June 11, 1816 – Manufactured Gas lights Art Museum in Baltimore –

The first commercial gas lighting of residences, streets and businesses began when Rembrandt Peale impressed Baltimore civic leaders by illuminating a room in his Holliday Street Museum by burning “manufactured gas.” His display (using gas distilled from coal, tar or wood) dazzled them with a “ring beset with gems of light.”

Baltimore museum opened in 1814, the first building erected as a museum in the United States.

Lighted with manufactured gas, this Baltimore museum opened in 1814, America’s first building erected as a museum. Photo courtesy Maryland Historical Trust.

The Baltimore museum became the first U.S. public building to use gas lighting, according to the Maryland Historical Trust. Within a week, the city council approved plans to light the city’s main streets. Peale and a group of investors founded the Gas Light Company of Baltimore — the first gas company in America — and now the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company.  Manufactured gas street lighting began in 1817.

Learn more about manufactured gas history in Illuminating Gaslight.

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June 11, 1911 – E.W. Marland discovers Ponca Nation Oilfield

Ernest W. Marland, founder of the 101 Ranch Oil Company in 1908, discovered an oilfield near Ponca City, Oklahoma, after reorganizing the company in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Almost broke after drilling eight uneconomical wells, Marland had turned to childhood friend John McCaskey of Pittsburgh, known as the “Sauerkraut King.”

Map of 101 Ranch Oil Company next to Osage Nation, circa 1910.

Circa 1910 map detail from a newspaper promotion of the101 Ranch Oil Company following discoveries near Ponca (City), west of the Osage Nation’s oilfields.

Partnered with McCaskey and the owners of the 101 Ranch, Marland received permission from White Eagle, chief of the Ponca Nation, to drill near a reservation burial ground. The oilfield discovery well and many that followed produced oil on a reservation allotment owned by Willie-Cries-For-War, age 19, who had leased his 160 acres to Marland for $1,000 a year and 12.5 cents a barrel of oil produced.

Marland would found Marland Oil Company in 1917, merge it with Continental Oil in 1928, and become governor of Oklahoma in 1935. ConocoPhillips opened a Conoco Museum in Ponca City in 2007.

June 11, 1929 – Independent Producers get Organized

Ninety-five years ago, Wirt Franklin of Ardmore, Oklahoma, spoke on behalf of small exploration and production companies during President Herbert Hoover’s Oil Conservation Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Franklin and other independent producers opposed creating a federal commission that could restrict production and allow more imported foreign oil.

“If this condition should be brought about, it would mean the annihilation and destruction of the small producer of crude oil, ” proclaimed Franklin, who had found success in the shallow but prolific Healdton oilfield. Before returning to Ardmore, Franklin and other independents established the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

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June 12, 1879 – Allegheny Oilfield discovered by O.P. Taylor

Orville “O.P.” Taylor completed the Triangle No. 1 well at a depth of 1,177 feet in Allegheny County, New York, revealing an oilfield that extended into Pennsylvania. His discovery came after two failed wells drilled near oil seeps first reported by a French missionary in 1627. The Allegheny oilfield would launch a drilling boom and create the town of Petrolia.

Confederate Army veteran Taylor had worked in the cigar manufacturing business in Virginia before catching “oil fever” after reading about Pennsylvania oil discoveries along the Allegheny River (see Derricks of Triumph Hill). Taylor’s success led to his election as mayor of Wellsville, New York, and the title of “Father of the Allegheny Oilfield.” A Liberty Ship was named for him during World War II.

June 13, 1917 –  Phillips Petroleum Company founded

During the early months of America’s entry into World War I, as oil prices rose above $1 per barrel, Phillips Petroleum Company was founded in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Brothers Frank and Lee Eldas “L.E.” Phillips consolidated their oil companies and began operating throughout Oklahoma and Kansas. Assets rose from $3 million to $100 million within a few years.

Phillips Petroleum Company founders L.E. Phillips (left) and Frank Phillips in cowboy hats, circa 1920.

Brothers L.E. Phillips (left) and Frank Phillips established Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville in 1917. Photo courtesy ConocoPhillips.

In 1927, Phillips Petroleum began selling its gasoline in Wichita, Kansas, the first of more than 10,000 Phillips 66 service stations. Phillips chemists received thousands of U.S. patents, including one in 1954 for Marlex, a high-density polyethylene. Wham-O toy company was the first to buy the new plastic (see Petroleum Product Hoopla). The oil company’s high-octane Nu-Aviation fuel played an important role in winning World War II.

Phillips Petroleum merged with Conoco in 2002 to become ConocoPhillips, which in 2007 established petroleum museums in Ponca City and Bartlesville as part of the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood.

June 13, 1928 – Hobbs Oilfield discovered in New Mexico

The New Mexico petroleum industry was launched with the discovery of the Hobbs oilfield near the southeastern corner of the state. After months of difficult cable-tool drilling, the Midwest State No. 1 well produced oil for the Midwest Refining Company, which had drilled the state’s first oil well in 1922.

Postcard with Greetings from Hobbs, New Mexico and oilfields historic marker.

A June 1928 oilfield discovery brought many decades of petroleum prosperity to downtown Hobbs, New Mexico.

The Hobbs well revealed a giant  field, later cited by the New Mexico Bureau of Mines & Mineral Resources as “the most important single discovery of oil in New Mexico’s history.” But after months of drilling, the well had reached a depth of 1,500 feet when an engine house fire consumed the wooden derrick. “Men with less vision would have given up, but not the drillers of Midwest,” noted the state geologist.

As the Great Depression approached, oil production from the Hobbs field attracted investors and drilling companies, quickly transforming Hobbs from “sand, mesquite, bear grass and jackrabbits” to the fastest-growing town in the nation.

Learn more in First New Mexico Oil Wells.

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June 14, 1865 – First Daily Oil Region Newspaper

Pennsylvania’s oil region got its first daily newspaper when brothers William and Henry Bloss published a four-page broadsheet, the Titusville Morning Herald. Initial circulation was 300 for the community newspaper for the Titusville Herald. The first edition’s articles included a reference to John Wilkes Booth’s visits to the region and his August 1864 oil interests.

The Titusville Herald masthead

The Pennsylvania newspaper’s first edition in 1865 noted John Wilkes Booth had oil interests.

The newspaper reported: “John Wilkes Booth purchased a one-thirteenth interest in the territory in August 1864. We are credibly informed that this Homestead well in which Booth was interested was destroyed by fire on the day he assassinated President Lincoln.”

Learn more in Dramatic Oil Company.

June 14, 1938 – United States regulates Natural Gas

The federal government for the first time assumed regulatory control of U.S. natural gas sales to limit the growing market power of interstate pipeline companies.

Although the Natural Gas Act of 1938 did not apply to production, gathering or local distribution, it sought to establish “just and reasonable rates” for pipeline company transmission or sales of natural gas in interstate commerce. Regulatory functions were assigned to the Federal Power Commission (established in 1920), which became the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 1977.

June 15, 1954 – Launch of First Mobile Offshore Rig

The offshore barge oil drilling platform, Mr. Charlie left its Louisiana shipyard and went to work for Shell Oil Company in a new oilfield in East Bay, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The vessel’s design, which would revolutionize the offshore industry, originated with Alden “Doc” LaBorde, a marine superintendent for the Kerr-McGee Company in Morgan City, Louisiana.

Mr. Charlie, the first mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) for petroleum exploration and production.

Beginning in 1954 and capable of drilling wells in water up to 40 feet in depth, Mr. Charlie was the first mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU). Photos courtesy Murphy Oil Corporation.

Despite Kerr-McGee’s experience with many post-World War II offshore technologies, including drilling the first oil well out of sight of land in 1947, the company decided against LaBorde’s idea for a transportable, submersible drilling barge. The inventor, a Navy veteran, eventually found support from Charles Murphy Jr., founder of Murphy Oil Company.

Petroleum technology pioneer Mr. Charlie offshore rig at dock in Louisiana.

A major offshore technology advancement, Mr. Charlie used a column-stabilized design.

LaBorde formed the Ocean Drilling & Exploration and contracted with J. Ray McDermott Company to convert a 220-foot barge into a drilling platform — the world’s first mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU). Today moored in Morgan City as an  international petroleum museum, Mr. Charlie is under consideration for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Learn more in Mr. Charlie, First Mobile Offshore Drilling Rig.


Recommended Reading: In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860 (1993); The Extraction State, A History of Natural Gas in America (2021); Oil And Gas In Oklahoma: Petroleum Geology In Oklahoma (2013); Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum (2014); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982); Around Titusville, Pa., Images of America (2004); Offshore Pioneers: Brown & Root and the History of Offshore Oil and Gas (2011); Breaking the Gas Ceiling: Women in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry (2019);. Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) 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. Copyright © 2024 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.  

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