April 5, 1860 – Early Success for New U.S. Oil Industry –
Inspired by Edwin L. Drake’s 1859 first U.S. oil well at nearby Titusville, Pennsylvania, a newly formed company found an oilfield along the Allegheny River at Oil City. With oil fever attracting thousands to Venango County, five partners organized one of America’s earliest oil exploration ventures.
After drilling more than twice as deep as Drake’s well, the Phillips, Frew & Company discovered another oil-producing sand formation at a depth of 197 feet. The well (named Albion) produced 42 barrels of oil on its first day, earning the company $882 (about $27,950 in 2021 dollars).
By the end of April, the first shipment of 60 barrels of Phillips, Frew & Company oil traveled on barges down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh lubricant and kerosene refineries.
April 5, 1976 – Strategic Oil Reserves commercialized
President Gerald R. 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 Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974. 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 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 1901 gusher at Spindletop, their company would grow into an oil industry giant.
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.
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.
April 9, 1914 – Ohio Cities Gas Company founded
Beman Gates Dawes and Fletcher Heath founded the Ohio Cities Gas Company in Columbus, Ohio. Three years later, they acquired Pennsylvania-based Pure Oil Company and adopted that name in 1920. Pure Oil had been founded in Pittsburgh in 1895 by independent oil and natural gas producers, refiners, and pipeline operators to counter the market dominance of Standard Oil Company.
Pure Oil sold kerosene to customers in Philadelphia and New York City, becoming just the second vertically integrated oil company after Standard Oil. Headquartered in a Chicago skyscraper the company built in 1926, Pure Oil became one of the 100 largest industrial corporations in the United States. The company in 1965 was acquired by Union Oil Company of California, now a division of Chevron.
April 10, 1866 – Densmore Brothers patent Railroad Oil Tank Car
James and Amos Densmore of Meadville, Pennsylvania, received a patent for their “Improved Car for Transporting Petroleum,” which they developed a year earlier in the booming northwestern Pennsylvania oil region. Their patent illustrated a simple but sturdy design for securing two re-enforced containers on a typical railroad car. Although these early oil-tank cars were an improvement, they soon would be replaced by the more practical single horizontal types seen today
After leaving the oil tank car business, Amos Densmore in 1875 came up with a radically new way for arranging “type writing machine” keyboards so that commonly used letters would no longer collide and stick. His “Q-W-E-R-T-Y” arrangement improved the original 1868 invention of Christopher Sholes. James Densmore’s success in the oilfields helped finance the Densmore Typewriter Company.
Learn more in Densmore Brothers invent First Oil Tank Car.
April 11, 1957 – Oklahoma Independent William Skelly dies
William Grove Skelly (1878 -1957) died in Tulsa after a long career as an independent producer that began as 15-year-old tool dresser in early Pennsylvania oilfields. Prior to World War I, Skelly found great success in the El Dorado field outside Wichita, Kansas. He incorporated Skelly Oil Company in Tulsa in 1919 — helping to make the town the “Oil Capital of the World.” He established the International Petroleum Exposition there in 1923 while serving as president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. He helped establish the first FM radio station in Oklahoma, KWGS, in 1947.
Recommended Reading: The Texaco Story: The First Fifty Years, 1902-1952 (2012); Mapping the Deep: The Extraordinary Story of Ocean Science (2000); Oil in Oklahoma (1976); The American Railroad Freight Car (1995); Early Days of Oil: A Pictorial History of the Beginnings of the Industry in Pennsylvania (2000). 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 supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.