August 12, 1888 – Bertha Benz makes World’s First Auto Road Trip

august petroleum history

Bertha Benz became the world’s first female automotive pioneer in 1888. Image courtesy Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Thirty-nine-year-old Bertha Benz made history when she became the first person to make a long-distance trip by automobile. Her trip also included, “the first road repairs, the first automotive marketing stunt, the first case of a wife borrowing her husband’s car without asking, and the first violation of intercity highway laws in a motor vehicle,” noted Wired magazine in 2010.

Bertha drove away in the “Patent Motorwagen” (after leaving a note to her husband) and took their two young sons to visit her mother in Pforzheim. Their route from Mannheim was about 56 miles. The drive, which took about 15 hours, helped popularize Karl Benz’s latest invention.

By the end of the century, Mercedes-Benz was the largest car company in the world. The first road trip can today be retraced by following signs of the Bertha Benz Memorial Route. Bertha Benz was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2016 as the first female automotive pioneer. Learn more in First Car, First Road Trip.

August 12, 1930 – Kentucky Oil and Gas Producers unite

Eastern Kentucky independent producers joined the Western Kentucky Oil Men’s Association in Frankfort, where articles of incorporation were amended to create a state-wide organization – today’s Kentucky Oil and Gas Association. A 1919 oil discovery near Pellville in Hancock County had touched off a drilling boom in western Kentucky. Commercial amounts of oil had been found as early as 1829 while boring for salt brine with a spring-pole near Burkesville. Learn more in Kentucky’s Great American Well .

August 13, 1962 – Norman Rockwell illustrates Oil and Gas Journal 

petroleum history August

A Norman Rockwell illustration advertised a leading industry magazine.

petroleum history August

Norman Rockwell’s art commemorated the 1959 centennial of the birth of the nation’s oil industry.

The Oil and Gas Journal promoted itself with an illustration from artist Norman Rockwell captioned, “Where Oil Men Invest Their Valuable Reading Time.” Rockwell’s renditions of American life brought him widespread popularity through magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Boy’s Life, and Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.

In addition to the illustrations for advertisements in the Oil and Gas Journal, in 1959 Rockwell provided artwork to the American Petroleum Institute, which sponsored a U.S. Postal Service “first day of issue” to commemorate the 1959 centennial of the birth of the U.S. oil industry (see Centennial Oil Stamp Issue). The illustration included the slogan “Oil’s First Century 1859-1959, Born in Freedom Working for Progress.”

Rockwell’s drawing depicted “the men of science, the rugged extraction of the crude oil, and ending with your friendly service station attendant,” notes a collector. Learn about another oil-patch illustrator in Seuss I am, an Oilman.

August 15, 1945 – Gas Rationing ends

World War II gasoline rationing officially ended in the United States. Since the beginning of gas rationing in December 1942, priority stickers and coupon books had been issued by the Office of Price Administration to conserve oil for the war effort. Most civilian automobiles carried “A” stickers limiting them to four gallons of gas a week.

A national speed limit of 35 mph was also imposed to further constrain consumption. In addition to gasoline and fuel oil, wartime rationing included tires, food, clothing, shoes, and coffee.

August 16, 1861 – World’s Oldest Continuously Producing Oil Well drilled in Pennsylvania

petroleum history August

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.

august pertoleum history

The McClintock No. 1 well, circa 1915. Photo courtesy Drake Well Museum.

What would become the world’s oldest continuously producing oil well was completed in 1861 near Rouseville, 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 located just north of Oil City, Pennsylvania, 14 miles from Titusville, where America’s first commercial oil discovery was made two years earlier.

“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


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.

petroleum history August

L.E. Phillips, Clyde Alexander, pilot Arthur Goebel Jr., and Frank Phillips in front of the “Woolaroc.”

High-octane aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum Company powered a monoplane on a deadly air race over the Pacific Ocean. With a crowd of 50,000 cheering them on in 1927, eight aircraft took off from a muddy Oakland, California, airfield.

Dole Pineapple Company offered a $25,000 first prize for an airplane race from Oakland to Honolulu. Just three months earlier, Charles Lindbergh had made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight. Aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum fueled the “Woolaroc” monoplane for the Dole race.

A new Phillips fuel – Nu-Aviation Gasoline – was used for the dangerous, 2,439-mile flight over the Pacific. The single-engine monoplane was christened Woolaroc, the name of Frank Phillips’ Bartlesville ranch and nature preserve. At Oakland’s airport, two of the fuel-heavy planes crashed on takeoff. Five aircraft eventually headed out over the Pacific. Only two made it to Hawaii. Learn more in Flight of the Woolaroc.

August 17, 1785 – Oil found floating on Pennsylvania Creek

petroleum history august

Once lined with hundreds of wooden cable-tool derricks, Oil Creek today attracts hikers, canoeists, anglers – and tourists to the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

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 U.S. Army 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 in August 1785.

The general 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.”

Once lined with wooden cable-tool derricks and crowded with oil barges, Oil Creek State Park today provides 7,000 acres for hiking, biking, and fishing.

August 18, 2007 – Meteor Crater Museum opens in Oklahoma

petroleum history august

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.

Residents of Ames, Oklahoma, celebrated the opening of their Astrobleme (meteor crater) Museum, which describes a meteor’s impact – and how it led to a major oil discovery by independent producer Harold Hamm (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.

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, Hamm’s Continental Resources drilled deeper than usual for the area – about 10,000 feet – and found oil.

petroleum history august

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

The Ames crater discovery well uncovered what became one of the most prolific of the six oil-producing craters in the United States, producing 17.4 million barrels of oil and 79.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

“The Ames Astrobleme is one of the most remarkable and studied geological features in the world because of its economic significance,” noted fellow Enid independent Lew Ward of Ward Petroleum. The potential of drilling in impact craters got the attention of oil companies worldwide. Hamm funded construction of the unusual museum in Ames. Learn more in Ames Astrobleme Museum.



Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

Share This