July 15, 2020  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 1, No. 7


Oil & Gas History News


Knowing the past is always important, especially in times of extreme disruption. As we deal with uncertainty, history stories can inspire resilience and innovation. Thank you for subscribing to the historical society’s newsletter, which is meant to preserve and share a complex industry’s history. Your help is essential for this mission. Please become a supporting member.


Monthly Highlights from “This Week in Petroleum History”


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

July 19, 1957 – Major Oil Discovery in Alaska Territory

Richfield Oil Corporation discovered oil north of Sterling at the Swanson River in Alaska Territory. The oilfield would provide “the economic justification for statehood” two years later, according to Alaska’s first governor. It was the first significant oil production since the Katalla field of 1902…MORE

July 9, 1883 – Finding Oil in the Land of Oz

L. Frank Baum, future author of the beloved children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, started a business selling petroleum products in Syracuse, New York. His store offered lubricants, oils, axle greases – and Baum’s Castorine, which is still sold today. Did it also inspire the Tin Man character?…MORE

June 29, 1956 – Interstate Highway System enacted

Passed at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Federal-Aid Highway Act provided 90 percent federal funding for a “system of interstate and defense highways” and authorized spending $25 billion through 1969 for construction of about 41,000 miles of highways…MORE

June 23, 1921 – Signal Hill Discovery brings California Oil Boom

When the Alamitos No. 1 well erupted oil at Signal Hill, 20 miles south of Los Angeles, the discovery revealed one of California’s largest and most prolific fields. Soon covered with derricks, Signal Hill became known as “Porcupine Hill.”…MORE


Energy Education Articles


Updated editorial content on the American Oil & Gas Historical Society website includes these articles:

The first pitcher inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1936) worked in California oilfields as a teenager and began his career playing on an oil town baseball team. As baseball became America’s favorite pastime in the early 20th century, new petroleum boom towns fielded teams – with names that reflected their communities’ enthusiasm and livelihood. See Oilfields of Dreams – Gassers, Oilers, and Drillers Baseball.

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City received the first of his many patents for an “Improvement in Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells.” The invention used controlled down-hole explosions “to fracture oil-bearing formations and increase oil production.” The Roberts Torpedo would lead the evolution of technologies for fracturing geologic formations to increase oil and natural gas production. See Shooters – A “Fracking” History.

Featured Image


Oil-drenched Arkansas roughnecks pose following the July 1, 1922, discovery of the Smackover (Richardson) field in Union County. Wildcat wells created two Arkansas boom towns, boosted the early career of H.L. Hunt, and launched the state’s petroleum industry. Photo courtesy of the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives. Learn more in First Arkansas Oil Wells.


Energy Education Articles


Updated editorial content on the American Oil & Gas Historical Society website includes these articles:

A 19th century petroleum product made America’s July 1969 moon landing possible. The first stage of the Saturn V rocket burned 2,230 gallons per second of a highly refined propellant first refined in 1848 as “coal oil” for lamps. It also fuels today’s SpaceX rockets. See Kerosene Rocket Fuel.

With a collection of more than three million artifacts, the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., offers few relating to the U.S. petroleum history. It wasn’t always so. In June 1967, a “Hall of Petroleum” opened at the museum on the National Mall.” See Smithsonian’s Hall of Petroleum.

When U.S.S. Texas was commissioned in 1914, it became the last American battleship built with coal-fired boilers. A reluctant U.S. Navy soon recognized fuel oil produced far more energy and simplified resupply logistics. Converted to burn oil in 1925, the “Mighty T” today is a museum. See Petroleum and Sea Power.

Thanks for reading our July newsletter. Share it with your friends and please link to aoghs.org. As always, consider becoming a supporting member. Next month there will be more archives, technologies, and discoveries to explore. Knowing history makes a difference.

— Bruce Wells

“Any survey of the natural resources used as sources of energy must include a discussion about the importance of oil, the lifeblood of all industrialized nations.” — Daniel Yergin, bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.


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