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

French tunnel engineer Rodolphe Leschot received a U.S. patent for his “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.

By 1865, the use of diamond bits in oil well drilling was being examined in the petroleum regions of western Pennsylvania. “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,” noted historian Sam Pees in 2004. Learn more about Making Hole – Drilling Technology and visit Pennsylvania’s Drake Well Museum in Titusville.

July 14, 1891 – Rockefeller expands Oil Tank Car Empire – 

Oil tanks cars of Standard Oil

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

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.

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, 1926 – Oil Discovery launches Greater Seminole Area Boom – 

Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole, Oklahoma

Now  closed, the Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole educated visitors about the area’s historic oilfields, including Earlsboro, St. Louis, Bowlegs, Little River, and Allen. Photo by Bruce Wells.

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.

The well, drilled by the R.F. Garland and his Independent Oil Company, 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, by 1935 Oklahoma would become the largest supplier of oil in the world. Learn more in Great Seminole Oil Boom.

July 16, 1935 – Oklahoma Publisher produces First Parking Meter – 

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.

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. “The meter charged five cents for one hour of parking, and naturally citizens hated it, viewing it as a tax for owning a car,” notes historian Josh Miller. “But retailers loved the meter, as it encouraged a quick turnover of customers.”

Magee designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1, today preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society. It was manufactured by MacNick Company of Tulsa, a maker of timing devices used to explode nitroglycerin in oil wells (also see Zebco Reel Oilfield History). By 1940, there were 140,000 parking meters operating in the United States.

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

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.

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.”

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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July 19, 1957 – Major Oil Discovery in Alaska Territory – 

Anchorage Daily Times headline "Richfield Hits Oil"

Even the Anchorage Daily Times could not predict oil production would account for more than 90 percent of Alaska’s revenue.

Although some oil production had occurred earlier in the territory, Alaska’s first commercial oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil, which completed the Swanson River Unit No. 1 in Cook Inlet Basin. The well yielded 900 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 11,215 feet.

Alaska’s first governor, William Egan, would proclaim the 1957 discovery provided “the economic justification for statehood for Alaska” two years later. Richfield leased more than 71,000 acres of the Kenai National Moose Range, now part of the 1.92 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. More Alaska discoveries followed. By June 1962, about 50 wells were producing more than 20,000 barrels of oil a day. Atlantic Richfield evolved into today’s ARCO.

Learn about the earliest exploration wells in the 49th state in First Alaska Oil Wells.

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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. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

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