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February 15, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 2


Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to this latest look at America’s exploration and production history — and a petroleum product — the plastic that launched the hula hoop craze of the 1950s. Also featured are an iconic, two-wicked derrick lamp; the earliest U.S. gas street lights; the financial power of oil exchanges; and the story behind Glomar Explorer, a deep-drilling ship that began as a top-secret project. This month’s history news also covers the first Alabama oil well, which was drilled in 1944 by H.L. Hunt, and a look at the “night riders of the hemlocks” — oil scouts. We conclude with petroleum geologists founding a professional association in 1917 and the Depression era oil boom town story of a Texas Ranger known as “El Lobo Solo.”

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.

February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil adopts Yellow Dog Logo

Forest Oil Company, founded in 1916 as an oilfield service company by Forest Dorn and his father Clayton, adopted a logo featuring the popular, two-wicked “yellow dog” oilfield lantern. The logo included a keystone shape to symbolized the state of Pennsylvania, where Forest Oil pioneered water-flooding methods to improve production from the 85,000-acre Bradford oilfield. The lantern’s name is said to come from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s eyes at night…MORE

February 7, 1817 – Street Light burns Manufactured Gas

Fueled by manufactured gas (distilled from tar and wood), America’s first public street lamp illuminated Market Street in Baltimore, Maryland, making Gas Light Company of Baltimore the first U.S. commercial gas lighting company. Artist Rembrandt Peale had earlier demonstrated the brightness of manufactured gas with a “ring beset with gems of light” in his art and natural history museum. City officials erected a replica of the original street lamp in 1997…MORE

January 30, 1998 – Spy Ship relaunches as Ultra-Deep Drill Ship

Decades after secretly recovering parts of a lost Soviet ballistic missile submarine for the CIA, and after a $180 million shipyard conversion, the Glomar Explorer began its a record-setting career as a deep-water drill ship for the petroleum industry. The large vessel, a pioneer in advanced offshore technologies, was launched in 1972 as the Hughes Glomar Explorer as part of the top-secret “Project Azorian” to raise submarine K-129 from a depth of more than three miles…MORE

January 23, 1895 – Standard Oil closes Oil Exchanges

Standard Oil Company of New Jersey’s petroleum purchasing agency in Oil City, Pennsylvania, notified independent producers it would only buy their oil at a price, “as high as the markets of the world will justify” — and not “the price bid on the oil exchange for certificate oil.” Oil City’s exchange had become the third largest financial exchange of any kind in the United States, behind New York and San Francisco…MORE


Energy Education


Prompted by the post World War II boom in demand for plastics, in 1954 Phillips Petroleum Company introduced Marlex, a synthetic polymer that would stand out from among thousands of the company’s patents. But transition from Phillip’s Bartlesville, Oklahoma, lab to market proved difficult. Enter Wham-O.

Petroleum Polymer leads to Fun

Phillips Petroleum research chemists J. Paul Hogan and Robert L. Banks had been experimenting with gasoline additives in the early 1950s. After adding chromium oxide as a catalyst, they unexpectedly produced a new polymer — crystalline polypropylene. When the company introduced its new high-density plastic Marlex, marketing executives believed the product, “would be a big hit and that Phillips would not be able to keep it on the shelves.” But when customers failed to materialize, Phillips Petroleum found itself with warehouses full of pellets with high tensile strength. Relief would come from an unexpected source, the Wham-O Toy Company.

Learn more in Wham-O and Petroleum Product Hoopla


Featured Articles


Oil Scouts, Night Riders of the Hemlocks

Since the petroleum industry’s earliest days, “scout tickets” have reported the progress of wells, with oilfield scouts the sleuths who separated oil well fact from fiction. Justus McMullen, a “night rider of the hemlocks,” in 1888 succumbed to pneumonia he contracted while investigating production data from a well near Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He already had contributed much to the early petroleum industry as publisher of the Petroleum Age newspaper.

Learn more in Oil Scouts – Oil Patch Detectives.

Petroleum Geologists get Organized 

About 90 geologists gathered at Henry Kendall College (now Tulsa University) and on February 10, 1917, organized what would become the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). World War I had added desperation to finding and producing supplies of U.S. oil, and the earth scientists formed an association, “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.”

Learn more in AAPG – Geology Pros since 1917.

Ranger tamed East Texas Oilfield

“El Lobo Solo” – The Lone Wolf – Texas Ranger Manuel T. Gonzaullas died February 13, 1977, at age 85 in Dallas. When Kilgore became “the most lawless town in Texas” after discovery of the East Texas oilfield in 1930, Gonzaullas was chosen to tame it. “Crime may expect no quarter in Kilgore,” he once declared from the heart of the largest oilfield in the lower-48 states. The once famous Ranger was “highly suspicious of anyone without calluses on his hands.”

Learn more in Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger.

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— Bruce Wells

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