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August 17, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 8

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our August newsletter. This month’s petroleum milestones include the end of U.S. gasoline rationing in 1945; reflection seismic technology used to find oil in 1921; the first pipeline delivery of natural gas in 1872; and Spanish explorers who discovered oil in the New World in 1543. Also featured is the 1918 discovery of “the world’s wonder oil pool” in Texas and the 100th anniversary of the Luling oilfield, which produced folklore along with oil. Community oil patch festivals are highlighted too, especially in Pennsylvania, where the oil industry began this month in 1859.

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. 

August 15, 1945 – End of World War II Gas Rationing

Gasoline rationing ended the day after President Harry Truman announced World War II was over. Food rationing had begun in the spring of 1942 with rubber and gasoline added in December. The Office of Price Administration issued coupon books to conserve oil for fighting the war. Civilian drivers received a windshield sticker and ration coupons for gasoline limiting them to four gallons a week. A ration book “B” sticker allowed business owners eight gallons a week…MORE

August 9, 1921 – Seismography reveals Geological Structure

A team led by University of Oklahoma geophysicist John C. Karcher conducted the world’s first reflection seismograph measurement of a geologic formation, pioneering the use of reflection seismic technology in petroleum exploration. Prof. Karcher’s seismography method would lead to discovery of many of the world’s largest oil and natural gas fields. His geological section measurement followed limited tests in June and July in Oklahoma City…MORE

August 1, 1872 – Iron Pipeline delivers Pennsylvania Natural Gas

The first recorded large-scale delivery of natural gas by pipeline began when gas was sent to more than 250 residential and commercial customers in Titusville, Pennsylvania, home of America’s first commercial oil well, completed in August 1859. The two-inch iron pipeline carried natural gas five miles from a well producing four million cubic feet of gas per day…MORE

July 25, 1543 – Oil reported in New World

The first documented report of oil in the New World came after a sudden storm forced Spanish explorer Don Luis de Moscoso to land two of his brigantines at the mouth of the Sabine River. He had succeeded expedition leader Hernando de Soto and built seven of the small vessels to sail down the newly discovered Mississippi River and westward along the Gulf Coast…MORE

Energy Education

Burkburnett, Texas, oilfield derricks and tank cars, circa 1919.

Circa 1919 image of Burkburnett, Texas, “the world’s wonder oil pool, showing eight months phenomenal development, viewed from the northwest side, opposite Fowler farm.” Photo detail from the Almeron Newman Photographic Company, courtesy Library of Congress.

Boom Town Burkburnett

The Burkburnett oilfield discovery of July 29, 1918, on a farm along the Red River launched a drilling boom that brought prosperity to North Texas. Drilled by the Fowler Farm Oil Company, the well was completed at the northeastern edge of Burkburnett, which had been founded in 1907. The town was named by President Theodore Roosevelt, who had hunted wolf nearby with rancher Burk Burnett. Less than one year after the Fowler discovery, a well on another farm added 27 square miles to the Burkburnett oilfield, bringing more exploration, production, and oilfield service companies to Wichita County.

Learn more in Boom Town Burkburnett

Featured Articles

A Brief History of Drilling Technology

“A good cable-tool man is just about the most highly skilled worker you’ll find,” one oilfield roughneck noted. “Besides having a feel for the job, knowing what’s going on thousands of feet under the ground just from the movement of the cable, he’s got to be something of a carpenter, a steam-fitter, an electrician, and a damned good mechanic.” – Voices from the Oil Fields, 1939.

Learn more in Making Hole — Drilling Technology

Luling Oilfield Discovered 100 Years Ago

Edgar B. Davis had been determined to find oil near Luling, Texas. On August 9, 1922, after drilling six consecutive unsuccessful wells, his United North & South Oil Company struck “black gold.” The financially struggling company’s Rafael Rios No. 1 well revealed an oilfield that proved to be 12 miles long and two miles wide. The subsequent drilling boom produced tales of Davis finding the oilfield only after consulting a psychic. The bogus oil patch reading came from the “The Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce, who claimed to have helped Davis and other wildcatters.

Learn more in Luling Oil Museum and Crudoleum.

Oil Museum Events

In a restored 1885 mercantile building downtown, exhibits at the Luling Oil Museum focus on the real science behind the Rafael Rios No. 1 well and the oilfield that produced 11 million barrels of oil by 1924. Luling celebrated the 100th anniversary of its oilfield discovery in August — and has hosted a watermelon festival every June since 1954.

The Luling museum and other community oil and gas museums enjoyed a happier summer this year, which brought the return of festivals. On Saturday, August 20, residents of Ames, Oklahoma, will celebrate the 45th annual Ames Day. Events take place around the Ames Astrobleme Museum, which opened in 1992. In Chickasaw County, the 40th annual Healdton Oilfield Days (including rodeo and car show) is planned for August 26-27. The Healdton Oil Museum preserves the history of one of Oklahoma’s great oil booms, which began in Healdton in 1913.

In Pennsylvania, many new visitors explored the Venango Museum of Art Science & Industry in Oil City during the recent 44th annual Oil Heritage Festival. Tourists also explored nearby Drake Well Museum exhibits during August’s Titusville Oil Festival, which offered excursions on the historic Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad. In Bradford, the Derrick Day Festival at the end of July showcased the Penn Brad Oil Museum and the 151st anniversary of the world’s first billion dollar oilfield.

Many other Community museums have joined in celebrating petroleum heritage. They are also hosting K-12 education programs for the new school year. Some have opened facilities like the Energy Education Center at the Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado. In 2023, the West Kern Oil Museum, operated almost entirely by volunteers in Taft, California, looks forward its 50th year of educating visitors about the state’s energy industry.

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— Bruce Wells


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