February 27, 1962 – California Voters approve Offshore Drilling – 

Voters in Long Beach, California, approved the “controlled exploration and exploitation of the oil and gas reserves” underlying their harbor south of Los Angeles. The city’s charter had prohibited drilling there since a 1956 referendum, but advances in technology offered new and environmentally sensitive opportunities to exploit an additional 6,500 acres of the Wilmington oilfield.

Los Angeles Association of Professional Landmen tour THUMS islands in 2017

Los Angeles Association of Professional Landmen members toured THUMS in 2017. Photo courtesy LAAPL.

Four artificial islands were soon constructed at a cost of $22 million by a consortium of companies called THUMS: Texaco (now Chevron), Humble (now ExxonMobil), Union Oil (now Chevron), Mobil (now ExxonMobil) and Shell Oil. The islands in 1967 were named Grissom, White, Chaffee, and Freemen in honor of lost NASA astronauts. Occidental Petroleum purchased THUMS in 2000.

Eventually operated by the California Resources Corporation, the four “Astronaut Islands” are designed to blend in with the coastal environment. From shore, they appear to be occupied by upscale condos, thanks to Disneyland architect Joseph Linesch, whose integration of oil production structures was described by the Los Angeles Times as “part Disney, part Jetsons, part Swiss Family Robinson.”

Learn more in THUMS – California’s Hidden Oil Islands.

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February 28, 1935 – DuPont Chemist invents Nylon

A former Harvard professor working in a DuPont research laboratory discovered the world’s first synthetic fiber, the petroleum product nylon. After experimenting with artificial materials for more than six years, professor Wallace Carothers created a long molecule chain — a stretching plastic. The inventor earlier discovered neoprene (commonly used in wetsuits).

Illustration of Nylon, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung in a chain.

Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung in a chain created manmade fibers used for textiles and plastics. Each molecule contains six carbon atoms.

Carothers produced the fibers when he formed a polymer chain using a process to join individual molecules. Each molecule consisted of 100 or more repeating units of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, strung in a chain. DuPont company patented nylon in 1935, but it was not revealed until 1938.

Initially known as “Fiber 66,” DuPont’s new polyamide resulted from 12 years and $27 million in research. Several marketing names were considered for this “artificial silk,” before nylon was chosen. The first commercial use was for toothbrush bristles, which went on sale the same year. After World War II, nylon hosiery for women would make a fortune for the Delaware chemical company.

Learn more in Nylon, a Petroleum Polymer.

February 28, 1982 – Getty Museum becomes Richest in World

Following years of legal battle by his relatives, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles became the most richly endowed museum in the world after receiving a $1.2 billion bequest left to it by oil billionaire J. Paul Getty, who died in 1976.

The Getty Center and the Getty Villa on the Malibu coast.

The J. Paul Getty Museum opened in Los Angeles in 1954. The museum’s art collection today is housed at the Getty Center (above in 2009) and the Getty Villa on the Malibu coast.

After working in his father’s oilfields in Oklahoma, Getty founded his first oil company in Tulsa and drilled the Nancy Taylor No. 1 well near Haskell, where oil and natural gas production began in 1910. Getty’s oil wealth philanthropy also established the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Research Institute, according to the J. Paul Getty Trust.

February 29, 1916 – Design for Highway “Cloverleaf” patented

Maryland civil engineer Arthur Hale patented the “cloverleaf” interchange for roadways, a design that managed traffic with two level looped roads that did not require traffic signals. His concept improved diamond interchanges used at junctions when freeways crossed minor roads.

The first cloverleaf was constructed in New Jersey on the Lincoln Highway (Route 25) and today’s Route 35 in Woodbridge Township. In the same year Hale received his  patent, Tennessee garage worker Ernest Holmes installed a hand-cranked rig on the back of a 1913 Cadillac — inventing the tow truck.

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March 1, 1921 – Halliburton improves Well Cementing

Erle P. Halliburton patented his “Method and Means for Cementing Oil Wells,” improving a key oilfield technology. “It is well known to those skilled in the art of oil well drilling that one of the greatest obstacles to successful development of oil bearing sands has been the encountering of liquid mud water and the like during and after the process of drilling the wells,” he noted in his patent application.

Erle Halliburton cement patent device drawing from 1921.

The Halliburton 1921 cementing process isolated geologic zones and helped prevent collapse of casing.

Halliburton’s well cementing process isolated downhole zones, guarded against collapse of the casing, and allowed control of the well, helping to protect the environment. His patent application noted that typical oil production, “hampered by water intrusion that required time and expense for pumping out…has caused the abandonment of many wells which would have developed a profitable output.”

In March 1949, Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company and Stanolind Oil successfully completed the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing at a well near Duncan.

Learn more in Halliburton cements Wells.

March 2, 1922 – Osage Nation Oil Lease sells for $1 Million

Under the broad crown of a giant elm next to the Osage Council House in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, Skelly Oil and Phillips Petroleum Company jointly bid more than one million dollars for a 160-acre tract of land.

Circa 1920s photo of E.E. Walters auctioning Osage leases in shade of Elm tree

Colonel Elmer Ellsworth Walters (in striped shirt) was famous as “auctioneer of the Osage Nation.”

The 1922 auction — Oklahoma’s first million dollar mineral lease — took place in the shade of what became known as the “million dollar elm.” Independent producers such as Frank Phillips, Harry Sinclair, Bill Skelly, J. Paul Getty and E.W. Marland were frequent bidders for promising leases. The Osage would erect a statue to their auctioneer, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth Walters, in his hometown of Skedee.

Learn more in Million Dollar Elm.

March 3, 1879 – United States Geological Survey established

President Rutherford B. Hayes signed legislation creating the United States Geological Survey (USGS) within the Department of the Interior. The legislation resulted from a report by the National Academy of Sciences, which had been asked by Congress to provide a plan for surveying the country. The new agency’s mission included “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain,” according to USGS

March 3, 1886 – Natural Gas brings light to Paola, Kansas

Paola became the first town in Kansas to use natural gas commercially for illumination. To promote its natural gas resources and attract businesses from nearby Kansas City, civic leaders erected four flambeaux arches in the town square. Pipes were laid for other natural gas illuminated displays.

Women of Paola Kansas dressed in 19th century outfits for annual natural gas festival.

Paola, Kansas, residents annually celebrate their town’s natural gas heritage of the late 1880s.

“Paola was lighted with Gas,” proclaimed an exhibit at the Miami County Historical Museum. “The pipeline was completed from the Westfall farm to the square and a grand illumination was held.” By the end of 1887, several Kansas flour mills were fueled by natural gas. But with little understanding of conservation, Paola’s gas wells ran dry. Fortunately, other economic booms soon arrived with Kansas oil discoveries.

March 4, 1918 – West Virginia Well sets World Depth Record

Hope Natural Gas Company completed an oil well at a depth of 7,386 feet on the Martha Goff farm in Harrison County, West Virginia. The well northeast of Clarksburg was the world’s deepest at the time. The previous depth record had been 7,345 feet for a well in Germany.

rare West Virginia oil well cable tool image

This 1918 West Virginia oil well was the world’s deepest. Photo courtesy West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

The title for world’s deepest well moved again in 1919 to Marion County, West Virginia. In 1953, the New York State Natural Gas Corporation claimed the world’s deepest cable-tool well at a depth of 11,145 feet near the town of Van Etten. By 2018, the rotary rig depth record was held by a Russian well drilled 40,502 feet deep on Sakhalin Island. Learn more West Virginia petroleum history in Confederates attack Oilfield.

March 4, 1933 – Oklahoma City Oilfield under Martial Law

Oklahoma Governor William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray declared martial law to enforce his regulations strictly limiting production in the Oklahoma City oilfield, discovered in December 1928. Two years earlier, Murray had called a meeting of fellow governors from Texas, Kansas and New Mexico to create an Oil States Advisory Committee, “to study the present distressed condition of the petroleum industry.” 

TIME magazine feature Bill Murray

William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray in 1932.

Elected in 1930, the controversial politician was called “Alfalfa Bill” because of speeches urging farmers to plant alfalfa to restore nitrogen to the soil. By the end of his administration, Murray had called out the National Guard 47 times and declared martial law more than 30 times. He was succeeded as Oklahoma governor by E.W. Marland in 1935.

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March 5, 1895 – First Wyoming Refinery produces Lubricants

Near the Chicago & North Western railroad tracks in Casper, Civil War veteran Philip “Mark” Shannon and his Pennsylvania investors opened Wyoming’s first refinery. It could produce 100 barrels a day of 15 different grades of lubricant, from “light cylinder oil” to heavy grease. Shannon and his associates incorporated as Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Company.

petroleum history march

The original Casper oil refinery in Wyoming, circa 1895. Photo courtesy Wyoming Tales and Trails.

By 1904, Shannon’s company owned 14 wells in the Salt Creek field, about 45 miles from the company’s refinery (two days by wagon). Each well produced up to 40 barrels of oil per day. Despite Casper’s improved railroad access, transportation costs meant Wyoming oil could not compete for eastern markets. The state’s first petroleum boom would have to wait until 1908, when Salt Creek’s “Big Dutch” well was completed.

Learn more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.


Recommended Reading:  An Ocean of Oil: A Century of Political Struggle over Petroleum Off the California Coast (1998). DuPont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain (1984); Erle P. Halliburton, Genius with Cement (1959); The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil (1985); Frackers – A History of Wyoming Oil Refineries (2016). 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 annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.


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