April 19, 1892 – First U.S. Gasoline Powered Automobile – 

Brothers Charles and Frank Duryea test drove a gasoline powered automobile they had built in their Springfield, Massachusetts, workshop. Considered the first automobile model to be regularly manufactured for sale in the United States, 12 were produced by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. Other manufacturers soon followed the brothers’ example.

april petroleum history

The Duryea brothers (above) built their cars in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In March 1896, the Duryea brothers sold their first Duryea motor wagon. It was reported two months later that in New York City a motorist driving a Duryea hit a bicyclist – reportedly the nation’s first recorded automobile traffic accident. By the time of the first U.S. automobile show in November 1900 at Madison Square Garden, of the 4,200 automobiles sold in the United States, gasoline powers less than 1,000.

April 20, 1875 – Improved Well Pumping Technology

Pumping multiple wells with a single steam engine boosted efficiency in early oilfields when Albert Nickerson and Levi Streeter of Venango County, Pennsylvania, patented their “Improvement In Means For Pumping Wells.” The new technology used a system of linked and balanced walking beams to pump oil wells.

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U.S. oilfield technologies advanced in 1875 with an “Improvement In Means For Pumping Wells.”

“By an examination of the drawing it will be seen that the walking-beam to well No. l is lifting or raising fluid from the well. Well No. 3 is also lifting, while at the same time wells 2 and 4 are moving in an opposite direction, or plunging, and vice versa,” the inventors explained. Their system was the forerunner of rod-line (or jerk line) eccentric wheel systems that operated into the 20th century using iron rods instead of rope and pulleys.

Learn more in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology.

April 20, 1892 – Prospector discovers Los Angeles City Oilfield

The giant Los Angeles oilfield was discovered when a struggling prospector, Edward Doheny, and his mining partner Charles Canfield drilled into the tar seeps between Beverly Boulevard and Colton Avenue. Their well produced about 45 barrels of oil a day.

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Oil production continues today in downtown Los Angeles. Edward Doheny discovered the oilfield in 1892. Photo courtesy the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Culver City, California.

Although the first California oil well had been drilled after the Civil War, Doheny’s 1892 discovery (near present-day Dodger Stadium) launched California’s petroleum industry. In 1897, about 500 Los Angeles City wells pumped more than half of the state’s annual production of 1.2 million barrels of oil. By 1925, California supplied half of the world’s oil.

Learn more in Discovering Los Angeles Oilfields.

April 20, 2010 – Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Disaster

At 10 a.m., while completing a well in the Macondo Prospect, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, killing 11 and injuring another 17 workers. An estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico after the platform’s 400-ton blowout preventer failed, resulting in the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history.

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The April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire killed 11 and injured 17 workers. USGS Photo.

Six months earlier at another site, the advanced, semi-submersible drilling rig had set a world record for the deepest offshore well (35,050 feet vertical depth in 4,130 feet of water). When the Macondo Prospect well was capped in mid-July, a National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling launched an eight-month investigation. The commission released its final report on January 11, 2011.

April 22, 1926 – Osage Oil Lease Auctioneer Statue dedicated

A statue commemorating the friendship between Colonel E.E. Walters and Osage Indian Chief Baconrind (phonetically, Wah-she-hah) was dedicated in Walters’ hometown of Skedee, Oklahoma. Beginning in 1912, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth Walters (his real name) and the popular Chief of the Osage Nation raised millions of dollars for the tribe from mineral lease sales.

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Skedee, Oklahoma, has declined significantly since 1926, but its statue remains. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The auctions took place beneath an elm tree at the Tribal Council House in Pawhuska, where crowds gathering to witness bidding from Frank Phillips, E.W. Marland and William Skelly. The Skedee unveiling revealed “painted bronze” statues of Walters and the Chief Baconrind shaking hands on a sandstone base. Their close friendship was rare at the time.

Learn more in Million Dollar Auctioneer

April 23, 1878 – Oil Exchange Building opened in Pennsylvania

The Oil Exchange of Oil City, Pennsylvania, opened a new, $100,000 brick building on Seneca Street. Independent producers began meeting there to trade oil and pipeline certificates. They had earlier gathered at local hotels or along Oil City’s Centre Street, then known as the “Curbside Exchange.”

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By 1877, Pennsylvania oil companies had created the third largest financial exchange of any kind in America, behind only New York and San Francisco. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Before the 1870s, most Pennsylvania oil buyers had taken on-site delivery of oil in wooden barrels they provided themselves. A rapidly growing oil pipeline infrastructure created the need for a place to trade certificates as oil commerce expanded. The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey would bring an end to Pennsylvania’s highly speculative oil-trading markets.

Learn more in End of Oil Exchanges.

April 24, 1911 – Magnolia Petroleum founded

The Magnolia Petroleum Company was founded as an unincorporated joint-stock association — a consolidation of several companies, the first of which began as a small refinery in Corsicana, Texas, in 1898.

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Magnolia adopted a “Pegasus” logo in the 1930s.

After Magnolia Petroleum established service stations in southwestern states, Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) began acquiring the company in 1925 before merging with the Vacuum Oil Company in 1931. The new company, Socony-Vacuum Oil (the future Mobil Oil), included stations in 20 states operated by Magnolia Petroleum, headquartered in a Dallas skyscraper that was the tallest building west of the Mississippi when built in 1922. By the early 1930s, Magnolia had adopted the Socony-Vacuum Oil Pegasus logo, which began rotating atop the Magnolia Building in 1934.

Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.

April 24, 1917 – Petroleum Product for Eyelashes trademarked

Tom Lyle Williams, doing business in Chicago as Maybell Laboratories, trademarked the name “lash-brow-ine” as a mascara and “preparation for stimulating the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes.” Two years earlier, Williams had watched his sister Mabel perform what she called “a secret of the harem,” mixing petroleum jelly with coal dust and applying it to her eyelashes.

April petroleum history

A 1937 Maybelline magazine ad.

The mascara’s key ingredient, Vaseline, had been patented in 1872 by Robert Chesebrough, a young chemist in Brooklyn, New York. Williams began selling tins of Mabel’s mixture by mail-order catalog, calling it “lash-brow-ine.”  In honor of his sister, who worked with him in his Chicago office, Williams renamed the mascara “Maybelline.”

Learn more in The Crude Story of Mabel’s Eyelashes.

April 25, 1865 – Civil War Veteran patents Well Torpedo

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City received the first of his many patents for an “Improvement in Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells.” The invention used controlled down-hole explosions “to fracture oil-bearing formations and increase oil production.” It was a major technological achievement for the young U.S. petroleum industry.

April petroleum history

A marker notes the 1865 first demonstration of the invention of Union Col. E.A.L. Roberts.

Roberts torpedoes were filled with gunpowder, lowered into wells, and ignited by a weight dropped along a suspension wire to percussion caps. In later models, nitroglycerin replaced gunpowder. Before the well torpedo’s invention, many early wells in the new oil regions of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia often produced limited amounts of oil.

With its exclusive patent licenses, the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company charged up to $200 per torpedo “shoot” and a one-fifteenth royalty. Seeking to avoid the expense, unlicensed practitioners operated at night with their own explosive devices, reportedly leading to the term “moonlighter.”

Learn more in Shooters – A “Fracking” History.

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Recommended Reading:  The First Cars – Famous Firsts (2014); Dark Side of Fortune: Triumph and Scandal in the Life of Oil Tycoon Edward L. Doheny (2001);  The Osage Oil Boom (1989); The Maybelline Story: And the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It (2010); The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World (2015). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

 

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