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November 17, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 11

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s monthly chronology of U.S. petroleum history. Our November issue features a 1952 Williston Basin oil production milestone; the 1880 death of the man who drilled America’s first oil well; an innovative two-tank railroad car of 1865; and the infamous 1929 Teapot Dome scandal. Also featured is the first U.S. auto show, which took place in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1900; the most popular models proved to be electric, steam, and gasoline…in that order.

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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.

November 15, 1952 – Williston Basin produces Millionth Barrel of Oil

The Williston Basin produced its millionth barrel of oil, which came from five fields in three North Dakota counties. By the end of 1952, monthly production would reach 356,000 barrels of oil. “Oil was first found in the Williston Basin along the Cedar Creek Anticline in southeastern Montana, in the 1920s,” noted the North Dakota Geological Survey…MORE

November 8, 1880 – Death of Father of U.S. Petroleum Industry

Edwin Laurentine Drake, the former railroad conductor who drilled the first U.S. commercial oil well, died in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at age 61. His famous 1859 Pennsylvania oil discovery had brought prosperity to many, but Drake lost all his money in speculative ventures. He became so destitute the Pennsylvania legislature voted him a $1,500 pension in 1873…MORE

November 1, 1865 – Densmore Railroad Oil Tank Car arrives

The first of James and Amos Densmore’s innovative railroad cars with two oil tanks arrived at the Miller Farm, four miles south of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The inventors would be awarded a U.S. patent in early 1866 for their dual tank design. Crude oil for the iron-banded wooden tanks on a flatcar came from Samuel Van Syckle’s two-inch iron pipeline, another petroleum industry first…MORE

October 25, 1929 – Cabinet Member guilty in Teapot Dome Scandal

Albert B. Fall, appointed Interior Secretary in 1921 by President Warren G. Harding, was found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office, becoming the first cabinet official in U.S. history to be convicted of a felony. An executive order from Harding had given Fall full control of the Naval Petroleum Reserves…MORE

Energy Education

Winton Motor Carriage 1898 ad

Of the 4,200 automobiles sold in 1900, less than a thousand were powered by gasoline. This ad for a Winton Motor Carriage with “hydrocarbon motor” – often identified as the first American automobile ad – appeared in a 1898 issue of Scientific American magazine. 

New York City hosts First U.S. Auto Show

America’s first gathering of the latest automotive technologies on November 3, 1900, attracted thousands to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Manufacturers presented 160 different vehicles and conducted driving and maneuverability demonstrations on a 20-foot-wide wooden track that encircled the exhibits. A 200-foot ramp tested hill-climbing power. New Yorkers welcomed automobiles as a way to reduce the estimated 450,000 tons of horse manure annually removed from the city’s streets.

Learn more in Cantankerous Combustion — 1st U.S. Auto Show.

Featured Articles

Manufactured Gas Companies become Con Edison

In November 1884, the largest U.S. gas utility company at the time was established in New York City when six gas-light companies — using manufactured “coal gas” — merged to form the Consolidated Gas Company. With revenue of $12.25 billion in 2020, Consolidated Edison can trace its earliest roots to the New York Gas Light Company, which received a charter from the state legislature in 1823. Later conflicts between crews from competing companies gave rise to the term “gas house gangs.”

Learn more in History of Con Edison.

Natural Gas Well lights Pittsburgh in 1878

While exploring for oil near Murrysville, Pennsylvania, a well drilled by Michael and Obediah Haymaker erupted natural gas on November 3, 1878. “Every piece of rigging went sky high, whirling around like so much paper caught in a gust of wind,” Michael Haymaker recalled. Without technologies to cap the well and no pipeline to exploit commercial possibilities, the Haymaker brothers’ well drew thousands of onlookers to a flaming torch that burned for 18 months. “Outlet of a natural gas well near Pittsburgh — a sight that can be seen in no other city in the world,” noted Harper’s Weekly.

Learn more in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

Olinda Oil Wells Star Pitcher vs. Babe Ruth

Former oilfield worker Walter “Big Train” Johnson returned to his oil patch roots for an exhibition game with Babe Ruth in Brea, California, on October 31, 1924. Three decades earlier, Johnson had started his baseball career as a 16-year-old pitcher for the Olinda Oil Wells. As baseball became America’s favorite pastime, many oil patch boom towns fielded teams – with names that reflected their communities’ enthusiasm and often their livelihood.

Learn more in Oilfields of Dreams – Gassers, Oilers, and Drillers Baseball.

Thanks to you, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society helps preserve U.S. petroleum history, which provides a context for understanding the modern energy business. With your continued support, AOGHS can expand its energy education resources, including links to community museums, historical societies, libraries, and others. Please share this newsletter to expand our petroleum history network. Generously support maintenance of the AOGHS website!

— Bruce Wells


“Gentlemen, it appears to me that there is much ground for encouragement in the belief that your company have in their possession a raw material from which, by simple and not expensive processes, they may manufacture very valuable products.” — Yale Professor Benjamin Silliman Jr. 1855 report to the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company.

© 2021 American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 3204 18th Street NW, No. 3, Washington, District of Columbia 20010, United States, (202) 387-6996

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