This Week in Petroleum History, June 5 – 11
June 6, 1932 – First Federal Gasoline Tax enacted
The United States government taxed gasoline for the first time when the Revenue Act of 1932 added a one-cent per gallon excise tax to gas sales. By 1993, the tax was raised to $18.4 cents, where it remains today. About 60 percent of federal gas taxes are used for highway and bridge construction. It is not indexed to inflation, which increased by about 65 percent from 1993 until 2015. The first state to tax gasoline was Oregon (one cent per gallon in February 1919), followed by Colorado, New Mexico and other states.
June 6, 1944 – Secret Operations fuel WWII Victory
The D-Day invasion began along 50 miles of fortified French coastline in Normandy. The logistics of supplying the beaches included two top-secret engineering triumphs: construction of artificial harbors followed by the laying pipelines across the English Channel.
Codenamed Mulberrys and using a design similar to today’s jack-up offshore rigs, the artificial harbors used barges with retractable pylons to provide platforms to support floating causeways extending to the beaches.
To fuel the Allied advance into Nazi Germany, Operation PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) would design pipelines wound onto giant floating “conundrums” designed to spool off when towed. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower acknowledged the significance of this oil pipeline engineering feat when he said, “Second in daring only to the Mulberry Harbours, was PLUTO.” Learn more in PLUTO, Secret Pipelines of WW II.
June 6, 1967 – First Oil Embargo attempt
One day after the Six-Day War began in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Algeria pledged to stop supplying oil to nations friendly to Israel – the United States, Great Britain, and West Germany. A lack of uniformity in enforcing the embargo and increased U.S. oil production ended the embargo after just two months. A more disruptive embargo took place in 1973.
June 6, 1976 – Oilman J. Paul Getty dies
With a fortune as high as $4 billion, J. Paul Getty died at 83 at his country estate near London.
Getty, born into his father’s oil wealth from the Oil Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma, made his first million in oil leasing by the time he was 23. “I started in September 1914, to buy leases in the so-called red-beds area of Oklahoma,” Getty told the New York Times.
“The surface was red dirt and it was considered impossible there was any oil there,” he added. “My father and I did not agree and we got many leases for very little money which later turned out to be rich leases.”
After World War II and contrary to conventional wisdom, Getty bought oil rights in Saudi Arabia and soon became the richest man in the world. He established the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and left over $661 million of his estate to the museum.
June 9, 1894 – Water Well launches Texas Oil Industry
The first major oilfield in Texas was discovered on 12th Street in Corsicana by a contractor hired by the city to drill a water well.
Although the 1894 well eventually attracted thousands and brought great prosperity, the city paid the contractor only half his $1,000 fee because the contract was for a water well. Drilled with cable-tools, the well produced just 2.5 barrels of oil a day from 1,035 feet deep, but nevertheless launched the Lone Star State’s first exploration and production boom.
By 1898 there are almost 300 producing wells in Corsicana, which became a center for technological innovation. One company began manufacturing its newly patented rotary drilling machine. A Corsicana rig would drill the 1901 “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop. Corsicana today hosts an annual derrick days and chilli cook-off and is home to Wolf Brand Chili, established there in 1895 during the First Texas Oil Boom.
June 11, 1816 – Manufactured Gas lights Baltimore Museum
To impress Baltimore civic leaders, Rembrandt Peale illuminated a room in his Holliday Street Museum by burning manufactured gas, an illuminant distilled from coal, tar or wood. His 1816 display dazzled museum patrons with a “ring beset with gems of light.”
The Baltimore city council soon approved Peale’s plan to light the city’s main streets. Peale and a group of investors founded the Gas Light Company of Baltimore. “So was born the first gas company in the New World,” proclaims an historian at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company.
“In 1816, the building became the fist public building in America to use gas lighting,” adds the Maryland Historical Trust. The gas company completed a new manufacturing plant in 1855 to refine gas from coal. Learn more in Manufactured Gas for Lamps.
June 11, 1929 – Independent Producers get Organized
Wirt Franklin of Ardmore, Oklahoma, spoke on behalf of America’s independent producers 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.
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 calls in on the last Wednesday of each month. AOGHS welcomes sponsors to help maintain this website and preserve U.S. petroleum heritage. Please support our energy education mission with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships. © 2017 Bruce A. Wells.