May 3, 1870 – Lantern with Two Spouts patented – 

Jonathan Dillen of Petroleum Centre, Pennsylvania, received a patent for his “safety derrick lamp” — a two-wicked lantern that would become known as the “yellow dog” in America’s early oilfields.

Dillen designed his device “for illuminating places out of doors, especially in and about derricks, and machinery in the oil regions, whereby explosions are more dangerous and destructive to life and property than in most other places.”

1870 patent drawing of two-wicked oil derrick safety lantern.

Patented in 1870, a two-wicked oil derrick lamp would become known as the “yellow dog.”

“My improved lamp is intended to burn crude petroleum as it comes from the wells fresh and gassy,” he added. How the once widely used lamp got its name has remained a mystery, but some say the two burning wicks resembled a dog’s glowing eyes at night.

Learn more in Yellow Dog – Oilfield Lantern.

May 4, 1869 – Offshore Drilling Platform Design patented

The first U.S. patent for an offshore drilling rig was issued to Thomas Rowland, owner of Continental Iron Works in Greenpoint, New York, for his “submarine drilling apparatus.” His remarkably advanced platform included a fixed, working platform for drilling offshore well in a water depth up to 50 feet.

May 1869 offshore drilling rig patent drawing by Thomas Rowland.

Although never constructed, Thomas Rowland’s 1869 offshore drilling platform with telescoping legs was ahead of its time.

Rowland’s anchored, four-legged tower concept would be adapted for modern platforms. His Continental Iron Works also became a world leader in gas fittings, welding, and oil tank design and construction. The American Society of Civil Engineers in 1882 issued its first Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize. which is still annually awarded.

Learn more in Offshore Rig Patent.

May 5, 1889 – Construction begins on Largest U.S. Refinery

Near Chicago, on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Standard Oil Company began construction of a 235-acre refinery complex using advanced processes. A newly patented technology would allow the Whiting, Indiana, refinery to process sulfurous “sour crude” from Lima, Ohio, oilfields. The oil would be transported on company-controlled railroads. The giant refinery (today operated by BP) originally produced high-quality kerosene for lamps.

Learn more in Standard Oil Whiting Refinery.

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May 5, 1907 – A Marker to North Texas Petroleum History

East of Wichita Falls, Texas, near Oil City (today Petrolia), the Clayco Oil & Pipeline Company completed its Lockridge No.1 well, later proclaiming it the first commercial natural gas well in Texas. The company erected a historic marker giving credit to local rancher J.W. Lochridge, who had drilled for water but instead found the Henrietta-Petroliafield field. 

Clayco Oil & Pipeline stone marker on Texas Highway 148 just south of Petrolia.

The Clayco Oil & Pipeline Company marker, absent in the Texas Historical Commission Atlas, stands beside Texas Highway 148 south of Petrolia.

According to a 2016 article in North Texas Farm & Ranch, “Lochridge was disappointed because he needed water for his livestock. He found a use for the oil, using it in his dipping vats to rid his cattle of parasites.” The marker also acknowledged Lone Star Gas Company for constructing the area’s first large-diameter natural gas pipeline to Dallas in 1920.

May 7, 1920 – Halliburton founds Well Cementing Company in Oklahoma

As mid-continent oilfields continued to grow, Erle Palmer Halliburton founded the Halliburton Company as an oilfield well service and cementing company. The Wilson, Oklahoma, venture succeeded Halliburton’s New Method Oil Cementing Company, formed a year earlier during the Burkburnett oil boom in North Texas.

Erle P. Halliburton statue in Duncan, Oklahoma.

An Erle P. Halliburton statue was dedicated in 1993 in Duncan, Oklahoma.

In 1922, Halliburton patented an innovative “jet-cement” mixer that increased the speed and quality of the mixing process. By the end of the year, 17 Halliburton trucks were cementing wells in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Cement injection protects the well casing, seals off water formations from the oil, and minimizes the danger of blowouts.

The company introduced cement pumps powered by truck motors (instead of steam from the rig boiler) and a device that allowed testing of a formation without setting casing. Halliburton was the first to offer self-contained cementing units operating under their own power. More advances in cementing technology followed.

Learn more in Halliburton cements Wells.

May 8, 1918 – Shreveport Gassers go Extra Innings

As baseball became America’s favorite pastime, the Texas League’s Shreveport Gassers played 20 innings against the Fort Worth Panthers before the game was declared a tie. The Gassers were one of many oilfield-related teams in the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (today known as Minor League Baseball).

Baseball! poster for Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth1924 exhibition game.

Former Olinda Oil Wells pitcher Walter Johnson joined Babe Ruth for a 1924 exhibition game at Brea, California.

At the time, the leagues’ 96 teams included the Okmulgee Drillers, the Tulsa Oilers, the Independence Producers, the Beaumont Exporters, the Corsicana Oil Citys, the Wichita Falls Spudders, and the Iola Gasbags. In Oklahoma oilfields, the Okmulgee Drillers for the first time in baseball history had two players who combined to hit 100 home runs in a single season of 160 games.

Learn more in Oilfields of Dreams.

May 8, 1920 – Burbank Oilfield discovered in Oklahoma

Drilling for natural gas on an lease 20 miles from Ponca City, Oklahoma, the Kay County Gas Company found an oilfield instead. Marland Oil & Refining Company assumed control of the Bertha Hickman No. 1 well, which opened the 20,000-acre Burbank oilfield. With the region already booming since the Red Fork Gusher of 1901, independent producers would agree to using 10-acre well spacing for oil conservation purposes. Ernest W. Marland would serve as Oklahoma governor from 1935 to 1939.

May 9, 1863 – Confederate Cavalry raids Oilfield

A brigade of Confederate cavalry attacked a thriving oil town near the Ohio River in what would soon become West Virginia. Confederate Gen. William “Grumble” Jones led the cavalry attack on Burning Springs oilfield storage facilities containing thousands of barrels of oil.

petroleum history may

Rebels attacked the Burning Springs oilfield on the banks of the Little Kanawha River, just a few miles southeast of Parkersburg and the Ohio River. Map courtesy Oil & Gas Museum, Parkersburg, West Virginia.

The Confederate raid’s destruction and fire along the Kanawha River marked the first time an oilfield was targeted in war, according to one West Virginia historian. About 1,300 Confederate troopers raided Burning Springs, destroying cable-tool drilling rigs and 150,000 barrels of oil.

The economic growth created by the region’s oil industry prior to the Civil War helped bring about statehood for West Virginia in June 1863. Almost a century earlier, George Washington had acquired 250 acres in the region because it contained natural oil seeps.

Learn more in Confederates attack Oilfield.

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Recommended Reading:  Breaking the Gas Ceiling: Women in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry (2019); Erle P. Halliburton: Genius with Cement (1959); Textile League Baseball: South Carolina’s Mill Teams, 1880-1955 (2004); The Civil War and Northwestern Virginia (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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