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December 21, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 12

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our last newsletter of 2022 — and thank you for subscribing. We begin with a 1924 debate over oil as a strategic resource, and the 1905 fear of gasoline shortages — the same year helium was discovered in natural gas. Also noted is the first U.S. auto race in 1895 (it lasted 10 hours); the 1925 founding of Magnolia Petroleum; and bird’s-eye views of early oil boom towns by cartographer Thaddeus Fowler. We conclude with a 1927 patent for coin-operated gas pumps; the 1905 oilfield discovery that helped make Tulsa “Oil Capital of the World;” and a look at Project Gasbuggy, the experimental 1967 nuking of a natural gas well to increase production. Please support our work to preserve petroleum history in 2023.

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

Links to summaries from five weeks of U.S. oil and natural gas history, including new technologies, oilfield discoveries, petroleum products, and pioneers. 

December 19, 1924 – Government debates Oil Conservation

Declaring “the supremacy of nations may be determined by the possession of available petroleum and its products,” President Calvin Coolidge appointed a Federal Oil Conservation Board to appraise oil policies and promote conservation of the strategic resource. With Navy ships converting to oil from coal, the resulting crude oil shortages in 1919 and 1920 gave credibility to predictions of domestic supplies running out within a decade…MORE

December 13, 1905 – Hybrids evolve with Gas Shortage Fears

“The available supply of gasoline, as is well known, is quite limited, and it behooves the farseeing men of the motor car industry to look for likely substitutes,” proclaimed the monthly journal Horseless Age, first published in 1895. The article described new automotive technologies, including compressed air propulsion systems, electric cars, steam, and diesel power — as well as hybrids…MORE

December 7, 1905 – Helium discovered in Natural Gas

University of Kansas professors Hamilton Cady and David McFarland revealed the importance of natural gas for producing helium when they discovered helium in a “howling gasser” drilled two years earlier at Dexter, Kansas. The small town had envisioned a prosperous future attracting new industries, until it was learned the gas would not burn…MORE

November 28, 1895 – Inventor Duryea wins First U.S. Auto Race

Six of America’s first “motor cars” left Chicago for a 54-mile race to Evanston, Illinois, and back through the snow. Inventor Frank Duryea won the first U.S. auto race in just over 10 hours, averaging 7.3 mph. “Persons who are inclined to decry the development of the horseless carriage will be forced to recognize it as an admitted mechanical achievement, highly adapted to some of the most urgent needs of our civilization,” reported the Chicago Times-Herald…MORE

November 21, 1925 – Magnolia Petroleum incorporates

With roots dating to an 1889 refinery in Corsicana, Texas, Magnolia Petroleum Company incorporated. The original association had sold refined petroleum products through more than 500 service stations in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. Within a month of the company’s founding, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New York (Socony) purchased most of Magnolia Petroleum’s assets…MORE

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Energy Education

Bird's-eye view of Oil City PA 1896 Fowler Map AOGHS

An 1898 lithograph of Oil City, Pennsylvania, by cartographer Thaddeus M. Fowler, who created hundreds of bird’s-eye perspectives for towns and cities, including oil boom towns in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas. Photo courtesy Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. 

Bird’s-Eye Views preserve Petroleum History

Traveling from Pennsylvania to Texas at the turn of the century, Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842-1922) created bird’s-eye-views of America’s earliest petroleum boom towns. His cartographic depictions — perspective maps not drawn to scale — sometimes included wooden derricks. The Library of Congress has preserved 324 Fowler panoramas, including many from Pennsylvania oilfields. In 1890, he created a lithograph of Wichita Falls, Texas. Illustrations of the courthouse, school, bank, and grocery store surround the map. Fowler traveled to Oklahoma to produce a panorama of Bartlesville in 1917 and Tulsa in 1918.

Learn more in Oil Town “Aero Views.”

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Featured Articles

Coin-Operated Gasoline Pump

Lewis Starkey of Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1927 patented a “Self Operating Filling Station,” an electrically powered coin-operated gasoline dispenser. His L.P. Starkey Pump Company competed with other manufacturers of pumps that did not need an attendant. But a coin-operated pump had risks. “It is evident that a vending machine liable to hold fifty or a hundred half-dollars would be a magnet for thieves,” noted Scientific American magazine.

Learn more in Coin-Operated Gas Pumps.

Glenn Pool Field brings Tulsa Oil Boom

Two years before Oklahoma statehood, the Glenn Pool (or Glenpool) oilfield was discovered on November 22, 1905, on the Creek Indian Reservation. The greatest oilfield in America at the time, its production helped make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.” Many prominent independent oil producers, including Harry Sinclair and J. Paul Getty, got their start during the Glenn Pool boom.

Learn more in Making Tulsa “Oil Capital of the World.

Project Gasbuggy tests Nuclear Fracturing

On December 10, 1967, scientists detonated a 29-kiloton nuclear device in a natural gas well east of Farmington, New Mexico, to test the feasibility of using nuclear explosions to stimulate release of gas trapped in shale deposits. The experiment was part of a federal program known as “Plowshare,” begun in the late 1950s to explore peaceful uses of nuclear bombs.

Learn more in Project Gasbuggy tests Nuclear “Fracking.”

Historical perspective has been essential for understanding energy news in 2022. Our updated website articles and research links provide the context behind the headlines. This has been possible because of our subscribers and the annual renewals of the historical society’s supporting members. Thank you again. As we look forward to the new year, please continue to help us grow this unique energy education network.

— Bruce Wells

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