March 14, 1910 – Lakeview No. 1 Well erupts in California – 

The Union Oil Company Lakeview No. 1 well erupted a geyser of oil at dawn in Kern County, California (some sources give the date as March 15). With limited technologies for  managing the deep, highly pressured formation of the Midway-Sunset field, drillers had experienced several accidental oil spills, including the Shamrock gusher in 1896 and the 1909 Midway gusher.

Lakeview oil gusher monument near the West Kern Oil Museum in Taft, California,

A marker and remnants of a sand berm 1.5 miles north of Maricopa, California, mark the site of a 1910 Union Oil gusher that flowed uncontrolled for 18 months. Photo courtesy San Joaquin Valley Geology.

“But none of these wells came close to rivaling the Lakeview No. 1 which flowed, uncapped and untamed, at 18,000 barrels a day for 18 months,” noted a San Joaquin Valley geologist. Surrounded by berms and sandbags to contain the oil, the well collapsed and died in September 1911, after producing 9.4 million barrels of oil (about half was contained and sold).

Lakeview oil gusher of March 15,1910, in n California's Midway oilfield.

Oil erupted in California’s Midway-Sunset oilfield on March 15, 1910. Contained by sandbags by October, the Lakeview No. 1 well produced 9.4 million barrels during the 544 days it flowed. Photo courtesy San Joaquin Valley Geology.

The environmental impact of the Lakeview well, still the largest oil spill in U.S. history, was less destructive due to evaporation and levees of sandbags that prevented contamination of Buena Vista Lake. A Kern County historic marker was erected in 1952 at the site, seven miles north of the West Kern Oil Museum.

The ram-type blowout preventer to seal well pressure was invented in 1922.

March 16, 1911 – Pegasus Trademark takes flight 

A Vacuum Oil Company subsidiary in Cape Town, South Africa, trademarked a flying horse logo inspired by Pegasus of Greek mythology. Based in Rochester, New York, Vacuum Oil had built a successful lubricants business long before gasoline was a branded product.

When Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of New York (Socony) combined in 1931, the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company adopted the red-winged horse trademark and marketed Pegasus Spirits and Mobilegas products.

Original Mobil Pegasus logo trademark from 1911.

The original Mobil Pegasus logo was registered in 1911 by a South Africa subsidiary of New York-based Vacuum Oil Company. 

A stylized red gargoyle earlier had advertised the company, which produced petroleum-based lubricants for carriages and steam engines. Created by the Vacuum Oil Company of South Africa, the Pegasus trademark proved to be a far more enduring image.

Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.

March 16, 1914 – “Main Street” Oil Well completed in Oklahoma

A well completed in 1914 produced oil from about 1,770 feet beneath Barnsdall, Oklahoma. The popular TV program Ripley’s Believe It or Not would proclaim the well the “World’s Only Main Street Oil Well.”

March oil history image of oil pump in main street of Barndsall, OK

An oil well pump in the middle of Main Street in Barnsdall, Oklahoma, was visited by American Oil & Gas Historical Society volunteer Tim Wells in 2016. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The town originally was called Bigheart, named for Osage Chief James Bigheart, who on behalf of the Osage people in 1875 signed the first lease for oil and gas exploration, according to Osage County. In 1922, Barnsdall was renamed for Theodore Barnsdall, owner of the Barnsdall Refining Company, which later became part of Baker Hughes Company.  The National Register of Historic Places added the Barnsdall Main Street oil well in 1997.

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March 17, 1890 – Sun Oil Company founded 

The Peoples Natural Gas Company, founded four years earlier by Joseph Pew and Edward Emerson to provide natural gas to Pittsburgh, expanded to become the Sun Oil Company of Ohio.

Illustration of Sun Oil logo evolution to SUNOCO.

Sun Oil Company brands from 1894 to 1920 (top) to SONOCO from 1920 to 1954.

At the turn of the century, the company had acquired promising leases near Findlay and entered the business of “producing petroleum, rock and carbon oil, transporting and storing same, refining, purifying, manufacturing such oil and its various products.” In the 1920s, the company marketed Sunoco Motor Oil and opened service stations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The company became an oilfield equipment supplier in 1929, forming Sperry-Sun. Also see Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

March 17, 1923 – Oklahoma Discovery leads to Giant Oilfields

The Betsy Foster No. 1 well, a 2,800-barrel-a-day oil gusher near Wewoka, county seat of Seminole County, Oklahoma, launched the Seminole area boom. The discovery south of Oklahoma City was followed by others in Cromwell and Bethel (1924), and Earlsboro and Seminole (1926). Thirty-nine separate oilfields were ultimately found around Seminole and parts of Pottawatomie, Okfuskee, Hughes, and Pontotoc counties. Once one of the poorest economic regions in Oklahoma, by 1935 the Seminole area became the largest supplier of oil in the world.

March 17, 1949 – First Commercial Application of Hydraulic Fracturing

A team from Halliburton and Stanolind companies converged on an oil well about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma, and performed the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing.

A 1947 experimental well had fractured a natural gas field in Hugoton, Kansas, and proven the possibility of increased productivity. The technique was developed and patented by Stanolind (later known as Pan American Oil Company) and an exclusive license was issued to Halliburton Company to perform the process. Four years later, the license was extended to all qualified oilfield service companies.

Derrick and truck at first hydraulic fracture of oil well in 1949.

The first commercial hydraulic fracturing job (above) took place in 1949 about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy Halliburton.

“Since that fateful day in 1949, hydraulic fracturing has done more to increase recoverable reserves than any other technique,” proclaimed a Halliburton company spokesman in 2009, adding that more than two million fracturing treatments have been pumped without polluting an aquifer.

Erle P. Halliburton had patented an efficient well cementing technology in 1921 that improved oil production while protecting the environment. The earliest attempts to increase  petroleum production by fracturing geologic formations began in the 1860s.

Learn more in Shooters – A ‘Fracking’ History

March 17, 1949 – “Diamond Glenn” opens Shamrock Hotel

Texas independent producer “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy hosted the grand opening of his $21 million, 18-story, 1,100-room Shamrock Hotel on the outskirts of Houston. McCarthy reportedly spent another $1 million for the hotel’s St. Patrick’s Day opening day gala, including arranging for a 16-car Santa Fe Super Chief train to bring friends from Hollywood.

Color postcard of Shamrock Hotel, Houston, Texas, circa 1950.

After paying $21 million to construct the Shamrock Hotel, Glenn McCarthy spent another $1 million for its grand opening on St. Patrick’ Day 1949. The 1,100-room Houston hotel was demolished in 1987.

The Texas wildcatter, who had discovered 11 oilfields by 1945, also introduced his own label of bourbon at Shamrock, the largest hotel in the United States at the time. Dubbed Houston’s biggest party, the Shamrock’s debut “made the city of Houston a star overnight,” one newspaper reported.

Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.

March 18, 1937 – New London School Explosion Tragedy

With just minutes left in the school day, a natural gas explosion destroyed the New London High School in Rusk County, Texas. Odorless gas (a residual natural gas called casing-head gas) had leaked into the basement and ignited with an explosion heard four miles away. East Texas oilfield workers — many with children attending the school — rushed to the scene, as did a cub reporter from Dallas, Walter Cronkite.

Devastating March 1937 gas explosion at New London school in East Texas oilfield.

Roughnecks from the East Texas oilfield rushed to the devastated school and searched for survivors throughout the night. Photo courtesy New London Museum.

Despite desperate rescue efforts, 298 people were killed that day (dozens more later died of injuries). The explosion’s source was later found to be an electric wood-shop sander that sparked odorless gas that had pooled beneath and in the walls of the school. As a result of this disaster, Texas and other states passed laws requiring that natural gas be mixed with a malodorant to give early warning of a gas leak.

Learn more about the tragedy in New London School Explosion.

March 18, 1938 — First Offshore Well drilled in Gulf of Mexico’s Creole field

Oil production from a well drilled by Pure Oil Company and Superior Oil Company in the Gulf of Mexico marked the beginning of the modern offshore industry. Louisiana’s Creole oilfield in offshore Cameron Parish southwest of the town of Creole, was the first discovered in the “open waters” of the Gulf, according to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Many more offshore wells followed World War II, including a Kerr-McGee drilling platform, the Kermac Rig No. 16, which in 1947 became the first offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico that was out of sight of land. By the end of 1949, the offshore industry had discovered 11 oil and natural gas fields. The first mobile drilling platform, Mr. Charlie, began drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in 1954 (see articles in Offshore Oil History).

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March 20, 1919 – American Petroleum Institute founded

Tracing its roots to World War I when the petroleum industry and Congress worked together to fuel the war effort, the American Petroleum Institute (API) was founded in New York City. By 1921, the organization had improved an 1876 French scale to measure a petroleum liquid’s density relative to water, today called API gravity. Based in Washington, D.C. since 1969, API represents the interests of large oil and natural gas companies. It maintains standards and recommended practices while lobbying for the industry.

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Recommended Reading: San Joaquin Valley, California, Images of America (1999); A History of the Greater Seminole Oil Field(1981); The Green and the Black: The Complete Story of the Shale Revolution, the Fight over Fracking, and the Future of Energy (2016); A Texas Tragedy: The New London School Explosion (2012); Anomalies, Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology, 1917-2017  (2017); Breaking the Gas Ceiling: Women in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry (2019). 

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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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