Allies to “float to victory on a wave of oil.”

Housed in the 1923 Texas and Pacific Railway’s train depot, the museum tells the town’s story after oil was discovered.

“After a drought hit farmers in 1917, town leaders encouraged W.K. Gordon, vice president of the Texas and Pacific Coal Company in nearby Thurber, to explore for oil locally. Gordon’s second wildcatter, the McCleskey No. 1 well, blew in, flowing 1,700 barrels per day.

“Ranger’s population swelled almost overnight from less than 1,000 to more than 30,000. The boom ended in 1921 when the wells dried up, but the Ranger discovery well opened the door to oil fields in West Texas. The depot museum uses artifacts, historic photos and a vintage drilling rig to retell the fascinating saga.”

The museum is located at 121 S. Commerce Street. Open Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Call 254-647-3091 to arrange a weekday visit.

Ranger Historical Preservation Society

The Ranger Historical Preservation Society was chartered in October 1990.

In October 1917, a coal company completed a discovery well on the J. H. McCleskey farm, one mile southwest of Ranger. “This well came in as a gusher making 1,600 barrels high gravity oil daily and was the discovery well, which started the rush to Ranger and brought about the development of one of the greatest oil fields in the country.”

The Ranger Historical Preservation Society preserves this important petroleum history of Ranger, Eastland County. The mission includes “preserving historical sites and buildings, applying for and securing historical markers — and helping others in their research.”

The Ruth Terry Denney Library & Research Center houses genealogical and historical records.

Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum

Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum, operated by Lamar University in Beaumont, is a 15-building complex, which re-creates Gladys City, an early 1900s era boomtown on the historic Spindletop oilfield. Visitors can relive the boom days on a tour through the buildings representing actual businesses in operation during the boom.

In the years since its dedication in 1976, more than one-half million people have visited Gladys City. The museum provides services to the public, including school tours, adult group tours, teachers’ workshops, and historical information for researchers, journalists, and the general public. Visit this website to hear some period music as you take a virtual tour.

Texas Energy Museum

This museum in downtown Beaumont has educational programs designed for private school groups — including a 50 minute, interpreter-led tour. The museum is a good resource for teaching and social studies. While it offers programs for kindergarten through college level, the tour program is most effective for grades 2 to — and can be correlated to many science and social studies curriculum objectives and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements.

Texas State Historical Association

“Organized on March 2, 1897, the Texas State Historical Association is the oldest learned society in the state. Its mission is to foster the appreciation, understanding, and teaching of the rich and unique history of Texas and by example and through programs and activities encourage and promote research, preservation, and publication of historical material affecting the state of Texas.”

TSHA Online, is created and maintained by the association in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. The extensive “Handbook of Texas Online” is a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, geography, and culture sponsored by TSHA and the General Libraries at UT Austin.

Van Area Oil and Historical Museum

oil museums

The Van Zandt County museum, east of Dallas, is in warehouse originally built in 1930 by the Pure Oil Company.

The museum is located in an old warehouse originally built in 1930 by the Pure Oil Company to house oil field materials used in the development of the oil field.

All of the oil derricks in the Van field have disappeared; however, the museum obtained a derrick and relocated it on the grounds as a reminder of bygone days. Displays include various types of oil related memorabilia as well as history on the area and city.

W. K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas

Located in Mingus, between Ft. Worth and Abilene, the W. K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas, is a research facility of Tarleton State University. It is a combined museum and special collections library. Located at the site of the Thurber ghost town, its interactive exhibits explore the birth and death of a company town.

The focus of the permanent exhibits is the development of the coal, brick, and petroleum industries in the Thurber area. A special collections library and research area permits examination of life in Thurber and in other areas of industrial development in Texas and the Southwest.


The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid, Oklahoma, tells the stories of settling the Cherokee Strip – and includes petroleum history exhibits. The museum opened in 2011 in partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The heritage center stands on one of the most historic spots in the history of the American West, notes the center’s website. The grounds overlook an historic watering hole on the Chisholm Trail and a collection of buildings – including the only remaining 1893 U.S. Land Office.

“Staking a claim to a piece of land on the day of ‘the land run’ was only the beginning of a long and hard journey for those who poured over the border on September 16, 1893,” adds the center’s website.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center opens

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

Hundreds gathered for the April 1, 2011, opening of the $10 million Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center on the east side of Enid, Oklahoma.

“Opening the heritage center is the closing of one chapter, but just the beginning of another to fulfill our pledge of claiming our past and inspiring our future,” announced the independent oilman who was instrumental in its completion in 2011.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center Chairman Lew Ward, describing the April 1, 2011, opening in Enid, Oklahoma. The $10 million center’s opening followed six years of dedicated work, Ward later explained in the museum’s newsletter.

“Exhibits and programs will make a significant impact on future generations,” noted Ward, chairman of Enid-based Ward Petroleum, which he founded in 1963. He also has served as chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Washington, D.C.,  from 1995 to 1997. He received the petroleum industry’s Chief Roughneck Award in 1999.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center includes a 1927 portable drilling rig created by petroleum technology pioneer George E. Failing, who added a drilling rig to a Ford farm truck. The same engine that drove the sturdy truck across the oilfields was used to power its rotary drill.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

Annually awarded since 1955, the petroleum industry honored Heritage Center Chairman Lew Ward in 1999 as “Chief Roughneck.”

In 2005 the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center Inc. was created through a partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Sons & Daughters of the Cherokee Strip Pioneers Association and the Phillips University Legacy Foundation. The museum was founded by the association at Phillips University in the early 1960s.

In 1975 the museum was constructed at its present location at the eastern edge of Enid and became a property of the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1976.

For example, Ward notes the center’s oral history library already contains more than 260 interviews capturing the stories of the Cherokee Strip from those who have lived them. “This growing library is an invaluable component of historical research for our region,” he adds.

“Trained staff and volunteers collect the oral histories of people from the Cherokee Strip and Northwest Oklahoma,” Ward says. “The interviews are then transcribed and made available to the public and for use in the Research Center.”

Further, a the center has hosted teachers seminars on the Enid campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, according to Ward.

The seminar explained to teaches how to incorporate lessons of leadership into their curriculum through the study of history,” he adds.

In November 2013, the center was selected by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) to partner in the statewide school education programs – OERB Homeroom.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

In 1917, Herbert H. Champlin purchased a small refinery on the outskirts of Enid. By 1944 his company operated service stations in 20 states.

OERB spends millions of dollars annually to provide teacher training, curricula and programs that bring the petroleum industry to classrooms across the state –  and offers free field trips to selected museums.

“We are thrilled that the Heritage Center has been chosen to partner with OERB in their school education program,” says Museum Director Andi Holland.

“The heritage center’s Dave Donaldson Oil and Gas Gallery is well equipped marking the beginnings of oil and gas production in the Cherokee Strip through its economic importance to Northwestern Oklahoma today,” Holland adds.

The center’s gallery includes a series of interactive features about how natural resources are found, produced and refined.

A program already created by the heritage center’s education department is called “Boom and Bust, Natural Resources in the Cherokee Strip,” explains Cody Jolliff, the Enid museum’s education director.

“This partnership will allow more students to attend the heritage center and learn more about Northwest Oklahoma and the rich natural resources that impact our lives,” Jolliff adds.

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center’s exhibits include: The Outlet – Learn about life before the land run, and how the run changed the course of history; The Land & the People Gallery – Hear the stories of settlers in the years after they staked their claims.

Also among the exhibits, the Thelma Gungoll Phillips University Gallery – Celebrate the founding and history of the first private university in the state.

Finally, the Dave Donaldson Oil & Gas Gallery offers a Champlin Oil exhibit. “The Champlin Refining Company, which for many years held the distinction of being the nation’s largest fully integrated oil company under private ownership, was based at Enid,” notes the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.


American Oil & Gas Historical Society

December 17, 2014


Calendar features Petroleum History

For the first time, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) has printed an energy education calendar that includes dates with descriptions of petroleum history milestones, oilfield discoveries, technologies, pioneers, and more.

The society’s 2015 “Today in American Petroleum History” calendar, printed in partnership with the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, is an ideal gift for friends, family and anyone who works in the oil and natural gas industry, according to AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells. Each month offers historical facts along with one of 12 Library of Congress oil patch photos from the 1930s.

“This unique AOGHS calendar is the first of an annual energy education project,” Wells said. “It may be useful for teacher workshop programs, association members and company employees.”

Depending on the number ordered, the price per 11-inch by 17-inch calendar could be as low as $5 each. Beginning in 2016, the industry’s milestone dates will be available in customized calendar editions, Wells added.

“The petroleum industry’s social, economic and technological achievements provide an important context for teaching the modern energy business,” explained Wells, who founded the Washington, DC-based nonprofit in 2003. For more information, email bawells@aoghs.org. Visit www.aoghs.org to order.

Bruce Wells
Executive Director
American Oil & Gas Historical Society
1201 15th Street, NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 857-4785 Fax: (202) 857-4799


A museum in the rustic hills of western Pennsylvania preserves a remarkable mechanical history.

Coolspring Power Museum

The Coolspring Power Museum opened in 1985 near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It has the largest collection of historically significant stationary gas engines in the country, if the not the world. Photo courtesy the Coolspring Power Museum.

Coolspring Power Museum

The last of its kind, a Hanley & Bird Well Bailing Machine once serviced Pennsylvania oil and natural gas wells. Photo courtesy the Coolspring Power Museum.

The Coolspring Power Museum educates visitors about the evolution of internal combustion engine technology that put an end to the era of steam.

The museum’s long-time director – with the help of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers – preserve more than 250 rare engines.

“Internal combustion engines revolutionized the world around the turn of the 20th century in much the same way that steam engines did a century before,” notes Director Paul E. Harvey, who co-founded the museum in 1985 about midway between between Punxsutawney and Brookville, Pennsylvania.

“One has only to imagine a coal-fired, steam-powered, airplane to realize how important internal combustion was to the industrialized world,” adds Harvey, medical doctor who lives across from the museum.


Coolspring Power Museum

Paul Harvey, co-founder of the Coolspring Power Museum in Pennsylvania, stands next to the 175 HP Otto engine he owens and restored with the help of the museum’s many dedicated volunteers. Photo courtesy the Coolspring Power Museum.

Coolspring Power Museum

The museum hosts many summer events, including a “History Day and Car, Truck & Tractor Show.”

According to Harvey, permanent exhibits at Coolspring include stationary gas “hit and miss” engines, throttle governed engines, flame ignition engines, hot tube ignition engines, and hot air engines ranging in size from a fractional horsepower up to 600 horsepower.

Many engine enthusiasts from around the country have sent significant pieces for display, he says. The grounds, as well as semi-annual shows, have expanded with visitors from Maine to California, as well as Canada and England.

Harvey explains that early internal combustion engines produced only a few horsepower and could not replace steam engines in most applications, but by 1890 they were powerful enough for most portable or remote operations as well as many small manufacturers.

By 1900 the new power technology was replacing reciprocating steam engines for electric generation, He notes. “By 1915 they were being considered for all but the largest installations where steam turbines have since dominated.”

Harvey and fellow enthusiast John Wilcox began collecting engines in the 1950s. Their collections were the basis of displays that would greatly multiply. The museum now is housed in 20 buildings that, besides its own large collection, contain many pieces placed there on loan.

Harvey says the vision of Coolspring is “to be the foremost collection of early internal combustion technology presented in an educational and visitor-oriented manner and to provide an operation that will gain support and generate substantial growth.”

The collection documents the early history of the internal combustion revolution. Almost all of the critical components of today’s engines have their origins in the period represented by the collection (as well as hundreds of innovations no longer used).

Some of the engines represent real engineering progress; others are more the product of inventive minds avoiding previous patents. All tell a story.

Although the museum’s focus is on stationary engines (with perhaps the largest collection in the world), Harvey explains that no museum of internal combustion engines would be complete without at least a few vehicles in its collection.

Among the antique heavy truicks and semis, is a rare petroleum well service rig. The Hanley & Bird Well Bailing Machine was designed to clean a well by lifting water, sand, and debris from the bottom of the well using a “bailer” attached to a cable, notes Harvey. Five were built and the museum’s example is the only one to survive.

“It was donated to the museum by EXCO Resources, the successor to H&B,”Harveys says. “It is very interesting as it uses a chain drive Mack rear end and a Ford front axle.”

Harvey recalls seeing it driving through Coolspring on the way to service local natural gas wells, adding that the museum displays it with the mast raised and ready to work. “It certainly shows the ingenuity of the local gas industry,” he concludes.

The Coolspring Power Museum collection includes many engines used to power multiple wells in America’s first oilfields. The museum is off Route 36 midway between Punxsutawney and Brookville in western Pennsylvania.

“Internal combustion engines revolutionized the world around the turn of the 20th century in much the same way that steam engines did a century before,” concludes Harvey. “You have only to imagine a coal-fired, steam-powered, airplane to realize how important internal combustion was to the industrialized world.”

The Coolspring Power Museum hosts many events in the spring and summer, including the popular “History Day and Car, Truck & Tractor Show” in June.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation


2009 “Rock Oil Tour” to Titusville, Pennsylvania

Titusville or Bust! Below are notes from a fun and educational August 21-22, 2009, “Rock Oil 2009 Tour” — courtesy of members of the National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics.

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Oil and Natural Gas is SPE’s fun, colorfully illustrated, and information-filled book on the history and uses of oil. This hardbound book is appealing to kids of all ages and adults! Currently available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese.” – energy4me

Detailed illustrations tell the story of the industry’s heritage in Oil and Natural Gas – a book from the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Best of all, it can be downloaded for free, thanks to energy4me.

Discovering the story of petroleum – and the many ways it shapes the world – is the theme of this illustrated guide to the industry’s past, present and future.

“Our world is ruled by oil. People have used oil for thousands of years, but in the last century we have begun to consume it in vast quantities,” begins the first chapter, which explains one of the world’s largest and most complex industries.

Oil and Natural Gas is an educational book specifically targeted for students. The book, adapted for SPE from a 2007 edition by DK Publishing, London, features such topics as ancient oil, oil for light, natural gas, deepwater technology, piped oil, refineries, global oil, electricity, oil substitutes, and job opportunities.

In 74 pages, the hardbound edition offers young people a surprisingly comprehensive introduction to the history and many uses of oil. Detailed illustrations tell much of the story.

With more than 79,000 members in 110 countries, SPE shares technical knowledge about the upstream oil and natural gas industry. The society’s energy education website is for students, teachers.

Oil and Natural Gas is available at the “essential energy education” SPE website Enery4me, designed to help Americans become more educated energy consumers. SPE members are available to make presentations at a schools — and can provide copies of the book for the library or classroom.



AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


Ed Jacobsen, once an oil company sales representative in the Chicago area, bought his first service station in the late 1960s. More than three decades and six stations later, he retired to his wife’s hometown of Three Lakes in the Northwoods region of upper Wisconsin. But Ed missed the world of service stations. He began visiting flea markets and garage sales.

Ed Jacobsen’s expertise — and love for “the world of service stations” — resulted in the July 2006 opening of Wisconsin’s Northwoods Petroleum Museum. On June 18, 2011, the museum drew nearly 2,000 people for the eighth annual Three Lakes Car Show, which included 110 vintage vehicles.

By 2006, as Ed’s petroleum-related memorabilia climbed above 2,700 items. He (and his wife) realized there was a looming storage problem — although he still maintained that technically, he was not a collector.

“Many collectors buy, sell or trade memorabilia to make money,” he says. “I believe in the educational value of these items – and preserving a history many people may have forgotten.” Read the rest of this entry »


The historic Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City — site of the society’s popular 2007 Energy Education Conference & Field Trip.

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society hosts unique gatherings of energy education professionals — including state and national teacher workshop practitioners, petroleum museums directors, associations and oil and natural gas company representatives.

The May 31 to June 2, 2007,  Energy Education Conference & Field Trip in Oklahoma City brought together leading education experts. The Golden Driller statue in Tulsa was among the stops of a concluding field trip that followed panel discussions, classroom demonstrations, receptions and an awards banquet.

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