Although the state of Washington has never been close to becoming a major producer of oil, that has never stopped exploration companies from trying.
Beginning as early as the late 1880s, speculators and drillers fruitlessly tried their luck – sometimes in areas even known to have burning oil and coal-gas seeps.
Hundreds of companies tried and failed, some never raising enough cash to drill a single well in the rugged country. Independent oilman Aron Hover’s petroleum company apparently was among them.
Incorporated in Spokane, Aladin Oil & Refining Company, which actively sought investors between 1921 and 1924 – left no record of drilling a well. But the founding president, Hover, tirelessly proclaimed that great wealth was to be found in Spokane and the “entire Island Empire” by using a “Grand Daddy” 90-foot rig and its 20-inch drill bit.
“We are starting right, so we can go 4,000 feet, if necessary,” promised an October 9, 1921, full-page advertisement in the Spokesman-Review newspaper.
By drilling there, Spokane would repeat the petroleum boom of Casper, Wyoming, where Hover claimed his debt-free company owned of 3,000 acres. Two decades after founding Aladin Oil, Hover will be murdered while searching the sparse Mississippi oilfields.
Wyoming’s first major petroleum boom had arrived in 1908, when Salt Creek’s “Big Dutch” well erupted as an oil gusher, about 40 miles north of Casper. An English corporation, the Oil Wells Drilling Syndicate, brought in the well at 1,050 feet with initial production of 600 barrels a day.
The discovery brought Wyoming a flood of entrepreneurs and investors.
Hover’s Spokesman-Review advertisement further enticed potential investors with photographs and text describing Aladin Oil other properties in Washington, Wyoming and Montana. Learn facts about Wyoming’s oil history in Petroleum Pioneers of Wyoming.
“Don’t Gamble! Aladin Oil is safe, sane and sure – a winner now,” promised the company, which offered coupon to purchase stock at ten cents a share. “A day is ancient history in oil.”
However, Aladin Oil & Refining Company not only did not prosper, it disappeared. A report from the Washington secretary of state listed the company as “stricken from the records” on July 1, 1924, for failing to pay annual license fees.
In a grim epitaph 20 years later, founding president Hover was reported as “an independent oil operator and oil geologist” when he was found murdered near Laurel, Mississippi. He had been looking for oil leasing opportunities.
Arrested and tried in the capital case, James Walter Poore was found guilty by a jury in eight minutes. Just hours from the electric chair in 1949, Poore escaped execution by slashing his wrists.
In Washington, after half a century of drilling wells that resulted in dry holes, small commercial oil wells were discovered near Seattle in the 1950s.
Learn about another petroleum company founded a decade after Aladin Oil – and the oil and gas seeps at “Flaming Geyser” state park – in Sound Cities Gas & Oil Company.
The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact email@example.com. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.