February 7, 1817 –  First Manufactured Gas Street Light – 

Fueled by manufactured gas (distilled from tar and wood), America’s first public street lamp illuminated Market Street in Baltimore, making Gas Light Company of Baltimore the first U.S. commercial gas lighting company. City officials erected a replica of the lamp in 1997.

Reproduction of first gas street lamp that illuminated Baltimore in 1821.

The first U.S. gas street lamp illuminated Baltimore in 1817. Photo courtesy BG&E.

Artist Rembrandt Peale earlier had demonstrated the brightness of manufactured gas with a “ring beset with gems of light” at his Baltimore museum. “During a candlelit period in American history, the forward-thinking Peale aimed to form a business around his gas light innovations, and the exhibition targeting potential investors,” notes Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E), which began as the Gas Light Company of Baltimore.

Learn more in Illuminating Gaslight.

February 8, 1836 – Coal Gas brightens Philadelphia

As Philadelphia became America’s center for finance and industry, the municipally owned gas distribution company began lighting Second Street. Employees of the newly formed Philadelphia Gas Works ignited 46 lamps that burned manufactured coal gas.

petroleum history february

A natural gas storage facility at Point Breeze in South Philadelphia, circa 1856. Photograph courtesy Philadelphia Gas Works.

Philadelphia Gas Works in 1856 completed construction of a natural gas storage tank with a total capacity of 1.8 million cubic feet, the largest in America at the time. The village of Fredonia, New York, began commercial use of natural gas as early as 1825.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

February 9, 2013 – NASA drills on Mars

Images transmitted from NASA’s robotic rover Curiosity confirmed it successfully drilled on the Martian surface, accomplishing “history’s first ever drilling and sampling into a pristine alien rock on the surface of another planet in our solar system,” according to Universe Today.

First drilling on planet Mars by Curiosity rover.

Curiosity’s 2013 first sample drilling hole beside a test of the bit. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL.

While exploring the Red Planet’s Yellowknife Bay Basin, Curiosity paused to drill for the first time, making a hole .63 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep. A rotary-percussion drill bit at the end of a seven-foot robotic arm penetrated a “red slab of fine-grained sedimentary rock with hydrated mineral veins of calcium sulfate.”

Nasa drill bit for Mars over.

Curiosity’s “rotary-percussion” bit is just .6 of an inch wide, courtesy NASA/JPL.

Images from the drill site included a test hole and the successful well. After completing Mars No. 1 (unofficial name), the one-ton rover would drill others using a slow, “low-percussion” technique. Learn about terrestrial drilling methods in Making Hole – Drilling Technology.

February 10, 1910 – Major Oilfield discovery in Kern County, California

Honolulu Oil Corporation discovered the Buena Vista oilfield in Kern County, California. The well, originally known as “Honolulu’s great gasser,” was drilled deeper into oil-producing sands, and initial production averaged 3,500 barrels of oil a day. Steam injection operations later helped the oilfield produce “heavy” (high viscosity) California oil.

In 1912, as the Navy began converting its warship boilers from coal to oil (see Petroleum & Sea Power), the Buena Vista field was designated Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

February 10, 1917  – Petroleum Geologists get Organized in Tulsa

About 90 geologists gathered in Oklahoma to form an association where “only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.” They met at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, to establish the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists, today’s American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

 American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) 1917 logo

Petroleum geologists celebrated the AAPG centennial in 2017.

Adopting its current name in 1918, AAPG also launched its peer-reviewed scientific journal, the Bulletin. By 1920, industry trade magazines were praising the association’s professionalism and success combating, “unscrupulous and inadequately prepared men who are attempting to do geological work.”

In 1945, AAPG formed a special committee to assist the Boy Scouts of America with a geology merit badge. The association’s membership has grown from 10,000 members in 1953 to 40,000 members in 2022.

Learn more in AAPG – Geology Pros since 1917.

February 10, 1956 – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Only Skyscraper

Harold C. Price Sr., founder of the pipeline construction company H.C. Price, dedicated his headquarters building in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The distinctive, 19-story concrete and copper office tower remains the only skyscraper designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Established in 1921, H.C. Price specialized in field welding oil storage tanks and electric welding of pipelines. The company helped construct the “Big Inch” pipelines during WWII and built large sections of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Price Tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Bruce Wells.

Wright also designed the Price family residence in Arizona, completed in 1955, according to the Price House Foundation. Also known as the “Prairie Skyscraper,” the  former H.C. Price Company headquarters, today the Price Tower Arts Center, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

February 12, 1954 – Persistence pays off with First Nevada Oil Well

After hundreds of dry holes (the first drilled near Reno in 1907), Nevada became a petroleum-producing state. Shell Oil Company’s second test of its Eagle Springs No. 1 well in Nye County produced commercial amounts of oil. The routine test revealed petroleum production at an interval between 6,450 feet and 6,730 feet deep.

Although the Eagle Springs field would produce 3.8 million barrels of oil, finding Nevada’s second oilfield took two more decades. Northwest Exploration Company completed the Trap Spring No. 1 well in Railroad Valley, five miles west of the Eagle Springs oilfield in 1976.

Learn more in First Nevada Oil Well.

February 12, 1987 – Texaco Fine upheld for Getty Oil Takeover attempt

A Texas court upheld a 1985 decision against Texaco for having initiated an illegal takeover of Getty Oil after Pennzoil had made a bid for the company. By the end of the year, the companies settled their historic $10.3 billion legal battle for $3 billion when Pennzoil agreed to drop its demand for interest. According to the Los Angeles Times, the compromise was vital for a reorganization plan for Texaco emerging from bankruptcy, a haven it had sought to stop Pennzoil from enforcing the largest court judgement ever awarded at the time.


Recommended Reading:  In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860 (1993); Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer (2017); Trek of the Oil Finders: A History of Exploration for Petroleum (1975); Building Bartlesville, 1945-2000, Images of America: Oklahoma (2008); Roadside Geology of Nevada (2017); The Taking of Getty Oil: Pennzoil, Texaco, and the Takeover Battle That Made History (2017). 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.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This