October 10, 1865 – Oil Pipeline constructed in Pennsylvania – 

A two-inch iron pipeline began transporting oil five miles through hilly terrain from a well at booming Pithole, Pennsylvania, to the Miller Farm Railroad Station at Oil Creek. With their livelihoods threatened, teamsters attempted to sabotage the pipeline, until armed guards intervened. A second oil pipeline would begin operating in December.

Large wooden oil tanks and 42-gallon barrels with nearby teamsters.

Oil tanks at the boom town of Pithole, Pennsylvania, where Samuel Van Syckel built a five-mile pipeline in 1865. Photo courtesy Drake Well Museum.

Built by Samuel Van Syckel, who had formed Oil Transportation Association, the pipeline used 15-foot welded joints. Three 10-horsepower Reed and Cogswell steam pumps pushed the oil at a rate of 81 barrels per hour.

With up to 2,000 barrels of oil arriving at the terminal every day, more storage tanks were soon needed, along with a fourth pump, explained historian Samuel Pees in 2004. The pipeline transported the equivalent of 300 teamster wagons working for 10 hours.

“The day that the Van Syckel pipeline began to run oil a revolution began in the business,” proclaimed Ida Tarbell in her 1904 History of the Standard Oil Company. “After the Drake well, it is the most important event in the history of the Oil Regions.”

October 13, 1917 – U.S. Oil & Gas Association founded

The United States Oil & Gas Association was founded as the Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association in Tulsa, Oklahoma, six months after the United States entered World War I. Independent producers Frank Phillips, E.W. Marland, Bill Skelly, Robert Kerr and others established the association to help increase petroleum supplies for the Allies. In 1919, the association formed an Oklahoma-Kansas Division, now the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma.

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October 13, 1954 – First Arizona Gas Well 

After decades of searching for oil, Arizona became the 30th petroleum producing state when Shell Oil Company completed a natural gas well one mile south of the Utah border on Apache County’s Navajo Indian Reservation. The East Boundary Butte No. 2 well indicated gas production of about 3 million cubic feet per day from depths between 4,540 feet to 4,690 feet, but just a few barrels of oil a day.

Map of Navajo Reservation in Arizona with Apache County oil production.

Arizona produces oil only from Apache County.

A rancher had reported finding natural oil seeps in central Arizona in the late 1890s, and by 1902, a part-time prospector from Pennsylvania, Joseph Heslet, began a lengthy exploration effort that ended in 1916 after finding traces of oil.

Arizona’s oil production declined sharply after 2015, occasionally reaching 1,000 barrels per month by 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Learn more in First Arizona Oil and Gas Wells.

October 14, 1929 – Van Oilfield Discovery East of Dallas

The discovery of oil in Van, Texas, by the Pure Oil Company created an oil boom town 60 miles east of Dallas. The Jarman No. 1 well initially produced 3,500 barrels of oil a day from the Woodbine sandstone at a depth of 2,700 feet. Three more wells were completed as construction began on a camp for oilfield workers.

Exterior of  Van Zandt County Oil and Historical Museum east of Dallas, Texas.

This Van Zandt County museum east of Dallas is in a warehouse originally built in 1930 by Pure Oil Company. Photo by Bruce Wells

By April 1930, the Van oilfield was producing 20,000 barrels of oil a day, and oil companies attracted to the field adopted advanced production techniques. Two new pipelines linked the field to the Pure refinery in Beaumont, Texas, and Standard Oil’s refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Among the oilfield’s “Cook Camp” buildings was a sheet metal warehouse, which today houses the Van Area Oil and Historical Museum. Van residents continue to celebrate their petroleum heritage; the next annual oil festival (and car show) is set for October 16, 2022.

September 15, 1903 – Improved Portable Drilling Machine Patented

Seth Powers of Stanberry, Missouri, received a U.S. patent for his “Combined Well Boring and Rock Drilling Machine.” The wheel-mounted, cable-tool framework — used primarily for water wells but capable of finding oil — included a derrick, steam-engine, and boring augers.

Illustration of Powers 1903 well drilling machine.

Original 1903 version of “The Improved Powers Well Boring Machine.” Image courtesy Superstition Mountain Museum.

Lisle Manufacturing Company promoted the improved technology as a “One-Man Machine” for boring deep wells. By World War I, the company offered a complete line of the portable machines, which could bore up to 1,000 feet deep with the gasoline powered model.

The Superstition Mountain Museum east of Phoenix, Arizona, preserves an original 1903 version of the Improved Powers Well Boring Machine. A similar steam-powered machine was patented on September 15, 1895 (no. 548,109), by Oscar Benjamin of Lafayette, Louisiana.

October 15, 1966 – Johnson signs National Historic Preservation Act

Recognizing the “spirit and direction of the nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage,” Lyndon Johnson signed into law the National Historic Preservation Act to protect historical and archaeological sites. The Act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to maintain a National Register of Historic Places.

“The historical and cultural foundations of the nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people,” the Act proclaimed.

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October 15, 1997 – Kerosene fuels World Land Speed Record

The current world land speed record was set at 763.035 miles per hour by the Thrust SSC, the British “supersonic car” fueled by a 19th century oil product, kerosene. The vehicle’s twin turbofan engines burned JP-4, a fuel that first powered jet aircraft as early as 1951. Today’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets are fueled by highly refined kerosene rocket fuel, which also powered NASA’s moon launches. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled an earlier world land speed record holder (see Blue Flame Natural Gas Rocket Car) from 1970 to 1983.

October 16, 1931 – Natural Gas Pipeline sets Record

America’s first long-distance, high-pressure natural gas pipeline went into service during the Great Depression; it linked the prolific Texas Panhandle gas fields to consumers in Chicago.

A map of a 1931 natural gas pipeline from North Texas to Illinois.

A 1931 natural gas pipeline extended 980 miles from North Texas to Illinois.

A.O. Smith Corporation had developed the technology of thin-walled pipe and Continental Construction Corporation built the 980-mile bolted flange pipeline for the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America (NGPL). The $75 million high-tech project consumed 209,000 tons of A.O. Smith’s specially fabricated 24-inch wide steel pipe (the pipe filled 6,500 freight cars) and required 2,600 separate right-of-way leases (also see Big Inch Pipelines of WWII).

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Recommended Reading: Oil and Gas Pipeline Fundamentals (1993); Arizona Rocks & Minerals: A Field Guide to the Grand Canyon State (2010); Early Texas Oil: A Photographic History, 1866-1936 (2000); Natural Gas: Fuel for the 21st Century (2015). 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 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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