June 21, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 6

Oil & Gas History News


Welcome to our newsletter on this first day of summer — and thank you for subscribing. This month’s chronology begins with the first oil to flow in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1977; discovery of New York’s Allegheny oilfield a century later; and the first federal gasoline tax (one-cent) in 1937. Also featured are Nebraska’s first commercial oil well in 1940 and the 1905 patent for a remarkable steel drum. This month’s featured image is a postcard of derricks at the boom town of Signal Hill, California. Two more articles look at a colorful petroleum product for children and PLUTO, the secret oil pipelines of World War II. This month concludes with a unique contribution from a reader and some museum news. Thanks again for subscribing. Find time this summer to visit an oil museum!

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 20, 1977 –  Oil begins Flowing in Trans-Alaska Pipeline

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline began carrying oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez at Prince William Sound. The oil arrived 38 days later, culminating the world’s largest privately funded construction project at the time. The Prudhoe Bay field had been discovered in 1968 about 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Construction of the 48-inch-wide pipeline began in April 1974. Oil throughput of the $8 billion pipeline peaked in 1988 at just over two million barrels per day…MORE

June 12, 1879 – Allegheny Oilfield discovered by O.P. Taylor

Orville “O.P.” Taylor completed the Triangle No. 1 well at a depth of 1,177 feet in Allegheny County, New York, revealing an oilfield that extended into Pennsylvania. His discovery came after two failed wells drilled near oil seeps first reported by a French missionary in in 1627. The Allegheny oilfield would launch a drilling boom and create the town of Petrolia…MORE

June 6, 1932 – First Federal Gasoline Tax

The federal government taxed gasoline for the first time when the Revenue Act of 1932 added a one-cent per gallon excise tax to U.S. gasoline sales. The first state to tax gasoline had been Oregon, which imposed a one-cent per gallon tax in 1919…MORE

May 29, 1940 – Nebraska’s First Oil Well

After more than a half century of dry holes, Nebraska’s first commercial oil well was completed near Falls City in the southeastern corner of the state. Eager to join other states benefiting from tax revenue gained from petroleum, Nebraska lawmakers had offered a $15,000 bonus for the first well to produce 50 barrels of oil daily for two months…MORE

May 23, 1905 – Patent issued for Improved Metal Barrel Lid

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.” Wehrhahn assigned patent rights to the widow of Robert Seaman, founder of Iron Clad Manufacturing — journalist Nellie Bly…MORE


Energy Education

The discovery of oil at Signal Hill in 1921 would help make California the source of one-quarter of the world’s oil output. Soon known as “Porcupine Hill,” the town was in the midst of the giant Long Beach oilfield. Postcard (circa 1930-1945) courtesy Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library, Digital Commonwealth.

Signal Hill Discovery brings California Oil Boom

Another southern California drilling boom began on June 23, 1921, when oil erupted 114 feet high at Signal Hill. The Alamitos No. 1 discovery well produced about 600 barrels of oil a day. By 1923, the oilfield 20 miles south of Los Angeles produced 259,000 barrels of oil a day. Derricks were so close to one cemetery that graves “generated royalty checks to next-of-kin when oil was drawn from beneath family plots.” Combined with the 1892 Los Angeles oilfield discovery and the 1920 Huntington Beach field, California alone produced one-fourth of the world’s oil. A 1952 monument in Signal Hill’s Discovery Well Park has served “as a tribute to the petroleum pioneers for their success here.”

Learn more in Signal Hill Oil Boom.

Featured Articles

Carbon Black Patent leads to Crayola Crayons

Crayola Crayons began in early May 1891, when Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith of Easton, Pennsylvania, were awarded a U.S. patent for their “Apparatus for the Manufacture of Carbon Black.” Their success would lead to creation of a new petroleum product that got its name from the French word for chalk, craie, and an English adjective meaning oily, oleaginous.

Learn more in Carbon Black & Oilfield Crayons.

PLUTO, the Top Secret Pipelines of WW II

To prevent fuel shortages following the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion, Operation PLUTO – Pipe Line Under The Ocean – became a top-secret Allied strategy. Pipe was wound onto enormous floating “conundrums” designed to spool off the pipe when towed across the English Channel. Each mile used over 46 tons of lead, steel tape and wire for crossing almost 70 miles from Isle of Wight to Cherbourg.

Learn more in PLUTO, Secret Pipelines of WW II.

Research & Museum News


Informal History of Indiana Refining

James Hines of Columbus, Indiana, earlier this month emailed the historical society the text of his chronology of the Indiana Refining Company, Havoline Motor Oil, and the Texas Company — Texaco. “Emphasis was placed on Indian Refining Company and on an accurate account of Havoline’s early days,” Hines noted, describing his research simply as “Informal History Notes.”

Learn more in Histories of Indian Refining, Havoline, and Texaco.

Alaska Oil and Gas Historical Society

The Alaska Oil & Gas Historical Society (AKOGHS) has been established to collect artifacts, documents and photos as educational resources for students and researchers. Alaska’s historical society plans on hosting special events and programs, offering “a unique opportunity to the public to learn about the rich history of the industry.”

Thanks for reading — and sharing — this June newsletter. The updated AOGHS website research forum also can help with research and information sharing. It’s easy to participate and make suggestions. As always, a special thank you to new and renewing supporting members, who recognize lessons of the past are important for meeting today’s energy challenges.

— 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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