July 19, 1915 – Petroleum powers Washing Machines and Lawn Mowers – 

Howard Snyder applied to patent his internal combustion-powered washing machine, assigning the rights to the Maytag Company. Snyder’s machine — for “the ordinary farmer” who often lacked access to electricity — used a one-cylinder, two-cycle engine that could run on gasoline, kerosene or alcohol.

Magazine ads for early gas-powered washing machines and lawn mowers.

Advertisements featured two popular products powered by air cooled internal combustion engines.

Four years after Snyder’s innovation, Edwin George of Detroit removed the the engine from his wife’s Maytag washing machine and added it to a common, reel-type lawn mower. George’s invention launched the Moto-Mower Company, which sold America’s first commercially successful gasoline-powered lawn mower.

July 19, 1957 – Major Oil Discovery in Alaska Territory 

Although some oil production had occurred earlier in the territory, Alaska’s first commercial oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil Company, which completed its 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.

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.

Alaska’s first governor, William Egan, proclaimed the oilfield 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. Richfield Oil Company merged with Atlantic Refining Company in 1966, becoming Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), which with Exxon discovered the giant Prudhoe Bay field in 1968.

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

July 20, 1920 – Discovery Well of the Permian Basin

The Permian Basin made headlines in 1920 when a wildcat well erupted oil from a depth of 2,750 feet on land owned by Texas Pacific Land Trust agent William H. Abrams, who just weeks earlier had discovered the West Columbia oilfield in Brazoria County south of Houston.

The latest W.H. Abrams No. 1 well — “shot” with nitroglycerin by the Texas Company (later Texaco) — proved to be part of the Permian Basin, encompassing 75,000 square miles in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Map of Permian Basin in West Texas.

The Permian Basin would become the leading source of U.S. oil. Image courtesy Rigzone.

According to a Mitchell County historical marker, “land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values…the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions.”

A 1923 Permian Basin well near Big Lake brought yet another Texas drilling boom — and helped establish the University of Texas (see Santa Rita taps Permian Basin)

July 21, 1935 – “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy strikes Oil

Glenn H. McCarthy struck oil 50 miles east of Houston in 1935, extending the already prolific Anahuac field. The well was the first of many for the Texas independent producer who would discover 11 Texas oilfields by 1945.

McCarthy would become known as another “King of the Wildcatters” and “Diamond Glenn” by 1950, when his estimated worth reached $200 million ($2 billion today).

 petroleum history july 20

Glenn McCarthy appeared on TIME magazine in 1950.

In addition to his McCarthy Oil and Gas Company, McCarthy eventually owned a gas company, a chemical company, a radio station, 14 newspapers, a magazine, two banks, and the Shell Building in Houston. In the late 1940s, he invested $21 million to build the 18-story, 1,100-room Shamrock Hotel on the edge of Houston. He reportedly spent  $1 million on 1949 St. Patrick’s Day opening gala, which newspapers dubbed, “Houston’s biggest party.”

Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.

July 22, 1933 – Phillips Petroleum sponsors Solo Flight around the World

Before 50,000 cheering New York City onlookers, Wiley Post made aviation history when he landed his Lockheed Vega “Winnie Mae.” The former Oklahoma roughneck was the first person to fly solo around the world. Post had worked in oilfields near Walters, Oklahoma, when he took his first airplane ride with a barnstormer in 1919.

Wiley Post, former oil worker, set flying records with this plane Winnie Mae.

Thanks to a friendship with Frank Phillips, Wiley Post set altitude records — and was the first man to fly solo around the world.

In 1926, he had returned to working in an oilfield, where he was injured his first day, losing the sight in his left eye. Post’s injury happened while working at a well site near Seminole, when a metal splinter damaged his eye. He used the $1,700 in compensation to buy his first airplane.

Post became friends with Frank Phillips, who sponsored Post’s high-altitude experimental flights. Phillips Petroleum Company, which produced aviation fuel before it produced gasoline for cars, also sponsored another historic plane — the “Woolaroc” — in a 1927 air race across the Pacific.

July 22, 1959 – Historical Marker erected to Second U.S. Oil Well

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicated a state marker to commemorate the man who drilled for oil just a few days after Edwin Drake completed the first U.S. commercial well on August 27, 1859. “After Drake’s discovery of oil in Titusville, some area residents attempted to sink their own well,” noted historians at Explore Pennsylvania. “The vast majority of such efforts failed.”

PA Marker for second oil wellUsing a simple spring-pole, 22-year-old John Grandin and a local blacksmith began to “kick down” a well that would reach almost twice as deep as Drake’s cable-tool depth of 69.5 feet. Despite not finding the oil-producing formation (the Venango Sands), Grandin’s well produced several “firsts” for the young U.S. petroleum industry.

Learn more in First Dry Hole.

July 23, 1872 – “Real McCoy” drips Oil into Steam Engines

Using petroleum for improving the performance of locomotives became widespread when Elijah McCoy patented an automatic lubricator for steam engines. McCoy, an African-American inventor, designed a device that applied oil through a drip cup to locomotive and ship steam engines.

Patent for the Real McCoy of 1872

Locomotive steam engines depended on large quantities of lubricating oil.

Born in Canada in 1843, McCoy was the son of slaves who had escaped from Kentucky and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he graduated from high school. By the time of his death in 1929, McCoy had been awarded 60 patents (including a folding ironing table), according to a 1994 Michigan historical marker.

Some industry sources maintain that McCoy left another legacy: “The term ‘the real McCoy’ is believed to have come about because railroad engineers did not want low-quality copycat versions of this device.” Before a purchase, buyers would ask if it was “the real McCoy.”

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July 23, 1951 – Desk & Derrick Clubs organize

The Association of Desk & Derrick Clubs of North America was formed with articles of association signed by presidents of clubs in Jackson,  Mississippi, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Houston. A few years earlier, a secretary at Humble Oil and Refining Company had organized the first club in New Orleans.

Learn more in Desk and Derrick Educators.

July 24, 2000 – BP unveils New Green and Yellow Logo

BP the official name of a group of companies that included Amoco, ARCO and Castrol, unveiled a new corporate identity brand, replacing the “Green Shield” logo with a green and yellow sunflower pattern.

The company also introduced a new corporate slogan: “Beyond Petroleum.” When BP — then British Petroleum — merged with Amoco in 1998, the company’s name briefly changed to BP Amoco before all stations converted to the BP brand.

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Recommended Reading:  From the Rio Grande to the Arctic: The Story of the Richfield Oil Corporation (1972); Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska (2012); Texon: Legacy of an Oil Town, Images of America (2011); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982); The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes (2009). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. 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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