June 15, 2022 – Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 6
Oil & Gas History News
Welcome to our June newsletter, which arrives as summer begins and student field trips return to community oil and gas museums. Energy education programs should include petroleum history for teaching STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Oilfield exhibits and programs help capture the interest of young people. Please share our latest articles and resource links. Encourage your high school district to visit an oil museum this summer!
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.
June 13, 1917 – Brothers found Phillips Petroleum Company
As oil prices rose above $1 per barrel during the early months of America’s entry into World War I, Frank and L.E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips consolidated their independent oil companies into Phillips Petroleum, based in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Assets rose from $3 million to $100 million, and in 1927 the company began selling its own gasoline in Wichita, Kansas, opening the first of more than 10,000 “Phillips 66” service stations…MORE
June 6, 1932 – Revenue Act includes First Federal Gasoline Tax
The U.S. government taxed gasoline for the first time when the Revenue Act of 1932 added a one-cent per gallon excise tax to gasoline sales. The first state to tax gas was Oregon, which imposed a one-cent per gallon tax in 1919. Colorado, New Mexico, and other states followed…MORE
May 30, 1911 – First Indianapolis 500 takes Seven Hours
The first Indianapolis 500-mile race began with 40 cars; only 12 finished the 1911 test of endurance and automotive technology. The winner averaged almost 75 mph after about seven hours of racing. All the cars except the winning No. 32 Marmon Wasp had two seats since most drivers traveled with “riding mechanics,” who manually pumped oil…MORE
May 23, 1905 – Patent issued for Improved Metal Barrel
Henry Wehrhahn, superintendent for the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn, New York, received the first of two 1905 patents that presaged the modern 55-gallon oil drum. The first design included “a means for readily detaching and securing the head of a metal barrel.” He assigned his patent to the widow of the founder of Iron Clad Manufacturing, journalist Nellie Bly…MORE
John A. Mather opened a studio in Titusville, Pennsylvania, soon after America’s first commercial oil discovery of 1859. Mather became the new industry’s premier photographer, amassing more than 20,000 glass plate negatives, including this 1865 scene at Oil Creek. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.
Photographer documented New Oil Industry
What photographers Matthew Brady and James Gardner documented on Civil War battlefields, John Mather (1829-1915) accomplished in Pennsylvania’s oil region. “Virtually unknown, certainly unheralded, and completely unappreciated — in these few words is a description of John Aked Mather, pioneer photographer, whose skill, devotion, and energy endowed the petroleum industry with one of the finest pictorial records of growth and development of any early all-American industry.” — The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, January 1972.
Mather, who transported his camera and chemicals with a rolling darkroom and a floating studio, would be remembered as the “Oil Creek Artist.” A catastrophic 1892 Titusville fire and flood destroyed thousands of his prints and glass plates.
Learn more in Oilfield Photographer John Mather.
Anniversary of “Mystery Well” of 1882
Every June, Pennsylvania oil patch historians celebrate an 1882 oil discovery at Cherry Grove. On June 18, 2022, they be will observing the 140th anniversary of their well. “The hilltop settlement of Cherry Grove saw national history in the spring and summer of 1882 when the 646 Mystery Well ushered in a great oil boom,” noted historian Paul Giddens in his 1938 classic, The Birth of the Oil Industry. “The excitement in the oil exchanges was indescribable. Over 4,500,000 barrels of oil were sold in one day on the exchanges in Titusville, Oil City and Bradford.”
Learn more in Cherry Grove Mystery Well.
Service Company celebrates Perforation Milestone
Fifteen years after its first perforation job, oilfield service company Lane-Wells in June 1948 returned to the same well near Montebello, California, to perform its 100,000th perforation. The publicity event took place at Union Oil Company’s La Merced No. 17 well. In the early 1930s, Walter Wells and oilfield tool salesman Bill Lane had developed a practical downhole gun that could shoot steel bullets through casing. Their multiple-shot perforator fired bullets by electrical detonation.
Learn more in Lane-Wells 100,000th Perforation.
Diesel Power sets Train Speed Record
On May 26, 1934, the diesel-electric “streamliner” Burlington Zephyr pulled into Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition after a nonstop 13-hour “dawn to dusk” run from Denver. The advanced locomotive’s record-breaking trip heralded the end of steam-powered passenger trains. Powered by a single, eight-cylinder diesel engine, the Zephyr burned just $16.72 worth of diesel fuel. The same distance for a coal-burning train would have cost $255.
Learn more in Adding Wings to the Iron Horse.
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— Bruce Wells
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