This Week in Petroleum History, March 20 to March 26

March 20, 1919 – American Petroleum Institute founded – 

Tracing its roots to World War I when the petroleum industry and Congress worked together to fuel the war effort, the American Petroleum Institute (API) was founded in New York City. Within two years, the organization had improved an 1876 French scale to measure petroleum density relative to water — a standard later adopted and called API gravity. Based in Washington, D.C. since 1969, API has represented the interests of major oil and natural gas companies while maintaining standards and recommended industry practices. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, March 13 to March 19

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 President Richard M. Nixon to propose and Congress approve voluntary rationing and a ban of gas sales on Sundays. OPEC ended the embargo after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated an Israeli troop withdrawal from parts of the Sinai.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

March 14, 1910 – Lakeview No. 1 Well erupts in California 

The Union Oil Company Lakeview No. 1 well erupted a geyser of oil at dawn in Kern County, California (some sources give the date as March 15). With limited technologies for  managing the deep, highly pressured formation of the Midway-Sunset field, drillers had experienced several accidental oil spills, including the Shamrock gusher in 1896 and the 1909 Midway gusher.

Lakeview oil gusher monument near the West Kern Oil Museum in Taft, California,

A marker and remnants of a sand berm north of Maricopa, California, mark the site of a 1910 Union Oil gusher that flowed uncontrolled for 18 months. Photo courtesy San Joaquin Valley Geology.

“But none of these wells came close to rivaling the Lakeview No. 1 which flowed, uncapped and untamed, at 18,000 barrels a day for 18 months,” noted a San Joaquin Valley geologist. Surrounded by berms and sandbags to contain the oil, the well collapsed and died in September 1911, after producing 9.4 million barrels of oil (about half was contained and sold).

Lakeview oil gusher of March 15,1910, in n California's Midway oilfield.

Oil erupted in California’s Midway-Sunset oilfield on March 15, 1910. Contained by sandbags by October, the Lakeview No. 1 well produced 9.4 million barrels during the 544 days it flowed. Photo courtesy San Joaquin Valley Geology.

The environmental impact of the Lakeview well, still the largest oil spill in U.S. history, was less destructive due to evaporation and levees of sandbags that prevented contamination of Buena Vista Lake. A Kern County historic marker was erected in 1952 at the site, seven miles north of the West Kern Oil Museum.

The ram-type blowout preventer to seal well pressure was invented in 1922.

March 16, 1911 – Pegasus Trademark takes flight 

A Vacuum Oil Company subsidiary in Cape Town, South Africa, trademarked a flying horse logo inspired by Pegasus of Greek mythology. Based in Rochester, New York, Vacuum Oil had built a successful lubricants business long before gasoline was a branded product.

When Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of New York (Socony) combined in 1931, the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company adopted the red-winged horse trademark and marketed Pegasus Spirits and Mobilegas products.

Original Mobil Pegasus logo trademark from 1911.

The original Mobil Pegasus logo was registered in 1911 by a South Africa subsidiary of New York-based Vacuum Oil Company. 

A stylized red gargoyle earlier had advertised the company, which produced petroleum-based lubricants for carriages and steam engines. Created by the Vacuum Oil Company of South Africa, the Pegasus trademark proved to be a far more enduring image.

Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

March 16, 1914 – “Main Street” Oil Well completed in Oklahoma

A well completed in 1914 produced oil from about 1,770 feet beneath Barnsdall, Oklahoma. The popular TV program Ripley’s Believe It or Not would proclaim the well the “World’s Only Main Street Oil Well.”

March oil history image of oil pump in main street of Barndsall, OK

An oil well pump in the middle of Main Street in Barnsdall, Oklahoma, was visited by American Oil & Gas Historical Society volunteer Tim Wells in 2016. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The town originally was called Bigheart, named for Osage Chief James Bigheart, who on behalf of the Osage people in 1875 signed the first lease for oil and gas exploration, according to Osage County. In 1922, Barnsdall was renamed for Theodore Barnsdall, owner of the Barnsdall Refining Company, which later became part of Baker Hughes Company.  The National Register of Historic Places added the Barnsdall Main Street oil well in 1997.

March 17, 1890 – Sun Oil Company founded 

The Peoples Natural Gas Company, founded four years earlier by Joseph Pew and Edward Emerson to provide natural gas to Pittsburgh, expanded to become the Sun Oil Company of Ohio.

Illustration of Sun Oil logo evolution to SUNOCO.

Sun Oil Company brands from 1894 to 1920 (top) to SONOCO from 1920 to 1954.

At the turn of the century, the company had acquired promising leases near Findlay and entered the business of “producing petroleum, rock and carbon oil, transporting and storing same, refining, purifying, manufacturing such oil and its various products.” In the 1920s, the company marketed Sunoco Motor Oil and opened service stations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The company became an oilfield equipment supplier in 1929, forming Sperry-Sun. Also see Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

March 17, 1923 – Oklahoma Discovery leads to Giant Oilfields

The Betsy Foster No. 1 well, a 2,800-barrel-a-day oil gusher near Wewoka, county seat of Seminole County, Oklahoma, launched the Seminole area boom. The discovery south of Oklahoma City was followed by others in Cromwell and Bethel (1924), and Earlsboro and Seminole (1926). Thirty-nine separate oilfields were ultimately found around Seminole and parts of Pottawatomie, Okfuskee, Hughes, and Pontotoc counties. Once one of the poorest economic regions in Oklahoma, by 1935 the Seminole area became the largest supplier of oil in the world.

March 17, 1949 – First Commercial Application of Hydraulic Fracturing

A team from Halliburton and Stanolind companies converged on an oil well about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma, and performed the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing.

A 1947 experimental well had fractured a natural gas field in Hugoton, Kansas, and proven the possibility of increased productivity. The technique was developed and patented by Stanolind (later known as Pan American Oil Company) and an exclusive license was issued to Halliburton Company to perform the process. Four years later, the license was extended to all qualified oilfield service companies.

Derrick and truck at first hydraulic fracture of oil well in 1949.

The first commercial hydraulic fracturing job (above) took place in 1949 about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy Halliburton.

“Since that fateful day in 1949, hydraulic fracturing has done more to increase recoverable reserves than any other technique,” proclaimed a Halliburton company spokesman in 2009, adding that more than two million fracturing treatments have been pumped without polluting an aquifer.

Erle P. Halliburton had patented an efficient well cementing technology in 1921 that improved oil production while protecting the environment. The earliest attempts to increase  petroleum production by fracturing geologic formations began in the 1860s.

Learn more in Shooters – A ‘Fracking’ History

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

March 17, 1949 – “Diamond Glenn” opens Shamrock Hotel

Texas independent producer “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy hosted the grand opening of his $21 million, 18-story, 1,100-room Shamrock Hotel on the outskirts of Houston. McCarthy reportedly spent another $1 million for the hotel’s St. Patrick’s Day opening day gala, including arranging for a 16-car Santa Fe Super Chief train to bring friends from Hollywood.

Color postcard of Shamrock Hotel, Houston, Texas, circa 1950.

After paying $21 million to construct the Shamrock Hotel, Glenn McCarthy spent another $1 million for its grand opening on St. Patrick’ Day 1949. The 1,100-room Houston hotel was demolished in 1987.

The Texas wildcatter, who had discovered 11 oilfields by 1945, also introduced his own label of bourbon at Shamrock, the largest hotel in the United States at the time. Dubbed Houston’s biggest party, the Shamrock’s debut “made the city of Houston a star overnight,” one newspaper reported.

Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.

March 18, 1937 – New London School Explosion Tragedy

With just minutes left in the school day, a natural gas explosion destroyed the New London High School in Rusk County, Texas. Odorless gas (a residual natural gas called casing-head gas) had leaked into the basement and ignited with an explosion heard four miles away. East Texas oilfield workers — many with children attending the school — rushed to the scene, as did a cub reporter from Dallas, Walter Cronkite.

Devastating March 1937 gas explosion at New London school in East Texas oilfield.

Roughnecks from the East Texas oilfield rushed to the devastated school and searched for survivors throughout the night. Photo courtesy New London Museum.

Despite desperate rescue efforts, 298 people were killed that day (dozens more later died of injuries). The explosion’s source was later found to be an electric wood-shop sander that sparked odorless gas that had pooled beneath and in the walls of the school. As a result of this disaster, Texas and other states passed laws requiring that natural gas be mixed with a malodorant to give early warning of a gas leak.

Learn more about the tragedy in New London School Explosion.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

March 18, 1938 — First Offshore Well drilled in Gulf of Mexico’s Creole field

Gulf of Mexico oil production from a well drilled by Pure Oil and Superior Oil companies helped launch the modern offshore industry. The Creole oilfield in Louisiana’s offshore Cameron Parish was the first discovered in the open waters of the Gulf, according to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). More offshore wells followed after World War II, including the Kerr-McGee drilling platform, Kermac Rig No. 16, which in 1947 became the first offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico that was out of sight of land.

By the end of 1949, the offshore industry had discovered 11 oil and natural gas fields. The first mobile drilling platform, Mr. Charlie, began drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in 1954 (see articles in Offshore Oil History).


Recommended Reading: San Joaquin Valley, California, Images of America (1999); A History of the Greater Seminole Oil Field(1981); The Green and the Black: The Complete Story of the Shale Revolution, the Fight over Fracking, and the Future of Energy (2016); A Texas Tragedy: The New London School Explosion (2012). 


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.


This Week in Petroleum History, March 6 to March 12

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

More than a decade before Utah’s first commercial oil wells, 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.

oil history march derrick in Utah oilfield

A 1935 attempt to find oil in Utah proved deadly. Photo courtesy Washington County Historical Society.

An explosion occurred as the torpedoes, “each loaded with nitroglycerin and TNT and hanging from the derrick,” were being lowered into the well. Ten people died from the detonations, which “sent a shaft of fire into the night that was seen as far as 18 miles away.” The 1935 accident has remained the worst oil-related disaster in Utah, according to The Escalante Well Incident, a 2007 historical account.

March 7, 1902 – Oil discovered at Sour Lake, Texas

Adding to the giant oilfields of Texas, the Sour Lake field was discovered about 20 miles west of the world-famous Spindletop gusher of January 1901. The spa town of Sour Lake quickly became a boom town where major oil companies, including Texaco, got their start.

Circa 1910 oil derricks at Sour Lake, 20 miles northwest of Beaumont, Texas.

“The resort town of Sour Lake, 20 miles northwest of Beaumont, was transformed into an oil boom town when a gusher was hit in 1902,” notes the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Originally settled in 1835 and called Sour Lake Springs because of its “sulphureus spring water” known for healing, the sulfur wells attracted many exploration companies. Some petroleum geologists predicted a Sour Lake salt dome formation similar to that revealed by Pattillo Higgins, the Prophet of Spindletop.

Sour Lake’s 1902 discovery well was the second attempt of the Great Western Company. The well, drilled “north of the old hotel building,” penetrated 40 feet of oil sands before reaching a total depth of about 700 feet. The Hardin County’s salt dome oilfield yielded almost nine million barrels of oil by 1903, when the Texas Company made its first major oil find at Sour Lake.

Learn more in Sour Lake produces Texaco.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

March 7, 2007 – National Artificial Reef Plan updated

The National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approved a comprehensive update of the 1985 National Artificial Reef Plan, popularly known as the “rigs to reefs” program. 

Schools of fish swim between pylons of offshore oil platform.

A typical platform provides almost three acres of feeding habitat for thousands of species. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The agency worked with interstate marine commissions and state artificial reef programs, “to promote and facilitate responsible and effective artificial reef use based on the best scientific information available.” The revised National Artificial Reef Plan included guidelines for siting, construction, development, and assessment of artificial reefs. A typical four-leg structure provides up to three acres of habitat for hundreds of marine species.

“As of December 2021, 573 platforms previously installed on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf have been reefed in the Gulf of Mexico,” according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Learn more in Rigs to Reefs.

March 9, 1930 – Prototype Oil Tanker is Electrically Welded

The world’s first electrically welded commercial vessel, the Texas Company (later Texaco) tanker M/S Carolinian, was completed in Charleston, South Carolina. The World War I shipbuilding boom had encouraged new electric welding technologies. The oil company’s 226-ton vessel was a prototype designed by naval architect Richard Smith.

oil history includes the welded tanker Carolinian

Construction of M/S Carolinian began in 1929. The M/S designation meant it used an internal combustion engine. Photo courtesy Z.P. Liollio.

The tanker — the first electrically welded ship — eliminated the need for about 85,000 pounds of rivets, according to a 2017 article for the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). Success of the prototype led to “the standard of welded hulls and internal combustion engines would become universal in construction of new vessels.”

March 9, 1959 – Barbie is a Petroleum Doll

Mattel revealed the Barbie Doll at the American Toy Fair in New York City. More than one billion “dolls in the Barbie family” have been sold since. Eleven inches tall, Barbie owes her existence to petroleum products and the science of polymerization, including several plastic acronyms: ABS, EVA, PBT, and PVC.

Rows of plastic Barbie heads made from petroleum products.

Petroleum-based polymers are part of Barbie’s DNA.

Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS) is known for strength and flexibility. This thermoplastic polymer is used in Barbie’s torso to provide impact and heat resistance. EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate), a copolymer made up of ethylene and vinyl acetate, protects Barbie’s smooth surface.

The Mattel doll also includes Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT), a thermoplastic polymer often used as an electrical insulator. A mineral component facilitates PBT injection molding of her “full figure,” according to the company. Barbie’s hair and many of her designer outfits are made from the world’s first synthetic fiber, nylon, invented in 1935 (see Nylon, a Petroleum Polymer).

March 11, 1829 – Kentucky Salt Well Driller discovers Oil

Boring for salt brine with a simple spring-pole device on a farm near Burkesville, Kentucky, Martin Beatty found oil 171 feet deep. Disappointed, he searched elsewhere. Because oil from his well would be bottled and sold, some people 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.

Map of an 1829 salt well that found oil well in Kentucky.

Drilled in 1829 about 250 miles north of Nashville, the Kentucky “salt well” produced about 50,000 barrels of oil in three weeks.

Historian Sheldon Baugh described the scene of Beatty’s March 11, 1829, Kentucky oilfield discovery: “On that day, well-driller Beatty bragged to bystanders, ‘Today I’ll drill her into salt or else to Hell.’ When the gusher erupted he apparently thought he’d succeeded in hitting Hell! As the story goes, he ran off into the hills and didn’t come back.”

Kentucky’s Great American Oil Well would be neglected for years — until oil from Beatty’s well found its way to Pittsburgh, where businessman Samuel Kier bottled and sold it as medicine. Kier also would build the earliest refineries for turning oil into kerosene for lamps.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

March 11, 1930 – Society of Exploration Geophysicists founded

The Society of Exploration Geophysicists was founded by 30 men and women in Houston as the Society of Economic Geophysicists. Based in Tulsa since the mid-1940s, SEG fosters “the expert and ethical practice of geophysics in the exploration and development of natural resources.”

Society of Exploration Geophysicists logo

SEG began publishing the award-winning journal Geophysics in 1936 and in 1958 formed a trust to provide scholarships for students of geophysics. The society in 2019 reported more than 14,000 members in 114 countries.

March 12, 1912 – Tom Slick discovers First of Many Oilfields 

Once known as “Dry Hole Slick,” Thomas B. Slick discovered a giant oilfield midway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. His No. 1 Wheeler uncovered the Drumright-Cushing field, which produced for the next 35 years, reaching 330,000 barrels of oil a day at its peak. Knowing speculators would descend on the area when word got out, Slick secretly hired all of the local livery rigs.

Wildcatter Tom Slick honored at the Conoco Oil Pioneers plaza.

Tom Slick is among those honored at the Conoco Oil Pioneers plaza at the Sam Noble Museum, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

After his success in Cushing, Slick began an 18-year streak of discovering some of America’s most prolific fields in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. His discoveries during the Greater Seminole Oil Boom of the 1920s made him the leading independent producer in the United States with a net worth up to $100 million.

By 1930 in the Oklahoma City field alone, Slick completed 30 wells with the capacity to produce 200,000 barrels of oil a day. When he died suddenly the same year from a stroke at age 46, oil derricks in the Oklahoma City field stood silent for one hour in tribute to Slick, Oklahoma’s King of the Wildcatters.

March 12, 1914 – Last Coal Powered U.S. Battleship Commissioned

The USS Texas, the last American battleship built with coal-fired boilers, was commissioned. Coal-burning boilers, which produced dense smoke and created tons of ash, required the Navy to maintain coaling stations worldwide. Coaling ship was a major undertaking and early battleships carried about 2,000 tons with a crew of “coal passers.”

Last coal powered battleship, the USS Texas is now a museum.

The USS Texas’ coal-powered boilers were converted to burn fuel oil in 1925. Photo courtesy Battleship Texas State Historic Site.

Dramatic improvement in efficiency came when the Navy began adopting fuel oil boilers. By 1916, the Navy had commissioned its first two capital ships with oil-fired boilers, the USS Nevada and the USS Oklahoma. To resupply them, “oilers” were designed to transfer fuel while at anchor, although underway replenishment was soon possible in fair seas.

The USS Texas was converted to burn fuel oil in 1925. The “Big T” — today the Battleship Texas State Historic Site docked on the Houston Ship Channel — was the first battleship declared to be a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Learn more in Petroleum and Sea Power.

March 12, 1943 – Secret Mission sends Roughnecks to Sherwood Forest

A top-secret team of 42 American drillers, derrickmen, roustabouts, and motormen boarded the troopship HMS Queen Elizabeth. They were volunteers from two Oklahoma companies, Noble Drilling and Fain-Porter Drilling. Their mission was to drill wells in England’s Sherwood Forest and help relieve the crisis caused by German submarines sinking Allied oil tankers. Four rotary drilling rigs were shipped on separate transport ships. One of the ships was sunk by a U-Boat.

Volunteer roughnecks from two Oklahoma drilling companies who secretly drilled in for England during World War II.

Volunteer roughnecks from two Oklahoma drilling companies will embark for England in 1943. Derrickman Herman Douthit will not return.

With the future of Great Britain depending on petroleum supplies, the Americans used Yankee ingenuity to drill an average of one well per week. Their secret work added vital oil to fuel the British war effort.

Learn more in Roughnecks of Sherwood Forest.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

March 12, 1968 – Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay Oilfield Discovered

Two hundred and fifty miles north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil (ARCO) and Humble Oil Company (Exxon). The Prudhoe Bay State No. 1 exploratory well arrived more than six decades after the first Alaska oil well. It followed Richfield Oil’s discovery of the Swanson River oilfield on the Kenai Peninsula in 1957.

Map  of Prudhoe oilfields from Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Map courtesy Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Photo from 1969 courtesy Atlantic Richfield Company.

At more than 213,000 acres, the Prudhoe Bay field was the largest oilfield in North America, surpassing the 140,000 acre East Texas oilfield discovery of 1930. Prudhoe Bay’s remote location prevented oil production beginning in earnest until 1977, after completion of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Prudhoe Bay field’s production exceeded an average rate of one million barrels of oil a day by March 1978, according to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. It peaked in January 1987 at more than 1.6 million barrels of oil per day.


Recommended Reading:  Sour Lake, Texas: From Mud Baths to Millionaires, 1835-1909 (1995); Rigs-to-reefs: the use of obsolete petroleum structures as artificial reefs (1987); Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century Hardcover (1996); A Geophysicist’s Memoir: Searching for Oil on Six Continents (2017). “King of the Wildcatters:” The Life and Times of Tom Slick, 1883-1930 (2004); Historic Battleship Texas: The Last Dreadnought (2007); The Secret of Sherwood Forest: Oil Production in England During World War II (1973); Discovery at Prudhoe Bay Oil (2008). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.


This Week in Petroleum History, February 27 to March 5

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 technology offered new and environmentally sensitive opportunities to exploit an additional 6,500 acres of the Wilmington oilfield. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, February 20 to February 26

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. The experimental Methane Pioneer demonstrated that large quantities of LNG could be transported safely across the ocean.

This Week in Petroleum History, February 13 – February 19

February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil adopts Yellow Dog Logo – 

Forest Oil Company, founded in 1916 as an oilfield service company by Forest Dorn and his father Clayton, adopted a logo featuring the two-wicked “yellow dog” oilfield lantern. The logo included a keystone shape to symbolized the state of Pennsylvania, where Forest Oil pioneered water-flooding methods to improve production from the 85,000-acre Bradford oilfield.

Founded in 1916 in Bradford, Pennsylvania, Forest Oil Company adopted this "yellow dog" lantern logo in 1924.

Forest Oil Company adopted the “yellow dog” lantern logo in 1924. eight years after being founded in Bradford, Pennsylvania,

Forest Oil Company‘s oilfield water-injection technology, later adopted throughout the petroleum industry, helped keep America’s first billion dollar oilfield producing to the present day. Patented in 1870, the popular derrick lamp’s name was said to come from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s eyes glowing at night.

Learn more in Yellow Dog – Oilfield Lantern.

February 13, 1977 – Famous Texas Ranger  “El Lobo Solo” dies

“El Lobo Solo” — The Lone Wolf — Texas Ranger Manuel T. Gonzaullas died at age 85 in Dallas. During much of the 1920s and 1930s, he had earned a reputation as a strict law enforcer in booming oil towns.

Two 45 pistols of Texas Ranger Manuel T. "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas.

Texas Ranger Manuel Gonzaullas’ “working pistols” had the trigger guard cut away.

When Kilgore became “the most lawless town in Texas” after discovery of the East Texas oilfield in 1930, Gonzaullas was chosen to tame it. “Crime may expect no quarter in Kilgore,”  the Texas Ranger once declared. He rode a black stallion named Tony and sported a pair of 1911 .45 Colts with his initials on the handles.

“He was a soft-spoken man and his trigger finger was slightly bent,” noted independent producer Watson W. Wise in 1985. “He always told me it was geared to that .45 of his.”

Learn more in Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

February 15, 1982 – Deadly Atlantic Storm sinks Drilling Platform

With rogue waves reaching as high as 65 feet during an Atlantic cyclone, offshore drilling platform Ocean Ranger sank on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada, killing all 84 on board. At the time the world’s largest semi-submersible platform, the Ocean Ranger had been drilling a third well in the Hibernia oilfield for Mobil Oil of Canada.

The deadly weather system also engulfed a Soviet container ship 65 miles east of the platform, resulting in the loss of 32 crew members. Recommendations from the 1983 U.S. Coast Guard report would lead to improved emergency procedures, lifesaving equipment, and manning standards for other Offshore Mobil Drilling Unit (MODU) operations.

February 16, 1935 – Petroleum Producing States form Commission

A multi-state government agency that would become the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission was organized in Dallas with adoption of the “Interstate Compact to Preserve Oil and Gas.” Approved by Congress in August, the commission established its headquartered in Oklahoma City.

Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission building circa 1960s

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission has been based in Oklahoma City since the mid-1930s.

Representatives from Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas began planning initiatives, “to conserve oil and gas by the prevention of physical waste thereof from any cause.” Oklahoma Gov. Ernest W. Marland — founder of Marland Oil Company in 1921 — was elected first chairman.

“Faced with unregulated petroleum overproduction and the resulting waste, the states endorsed and Congress ratified a compact to take control of the issues,” according to IOGCC, which added the word gas to its name in 1991.

February 17, 1902 – Lufkin Industries founded in East Texas

The Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company was founded in Lufkin, Texas, as a repair shop for railroad and sawmill machinery. When the pine region’s timber supplies began to dwindle, the company discovered new opportunities in the burgeoning oilfields following the 1901 discovery at Spindletop Hill.

A Lufkin counter-balanced oil pump west of Beaumont, Texas, in 2002.

A Lufkin counter-balanced oil pump near Beaumont, Texas, in 2003. Photo by Bruce Wells.

Inventor Walter C. Trout was working for this East Texas company in 1925 when he came up with a new idea for pumping oil. His design would become an oilfield icon known by many names — nodding donkey, grasshopper, horse-head, thirsty bird, and pump jack, among others.

By the end of 1925, a prototype of Trout’s pumping unit was installed on a Humble Oil and Refining Company well near Hull, Texas. “The well was perfectly balanced, but even with this result, it was such a funny looking, odd thing that it was subject to ridicule and criticism,” Trout explained.

Learn more in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology.

February 17, 1944 – H.L. Hunt discovers First Alabama Oilfield

Alabama’s first oilfield was discovered in Choctaw County when independent producer H.L. Hunt of Dallas, Texas, drilled the No. 1 Jackson well. Hunt’s 1944 wildcat well revealed the Gilbertown oilfield. Prior to this discovery, 350 dry holes had been drilled in the state.

Alabama first oil fields maps

Alabama’s major petroleum producing regions are in the west. Map courtesy Encyclopedia of Alabama.

According to research by petroleum geologist Ray Sorenson, an 1858 report first noted Alabama natural oil seeps about six miles from Oakville in Lawrence County (see Exploring Earliest Signs of Oil). Hunt’s discovery well was drilled in Choctaw County, where he revealed the Gilbertown oilfield at a depth of 3,700 feet.

Although it took 11 years for another oilfield discovery, new technologies and deeper wells in the late 1980s led to the prolific Little Cedar Creek and Brooklyn fields. By the mid-2000s, geologic assessments were underway for the potential of the shales of St. Clair and neighboring counties.

Learn more in First Alabama Oil Well.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

February 19, 1863 – First Pipeline Attempt to link Oilfield to Refinery

With teamsters dominating oil transportation in Pennsylvania, independent producer J.L. Hutchings designed and constructed a pipeline to transport oil from a well on a farm at Oil Creek to a refinery 2.5 miles away. Hutchings had patented a rotary pump, which he used for moving the oil through two-inch piping from the Tarr Farm to the Humboldt Refinery at Oil City. His pumps worked, but the cast-iron pipeline proved impractical when the soldered joints leaked.

Hutchings’ concept of driving fluids with a rotary pump brought a key innovation for pipeline construction. In 1865, Samuel Van Syckel would construct a two-inch, wrought iron pipeline with threaded joints that could transport 2,000 barrels of oil a day more than five miles — the first practical oil pipeline.

Learn more about Pennsylvania’s oil production and transportation history by visiting the Drake Well Museum in Titusville.


Recommended Reading: Images of America: Around Bradford (1997); Lone Wolf Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger (1998); Lufkin, from sawdust to oil: A history of Lufkin Industries, Inc. (1982); Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks: A Guide (2000); Petrolia: The Landscape of America’s First Oil Boom (2003). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest