June 24, 1937 – Traces of Oil found in Minnesota –

In far western Minnesota, a remote wildcat well drilled in Traverse County began producing three barrels of oil a day from a depth of 864 feet. The unlikely discovery prompted more leasing, but no commercial quantities of oil.

Oil well in one county of Minnesota mao.

Traverse County, Minnesota, where oil production peaked in 1937.

The lack of an oilfield reaffirmed geologists’ conclusions since 1889 that conditions for significant petroleum deposits did not exist in Minnesota, despite some water wells in southern Minnesota containing small amounts of natural gas.

“Not much oil and gas is obtained from Precambrian rocks, with which Minnesota is very amply blessed,” noted the 1984 book Minnesota’s Geology.

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June 25, 1889 – First Oil Tanker catches Fire in California

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

With oil-fired steam boilers and supplemental sails, the schooner could ship up to 6,500 barrels of oil below deck in specially constructed steel tanks. After the fire, the tanks were recovered and used at the company’s Santa Paula refinery. It took 11 years before the company launched a replacement tanker, the Santa Paula.

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 Wharf Company by April 1898 had exported 518,204 barrels of bulk oil during the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Times.  The pier remained a working wharf until 1936, when it became the longest recreational wooden pier in California.

Designated a Ventura Historic Landmark in 1976 and now 1,600 feet long, California’s oldest pier was refurbished for $2.2 million in 2000, according to the Museum of Ventura County, which also operates archaeological and agricultural museums. In nearby Santa Paula, the 1890 headquarters building of Union Oil Company is home to the California Oil Museum.

June 25, 1901 – Red Fork Discovery leads to Tulsa Boom

Six years before statehood, Oklahoma witnessed a second oil discovery (some say the third — see Another First Oklahoma Oil Well) when two drillers from the Pennsylvania oil regions discovered an oilfield at Red Fork in the Creek Indian Nation.

John Wick and Jesse Heydrick drilled the Sue A. Bland No. 1 well  near the Creek village across the Arkansas River from Tulsa. Sue Bland, a Creek citizen, was the wife of homesteader Dr. John C. W. Bland. Their Red Fork well produced just 10 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 550 feet, but created a drilling boom attracting petroleum companies to nearby Tulsa.

Learn more in  Red Fork Gusher.

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June 25, 1999 – Texas Post Office named Historic Place

The former U.S. Post Office building in Graham, Texas, with its Great Depression-era oilfield mural by Alexandre Hogue, joined the National Register of Historic Places. Hogue’s 1939 “Oil Fields of Graham” has been joined by other art exhibits in its historic Art Deco building on Third Street.

Oil Fields of Graham by Alexandre Hogue, a 1939 mural that is 12 feet wide and 7 feet high, was restored in 2002 at the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center, in Graham, Texas.

“Oil Fields of Graham” by Alexandre Hogue, a 1939 mural restored in the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center of Graham, Texas. The white-haired gentleman was Graham mayor.

Hogue’s artwork included many southwestern scenes as part of the New Deal Federal Arts Program. His murals on the walls of public buildings often portrayed scenes of the Texas petroleum industry. In Graham’s historic building on Third Street, “Oil Fields of Graham,” 12 feet wide and 7 feet high, is among exhibits at the Old Post Office Museum & Art Center, which opened in 2002.

Learn more in Oil Art of Graham, Texas.

June 26, 1885 – Natural Gas Utility established in Pennsylvania

Peoples Natural Gas Company incorporated — the first Pennsylvania natural gas company chartered by the state to regulate production, transmission, and distribution of natural gas. A similar utility incorporation had taken place a year earlier in New York City when six competing companies combined to form Consolidated Edison.

By 1891, the Pittsburgh-based limited liability company had consolidated pipelines and facilities of Pittsburgh Natural Gas, Lawrence Natural Gas, Conemaugh Gas, and Columbia Natural Gas companies. More than a dozen more companies would be acquired between 1903 and 1961. The large utility added Saxonburg Heat and Light in 1979 and Equitable Gas in 2017, expanding natural gas services in West Virginia and Kentucky.

June 28, 1887 – Kansans celebrate First Natural Gas Jubilee

After erecting flambeau arches at the four corners of the town square, Paola, Kansas, hosted what local leaders described as “the first natural gas celebration ever held in the West.” Excursion trains from Kansas City brought about 2,000 people, “to witness the wonders of natural gas,” according to the Miami County Historical Museum, which preserves the region’s petroleum history.

Oil well with visitors in Miami County, Kansas, circa 1920.

Paola’s giant natural gas field attracted more petroleum exploration to Miami County, including this circa 1920 oil well. Photo courtesy Kansas Historical Society.

The town’s special event included a “grand illumination” of natural gas street lights, where “gas was attached to a yard sprinkler by a rubber hose, and when it was ignited there appeared nests of small blazes which were beautiful and attractive.”

Learn more in First Kansas Oil Well.

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June 28, 1967 – Hall of Petroleum opens in Smithsonian Museum

The Hall of Petroleum opened at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C. Exhibits included cable-tool and rotary rig drilling technologies and counterbalanced pumping units, The Hall of Petroleum also featured 1967 developments in offshore exploration and production.

Visitors to what in 1980 became the National Museum of American History were greeted by a mural painted by Delbert Jackson of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jackson spent two years creating his 13-foot by 56-foot painting with scenes of oil and natural gas exploration, production, refining, and transportation.

"Panorama of Petroleum” a 1967 mural by Delbert Jackson of Tulsa.

A “Panorama of Petroleum” once greeted visitors to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum in Washington, D.C. The 13-foot by 56-foot mural today is exhibited inside Tulsa International Airport.

Jackson’s “Panorama of Petroleum” featured industry pioneers and served as a visual map to the hall’s oilfield technology exhibits. “If the hall can increase the public’s knowledge of and respect for the technical skill and know-how of those who make this energy available, it will have served its purpose,” noted the exhibit’s 1967 catalog. The mural ended up in storage for three decades, until finding a home at Tulsa International Airport.

Learn more in Smithsonian’s “Hall of Petroleum.

June 29, 1956 – Interstate Highway System enacted

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, became law. Passed at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the act provided 90 percent federal funding for a “system of interstate and defense highways,” and authorized spending $25 billion through 1969 for construction of about 41,000 miles of interstates.

map of US interstate system

The U.S. interstate system had a total length of 48,191 miles by 2016. Federal regulations initially banned collecting tolls, but some now include tolls.

“Of all his domestic programs, Eisenhower’s favorite by far was the Interstate System,” noted historian Stephen Ambrose. The thirty-fourth president urged passage of the act for national defense; interstates would be needed for evacuating major cities during a nuclear war.

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June 30, 1864 – Oil Tax funds Civil War

The federal government taxed oil for the first time when it levied a $1 per barrel tax on production from Pennsylvania oilfields.

One Dollar bill circa Civil War

Seeking ways to pay for the Civil War, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, featured prominently on the $1 “greenback,” advocated an oil tax.

Desperate for revenue to fund the Civil War as early as 1862, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase advocated a $6.30 tax per barrel of oil and $10.50 per barrel on refined products. Angry oil producers rallied against the tax in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and sent delegates to Washington, D.C., where they negotiated a tax of $1 per 42-gallon barrel of oil.


Recommended Reading: Minnesota’s Geology (1982); Black Gold in California: The Story of California Petroleum Industry (2016); Early California Oil: A Photographic History, 1865-1940 (1985); Tulsa Oil Capital of the World, Images of America (2004); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982); Official Guide to the Smithsonian (2016); Eisenhower: Soldier and President (1968); Western Pennsylvania’s Oil Heritage (2008). 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. Please become an AOGHS annual supporter and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2024 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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