This Week in Petroleum History, July 15 – 21
July 16, 1926 – Fixico No. 1 Well brings 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.
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 – First Parking Meter made
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
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.
July 19, 1957 – Oil discovered in Alaska Territory
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 Well.
July 20, 1920 – Texas Company Well discovers Permian Basin Oilfield
The Permian Basin made headlines in 1920 when a West Texas well found oil about 2,750 feet deep. The W.H. Abrams No. 1 well was named for Texas & Pacific Railway official William Abrams, who owned the land and had leased mineral rights to the Texas Company (later Texaco). After “shooting” the well with nitroglycerine, a column of oil announced discovery of the West Columbia field. It was part of the Permian Basin, covering more than 75,000 square miles in 43 counties of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
“As a crowd of 2,000 people looked on, a great eruption of oil, gas, water and smoke shot from the mouth of the well almost to the top of the derrick,” notes a Texas State Historical Marker in Westbrook.
“Locally, 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.”
Another West Texas discovery well in 1923 near Big Lake brought an even greater drilling boom that helped establish the University of Texas (see Santa Rita taps Permian Basin). The Permian region is expected to account for more than half of the growth in U.S. oil production through 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration. Also see New Mexico Oil Discovery.
July 21, 1935 – “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy strikes Oil near Houston
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 build Houston’s famed Shamrock Hotel a decade later. By 1945, McCarthy had discovered 11 Texas oilfields. He became known as another “King of the Wildcatters” and “Diamond Glenn” by 1950, when his estimated worth reached $200 million ($2 billion today).
In addition to his McCarthy Oil and Gas Company, McCarthy eventually would own a gas company, a chemical company, a radio station, 14 newspapers, a magazine, two banks, and the Shell Building in Houston. In 1946 McCarthy invested $21 million to build the Shamrock Hotel on the edge of Houston. He spent $1 million on the hotel’s 1949 opening-day gala, which newspapers later dubbed, “Houston’s biggest party” (the hotel’s “Emerald Room” attracted Hollywood celebrities, including Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra). Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.
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