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 L.E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips consolidated their oil companies and began operating throughout Oklahoma and Kansas. Assets rose from $3 million to $100 million within a few years. 

Brothers 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. The company’s high-octane aviation fuel played a key role in World War II (see Flight of the Woolaroc). 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).

Phillips Petroleum merged with Conoco in 2002 to become ConocoPhillips. In 2007, as part of Oklahoma’s statehood centennial celebrations, the company opened oil museums in Bartlesville and Ponca City. Learn more in Conoco & Phillips Petroleum Museums.

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 jack rabbits” to the fastest growing town in the nation.

Learn more in First New Mexico Oil Wells.

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June 14, 1865 – First Edition of Pennsylvania 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, which is still published – 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.

A brief story in the first edition included a report about a failed-oilman-tuned-assassin: 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.

June 14, 1938 – Federal Government regulates Natural Gas

The U.S. government for the first time assumed regulatory control of sales of natural gas to limit the growing power of interstate pipeline companies to control markets. 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 companies’ transmission or sale of natural gas in interstate commerce. The act was prompted by concern about the exercise of market power by interstate pipeline companies. It was the first direct federal regulation of the natural gas industry.

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).

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, later found support from Charles Murphy Jr., founder of Murphy Oil Company.

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 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 truly mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU). Mr. Charlie today provides energy education in Morgan City as the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition.

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

June 18, 1889 – Rockefeller builds Giant Refinery in Indiana

Standard Oil Company of New Jersey incorporated a new subsidiary, Standard Oil Company of Indiana, and began processing oil at a new refinery at Whiting, Indiana, southeast of Chicago. The refinery, which became the largest in the United States by the mid-1890s, added pipelines connecting it to Kansas and Oklahoma oilfields in 1910.

 Standard Oil Company logo and refinery in Whiting, Indiana

The Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, today owned by BP, remains the largest refinery in the United States.

When the Supreme Court in 1911 mandated the break up of John D. Rockefeller’s companies, Standard Oil of Indiana emerged as an independent company, opening Amoco branded service stations in the late 1950s. Amoco merged with British Petroleum (BP) in 1998 – the largest foreign takeover of U.S. company up to that time.

Learn more in Standard Oil Whiting Refinery.

June 18, 1946 – Truman establishes National Petroleum Council

At the request of President Harry S. Truman, the National Petroleum Council (NPC), was established by the Department of the Interior to make recommendations relating to energy issues. Transferred to the newly established Department of Energy in 1977, the council became a privately funded advisory committee with 200 members appointed by the Secretary of Energy. The NPC website notes that “the NPC does not concern itself with trade practices, nor does it engage in any of the usual trade association activities.”

June 18, 1948 – Service Company celebrates 100,000th Perforation

Fifteen years after its first perforation job, Lane-Wells Company returned to the same well near Motebello, California, and performed its 100,000th perforation. The return to Union Oil Company’s La Merced No. 17 well included a special ceremony hosted by Walter Wells, chairman and company co-founder.

In 1930, Wells and oilfield tool salesman Bill Lane developed a practical downhole gun that could shoot steel bullets through casing. Their multiple-shot perforator fired bullets by electrical detonation. After many tests, success came at the La Merced No. 17 well. By late 1935, Lane-Wells had established a small fleet of trucks for well-perforation services. The company merged with Dresser Industries in 1956 and later became part of Baker-Atlas.

Learn more in Lane-Wells 100,000th Perforation.


Recommended Reading: 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); The Extraction State, A History of Natural Gas in America (2021); Offshore Pioneers: Brown & Root and the History of Offshore Oil and Gas (2011); Whiting and Robertsdale, Images of America (2013). 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 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 © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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