February 9, 2013 – Making Hole on the Red Planet –  

Images transmitted from NASA’s robotic rover Curiosity confirm it drilled a well 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 an article at 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.

After being launched in November 2011, and while exploring the Red Planet’s Yellowknife Bay Basin, Curiosity paused to drill a hole about .63 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep. Using a rotary-percussion drill bit at the end of a seven-foot robotic arm, the rover’s first off-world well drilled into “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 Curiosity showed the one-ton robot’s drill site, which included a test hole and the successful well. After drilling the Mars No. 1 (unofficial name), the rover spudded more wells using a “low-percussion” technique. Learn more about terrestrial drilling history in Making Hole – Drilling Technology.

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

The Buena Vista oilfield was discovered in Kern County, California, in 1910 by Honolulu Oil Corporation. The well was originally known as “Honolulu’s great gasser” until it was drilled deeper into oil-producing sands. Initial production from the discovery well averaged 3,500 barrels of oil a day. Steam injection operations would help produce the prolific “heavy” (high viscosity) California oil.

In 1912, as the U.S. Navy began converting its warship boilers from coal to oil, the Buena Vista field became Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2 (see Petroleum & Sea Power). Many of the biggest U.S. oilfields have been found in California, mostly in Kern County. Learn more about the state’s petroleum history in First California Oil Well.

February 10, 1917  – Petroleum Geologists get Organized in Tulsa

Although growing demand for oil was worldwide, the science for finding it was obscure when the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) organized as the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

About 90 geologists met in 1917 at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, and formed an association “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.” The association, which adopted its present name in 1918, also began publishing a bimonthly scientific journal. AAPG’s peer-reviewed Bulletin included papers written by leading geologists of the day.

 American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) 1917 logo

Petroleum geologists celebrated the AAPG centennial in 2017.

By 1920, an oil industry trade magazine noted the association had grown in membership and “combats the fakers.” It praised AAPG’s professionalism while warning of “the large number of unscrupulous and inadequately prepared men who are attempting to do geological work.” In 1945, the association formed a committee to assist the Boy Scouts of America with a geology merit badgeBy 1953, AAPG membership exceeded 10,000.

Learn more in AAPG – Geology Pros since 1917.

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

Harold C. Price Sr., founder of a petroleum pipeline company, dedicated his new headquarters building in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The 19-story Bartlesville office tower was the only skyscraper designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Founded in 1921, H.C. Price Company specialized in field welding of oil storage tanks and was responsible for several innovations in electric welding of pipelines. The company played an important role in constructing the “Big Inch” pipelines during WWII and in the 1970s built a large section of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline History.

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.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 400 buildings, including the Guggenheim museum in New York. Today, the Price Tower Arts Center preserves Wright’s design legacy. The “Prairie Skyscraper” was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Wright also designed the Price family residence in Arizona; when completed in 1955, it was the largest of all Wright homes in the state, according to the Price House Foundation.

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 legally binding bid for the company. By the end of the year, the companies settled their historic $10.3 billion legal battle for $3 billion after Pennzoil agreed to drop its demand for interest. According to a Los Angeles Times article, the pact was vital for a reorganization plan that dictated how Texaco emerged from bankruptcy proceedings, a haven it had sought to stop Pennzoil from enforcing the largest court judgement ever awarded.

February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil adopts Yellow Dog

An independent oil exploration company originally founded in 1916 consolidated with four other independent oil companies to form the Forest Oil Corporation – an early developer of secondary recovery technologies. For its logo, the new company included a two-wicked “Yellow Dog” oilfield lantern used on derricks.

The 1916 Forest Oil Company logo with yellow dog lamp.

The 1916 Forest Oil logo featured the Keystone State’s common yellow dog two-wick derrick lamp.

Many believed the lantern’s name came from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s glowing eyes at night. Originally based in Bradford, Pennsylvania – home to the nation’s “first billion dollar oilfield” – Forest Oil developed innovative water-injection methods to keep the Bradford oilfield productive.

Learn more in Yellow Dog – Oilfield Lantern.

AOGHS membership ad for 2020

February 13, 1977 – Famous Texas Ranger  “El Lobo Solo” dies

“El Lobo Solo” – The Lone Wolf – Texas Ranger Manuel T. Gonzaullas died at age 85 in Dallas. During much of the 1920s and 1930s, he had earned a reputation as a strict law enforcer in booming oil towns.

Two 45 pistols of Texas Ranger Manuel T. "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas.

Texas Ranger Manuel Gonzaullas’ “working pistols” had the trigger guard cut away.

When Kilgore became “the most lawless town in Texas” after discovery of the East Texas oilfield in 1930, Gonzaullas was chosen to tame it. “Crime may expect no quarter in Kilgore,”  the Texas Ranger declared. He rode a black stallion named Tony and sported a pair of 1911 .45 Colts with his initials on the handles.

“He was a soft-spoken man and his trigger finger was slightly bent,” noted independent producer Watson W. Wise during a 1985 interview. “He always told me it was geared to that .45 of his.”

Learn more in Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger.


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. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This