October 16, 1931 – Natural Gas Pipeline sets Record – 

The first long-distance, high-pressure U.S. natural gas pipeline went into service during the Great Depression, linking 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 developed the technology for a 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 pipeline project consumed 209,000 tons of specially fabricated 24-inch wide steel pipe, which filled 6,500 freight cars. The project required 2,600 separate right-of-way leases (also see Big Inch Pipelines of WWII).

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October 17, 1890 – Union Oil of California founded

Lyman Stewart, Thomas Bard and Wallace Hardison founded the Union Oil Company of California by merging their petroleum properties to compete with Standard Oil of California (founded 20 years earlier).  Union Oil made strategic alliances with small oil producers to build pipelines from Kern County oilfields to the Pacific coast.

“This gave the independent producers an alternative to what they perceived as the low prices paid by Standard Oil and the high freight rates charged by the railroads to move crude oil,” noted the American Institute of Mining in 1914. Union Oil moved the company headquarters from Santa Paula to Los Angeles in 1901.

Exterior of California Oil Museum in Santa Paula, a California Historical Landmark.

After becoming the Union Oil Museum in 1950, the company’s Santa Paula headquarters building in 1990 was restored to its original appearance and reopened as the California Oil Museum.

In 1910, Union Oil lost control of its Midway-Sunset field’s Lakeview No. 1 well, which would take 18 months to control. The purchase of Pennsylvania-based Pure Oil in 1965 made the Unocal Union 76 brand a nationwide company.

In 2005, Unocal became a subsidiary of Chevron. The Santa Paula company headquarters building, a California Historical Landmark, in 1990 became home to the California Oil Museum.

October 17, 1917 – “Roaring Ranger” launches Major Texas Drilling Boom 

A wildcat well between Abilene and Dallas launched a Texas drilling boom that helped fuel the Allied victory in World War I. The J.H. McCleskey No. 1 well erupted oil about two miles south of the small town of Ranger, which had been founded in the 1870s near a Texas Ranger camp in Eastland County.

The 1917 McCleskey No. 1 oil gusher in Texas, soon known as "Roaring Ranger."

The 1917 McCleskey No. 1 oil gusher in Texas made headlines as the “Roaring Ranger” that helped win World War I.

Texas and Pacific Coal Company’s William Knox Gordon completed the discovery well at a depth of 3,432 feet. It initially produced 1,600 barrels a day of quality, high gravity oil. Within 20 months the exploration company’s stock value jumped from $30 a share to $1,250 a share.

“Roaring Ranger” launched a drilling boom that extended to nearby towns. More gushers followed, some producing up to 10,000 barrels of oil every day, and Ranger’s population grew from 1,000 to 30,000.

Crowd posing in front of oil wells near Cisco, Texas, circa 1920.

Eastland County discoveries included oil wells near Cisco, where Conrad Hilton bought his first hotel.

The petroleum proved essential in World War I. After the armistice was signed in 1918, a member of the British War Cabinet declared, “The Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”

After the war, a veteran named Conrad Hilton visited Eastland County intending to buy a bank. When his deal fell through, Hilton — at the Cisco train station ready to leave — noticed a small hotel with a line of roughnecks waiting for a room (see Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel).

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October 17, 1973 – Embargo bring Gas Lines, Recession

Fifty years ago, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) implemented what it called “oil diplomacy,” prohibiting any nation that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War from buying the cartel’s oil. The embargo brought an end to years of cheap gasoline and caused the New York Stock Exchange to drop by almost $100 billion. It also created one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. The United States became the world’s top petroleum producer in 2017, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

October 18, 2008 – Derrick dedicated in Discovery 1 Park 

A re-enactment of the dramatic moment that changed Oklahoma history highlighted the 2008 dedication of a 84-foot replica derrick at Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Events included roughneck reenactors and a water gusher from an 84-foot derrick that replaced one dedicated in 1948.

Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville, OK, map.

Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville includes a replica derrick on the original site of Oklahoma’s first oil well.

In 1897, a cable-tool drilling rig at the site of Oklahoma’s first commercial oil well had thrilled another group of spectators when Jenny Cass, stepdaughter of Bartlesville founder George W. Keeler, was given the honor of “shooting” the well.

Today, the Bartlesville Community Foundation plans on adding a visitors center to Discovery 1 Park.

October 19, 1990 – First Emergency Use of Strategic Petroleum Reserve 

As world oil prices spiked after the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi troops, the first presidentially mandated emergency use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was authorized by George H. W. Bush, who ordered sale of five million barrels of SPR oil as a test to “demonstrate the readiness of the system under real life conditions,” according to the Department of Energy.

Map of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve sites in 2018.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s four oil storage facilities are grouped into three geographical pipeline distribution systems
in Texas and Louisiana. Map courtesy U.S. Department of Energy, Report to Congress, December 2018.

President Ford established the SPR in 1975 as a protection against severe supply interruptions. By 2020, four underground salt dome sites along the Gulf Coast stored 735 million barrels of oil — the largest stockpile of government-owned emergency oil in the world.

October 20, 1944 – Liquefied Natural Gas Tank explosion in Ohio

An explosion and fire from liquefied natural gas tanks in Cleveland, Ohio, killed 131 people and caused more than $10 million in damage. Temperatures inside of one of the East Ohio Gas Company’s tanks reportedly had been allowed to fall below minus 250 degrees, which caused the steel plates to contract and rupture. Investigators never discovered a cause for the explosion, but witnesses reported a leak in one of the tanks, according to Ohio History Central. “Some spark must have then ignited the gas, although, with World War II currently raging, some residents initially suspected a German saboteur.”

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October 20, 1949 –  Maryland produces Some Natural Gas

The first commercially successful natural gas well in Maryland was drilled by the Cumberland Allegheny Gas Company in the town of Mountain Lake Park, Garrett County — the westernmost county in the state. The Elmer Beachy well produced about 500 thousand cubic feet of natural gas a day.

Maryland map of first natural gas well, Garrett County.

No oil has been produced in Maryland.

The discovery well prompted a rush of competing companies and high-density drilling (an average of nine wells per acre), which depleted the field. Twenty of 29 wells drilled within the town produced natural gas, but overall production from the field was low. No oil has been found in Maryland.

October 21, 1921 – First Natural Gas Well in New Mexico

New Mexico’s natural gas industry began when the newly formed Aztec Oil Syndicate’s State No. 1 well found gas reserves about 15 miles northeast of Farmington in San Juan County.

Map of northern New Mexico oil and gas wells.

New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service began after a 1921 discovery near Aztec. Oil discoveries followed in the southeast.

The drilling crew used a trimmed tree trunk with a two-inch pipe and shut-off valve to control the well until a wellhead was shipped in from Colorado. The well produced 10 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

By the end of December 1921, a pipeline reached two miles into the town of Aztec, where citizens enjoyed New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service. In 1922, natural gas could be purchased in Aztec at a flat rate of $2 a month (for a gas heater) and $2.25 (for a gas stove).

Learn more about the state’s petroleum history in New First Mexico Oil Wells.


Recommended Reading: Oil and Gas Pipeline Fundamentals (1993); The 76 bonanza: The fabulous life and times of the Union Oil Company of California (1966); Ranger, Images of America (2010); Desert Kingdoms to Global Powers: The Rise of the Arab Gulf (2016); Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Postcard History Series (2000); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982). 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 (AOGHS) 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 © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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