November 15, 1952 – Williston Basin produces Millionth Barrel of Oil –
The Williston Basin produced its millionth barrel of oil, which came from five fields in three counties in North Dakota. By the end of 1952, monthly production would reach 356,000 barrels of oil. “Oil was first found in the Williston Basin along the Cedar Creek Anticline in southeastern Montana, in the 1920s,” noted the North Dakota Geological Survey in 1988.
The North Dakota basin did not become a major producing area until Amerada Petroleum began the search there in 1946 — and finding an oilfield beneath Clarence Iverson’s wheat field northeast of Williston five years later (see First North Dakota Oil Well).
November 19, 1861 – American exports Oil for First Time
America exported petroleum for the first time when the merchant brig Elizabeth Watts departed the Port of Philadelphia for Great Britain. The Union vessel arrived in London 45 days later carrying a cargo of 901 barrels of Pennsylvania oil and 428 barrels of refined kerosene.
The shippers were the successful Philadelphia import-export firm of Peter Wright & Sons, which since its founding in 1818 had prospered transporting glass, porcelain and queensware china. The company hired the Elizabeth Watts to ship the petroleum to three British companies. On January 9, 1862, the brig sailed down the Thames River to arrive at London, where it took 12 days to unload the 1,329 barrels of oil and kerosene.
Learn more in American exports Oil.
November 19, 1927 – Phillips Petroleum introduces “Phillips 66” Gasoline
After a decade as an exploration and production company, Phillips Petroleum entered the business of refining and retail gasoline distribution. The Bartlesville, Oklahoma, company introduced a new line of gasoline – “Phillips 66” — at its first service station, which opened in Wichita, Kansas.
The gasoline was named “Phillips 66” because it had propelled company officials down U.S. Highway 66 at 66 mph on the way to a meeting at their Bartlesville headquarters. The popular roadway soon became the backbone of Phillips Petroleum marketing plans for the new product, which boasted “controlled volatility,” the result of a higher-gravity mix of naphtha and gasoline.
Acquisition of service stations added 50 new retail outlets each month to the company. By 1930, Phillips 66 gasoline was sold at 6,750 outlets in 12 states. Because the composition made Phillips 66 gas easier to start in cold weather, advertisements enticed motorists to try the “New Winter Gasoline.” Learn more by visiting the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville.
November 20, 1866 – Improved Well Torpedo patented
Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City patented improvements to his Roberts Torpedo, a revolutionary oilfield production technology. “Our attention has been called to a series of experiments that have been made in the wells of various localities by Col. Roberts, with his newly patented torpedo,” noted the Titusville Morning Herald newspaper a year earlier. “The results have in many cases been astonishing.”
The Civil War U.S. Army veteran would receive many patents for his method for “Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells” to fracture oil-bearing formations for increasing oil production. Learn more in Shooters – A “Fracking” History.
November 20, 1930 – Oil Booms help Hilton expand in Texas
After buying his first motel in the booming oil town of Cisco, Texas, Conrad Hilton opened a high-rise hotel in El Paso. While visiting Cisco in 1919, Hilton had witnessed roughnecks from the Ranger oilfield waiting for rooms. Hilton’s first hotel, the Mobley, had 40 rooms he rented for eight-hour periods to coincide with workers’ shifts. Thanks to oil booms, Hilton was firmly established in the Texas hotel business. His El Paso Hilton (now the Plaza Hotel) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
November 20, 1980 – Texaco Well drains Louisiana Lake
Minutes after its drilling crew evacuated, a Texaco drilling platform overturned and disappeared into a whirlpool that drained Lake Peigneur, Louisiana, in three hours. The crew had accidently penetrated a salt dome containing the mining operation of Diamond Crystal Salt Company. All 50 miners working as deep as 1,500 feet below the surface escaped with no serious injuries as the maelstrom swallowed the $5 million Texaco platform — and 11 barges holding drilling supplies.
“Texaco, who had ordered the oil probe, was aware of the salt mine’s presence and had planned accordingly; but somewhere a miscalculation had been made, which placed the drill site directly above one of the salt mine’s 80-foot-high, 50-foot-wide upper shafts,” noted a 2005 article, “Lake Peigneur: The Swirling Vortex of Doom.”
According to a 152-page government report in 1981, “Jefferson Island Mine Inundation,“ evidence for identifying the cause was washed away, but Texaco and drilling contractor Wilson Drilling paid $32 million to Diamond Crystal Salt Company and $12.8 million to a nearby botanical garden and plant nursery. Changed from freshwater to saltwater with a maximum depth of 200 feet, Lake Peigneur would become the deepest lake in Louisiana.
November 21, 1925 – Magnolia Petroleum incorporates
Formerly an unincorporated joint-stock association with roots dating to an 1889 refinery in Corsicana, Texas, Magnolia Petroleum Company incorporated. The original association had sold many grades of refined petroleum products through more than 500 service stations in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
Within a month of the new company’s founding, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New York purchased most of Magnolia Petroleum’s assets and operated it as a subsidiary. Magnolia Oil Company merged with Socony Mobile Oil Company in 1959. The companies adopted a red Pegasus logo, which replaced the magnolia logo at gas stations (see Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark). Magnolia Petroleum ultimately became part of ExxonMobil.
Recommended Reading: The Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota (2016); Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum (2016); History Of Oil Well Drilling (2007); Be My Guest (1957); Magnolia Oil News Magazine (January 1930). 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. For more information, contact email@example.com. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.