August 19, 1957 – First Commercial Oil Well in Washington

petroleum history august

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

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.

Although a well drilled six years earlier produced 35 barrels of oil a day, it was deemed noncommercial and abandoned. The Medina No. 1 well produced 12,500 barrels before being 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.

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August 21, 1897 – Olds Motor Vehicle Company founded

august petroleum history

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

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 of each power mode: steam, electricity and gasoline,” noted George May in R.E. Olds: Auto Industry Pioneer. “He was the only American automotive pioneer to produce and sell at least one of each mode of 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, beginning in 1901. Also see Cantankerous Combustion – 1st U.S. Auto Show.

August 24, 1892 –  Gladys City Oil Company founded by “Prophet of Spindletop” 

petroleum history august

Patillo Higgins was no longer with the company he had founded when it discovered oil at Spindletop Hill in January 1901.

Patillo Higgins, who would become known as the “Prophet of Spindletop,” founded the Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company.

Higgins, a self-taught geologist, and three partners leased 2,700 acres near Beaumont, Texas. He was convinced that Spindletop Hill four miles to the south contained oil-bearing formations. Most earth science experts said he was wrong.

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Higgins had noticed oil and natural gas seeps in the region while taking his Sunday school classes on picnics. He later supervised the planning of Gladys City, which he named for his favorite Sunday school student.

Although Higgins left the Gladys City venture in 1895, Capt. Anthony Lucas drilled the “Lucas Gusher” for the company in January 1901 and forever changed the petroleum industry. It would not be long before the Spindletop oilfield alone produced more oil in one day than the rest of the world’s oilfields combined.

Texaco, Gulf, Mobile and Sun Oil companies got their start thanks to Patillo Higgins’ confidence in the “Big Hill.” Learn more in Spindletop launches Modern Petroleum Industry.

August 24, 1923 – University of Texas receives Royalty Check

petroleum history august

Santa Rita No. 1 is preserved at the the University of Texas.

The University of Texas received the first oil royalty payment ($516.53) three months after the Santa Rita No. 1 well discovered an oilfield on university-owned land in the Permian Basin.

After 21 months of difficult drilling, the Texon Oil and Land Company’s well had revealed the 4.5-square-mile Big Lake field. Within three years of the discovery, petroleum royalties endowed the university with $4 million.

In 1958, the university moved the Santa Rita well’s walking beam and other equipment to the Austin campus. A student newspaper described the historic well as “one that made the difference between pine-shack classrooms and modern buildings.”

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August 24, 1937 – Music Mountain Oil Discovery 

petroleum history august

Penn-Brad Museum and Historical Oil Well Park at Custer City, outside Bradford, Pennsylvania.

No one had expected it, not even the Niagara Oil Company that drilled it, notes the Bradford Landmark Society about a 1937 gusher near Bradford, Pennsylvania, in McKean County.

For the first time since oil strikes in the early days of the great Bradford field 70 years earlier, an exploratory well on Music Mountain erupted and revealed a new oilfield. The discovery was made at a depth of 1,630 feet, deeper than earlier wells.

The producing formation was beneath the older, highly prolific Bradford sands first discovered in the 1860s. The region’s high-paraffin oil is still considered among the highest grade natural lubricants in the world. One Bradford refinery (today’s American Refining Group) has been refining McKean County oil since 1881. Learn more details about the historic Bradford oilfield in Mrs. Alford’s Nitro Factory.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

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