June 9, 1894 – Water Well finds Oil in Corsicana – 

A contractor hired by the town of Corsicana to drill a water well on 12th Street found oil instead, launching the Texas petroleum industry seven years before the more famous discovery at Spindletop Hill, 230 miles southeast.

Drilled with cable-tools, Corsicana’s first oil well produced just 2.5 barrels of oil a day from 1,035 feet deep. It nevertheless brought a rush of exploration companies, and by 1898 there were about 300 oil wells around the boom town, which became a center for technological innovation. A Corsicana service company manufactured the newly patented rotary rig that drilled the 1901 “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop.

Colorized old postcard of oil wells at Corsicana, Texas.

Oil will transform Corsicana, Texas, from a small agricultural town to a petroleum and industrial center. Residents today annually celebrate their oil patch heritage with a”Derrick Days” festival.

Despite the oilfield discovery well bringing petroleum riches to Corsicana, the city paid the contractor only half of his $1,000 fee. The agreement had been for completing a water well. Today, the town hosts an annual Derrick Days and Chili Cook-Off and is home to Wolf Brand Chili, established there in 1895 — thanks to the oil boom.

Learn more in First Texas Oil Boom.

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

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.”

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, the first building erected as a museum in the United States. Photo courtesy Maryland Historical Trust.

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 manufactured gas history in Illuminating Gaslight.

June 11, 1911 – Ponca Nation Oilfield discovered by 101 Ranch Oil Company

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 the “Sauerkraut King.”

Map of 101 Ranch Oil Company next to Osage Nation.

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 discovery well and others 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 May 2007.

June 11, 1929 – Independent Producers get Organized

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. He 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 an organization based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to defend the interests of small operators, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

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, established in 1964 at Bolivar. 

Taylor, a Confederate Army veteran from Virginia, had worked in the cigar manufacturing business before catching “oil fever” reading about Pennsylvania oil discoveries along the Allegheny River at Tidioute (see Derricks of Triumph Hill). Taylor’s oil career in the region would lead to his election as mayor of Wellsville and becoming known as the “Father of the Allegheny Oilfield.” During World War II, a Liberty Ship named for him was launched in 1943.

June 13, 1917 –  Phillips Petroleum Company founded in Oklahoma

Phillips Petroleum Company was founded in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, during the early months of America’s entry into World War I and as oil prices rose above $1 per barrel. Brothers Frank and L.E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips consolidated their oil companies with assets of $3 million and began operating throughout Oklahoma and Kansas. Assets would exceed $100 million within a few years, and in 1927 Phillips Petroleum began selling its gasoline in Wichita, Kansas, the first of more than 10,000 Phillips 66 service stations.

Brothers L.E. Phillips (left) and Frank Phillips circa 1920.

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

In coming years the company wade advances in petrochemicals. Phillips Petroleum’s high-octane aviation fuel played a key role in World War II as Phillips 66 gasoline became a popular advertising brand (see Flight of the Woolaroc). Phillips chemists were granted 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). 

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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 – 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 oil fields sign.

A June 1928 oilfield discovery brought decades of 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 a 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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Recommended Reading: Texas Oil and Gas (2013); Corsicana (2010); In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860 (1993); The Extraction State, A History of Natural Gas in America (2021); Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum (2014); Life and Death of an Oil Man: E.W. Marland (1974); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982). 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. © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

 

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