August 16, 1861 – Oldest Producing Oil Well drilled in Pennsylvania – 

What would become the world’s oldest continuously producing oil well was completed on Oil Creek near Oil City, Pennsylvania. The McClintock No. 1 well, reaching 620 feet deep into the Venango Third Sand, initially produced 50 barrels of oil a day. The well was drilled 14 miles from Titusville, home of America’s first commercial oil discovery two years earlier.

Historians visit the 1861 McClintock well, oldest US producing well.

Drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1861, the McClintock well is pumped a few times a year to supply oil for souvenir bottles sold at the Drake Well Museum and Park. Photo by Bruce Wells.

“This is the oldest well in the world that is still producing oil at its original depth,” notes the Oil Region Alliance. Donated by Quaker State in 1995, the historic well is pumped monthly to produce up to 10 barrels of oil, according to the Alliance. A nearby marker identifies the McClintock Well No. 1, but “thousands of people pass it each year and don’t even know it’s there.” Souvenir bottles of its oil are available at the Drake Well Museum.

August 16, 1927 – High-Octane Gas powers Air Race to Hawaii

With a crowd of 50,000 cheering them on, eight monoplanes took off from an airfield in Oakland, California, in an air race over the Pacific. Dole Pineapple Company offered a $25,000 prize to the first plane to reach Honolulu, 2,400-miles away.  Just three months earlier, Charles Lindbergh had made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight of 1,500-miles. 

petroleum history August 11 - August 17

Several competitors disappeared over the Pacific during the 1927 Dole air race. The winning aircraft today is on display at the Woolaroc Ranch near Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

A new aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum — Nu-Aviation Gasoline — powered the winning “Woolaroc” monoplane for the deadly air race (two of the fuel-heavy planes crashed on takeoff, others were lost in flight). Woolaroc was named for Frank Phillips’ Bartlesville ranch and nature preserve. Learn more in Flight of the Woolaroc.

August 17, 1785 – Oil Discovered Floating on Pennsylvania Creek

Two years after the end of the Revolutionary War, oil was reported floating on a creek in northwestern Pennsylvania. “Oil Creek has taken its name from an oil or bituminous matter being found floating on its surface,” noted a report by Gen. William Irvine.

“Many cures are attributed to this oil by the natives, and lately by some of the whites, particularly rheumatic pains and old ulcers,” Gen. Irvine wrote. He confirmed an earlier Army survey reporting Oil Creek, “empties itself into the Allegheny River, issuing from a spring, on the top of which floats an oil, similar to what is called Barbados tar (see Asphalt Paves the Way), and from which may be collected by one man several gallons in a day.”

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August 17, 1915 – End of Hand-Cranked Auto Engines

Charles Kettering of Dayton, Ohio, patented an “engine-starting device,” the first practical electric starter for automobiles. Working as an engineer for Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO), Kettering earlier had devised an electric motor to replace hand cranks on cash registers.

“The present invention is particularly applicable to automobiles, wherein an engine of the combustion or explosion type is employed, as a means of propulsion,” Kettering noted in his patent. Cadillac was the first manufacturer to add electric starters to its models; Ford Model Ts used hand cranks until 1919.

August 18, 2007 – Astrobleme Museum opens in Oklahoma

Ames, Oklahoma, celebrated the opening of its Astrobleme (meteor crater) Museum, designed to educate visitors about a meteor impact that led to a major oilfield discovery 450 million years later. Located about 20 miles southwest of Enid, the Ames meteor crater was buried by about 9,000 feet of sediment, making it barely visible on the surface. Most geologists believed impact craters unlikely locations for petroleum.

Color image of meteorite crater in Ames, Oklahoma.

A meteorite hit Oklahoma 450 million years ago, producing a crater thousands of feet deep and eight miles wide. It proved to be one of six oil-producing U.S. impact craters.

Although wells were drilled nearby, no one had attempted to reach deep into the hidden, eight-mile-wide Ames crater in Major County. In 1991, Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, decided to drill deeper than usual for the area – about 10,000 feet – and found oil. His Ames crater discovery well uncovered what became the most prolific of the six oil-producing craters found in the United States, producing 17.4 million barrels of oil and 79.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Exterior of Oklahoma's Ames Astrobleme Museum.

Oklahoma’s Ames Astrobleme Museum, which opened in 2007, requires no staff to educate visitors. Photo by Bruce Wells.

“The Ames Astrobleme is one of the most remarkable and studied geological features in the world because of its economic significance,” explained independent producer Lew Ward in 2007. The potential of drilling in impact craters got the attention of oil companies worldwide.

Learn more in Ames Astrobleme Museum.

August 19, 1909 – Canadian Journal lampoons Standard Oil Monopoly

“The Standard Oil Company has decided to drive the cow and the dairyman out of business,” declared the Stanstead Journal of Quebec, reporting from Jersey City, New Jersey. “Its skilled chemists have discovered a process whereby they can make gilt-edge butter as a byproduct of crude petroleum.”

petroleum history august

Journalists found humor in the approaching breakup of the Standard Oil Trust.

The journal fancifully proclaimed, “The chemists, in the steps leading up to the petroleum butter discovery, also have perfected a cheap process by which they can convert the kerosene into sweet milk.”

August 19, 1957 – First Commercial Oil Well in Washington

The first and only commercial oil well in the state of Washington was drilled by the Sunshine Mining Company. The Medina No. 1 well flowed 223 barrels a day from a depth of 4,135 feet near Ocean City in Grays Harbor County. A well drilled six years earlier produced 35 barrels of oil a day, but it was deemed noncommercial and abandoned. The Medina No. 1 well produced 12,500 barrels before being capped in 1961.

Map shows Washington's only commercial oil well of 1961.

Surrounded by unsuccessful attempts, Washington’s only commercial oil well (red) was capped in 1961.

According to a 2010 report from the Washington commissioner of public lands, “About 600 gas and oil wells have been drilled in Washington, but large-scale commercial production has never occurred.” The state’s most recent production — from the Ocean City field — ceased in 1962, “and no oil or gas have been produced since that time,” the commissioner added, noting that some companies continue to look for coalbed methane.

August 21, 1897 – Olds Motor Vehicle Company founded

American automotive pioneer Ransom Eli Olds (1864–1950) founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan. Renamed Olds Motor Works in 1899, the company became the first auto manufacturer established in Detroit.

By 1901 Olds had built 11 prototype vehicles, including at least one powered by steam, electricity, and gasoline, according to historian George May. “He was the only American automotive pioneer to produce and sell at least one of each mode of automobile.”

Oldsmobile Curved Dash, first mass-produced U.S. auto.

Powered by a a single-cylinder, five-horsepower gasoline engine, the 1901 Oldsmobile Curved Dash was the first mass-produced U.S. automobile.

The modern assembly line concept also began with Olds, who used a stationary assembly line (Henry Ford would be the first to use a moving assembly line). Olds Motor Works sold the first mass-produced automobile in 1901, one year after the first U.S. Auto Show.

America’s oldest automotive brand ended in 2004, when the last Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line in Lansing.

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Recommended Reading:  Western Pennsylvania’s Oil Heritage (2008); Winners’ Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race (2009); Glory Gamblers (1961); The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters (2014); R.E. Olds: Auto Industry Pioneer (1977). 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. © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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