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March 15, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 3

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our March review of petroleum history milestones. We begin with the 1974 end of the OPEC oil embargo; then a fatal 1935 well explosion in Utah; voters in Long Beach, California, approving offshore drilling in 1962; and the world’s first LNG tanker arriving in England in 1962. Our featured image is the iconic flying-horse trademark atop the historic Magnolia Petroleum Building in Dallas. This month also features how an 1829 Kentucky brine well led to oil being bottled as medicine; the 1902 oilfield at a Texas spa town that led to Texaco; and Wyatt Earp’s 1920s California oil leases. As always, the article summaries link to updated website articles, which we hope you will enjoy and share with others!

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. 

March 13, 1974 – OPEC ends Oil Embargo

A five-month oil embargo against the United States was lifted by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel formed in 1960. The embargo, imposed in response to America supplying the Israeli military during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, created gasoline shortages, prompting voluntary rationing and a ban of gas sales on Sundays…MORE

March 6, 1935 – Search for First Utah Oil proves Deadly

More than a decade before Utah’s first commercial oil well, residents of St. George had hoped the “shooting” of a well drilled by Arrowhead Petroleum Company would bring black gold prosperity. A crowd had gathered to watch as workers prepared six, 10-foot-long explosive canisters to fracture the 3,200-foot-deep Escalante No. 1 well. An explosion occurred as the torpedoes, “each loaded with nitroglycerin and TNT and hanging from the derrick,” were being lowered into the well…MORE

February 27, 1962 – California Voters approve Offshore Drilling

Voters in Long Beach, California, approved the “controlled exploration and exploitation of the oil and gas reserves” underlying their harbor south of Los Angeles. The city’s charter had prohibited drilling there since a 1956 referendum, but advances in offshore technology offered new and environmentally sensitive opportunities to exploit an additional 6,500 acres of the Wilmington oilfield…MORE

February 20, 1959 – First LNG Tanker arrives in England

After a 27-day voyage from a processing facility just south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker arrived at Canvey Island in England’s Thames estuary, the world’s first LNG terminal. Converted from a 1945 cargo ship, the experimental Methane Pioneer demonstrated that large quantities of LNG could be transported safely across the ocean…MORE


Featured Image

Magnolia Building SMU Libraries AOGHS

Completed in 1922, the Magnolia Petroleum building was “a great peg driven into the ground holding Dallas in its place.” The Mobil Oil Pegasus first perched on it in 1934, after Vacuum Oil Company trademarked the flying horse in 1911. Image is a detail from a postcard given to visitors of the Magnolia Building’s observatory tower, courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, digital collections.

Pegasus Trademark takes Flight

On March 16, 1911, a Vacuum Oil Company subsidiary in Cape Town, South Africa,  trademarked a distinctive flying horse logo inspired by Pegasus of Greek mythology. Based in Rochester, New York, the petroleum company had built a successful lubricants business long before gasoline was a branded product. In 1931, after earlier acquiring Magnolia Petroleum, Standard Oil of New York combined with Vacuum Oil and adopted the flying trademark. The Socony-Vacuum company, which became Mobil Oil in 1966, erected its rotating red Pegasus in 1934 on the Magnolia headquarters building in Dallas. The city’s skyline featured the sign from 1934 until 1999, when structural issues forced its removal. Thanks to a local initiative, Pegasus returned to the 400-foot building on January 1, 2000.

Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark


Energy Education Articles

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

Salt Well Driller discovers Oil in 1829

On March 11, 1829, while drilling for brine using a spring-pole on a farm near Burkesville, Kentucky, Martin Beatty found oil at a depth of 171 feet. Disappointed, he searched elsewhere. Because oil from his well would be bottled and sold, some consider Beatty’s discovery the earliest commercial oil well in North America. Beatty had drilled brine wells to meet growing demand from Kentucky settlers needing dried salt to preserve food. He bored his wells by percussion drilling — raising and dropping a chisel from a sapling, an ancient technology for making hole.

Learn more in Kentucky’s Great American Oil Well.

Sour Lake produces Texaco

The Sour Lake oilfield was revealed on March 7, 1902, about 20 miles northwest of Beaumont, Texas, where the world-famous Spindletop Hill field had been discovered one year earlier. The spa town of Sour Lake, known for its “sulphureus spring water,” would become a boom town where many major oil companies, including Texaco, got their start. A monument marks the site where in 1903 the Texas Company’s Fee No. 3 well flowed at 5,000 barrels of oil a day.

Learn more in Sour Lake produces Texaco

Wyatt Earp’s California Oil Wells

On February 25, 1926, in Kern County, California, an oil well invested in by former lawman Wyatt Earp began producing 150 barrels of oil a day, confirming his belief in the field five miles north of Bakersfield. In July 1924, Getty Oil Company had begun drilling on the Earp lease. “Old Property Believed Worthless for Years West of Kern Field Relocated by Old-Timer,” declared the San Francisco Examiner, describing Earp, 75, as the “pioneer mining man of Tombstone.”

Learn more in Wyatt Earp’s California Oil Wells

Thank you again for reading and sharing our latest “Oil & Gas History News,” a free email newsletter that is adding new subscribers almost daily. Special thanks to all of our supporting members. You make this monthly history preservation effort possible. Every contribution, large or small, helps maintain the AOGHS website and add content. Your comments and suggestions also are always welcomed.

— Bruce Wells


© 2023 American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 3204 18th Street NW, No. 3, Washington, DC 20010, United States, (202) 387-6996

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