ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums
As part of Oklahoma statehood centennial celebrations, ConocoPhillips in 2007 opened two state-or-the-art museums. Today, rare oilfield artifacts, historic images, and energy education programs focus on the petroleum industry’s past and future at the Ponca City and Bartlesville museums .
“These museums reaffirm our Oklahoma roots,” proclaimed Jim Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, on May 12, 2007. His company 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.”
The Conoco Museum includes five areas exhibiting the evolution of the company’s business identity, marketing – and onshore and offshore technologies.
One exhibit recreates a 1950s R&D laboratory; another depicts an outdoor scene of a “doodlebugger” at work; a third explains the technology behind the world’s first tension-leg offshore platform.
These and other exhibits tell the story of a major oil company’s development from a small kerosene distributor serving 19th century pioneer America into a diversified global energy company.
Conoco – founded as Continental Oil Company in Utah – merged with Oklahoma’s Marland Oil Company in 1929. The Phillips Petroleum Company incorporated in Bartlesville in 1917.
Conoco’s earliest roots reach to the 1870s when Isaac Elder Blake – a young speculator in Pennsylvania and West Virginia oilfields – moved to the Utah Territory. Blake found that residents of Ogden paid $5 a gallon for kerosene refined several hundred miles away in Florence, Colorado, and hauled in barrels by bull team to Ogden.
In 1875, Blake stared a venture that would purchase bulk kerosene in the cheaper eastern market, then ship it by rail to Utah Territory. In Ogden, the oil was put into manageable containers and delivered to grocery stores, which could dispense it to customers by the gallon, profiting accordingly.
The Continental Oil and Transportation Company soon purchased two railroad tank cars – the first to be used west of the Missouri River.
Phillips Petroleum Company, once headquartered 70 miles east in Bartlesville, merged with Conoco in 2002. Phillips was founded during the early months of World War I – when the price of oil climbed above $1 per barrel.
The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum tells the story of the company’s founders – brothers Frank and L.E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips, who began their quest for oil in 1903, after hearing of vast oil deposits in Oklahoma.
In 1905, the Phillips brothers hit the first of 81 wells in a row without a single dry hole. Twelve years later, they founded Phillips Petroleum Company, headquartered in Bartlesville. Frank Phillips served as president of the company until 1938.
In June 1917, the brothers consolidated their Anchor Oil & Gas Company and Lewcinda Oil Company holdings into the new company, which began operating with assets of $3 million, 27 employees, and oil and natural gas leases throughout Oklahoma and Kansas.
After a decade as an exploration and production company, Phillips Petroleum entered the highly competitive business of refining and retail gasoline distribution. In 1927, the company introduced a new line of gasoline – “Phillips 66″ – at its first service station, which opened in Wichita, Kansas.
The gasoline is named “Phillips 66″ after it propels company officials down U.S. Highway 66 at 66 mph in route to a meeting at their Bartlesville headquarters. In the coming years the company will drill the deepest wells onshore and among the farthest wells offshore – while making petrochemical advances. Phillips chemists initially researching gasoline additives developed Marlex, a revolutionary polypropylene plastic. See Petroleum Product Hoopla.
The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville today exhibits its company heritage in seven areas:
A Pioneering Attitude – showing how the company became an industry leader, transforming basic oil and gas resources into many useful products.
Growing Strong – examining the evolution of Phillips Petroleum and how the company survived an intense series of corporate battles. One Big Family – exhibit describes how Phillips became known for promoting the well-being of its employees. Bucking the Odds – what was it like in the rough and rowdy days of the Burbank oilfield?
Energy Provider – from refined petroleum fuels to super-cooled natural gas, creating ways to deliver energy to consumers.
Taking to the Skies – the Phillips Company actually produced its aviation fuels before its automotive fuels.
Selling 66 – from street corners to sports stadiums, the Phillips 66 brand has been seen everywhere.
Phillips Petroleum also has left its mark on the aviation industry by designing the first aviation refueling trucks and developing a new, lighter, more efficient Phillips aviation fuel that powered the first flight between the United States and Hawaii. Learn more in Flight of the Woolaroc.
ConocoPhillips – created through the merger of Conoco and the Phillips Petroleum Company on August 30, 2002 – was the fifth largest integrated oil company for a decade. In 2012, ConocoPhillips split into two companies, creating Phillips 66, which today owns refinery, chemical and pipeline assets of the former ConocoPhillips.
The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.org energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.