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

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Lighted with manufactured gas, this Baltimore museum opened in 1814, the first building erected as a museum in the United States. Photo courtesy Maryland Historical Trust.

The first commercial gas lighting of residences, streets, and businesses began when artist 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 museum patrons with a “ring beset with gems of light.”

The building became the fist public building in America to use gas lighting, according to the Maryland Historical Trust. Within a week, the Baltimore 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 today the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company.  Gas street lighting began in 1817. Learn more in Manufactured Gas for Lamps.

June 11, 1929 – Independent Producers get Organized

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Wirt Franklin, who like many Oklahoma independent producers had successfully drilled in the shallow but prolific Healdton oilfield, spoke on behalf of small oil exploration companies at President Herbert Hoover’s Oil Conservation Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Franklin opposed creating a commission that could restrict production and allow any increase in imported foreign oil. “If this condition should be brought about,” proclaimed Franklin, “it would mean the annihilation and destruction of the small producer of crude oil.”

Franklin established a new organization based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to defend the interests of small U.S. producing companies – the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which today represents companies that drill 90 percent of domestic oil and natural gas wells.

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

Orville P. (O.P.) Taylor completed his Triangle No. 1 oil well at a depth of 1,177 feet in Allegheny County, New York, revealing an oilfield that extended into Pennsylvania. His discovery well, near what soon became the oil boom town of Petrolia, followed two failed attempts near where oil seeps had been first recorded in 1627 by a French missionary, according to historians at the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York in Bolivar. The museum also notes that Taylor’s wife “sold her rings and jewelry” to finance the drilling.

Taylor, originally from Virginia and a Civil War veteran of a Confederate regiment, worked in the cigar manufacturing business before getting caught up in the “oil craze” inspired by Pennsylvania oil discoveries along the Allegheny River at Tidioute (see Derricks of Triumph Hill). Taylor became known as the “Father of the Allegheny Oilfield” and was elected mayor of the village of Wellsville. During World War II, a Liberty Ship in his name was launched in 1943. The Pioneer Oil Museum was established in 1964.

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June 13, 1917 –  Phillips Petroleum Company founded in Oklahoma

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

Phillips Petroleum Company was founded in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, during the early months of America’s entry into World War I – when the price of oil climbed above $1 per barrel.

Brothers Frank and L. E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips consolidated their companies and began operating with leases throughout Oklahoma and Kansas and assets of $3 million. Assets grew to $103 million by 1924. By 1927 Phillips Petroleum began selling gasoline in Wichita, Kansas, the first of more than 10,000 service stations across the country.

In coming years the company would make major advances in petrochemicals. Phillips chemists were granted thousands of U.S. patents, including one in 1954 for Marlex, a high-density polyethylene.

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Wham-O toy company was the first to buy the new plastic (see Petroleum Product Hoopla). Phillips’ high-octane aviation fuel also played a key role in World War II as Phillips 66 gasoline became a popular advertising brand (see Flight of the Woolaroc.).

Phillips Petroleum merged with Conoco in 2002 to become ConocoPhillips. In 2007, as part of statehood centennial celebrations, a Phillips Petroleum Company Museum opened in Bartlesville. Learn more in Conoco & Phillips Petroleum Museums.

June 13, 1928 – New Mexico Oilfield

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.

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A June 1928 oilfield discovery brought decades of prosperity to Hobbs.

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.”

Drilling took time. Disaster struck at 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 one geologist at the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources.

As the Great Depression approached, oil production from the Hobbs field drew investors and drilling companies, quickly transforming Hobbs from “sand, mesquite, bear grass and jack rabbits” to the fastest growing town in the nation. Learn more in First New Mexico Oil Wells.

June 14, 1865 – First Edition of Pennsylvania Oil Region Newspaper

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The newspaper’s first edition in 1865 noted John Wilkes Booth’s interest in oil.

Pennsylvania’s oil region got its first daily newspaper when William and Henry Bloss published the their four-page broadsheet, the Titusville Morning Herald. Initial circulation was 300 for the community newspaper, which is still published, the Titusville Herald.

A brief story in the first edition included a report about a failed oilman: John Wilkes Booth purchased 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)

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June 14, 1938 – Federal Government regulates Natural Gas

The U.S. government assumed regulatory control of the natural gas industry for the first time. Although the Natural Gas Act of 1938 did not apply to the production, gathering, or local distribution of natural gas, it sought to establish “just and reasonable rates” for pipeline transmission or gas sales in interstate commerce. The Act limited the growing power of interstate pipeline companies to control markets.

June 15, 1954 – First Mobile Offshore Rig launched in Louisiana

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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.

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Launched in 1954, Mr. Charlie used a column-stabilized design.

The offshore barge drilling platform, Mr. Charlie left its shipyard in 1954 and went to work for Shell Oil Company in a new oilfield in East Bay, near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The concept originated with Navy veteran Alden “Doc” LaBorde, a marine superintendent for the Kerr-McGee Company in Morgan City, Louisiana, who proposed building this first transportable, submersible drilling barge.

Despite Kerr-McGee being a leader in post-World War II offshore technology, including drilling the first oil well out of sight of land, the company decided against LaBorde’s idea. Fortunately, he found support from veteran oilman Charles Murphy Jr., who backed the project.

LaBorde formed the Ocean Drilling & Exploration Company and contracted with J. Ray McDermott Company to build Mr. Charlie. A barge 220 feet long and 85 feet wide supported the drilling platform 60 feet above the barge. Mr. Charlie became the first mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) and the inspiration for many advanced offshore technologies. Learn more in Mr. Charlie, First Mobile Offshore Drilling Rig.

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Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

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