April 4, 1951 – First North Dakota Oil Well taps Williston Basin – 

After eight months of drilling in weather that included severe snowstorms, Amerada Petroleum discovered a North Dakota oilfield. The well revealed the Williston Basin two miles beneath Clarence Iverson’s farm near Tioga. Within two months, other exploration companies rushed to the region and leased almost 30 million acres. The petroleum-rich geologic basin proved to extend into Montana, South Dakota, and Canada.

A monument for the 1951 wildcat well drilled in North Dakota that revealed the 134,000-square-mile Williston Basin.

A monument dedicated in 1953 commemorates the Clarence Iverson No. 1 well, which two years earlier discovered  the 134,000-square-mile Williston Basin on Iverson’s farm.

According to historian James Key, the Iverson farm discovery well reached 10,500 feet deep in March 1951 before a blizzard ended operations. Drilling resumed until the well was perforated from 11,630 feet to 11,640 feet (using shaped charges at four holes per foot). On the evening of April 4, “a new industry was born in North Dakota,” Key noted. “This was the first major discovery in a new geologic basin since before World War II.”

Learn more in First North Dakota Oil Well.

April 5, 1860 – Early Success for New U.S. Oil Industry 

Inspired by Edwin L. Drake’s August 1859 first U.S. oil well at nearby Titusville, Pennsylvania, a newly formed company discovered an oilfield along the Allegheny River at Oil City. With oil fever attracting thousands, five partners organized one of America’s earliest oil ventures, the Phillips, Frew & Company.

 Oil City 1896 "Aero View" map by T.M. Fowler courtesy Library of Congress.

Oil discoveries in the Allegheny River Valley established the earliest U.S. petroleum exploration and production companies. Oil City 1896 “Aero View” map by T.M. Fowler courtesy Library of Congress.

After drilling twice as deep as Drake’s well, the company discovered another oil-producing sand formation at a depth of 197 feet. The well produced 42 barrels of oil on its first day, earning the company $882 (about $31,150 in 2022 dollars). Within weeks, a shipment of 60 barrels of oil traveled on barges down the Allegheny River to kerosene refineries in Pittsburgh.

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April 5, 1976 – Strategic Oil Reserves commercialized

President Gerald Ford signed the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act, which for the first time allowed full commercial development of the nation’s three Naval Petroleum Reserves. The legislation was a result of oil shortages created by the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo.

Oil, natural gas, and liquid products produced from the reserves would be sold by the Department of Energy at market rates. According to DOE, California’s Elk Hills field, which produced its one-billionth barrel of oil in 1992, generated more than $17 billion in profits for the U.S. Treasury until the field was privatized in 1998.

April 5, 1979 – Beginning of End Oil Price Controls

A week after a national referendum in Iran overwhelmingly supported becoming the Islamic Republic of Iran, and with U.S. oil prices averaging $15.85 per barrel, President Jimmy Carter initiated phased deregulation of the price controls established by the Nixon Administration in 1971. Deregulating of domestic oil price controls would lead to increased production from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oilfields and a sharp decrease in oil imports (also see Trans-Alaska Pipeline History).

April 7, 1902 – The Texas Company founded during Spindletop Boom

Joseph “Buckskin Joe” Cullinan and Arnold Schlaet established The Texas Company in Beaumont, Texas, to transport and refine oil from the booming oilfield nearby. They would soon construct a kerosene refinery in Port Arthur. Of the hundreds of oil companies founded after a record-setting 1901 gusher at Spindletop, their company would grow into an oil industry giant.

Texaco gas station exhibit inside National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.

Founded in 1902 as the Texas Company, Texaco would become the first oil company to market in all states. Above, an exhibit at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The Texas Company’s Fee No. 3 well at nearby Sour Lake Springs in 1903 launched the company’s success in exploration by producing 5,000 barrels of oil a day. The telegraph address of the company’s New York office was “Texaco” — a name that would later be used for its products.

The Texas Company in 1909 registered its trademark of a red star with a green capital letter T. By 1928, the company and its Texaco nickname operated more than 4,000 gasoline stations nationwide. The company officially renamed itself Texaco Inc. in 1959.

Learn more in Sour Lake produces Texaco.

April 7, 1966 – Cold War Accident boosts Offshore Technology

A robotic technology soon adopted by the offshore petroleum industry was first used to retrieve an atomic bomb. America’s first cable-controlled underwater research vehicle (CURV) attached cables to recover the weapon lost in the Mediterranean Sea.

Illustration of 1966 offshore remote control vehicle at it finds lost A-bomb.

The offshore petroleum industry would becoming a leading user of remotely operated vehicles.

The 70-kiloton hydrogen bomb, which had been lost when a B-52 crashed off the coast of Spain in January, was safely hoisted from a depth of 2,850 feet.

“It was located and fished up by the most fabulous array of underwater machines ever assembled,” proclaimed a Popular Science magazine article. During the Cold War, the Navy developed deep-sea technologies that the offshore petroleum industry would adopt and continue to advance.

Learn more in ROV – Swimming Socket Wrench.

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April 9, 1914 – Ohio Cities Gas Company founded

Beman Dawes and Fletcher Heath organized the Ohio Cities Gas Company in Columbus, Ohio, and built an oil refinery in West Virginia. In 1917, Ohio Cities Gas acquired Pennsylvania-based Pure Oil Company and adopted that name in three years later. Pure Oil had been founded in Pittsburgh in 1895 by independent oil producers, refiners, and pipeline operators to counter the market dominance of Standard Oil Company.

Pure Oil company logo. Company began in 1917.

Ohio Cities Gas Company became Pure Oil in 1917.

By producing, refining and selling of its products, Pure Oil became the second vertically integrated oil company after Standard Oil. Headquartered in a now iconic Chicago skyscraper it built in 1926, the company joined the 100 largest U.S. industrial corporations. It was acquired in 1965 by Union Oil Company of California, now a division of Chevron.

April 9, 1966 – Birthday of Tula’s Golden Driller

A 76-foot statue of an oilfield worker today known as “The Golden Driller” made its debut at the International Petroleum Exposition in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After several refurbishments, the 22-ton statue would contain 2.5 miles of rods and mesh with tons of plaster and concrete — withstanding winds up to 200 mph. A smaller version of Tulsa’s iconic roughneck originally appeared at the petroleum exposition on May 14, 1953, as promotion for the Mid-Continent Supply Company of Fort Worth, Texas.


Recommended Reading: The Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota (2016); The Texaco Story: The First Fifty Years, 1902-1952 (2012); Mapping the Deep: The Extraordinary Story of Ocean Science (2002);  Early Days of Oil: A Pictorial History of the Beginnings of the Industry in Pennsylvania (2000); Tulsa Oil Capital of the World, Images of America (2004). 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. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. Contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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