June 21, 1893 – Submersible Pump Inventor born – 

Armais Arutunoff, inventor of the electric submersible pump for oil wells, was born to Armenian parents in Tiflis, Russia. In 1916, he invented the first electrical centrifugal submersible pump. But after emigrating to America in 1923, Arutunoff could not find financial support for his down-hole oil production technology.

Portrait of Armais Arutunoff inventor of electric submersible pump.

Russian engineer Armais Arutunoff invented of the first electric submersible pumps.

Thanks to help from his friend Frank Phillips, president of Phillips Petroleum, in 1928 Arutunoff moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and established a manufacturing company. His REDA Pump Company manufactured pump and motor devices (and employed hundreds during the Great Depression).

The name REDA, which stands for Russian Electrical Dynamo of Arutunoff, was the cable address of the company he originally formed in Germany (the company is now part of Schlumberger).

A 1936 Tulsa World article described his invention as “an electric motor with the proportions of a slim fencepost which stands on its head at the bottom of a well and kicks oil to the surface with its feet.”

Learn more in Inventing the Submersible Pump.

June 21, 1932 – Oklahoma “Hot Oil” Controversy

Thirty National Guardsmen marched into the Oklahoma City oilfield when Governor William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray took control of oil production after creating a proration board he controlled.

Oil derricks in Devon Energy Park at Oklahoma History Center.

The Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City includes petroleum equipment on display in the Devon Energy Park. Photo by Bruce Wells.

In March 1933, Murray would again declare martial law to enforce his regulations limiting the field’s production — and prevent the sale or transport of oil produced in excess of the quota, often referred to as “hot oil.”

The controversy ended in April 1933 when the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 481, giving the Oklahoma Corporation Commission the authority to enforce its rules — and taking away much of Gov. Murray’s power to regulate the industry. The commission originally had been established in 1907 to regulate railroad, telephone and telegraph companies.

June 23, 1921 – Signal Hill Discovery brings California Oil Boom –

A discovery at Signal Hill, California, one of the world’s most famous oil strikes, launched one of many southern California drilling booms. When the Alamitos No. 1 well erupted oil, the discovery revealed of one of California’s most prolific oilfields. The natural gas pressure was so great that a gusher rose 114 feet. The well produced about 600 barrels of oil a day when it was completed two days later.

Postcard air view of Signal Hill oilfield, circa 1920s.

Following the 1921 oil discovery, Signal Hill had so many derricks people called it Porcupine Hill.

Soon known as “Porcupine Hill,” the town’s oilfield 20 miles south of Los Angeles was producing almost 260,000 barrels of oil every day by 1923. Combined with the historic 1892 Los Angeles Oilfield discovery and the 1920 oilfield at Huntington Beach, southern California produced one-fourth of the world’s oil.

Today, Signal Hill’s Discovery Well Park hosts a community center with historic photos and descriptions. A monument dedicated in 1952 serves “as a tribute to the petroleum pioneers for their success here.”

Learn more in Signal Hill Oil Boom.

June 23, 1947 – Supreme Court limits State Rights to Continental Shelf

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California could not claim rights to the continental shelf beyond three nautical miles. Litigation had resulted from President Harry Truman’s 1945 Continental Shelf Proclamation, which placed control with the federal government. The Supreme Court ruling affirmed federal jurisdiction “with respect to the natural resources of the subsoil and seabed of the continental shelf.” Similar rulings affecting Louisiana and Texas would be made in 1950.

June 24, 1937 – Trace of Oil found in Minnesota

Oil was discovered in Minnesota by a wildcat well drilled in Traverse County in the western part of the state. The well produced three barrels of oil a day from 864 feet deep.

Oil well in one county of Minnesota mao.

Traverse County, Minnesota.

Although the discovery prompted more leasing, no commercial quantities of oil were found. This reaffirmed geologists’ conclusions since 1889 that the conditions for significant oil deposits did not exist in Minnesota.

“Not much oil and gas is obtained from Precambrian rocks, with which Minnesota is very amply blessed,” noted Richard Ojakangas in his 1984 book, Minnesota’s Geology. Although Minnesota today ranks fourth in the nation in ethanol production, its oil production peaked that summer of 1937.

June 25, 1889 – First Oil Tanker catches Fire at California Wharf

The first oil tanker specifically built for that purpose, burned at its wharf in Ventura, California. The Hardison & Stewart Oil Company (later Union Oil Company), had commissioned the schooner W.L. Hardison. The experimental vessel offered an alternative to paying for railroad tank cars charging one dollar per oil barrel to reach markets in San Francisco.

With oil-fired steam boilers and supplemental sail, the wooden-hulled W.L. Hardison was capable of shipping 6,500 barrels of oil below decks in specially constructed steel tanks. After the fire, the vessel’s steel tanks were recovered and used at the company’s Santa Paula refinery.

Rare photographs of the oil doomed tanker W.L. Hardison.

Rare photographs of the oil doomed tanker W.L. Hardison and Ventura pier courtesy the Museum of Ventura County.

The Ventura Pier remained a working wharf until 1936, when it became recreational. Today’s refurbished structure is almost 2,000 feet long – one of the longest in California.

The Museum of Ventura County library collection houses more than 150,000 resources on the history of Ventura County and outlying regions. More oil history can be found at the California Oil Museum in nearby Santa Paula; the museum’s main building is the original 1890 Union Oil Company headquarters. Also see America exports Oil.

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June 25, 1901 – Red Fork Discovery boosts Tulsa 

The future state of Oklahoma witnessed a second oil discovery in 1901 (some say the third — see Another First Oklahoma Oil Well) . Four years earlier, the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well had brought a drilling boom to Bartlesville in Indian Territory. Now, still six years before statehood, two drillers from Pennsylvania made a new discovery in the Creek Indian Nation.

Drillers John Wick and Jesse Heydrick drilled their Sue A. Bland No. 1 well  near the village of Red Fork, across the Arkansas River from Tulsa. Sue Bland, a Creek citizen, was the wife of the homestead owner Dr. John C. W. Bland.

Although the Red Fork Gusher produced just 10 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 550 feet, it created a drilling boom that helped lead to Tulsa becoming “Oil Capital of the World.”

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Recommended Reading: Artificial Lift-down Hole Pumping Systems (1984); Signal Hill, California, Images of America (2006); Minnesota’s Geology (1982) Tulsa Oil Capital of the World, Images of America (2004). 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 supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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