July 21, 2021 – Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 7
Oil & Gas History News
Welcome to the July newsletter — and a special thank you to our new subscribers! This month’s issue offers many summertime milestones in petroleum history, including the discovery of a major oilfield at Cook Inlet Basin, Alaska, in 1959, and the first “natural gas Jubilee” of Paola, Kansas, in 1887. Also featured is Armais Arutunoff, inventor of a revolutionary oilfield technology. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.
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.
July 19, 1957 – Major Oil Discovery in Alaska Territory
Although some oil production had occurred earlier in the territory, Alaska’s first commercial oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil, which completed the Swanson River Unit No. 1 in Cook Inlet Basin. The well yielded 900 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 11,215 feet. Alaska’s first governor, William Egan, would proclaim the discovery provided “the economic justification for statehood for Alaska.”…MORE
July 12, 1934 – Emory Clark launches “Clark Super 100” Stations
Two years after paying $14 for a closed, one-pump gas station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Emory Clark incorporated what would become the Clark Oil & Refining Corporation. Eliminating common services like maintenance, engine repair, and tire changing, he set out to create a network of stations that focused on selling premium gasoline only, “Super 100 Premium.”…MORE
July 5, 1900 – Edison films Standard Oil Refinery Fire
An early morning lightning strike at the Standard Oil Company refinery at Bayonne, New Jersey, set off explosions in three storage tanks. “Within minutes after the fire began, the company siren sounded, bringing its own fire department and tugboats into action,” the Jersey Journal reported. Efforts to fight the blaze were featured in one of the earliest newsreels of the Thomas A. Edison Company…MORE
June 28, 1887 – Kansans celebrate First Natural Gas Jubilee
After erecting flambeau arches at the four corners of the town square, citizens of Paola, Kansas, hosted what local leaders described as “the first natural gas celebration ever held in the West.” Excursion trains from nearby Kansas City and elsewhere brought almost 2,000 people, “to witness the wonders of natural gas.”…MORE
June 21, 1893 – Submersible Pump Inventor born
Armais Arutunoff was born to Armenian parents in Tiflis, Russia. In 1916, he developed the first electrical centrifugal submersible pump, but after emigrating to America in 1923, Arutunoff could not find financial support for his down-hole production technology. Thanks to help from his friend Frank Phillips of Phillips Petroleum, in 1928 Arutunoff moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and established the oilfield service company that would become REDA…MORE
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported the United States continued to lead the world in petroleum production in 2020 as coal production fell to its lowest level since 1965. Despite volatility in oil markets, the nation’s crude oil exports reached a record high in 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic reducing global energy use, non-fossil fuel sources accounted for 21 percent of U.S. energy consumption.
After welcoming visitors to the Smithsonian’s Hall of Petroleum in the summer of 1967, the 13-foot by 56-foot “Panorama of Petroleum” by Oklahoma artist Delbert Jackson was almost forgotten. The city of Tulsa recovered the mural and in 1998 restored and installed it at the Tulsa International Airport, where Jackson’s oilfield panorama can be seen today.
Remembering the Smithsonian’s 1967 Hall of Petroleum
With a collection of more than three million artifacts, the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., includes surprisingly few related to exploration and production history. It wasn’t always so. In the summer of 1967, an entire wing, the Hall of Petroleum, opened in the museum. Exhibits gave the public, “some conception of the involved nature of the processes of finding and producing oil and its preparation for consumption – whether by automobiles, airplanes, power stations, household furnaces, or the petrochemical industry,” noted the catalog. Learn more in Smithsonian’s Hall of Petroleum.
Oil & Gas Museums
Depression era rural life of East Texas changed drastically with the discovery of oil in 1930, and the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College houses an authentic recreation of the giant oilfield’s history. Digitized movies now play inside the museum’s Boom Town Theater, refurnished as part of a two-year museum renovation project.
The Museum of North Texas History in downtown Wichita Falls features everything from airplanes, autos, and military memorabilia. Exhibits about the petroleum industry — a major part of life in North Texas since a 1911 discovery at Electra — include rare photos from the boom days, drill bits, and other equipment.
In Taft, California, the West Kern County Museum, run entirely by volunteers, is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting artifacts, books, and equipment that tell the story of West Kern County. The museum educates visitors about the Midway Sunset field, which by 1915 produced half the state’s oil, helping California lead the nation in production.
After a pandemic-cancelled symposium in 2020, a group of oil and natural gas geologists and historians will be gathering in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this fall. You are invited to attend the next Annual Symposium and Field Trip of the Petroleum History Institute, September 28 to October 1, 2021.
The American Oil & Gas Historical Society depends on financial help from subscribers who become supporting members of AOGHS. Please share this newsletter to increase our outreach among friends at community museums — and visit an oil museum this summer!
— 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
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