August 16, 2023 – Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 8
Oil & Gas History News
Welcome to our end of summer (and back to school) petroleum history newsletter. Thanks for subscribing and sharing these articles, which helps add website visitors. This month’s topics offer a variety of people and events — from the 1986 opening of an oil museum in Union Oil’s historic headquarters to a 1920s oilfield cartographer who created a comic strip. Also featured is the iron pipeline that delivered natural gas in 1872; the evolution of a major British oil company’s logo; experiments with oilfield firefighting technologies; and how Spanish explorers in 1769 discovered “tar pits” that became a West Coast tourist attraction. We conclude with Howard Hughes Sr. patenting a two-cone roller bit in 1919 and two pipelines that helped win World War II. Thank you again for joining this petroleum history network!
This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update
Links to summaries from four weeks of U.S. oil and natural gas history, including new technologies, oilfield discoveries, petroleum products, and pioneers.
August 14, 1986 – Oil Museum Building listed as National Historic Place
The original headquarters of the Union Oil Company in Santa Paula, California, constructed in 1890 and turned into an oil museum since 1950, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the California Oil Museum on 1001 East Main Street offers docent-led tours of the restored Union Oil offices on the second floor…MORE
August 7, 1933 – Permian Basin inspires “Alley Oop” Comic Strip
Although the comic strip “Alley Oop” first appeared in August 1933, the popular Depression Era newspaper comic strip began with 1920s oilfield discoveries in the Permian Basin. A small West Texas oil town would later proclaim itself as the inspiration for cartoonist Victor Hamlin…MORE
August 1, 1872 – Iron Pipeline delivers Natural Gas
The first recorded large-scale delivery of natural gas by pipeline began when gas was sent to more than 250 residential and commercial customers in Titusville, Pennsylvania, home of America’s first oil well, drilled in 1859. The two-inch iron pipeline carried natural gas five miles from a well producing four million cubic feet of natural gas a day…MORE
July 24, 2000 – BP unveils New Green and Yellow Logo
BP, the official name of a group of companies that included Amoco, ARCO and Castrol, unveiled a new corporate identity brand, replacing the “Green Shield” logo with a green and yellow sunflower pattern…MORE
A “windmaking machine” driven by a three-bladed airplane propeller and powerful motor was used in 1929 to blow away the heat from men fighting an oilfield fire at Santa Fe Springs, California. “A track of boards was built for the machine over a lake of oil, mud and water in the ‘hot zone’ of the big fire.” Photo courtesy Hathaway Ranch and Oil Museum.
Oilfield Firefighting Technologies
Oilfield fires have challenged America’s petroleum industry since the earliest 19th century oil and natural gas wells. Oil storage tank fires, often caused by lightning strikes, were commonly fought using Civil War cannons. In the summer of 1929, about 400 volunteers fought a raging oilfield fire that had destroyed seven derricks at Santa Fe Springs, California. “Roaring Flames Turn Black Gold To Smoke,” proclaimed the Los Angeles Times. A local oil museum has preserved rare motion picture images of the propeller-driven “windmaking machine” in action — a silent film depicting an intense fire and firefighting equipment, “appropriately distant from the well head, including the wind machine. It looks like its use is more or less limited to blowing hot air, smoke and steam away from the workers and toward the fire.”
Spanish describe La Brea Asphalt Pits
A Spanish expedition along the West Coast on August 3, 1769, came across what would be called the La Brea (the tar) Pits. “We debated whether this substance, which flows melted from underneath the earth, could occasion so many earthquakes,” noted a Franciscan friar. Commonly called tar pits, the sticky pools between modern Beverly Hills and downtown L.A. are actually comprised of natural asphalt, also known as bitumen.
Learn more in Discovering the La Brea “Tar Pits.”
Hughes patents Dual-Cone Roller Bit
“Fishtail” drill bits became obsolete on August 10, 1909, when Howard Hughes Sr. of Houston, Texas, patented a roller bit consisting of two rotating cones. By pulverizing hard rock, his bit led to drilling faster and deeper. Hughes and business associate Walter Sharp secretly tested a prototype in the Goose Creek oilfield and established the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company to manufacture the dual-cone bit.
Learn more in Making Hole – Drilling Technology.
Big Inch Pipelines of WWII
In response to U-boat attacks on oil tankers along the eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico, construction began on the “Big Inch” pipeline on August 3, 1942. The $95 million project laid a 1,254-mile, 24-inch pipeline (Big Inch) from East Texas oilfields to Illinois. An accompanying 20-inch-wide line (Little Big Inch) carried gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil, and kerosene as far as New Jersey.
Learn more in Big Inch Pipelines of WW II.
Every summer, oil and gas history festivals offer annual reminders of the role of petroleum in shaping the modern world. Many community museums participate in these oilfield heritage celebrations, helping preserve exploration and production milestones — and educating visitors about the industry’s early products (see kerosene for lamps). These museums also offer unique facilities for hosting K-12 education programs. Support them by visiting. Thanks again for reading our August newsletter. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcomed.
— Bruce Wells
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