This Week in Petroleum History: July 15 – 21

July 16, 1907 – Drilling Pioneer patents Casing Shoe –

After drilling wells in Kern River oilfields, R. Carlton “Carl” Baker (1872-1957) of Coalinga, California, patented the Baker well-casing shoe. His cable-tool innovation at the bottom of the casing string increased efficiency and reliability for ensuring oil flowed through a well.

R.C. "Carl" Baker standing next to Baker Casing Shoes in 1914.

Reuben Carlton “Carl” Baker standing next to Baker Casing Shoes in 1914. Photo courtesy the now closed R.C. Baker Memorial Museum.

Baker, who in 1903 founded the Coalinga Oil Company, by 1913 had established the Baker Casing Shoe Company (renamed Baker Tools two years later). The inventor opened his first manufacturing plant in Coalinga before moving headquarters to Los Angeles in the 1930s. The company became Baker International in 1976 and Baker Hughes after a 1987 merger with Hughes Tool Company.

Learn more in Carl Baker and Howard Hughes.

July 16, 1926 – Oil Discovery launches Greater Seminole Area Boom

Three years after an oil well was completed near Bowlegs, Oklahoma, a gusher south of Seminole revealed the true oil potential of Seminole County. The Fixico No. 1 well penetrated the prolific Wilcox Sands formation at a depth of 4,073 feet.

Oil workers working on lowered traveling block in August 1939 in Seminole, Oklahoma, oilfield.

“Oil workers working on lowered traveling block” at well in Seminole oilfield, August 1939. Photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) courtesy Library of Congress.

Drilled by R.F. Garland and his Independent Oil Company, the well was among more than 50 Greater Seminole Area oil reservoirs discovered; six were giants that produced more than one million barrels of oil each. With the Oklahoma City oilfield added in 1928, Oklahoma became the largest supplier of oil in the world by 1935.

Learn more in Seminole Oil Boom.

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July 16, 1935 – Oklahoma Publisher produces First Parking Meter

As the booming Oklahoma City oilfield added to the congestion of cars downtown, the world’s first parking meter was installed at the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue. Carl C. Magee, publisher of the Oklahoma News, designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1, today preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Carl Magee, designer of the Park-O-Meter

Oklahoma college students helped Carl Magee design the Park-O-Meter No. 1. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

“The meter charged five cents for one hour of parking, and naturally citizens hated it, viewing it as a tax for owning a car,” noted historian Josh Miller in 2012. “But retailers loved the meter, as it encouraged a quick turnover of customers.”

Park-O-Meters were manufactured by MacNick Company of Tulsa, maker of timing devices used to explode nitroglycerin in wells — and oilfield competitor of the Zero Hour Bomb Company (see Zebco Reel Oilfield History).

July 16, 1969 – Kerosene fuels launch of Saturn V Moon Rocket

A 19th-century petroleum product made America’s 1969 moon landing possible. Kerosene powered the first-stage rocket engines of the Saturn V when it launched the Apollo 11 mission on July 16. Four days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Saturn V launches burning "rocket grade" kerosene.

Powered by five first-stage engines fueled by “rocket grade” kerosene, the Saturn V was the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built until the SpaceX Starship. Photos courtesy NASA.

Five engines of the Saturn V’s first stage burned “Rocket Grade Kerosene Propellant” at 2,230 gallons per second — generating almost eight million pounds of thrust. The fuel was a highly refined kerosene RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1) that began as “coal oil” for lamps.

When Canadian Abraham Gesner (1797-1864) first refined the lamp fuel from coal in 1846, he coined the term kerosene from the Greek word keros (wax), but many people called it “coal oil.” A highly refined version of his product now fuels rockets, including the SpaceX Falcon 9.

Learn more in Kerosene Rocket Fuel.

July 18, 1929 – Darst Creek Oilfield discovered in West Texas

With initial production of 1,000 barrels of oil a day, the Texas Company No. 1 Dallas Wilson well revealed a new West Texas oilfield at Darst Creek in Guadalupe County, about five miles from the southwestern edge of the Luling oilfield. The field would be developed by Humble Oil and Refining (later Exxon), Gulf Production Company, Magnolia Petroleum (later Mobil), as well as the Texas Company (later Texaco).

The Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, in 2019 erected a Emsco metal derrick used in the Darst Creek in the late 1920s. Photo courtesy the Petroleum Museum.

The Petroleum Museum of Midland, Texas, in 2019 erected a circa 1930 derrick used in the Darst Creek oilfield. Photo courtesy the Petroleum Museum.

By December 1931, the Darst Creek field produced more than 19.7 million barrels of oil from an average depth of 2,650 feet, according to a Humble Oil geologist, who noted that of the 291 wells drilled, just 19 were dry holes. The West Texas field also was among the first to operate under proration.

“To avoid the risks of unregulated production with a resulting loss of reservoir pressure, water encroachment and cheap crude prices, the operators agreed to voluntary proration in the field,” noted a Petroleum Museum newsletter, adding that “voluntary proration proved to be difficult to maintain.”

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July 19, 1915 – Petroleum powers Washers and Mowers

Howard Snyder applied to patent his internal combustion-powered washing machine, assigning the rights to the Maytag Company. His washer for “the ordinary farmer” who lacked access to electricity used a one-cylinder, two-cycle engine that could operate using gasoline, kerosene, or alcohol.

Magazine ads for early gas-powered washing machines and lawnmowers.

Advertisements featured two popular consumer products powered by air-cooled internal combustion engines.

Four years later, Edwin George of Detroit removed the engine from his wife’s Maytag washing machine and added it to a reel-type lawnmower. His invention launched the Moto-Mower Company, which sold America’s first commercially successful gasoline-powered lawn mower.

July 19, 1957 – Oilfield discovered in Alaska Territory

Although some oil production had occurred earlier in the territory, Alaska’s first commercial oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil Company, which completed its Swanson River Unit No. 1 in Cook Inlet Basin. The well yielded 900 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 11,215 feet.

Anchorage Daily Times headline "Richfield Hits Oil"

Even the Anchorage Daily Times could not predict oil production would account for more than 90 percent of Alaska’s revenue.

Alaska’s first governor, William Egan, proclaimed the oilfield discovery provided “the economic justification for statehood for Alaska” in 1959. Richfield leased more than 71,000 acres of the Kenai National Moose Range, now part of the 1.92 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

By June 1962, about 50 wells were producing more than 20,000 barrels of oil a day. Richfield Oil Company merged with Atlantic Refining Company in 1966, becoming Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), which with Exxon discovered the giant Prudhoe Bay field in 1968.

Learn about the 49th state in First Alaska Oil Wells.

July 20, 1920 – Discovery Well of the Permian Basin

The Permian Basin made headlines in 1920 when a wildcat well erupted oil from a depth of 2,750 feet on land owned by Texas Pacific Land Trust agent William H. Abrams, who just weeks earlier had discovered the West Columbia oilfield in Brazoria County south of Houston.

The latest W.H. Abrams No. 1 well — “shot” with nitroglycerin by the Texas Company (later Texaco) — proved to be part of the Permian Basin, encompassing 75,000 square miles in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Map of Permian Basin in West Texas.

The Permian Basin would become the leading source of U.S. oil. Image courtesy Rigzone.

According to a Mitchell County historical marker, “land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values…the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions.”

A 1923 Permian Basin well near Big Lake brought yet another Texas drilling boom — and helped establish the University of Texas (see Santa Rita taps Permian Basin).

Petroleum history is important. Support link for AOGHS.

July 20, 2006 – Hughes Glomar Explorer recognized as Engineering Landmark

Former top-secret CIA ship Hughes Glomar Explorer, which became a pioneering petroleum industry drillship, was designated a mechanical engineering landmark during a Houston awards ceremony that included members of the original engineering team and the ship’s crew.

Design illustration for 1970s top-secret CIA ship Hughes Glomar Explorer.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 2006 proclaimed Hughes Glomar Explorer, “a technologically remarkable ship.” Illustration courtesy ASME.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated the vessel, a technologically remarkable ship and historic mechanical engineering landmark. Built in 1972 as a clandestine Soviet submarine recovery project, the vessel’s design was “decades ahead of its time for working at extreme depths.” Modified and relaunched in 1998, Glomar Explorer became the pioneer of all modern drillships.

Learn more in Secret History of Drill Ship Glomar Explorer.

July 21, 1935 – “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy strikes Oil

Glenn H. McCarthy struck oil 50 miles east of Houston in 1935, extending the already prolific Anahuac field. The well was the first of many for the Texas independent producer who would discover 11 Texas oilfields by 1945.

McCarthy became known as another “King of the Wildcatters” and “Diamond Glenn” by 1950, when his estimated worth reached $200 million ($2 billion today).

 petroleum history july 20

Glenn McCarthy appeared on TIME magazine in 1950.

In addition to his McCarthy Oil and Gas Company, McCarthy eventually owned a gas company, a chemical company, a radio station, 14 newspapers, a magazine, two banks, and the Shell Building in Houston. In the late 1940s, he invested $21 million to build the 18-story, 1,100-room Shamrock Hotel — and reportedly spent $1 million on its St. Patrick’s Day 1949 opening gala, which newspapers dubbed, “Houston’s biggest party.”

Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.


Recommended Reading: Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles (2003); Wildcatters: Texas Independent Oilmen (1984); From the Rio Grande to the Arctic: The Story of the Richfield Oil Corporation (1972); Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska (2012); Texon: Legacy of an Oil Town, Images of America (2011); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982); The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes (2009). 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 (AOGHS) preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please become an AOGHS annual supporter and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact © 2024 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

This Week in Petroleum History: July 8 – 14

July 8, 1848 – Congress charters Gas Light Company –

Four days after the laying of the Washington Monument cornerstone, an Act of Congress established the Washington Gas Light Company, which manufactured “town gas” for lighting and heat. The new utility constructed giant tanks (gasometers) on 6.5 acres of gasworks in the D.C. neighborhood of Foggy Bottom. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History: June 24 – 30

June 24, 1937 – Traces of Oil found in Minnesota –

In far western Minnesota, a remote wildcat well drilled in Traverse County began producing three barrels of oil a day from a depth of 864 feet. The unlikely discovery prompted more leasing, but no commercial quantities of oil.

Oil well in one county of Minnesota mao.

Traverse County, Minnesota, where oil production peaked in 1937.

The lack of an oilfield reaffirmed geologists’ conclusions since 1889 that conditions for significant petroleum deposits did not exist in Minnesota, despite some water wells in southern Minnesota containing small amounts of natural gas.

“Not much oil and gas is obtained from Precambrian rocks, with which Minnesota is very amply blessed,” noted the 1984 book Minnesota’s Geology.

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June 25, 1889 – First Oil Tanker catches Fire in California

The first oil tanker built for that purpose, a schooner named W.L. Hardison, burned at its wharf in Ventura, California. The Hardison & Stewart Oil Company (later Union Oil) commissioned the experimental vessel, which offered an alternative to paying for railroad oil tank cars charging one dollar per oil barrel to reach markets in San Francisco.

With oil-fired steam boilers and supplemental sails, the schooner could ship up to 6,500 barrels of oil below deck in specially constructed steel tanks. After the fire, the tanks were recovered and used at the company’s Santa Paula refinery. It took 11 years before the company launched a replacement tanker, the Santa Paula.

Rare photographs of the oil doomed tanker W.L. Hardison.

Rare photographs of the oil doomed tanker W.L. Hardison and Ventura pier courtesy the Museum of Ventura County.

The Ventura Wharf Company by April 1898 had exported 518,204 barrels of bulk oil during the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Times.  The pier remained a working wharf until 1936, when it became the longest recreational wooden pier in California.

Designated a Ventura Historic Landmark in 1976 and now 1,600 feet long, California’s oldest pier was refurbished for $2.2 million in 2000, according to the Museum of Ventura County, which also operates archaeological and agricultural museums. In nearby Santa Paula, the 1890 headquarters building of Union Oil Company is home to the California Oil Museum.

June 25, 1901 – Red Fork Discovery leads to Tulsa Boom

Six years before statehood, Oklahoma witnessed a second oil discovery (some say the third — see Another First Oklahoma Oil Well) when two drillers from the Pennsylvania oil regions discovered an oilfield at Red Fork in the Creek Indian Nation.

John Wick and Jesse Heydrick drilled the Sue A. Bland No. 1 well  near the Creek village across the Arkansas River from Tulsa. Sue Bland, a Creek citizen, was the wife of homesteader Dr. John C. W. Bland. Their Red Fork well produced just 10 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 550 feet, but created a drilling boom attracting petroleum companies to nearby Tulsa.

Learn more in  Red Fork Gusher.

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June 25, 1999 – Texas Post Office named Historic Place

The former U.S. Post Office building in Graham, Texas, with its Great Depression-era oilfield mural by Alexandre Hogue, joined the National Register of Historic Places. Hogue’s 1939 “Oil Fields of Graham” has been joined by other art exhibits in its historic Art Deco building on Third Street.

Oil Fields of Graham by Alexandre Hogue, a 1939 mural that is 12 feet wide and 7 feet high, was restored in 2002 at the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center, in Graham, Texas.

“Oil Fields of Graham” by Alexandre Hogue, a 1939 mural restored in the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center of Graham, Texas. The white-haired gentleman was Graham mayor.

Hogue’s artwork included many southwestern scenes as part of the New Deal Federal Arts Program. His murals on the walls of public buildings often portrayed scenes of the Texas petroleum industry. In Graham’s historic building on Third Street, “Oil Fields of Graham,” 12 feet wide and 7 feet high, is among exhibits at the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center, which opened in 2002.

Learn more in Oil Art of Graham, Texas.

June 26, 1885 – Natural Gas Utility established in Pennsylvania

Peoples Natural Gas Company incorporated — the first Pennsylvania natural gas company chartered by the state to regulate production, transmission, and distribution of natural gas. A similar utility incorporation had taken place a year earlier in New York City when six competing companies combined to form Consolidated Edison.

By 1891, the Pittsburgh-based limited liability company had consolidated pipelines and facilities of Pittsburgh Natural Gas, Lawrence Natural Gas, Conemaugh Gas, and Columbia Natural Gas companies. More than a dozen more companies would be acquired between 1903 and 1961. The large utility added Saxonburg Heat and Light in 1979 and Equitable Gas in 2017, expanding natural gas services in West Virginia and Kentucky.

June 28, 1887 – Kansans celebrate First Natural Gas Jubilee

After erecting flambeau arches at the four corners of the town square, Paola, Kansas, hosted what local leaders described as “the first natural gas celebration ever held in the West.” Excursion trains from Kansas City brought about 2,000 people, “to witness the wonders of natural gas,” according to the Miami County Historical Museum, which preserves the region’s petroleum history.

Oil well with visitors in Miami County, Kansas, circa 1920.

Paola’s giant natural gas field attracted more petroleum exploration to Miami County, including this circa 1920 oil well. Photo courtesy Kansas Historical Society.

The town’s special event included a “grand illumination” of natural gas street lights, where “gas was attached to a yard sprinkler by a rubber hose, and when it was ignited there appeared nests of small blazes which were beautiful and attractive.”

Learn more in First Kansas Oil Well.

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June 28, 1967 – Hall of Petroleum opens in Smithsonian Museum

The Hall of Petroleum opened at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C. Exhibits included cable-tool and rotary rig drilling technologies and counterbalanced pumping units, The Hall of Petroleum also featured 1967 developments in offshore exploration and production.

Visitors to what in 1980 became the National Museum of American History were greeted by a mural painted by Delbert Jackson of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jackson spent two years creating his 13-foot by 56-foot painting with scenes of oil and natural gas exploration, production, refining, and transportation.

"Panorama of Petroleum” a 1967 mural by Delbert Jackson of Tulsa.

A “Panorama of Petroleum” once greeted visitors to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum in Washington, D.C. The 13-foot by 56-foot mural today is exhibited inside Tulsa International Airport.

Jackson’s “Panorama of Petroleum” featured industry pioneers and served as a visual map to the hall’s oilfield technology exhibits. “If the hall can increase the public’s knowledge of and respect for the technical skill and know-how of those who make this energy available, it will have served its purpose,” noted the exhibit’s 1967 catalog. The mural ended up in storage for three decades, until finding a home at Tulsa International Airport.

Learn more in Smithsonian’s “Hall of Petroleum.

June 29, 1956 – Interstate Highway System enacted

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, became law. Passed at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the act provided 90 percent federal funding for a “system of interstate and defense highways,” and authorized spending $25 billion through 1969 for construction of about 41,000 miles of interstates.

map of US interstate system

The U.S. interstate system had a total length of 48,191 miles by 2016. Federal regulations initially banned collecting tolls, but some now include tolls.

“Of all his domestic programs, Eisenhower’s favorite by far was the Interstate System,” noted historian Stephen Ambrose. The thirty-fourth president urged passage of the act for national defense; interstates would be needed for evacuating major cities during a nuclear war.

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June 30, 1864 – Oil Tax funds Civil War

The federal government taxed oil for the first time when it levied a $1 per barrel tax on production from Pennsylvania oilfields.

One Dollar bill circa Civil War

Seeking ways to pay for the Civil War, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, featured prominently on the $1 “greenback,” advocated an oil tax.

Desperate for revenue to fund the Civil War as early as 1862, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase advocated a $6.30 tax per barrel of oil and $10.50 per barrel on refined products. Angry oil producers rallied against the tax in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and sent delegates to Washington, D.C., where they negotiated a tax of $1 per 42-gallon barrel of oil.


Recommended Reading: Minnesota’s Geology (1982); Black Gold in California: The Story of California Petroleum Industry (2016); Early California Oil: A Photographic History, 1865-1940 (1985); Tulsa Oil Capital of the World, Images of America (2004); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982); Official Guide to the Smithsonian (2016); Eisenhower: Soldier and President (1968); Western Pennsylvania’s Oil Heritage (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 (AOGHS) preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please become an AOGHS annual supporter and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact © 2024 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

This Week in Petroleum History: June 17 – 23

June 18, 1889 – Rockefeller builds Giant Refinery –

Standard Oil Company of New Jersey incorporated a new subsidiary, Standard Oil Company of Indiana, and began processing oil at a new refinery in Whiting, Indiana, southeast of Chicago. The refinery, which became the largest in the United States by the mid-1890s, in 1910 added pipelines connecting it to Kansas and Oklahoma oilfields. (more…)

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