July 11, 2008 – World Oil Price hits Historic High – 

The price of oil reached a record high of $147.27 a barrel before dropping back to $145.08. Prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange had peaked at $145.29 a barrel eight days earlier. As supply fears subsided, oil prices fell below $37 a barrel by early  2009. A decade later, U.S. petroleum consumption ranked number one worldwide, exceeding 20.5 million barrels per day.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, oil prices rose above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014. By the end of June, the price of West Texas Intermediate oil reached $113.66 per barrel before declining to $101.55 on July 5, 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

July 11, 2013 – Drop of Pitch drips After 69 Years

Physicists at Trinity College Dublin photographed a falling drip of pitch — “one of the most anticipated drips in science,” according to the journal Nature.

petroleum history july 13

Pitch (bitumen) is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon that flows very, very slowly.

Set up in 1944, the pitch-drop experiment demonstrated the high viscosity (low fluidity) of pitch, a natural hydrocarbon also known as bitumen or asphalt that appears solid at room temperature, but is flowing extremely slowly.

“The Trinity College team has estimated the viscosity of the pitch by monitoring the evolution of this one drop, and puts it in the region of two million times more viscous than honey, or 20 billion times the viscosity of water, ” the magazine noted. Another “Pitch Drop Experiment” that began 1927 continues at an Australian university.

Learn more in see Asphalt paves the Way.

July 12, 1934 – Emory Clark launches “Clark Super 100” Stations

Two years after paying $14 for a closed, one-pump gas station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Emory Clark incorporated what would become the Clark Oil & Refining Corporation. He set out to create a network of simplified filling stations that focused on selling premium gasoline only, “Super 100 Premium.”

Models of Clark gas stations selling Supper 100 gas.

Founded in 1934, Clark operated about 1,500 gas stations by 1970.

Clark’s marketing strategy eliminated common services like maintenance, engine repair, and tire changing. Sales reached $21.1 million in 1949, and by 1953 the company operated more than 150 service stations in the Midwest under the brand name “Clark Super 100.”

After purchasing a large refinery at Wood River, Illinois, in 1967, three years later Clark was selling high-octane gas from 1,500 gas stations. In 1981, the Clark family sold their company holdings, which began with  Emory T. Clark’s $14 purchase, to Missouri-based Apex Oil for $483 million.

July 14, 1863 – Patent issued for “Tool for Boring Rock” 

French tunnel engineer Rodolphe Leschot received a U.S. patent for a “Tool for Boring Rock.” His concept included a ring of industrial-grade diamonds on the end of a tubular drill rod designed to cut a cylindrical core. Water pumped through the drill rod washed away cuttings and cooled the bit. Leschot’s system proved successful in drilling blast holes for tunneling Mount Cenis on the France-Italy border.

Rodolphe Leschot's cutting-edge 1863 drilling technology.

French engineer Rodolphe Leschot’s cutting-edge 1863 drilling technology.

The use of diamond bits in oil well drilling was being examined in the petroleum regions of western Pennsylvania after the Civil War. “It is not known if there is any connection between the 1865 experimental diamond core drilling in the Pennsylvania oil region and the Leschot blast hole drilling in France in 1863,” oil historian Sam Pees noted in 2004.

Learn more about Making Hole – Drilling Technology.

July 14, 1891 – Rockefeller expands Oil Tank Car Empire 

John D. Rockefeller incorporated Union Tank Line Company in New Jersey and transferred his fleet of several thousand oil tank cars to the Standard Oil Trust. He then systematically acquired control of all but 200 of America’s 3,200 existing oil tank cars. By 1904, his rolling fleet of tank cars had grown to 10,000.

Oil tanks cars of Standard Oil

By 1904, Standard Oil’s railroad tank car fleet had grown to 10,000.

Union Tank Line Company shipped only Standard Oil products until 1911, when the U.S. Supreme Court mandated dissolution of his trust. The newly independent company changed its name to Union Tank Car Company (its official rolling stock reporting mark retained Standard’s UTL or UTLX). In 1963, the company introduced a 50,000-gallon tank car, the largest in rail service.

Learn more about the early days of transporting petroleum in Densmore Oil Tank Car.

July 16, 1907 – Carl Baker’s Casing Shoe advances Oilfield Technology

After drilling and completing wells in booming Kern River oilfields, R. Carlton “Carl” Baker of Coalinga, California, patented what would become the Baker casing shoe, a device that helped ensure oil flowed uninterrupted through a well. Baker, who founded the Coalinga Oil Company in 1903, by 1913 had established the Baker Casing Shoe Company (renamed Baker Tools two years later).

Baker opened his first manufacturing plant in Coalinga before moving his headquarters to Los Angeles in the 1930s. Baker Tools became Baker International in 1976 and Baker Hughes after a 1987 merger with the Hughes Tool Company. Purchased by General Electric in 2017, the Baker Hughes Company divested from GE in 2019.

Learn more in Carl Baker and Howard Hughes.

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July 16, 1926 – Oil Discovery launches Greater Seminole Area Boom

Three years after an oil well was completed near Bowlegs, Oklahoma, a gusher south of Seminole revealed the true oil potential of Seminole County. The Fixico No. 1 well penetrated the prolific Wilcox Sands formation at 4,073 feet deep. Drilled by R.F. Garland and his Independent Oil Company, the well was among more than 50 Greater Seminole Area oil reservoirs discovered; six were giants that produced more than one million barrels of oil each.

With the addition of the giant Oklahoma City oilfield, discovered in 1928, Oklahoma would become the largest supplier of oil in the world by 1935.

Learn more in Seminole Oil Boom.

July 16, 1935 – Oklahoma Publisher produces First Parking Meter 

As the booming Oklahoma City oilfield added to the congestion of cars downtown, the world’s first parking meter was installed at the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue. Carl C. Magee, publisher of the Oklahoma News, designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1.

Carl Magee, designer of the Park-O-Meter

Oklahoma college students helped Carl Magee design the Park-O-Meter No. 1. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

Magee designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1, today preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society. “The meter charged five cents for one hour of parking, and naturally citizens hated it, viewing it as a tax for owning a car,” noted historian Josh Miller in 2012. “But retailers loved the meter, as it encouraged a quick turnover of customers.”

Park-O-Meters were manufactured by MacNick Company of Tulsa, a maker of timing devices used to explode nitroglycerin in oil wells (also see Zebco Reel Oilfield History).

July 16, 1969 – Kerosene fuels launch of Saturn V Moon Rocket 

A 19th century petroleum product made America’s 1969 moon landing possible. Kerosene powered the first-stage rocket engines of the Saturn V when it launched the Apollo 11 mission on July 16. Four days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Saturn V launches burning "rocket grade" kerosene.

Powered by five first-stage engines fueled by “rocket grade” kerosene, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built. Photos courtesy Nasa.

During launch, five engines of the massive Saturn V’s first stage burned “Rocket Grade Kerosene Propellant” at 2,230 gallons per second – generating almost eight million pounds of thrust. The fuel was a highly refined kerosene RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1) that could trace its roots to the 1840s and “coal oil” for lamps.

Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner began refining the fuel from coal in 1846. He coined the term kerosene from the Greek word keros (wax). RP-1 today fuels first-stage boosters for the Atlas, SpaceX, and other rockets.

Learn more in Kerosene Rocket Fuel.

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Recommended Reading: Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City (1994); Pump and Circumstance: Glory Days of the Gas Station (1993); A History of the Greater Seminole Oil Field (1981); The United States of Awesome: Fun, Fascinating and Bizarre Trivia about the Greatest Country in the Universe (2012); Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles (2003). As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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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. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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