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.

Map of West Virginia oil and gas Civil War Heritage District.

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. Heritage district 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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May 11, 1880 – S.R. Dresser patents Oil Well “Packer” Device

Solomon R. Dresser of Bradford, Pennsylvania, patented a rubber “packer” for sealing downhole pressure in wells. The technology behind the patent (no. 227419) helped confine gas, “which enters the well from the lower rocks and utilize its force or pressure to expel the oil from the well.”

S.R. Dresser 1880 patent drawing for well packer.

Detail from Solomon R. Dresser 1880 patent for a rubber “packer” to seal downhole pressure in wells.

With the success of his Dresser Cap Packer in the Bradford oilfield, the inventor in 1885 founded the S.R. Dresser Manufacturing Company. Within one year he would patent a widely adopted pipeline coupling method using rubber for tight seals, which permitted long-range transmission of natural gas.

After expanding into manufacturing oilfield pumps, engines and compressors, Dresser’s company went public in 1928, moving its headquarters to Dallas in 1950. Dresser Industries merged with oilfield supply rival Halliburton for about $7.7 billion in stock in 1998.

May 12, 2007 – Oil and Gas Museums open in Oklahoma

ConocoPhillips opened two petroleum museums on the same day in Ponca City and Bartlesville as part of the 2007 Oklahoma statehood centennial celebrations.

Exhibits at the Conoco Museum In Ponca City educate visitors about the exploration, production and history of the company, which began in Utah as a small distributor of coal, grease, and kerosene. Conoco merged with Oklahoma’s Marland Oil Company in 1929. Phillips Petroleum incorporated in 1917 and merged with Conoco in 2002.

petroleum history May 9

Conoco, founded in 1875 as the Continental Oil and Transportation Company, delivered kerosene to retail stores in Ogden, Utah. A circa 1880s horse-drawn tank wagon today welcomes visitors to the Conoco Museum. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum includes exhibits describing the development of high-octane gasoline and revolutionary plastic products like Marlex (see Petroleum Product Hoopla). In addition to exhibiting oilfield technologies, the Bartlesville museum tells the story of Frank and L.E. Phillips.

Beginning in 1905, the brothers drilled 81 wells without a single “dry hole.” Frank Phillips served as president of the company until 1938.

Learn more in ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums.

May 14, 1953 – Golden Driller Statue debuts at Petroleum Exposition

The “Golden Driller” first appeared at the International Petroleum Exposition in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sponsored by the Mid-Continent Supply Company of Fort Worth, Texas, the giant oilfield work was temporarily erected again for the 1959 petroleum expo.

The 76-foot-tall roughneck statue attracted so much attention the company refurbished and donated it to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. Completely rebuilt in 1966, the statue was refurbished several times since the late 1970s.

petroleum history May 9

The original Golden Driller of 1953, left, proved so popular that a more permanent version (supported with steel rods) returned for the 1966 Petroleum Expo. Photos courtesy the Tulsa Historical Society.

Today a Tulsa tourist attraction, the mustard-shaded Golden Driller, weighing 43,500 pounds, stands among the world’s largest freestanding statues in the world, according to city officials. Ties and scarfs occasionally have adorned him, and a temporary Covid-19 mask was added in 2020.

Learn more in Golden Driller of Tulsa.

May 14, 2004 – Oil and Gas Museum Opens in Louisiana

Louisiana’s first publicly funded museum dedicated to the petroleum industry opened 20 miles north of Shreveport. The Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum, originally the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, includes the historic depot of the Kansas City Southern Railroad.

Drilling rig at the Louisiana State Oil Museum in Oil City.

Chevron drilling rig at Louisiana State Oil Museum in Oil City. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The museum preserves the Caddo Parish discoveries, which began in 1905, and the economic prosperity brought by the North Louisiana petroleum boom. Exhibits reveal the technologies behind a 1911 well – the Ferry No. 1 – one of the nation’s earliest “offshore” oil wells completed on nearby Caddo Lake, where production continues today.

Learn more in Louisiana Oil City Museum.

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May 15, 1911 – Supreme Court orders Standard Oil Breakup

After reviewing 12,000 pages of court documents, Chief Justice Edward White issued the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion that mandated dissolution of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. The ruling, which broke Standard Oil into 34 separate companies, upheld an earlier Circuit Court decision that the John D. Rockefeller company’s practices violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. Five years earlier, President Theodore Roosevelt’s Justice Department had launched 44 anti-trust suits against railroad, beef, tobacco, and other trusts.


Recommended Reading: The Civil War and Northwestern Virginia (2004); Conoco: 125 Years of Energy (2000); Phillips, The First 66 Years (1983); Oil in Oklahoma (1976); Louisiana’s Oil Heritage, Images of America (2012); Standard Oil Company: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Famous Monopoly (2016). 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 preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. Contact Copyright © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.


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