September 30, 2006 – Bronze Roughnecks dedicated at Signal Hill, California

petroleum history september

Signal Hill once had so many derricks people called it Porcupine Hill. The city of Long Beach is visible in the distance.

A “Tribute to the Roughnecks” statue by Cindy Jackson was dedicated near the Alamitos No. 1 well, which in 1921 revealed California’s prolific Long Beach oilfield 20 miles south of Los Angeles.

The bronze statue commemorates the Signal Hill Oil Boom. A plaque notes the monument serves, “as a tribute to the petroleum pioneers for their success here, a success which has, by aiding in the growth and expansion of the petroleum industry, contributed so much to the welfare of mankind.”

More than one billion barrels of oil have been pumped from the Long Beach oilfield since the Alamitos No. 1 well of 1921. 

October 1, 1908 – Ford produces First Model T

petroleum history september

Model T tires were white until 1910, when the petroleum product carbon black was added to improve durability.

The first production Model T Ford rolled off the assembly line at the company’s plant in Detroit. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford built about 15 million Model T cars – fueled by inexpensive gasoline. The auto’s popularity was great timing for the U.S. petroleum industry, which had seen demand for kerosene for lamps drop because of increased use of electric lighting.

New major oilfield discoveries, including the 1901 “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas, helped meet growing demand for what had been a refining byproduct: gasoline. See Cantankerous Combustion – 1st U.S. Auto Show.

October 1, 1942 – Water Injection Project begins in East Texas

petroleum history september

Saltwater injection wells improved oil production in the giant East Texas oilfield.

The East Texas Salt Water Disposal Company drilled the first salt water injection well in the 12-year-old East Texas oilfield near the towns of Tyler, Longview, and Kilgore. As early as 1929, the Federal Bureau of Mines had determined injecting recovered saltwater into formations could increase reservoir pressures and oil production.

The Texas Railroad Commission established the salt water disposal company as a public utility to operate in the “Black Giant” oilfield. The company treated and re-injected about 1.5 billion barrels of saltwater in its first 13 years, prompting the commission to proclaim saltwater injection as the “greatest oil conservation project in history.”

October 2, 1919 – Future “Mr. Tulsa” incorporates Skelly Oil

petroleum history september

Born near Pennsylvania’s early oilfields, independent oilman William Skelly’s company helped make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.”


Skelly Oil Company incorporated in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with founder William Grove Skelly as president. He had been born in 1878 in Erie, Pennsylvania, where his father hauled oilfield equipment in a horse-drawn wagon. Skelly Oil Company resulted from Skelly’s early successes in the El Dorado oilfield east of Wichita, Kansas, and other petroleum industry ventures, including Midland Refining Company, which he founded in 1917. With Tulsa already famous worldwide (see Making Tulsa the Oil Capital), Skelly became known as “Mr. Tulsa” thanks to his support for civic causes; he served as president of Tulsa’s International Petroleum Exposition for 32 years until his death in 1957.

October 3, 1930 – Giant East Texas Oilfield discovered on Daisy Bradford’s Farm

petroleum history september

Columbus “Dad” Joiner in 1930 discovered the East Texas oilfield, which remains the largest in the lower-48 states. Photo courtesy Jack Elder, The Glory Days.

With a crowd of more than 4,000 landowners, leaseholders, creditors and spectators watching, the Daisy Bradford No. 3 wildcat well was successfully shot with nitroglycin near Kilgore, Texas.

“All of East Texas waited expectantly while Columbus ‘Dad’ Joiner inched his way toward oil,” noted Jack Elder in The Glory Days. “Thousands crowded their way to the site of Daisy Bradford No. 3, hoping to be there when and if oil gushed from the well to wash away the misery of the Great Depression.”

Geologists were stunned when it later became apparent the well on Daisy Bradford’s farm – along with two other wells far to the north – were part of the same oil-producing formation (the Woodbine) that encompassed more than 140,000 acres. The “Black Giant” oilfield would produce more than five billion barrels of oil in coming decades. Learn more in East Texas Oilfield Discovery.

October 3, 1980 – Oil Museum opens in East Texas

petroleum history september

The East Texas Oil Museum is “a tribute to the men and women who dared to dream as they pursued the fruits of free enterprise,” according to Joe White, who founded the museum in 1980 and retired in 2014.

Fifty years after the discovery of the East Texas oilfield, the East Texas Oil Museum opened in Kilgore as “a tribute to the independent oil producers and wildcatters, the men and women who dared to dream as they pursued the fruits of free enterprise.” Established with funding from the Hunt Oil Company, the museum at Kilgore College recreates the boom town atmosphere of the early 1930s. The museum’s exhibits, as well as those in community museums in Beaumont and Galveston, were featured in a 2004 American Oil & Gas Historical Society special publication, American Oil & Gas Families, East Texas Independents. Adjacent to the East Texas Oil Museum is another popular attraction, the Rangerette Showcase and Museum.

October 4, 1866 – Oil Fever spreads to Allegheny River Valley

Just 15 miles east of the Edwin Drake’s first U.S. oil well at Titusville, Pennsylvania, an oilfield discovery at Triumph Hill sparked a new rush of uncontrolled development as investors tried to cash in before the oil ran out. The American petroleum industry was barely seven years old when wooden derricks replaced hemlock trees on the hillsides along the Allegheny River. Learn more about Post-Civil war drilling and boom towns in Derricks of Triumph Hill.

October 5, 1915 – Science reveals Mid-Continent Oilfield

petroleum history octoberThe growing science of petroleum geology played a key role in the 1915 discovery of a Mid-Continent oilfield. Drilled by Wichita Natural Gas Company, a subsidiary of Cities Service Company, the discovery well revealed the 34-square-mile El Dorado oilfield in central Kansas.

The Stapleton No. 1 well produced 95 barrels of oil a day from 600 feet before being deepened to 2,500 feet to produce 110 barrels of oil a day from the Wilcox sands. Other wells soon joined the Kansas oil boom east of Wichita.

petroleum history october

The Stapleton No. 1 well and the Kansas Oil Museum preserve a 1915 oil discovery.

Natural gas discoveries a year earlier in nearby Augusta had prompted El Dorado leaders to seek a geological study. For the first time, Cities Service used geological survey methods to identify a promising anticline. After the 1915 oil discovery, the company was joined by Archibald Derby, John Vickers, and William Skelly in establishing El Dorado as a major center for refining.

The Kansas Oil Museum notes lessons learned at the El Dorado oilfield led to exploration companies seeking out petroleum geologists before drilling.

October 5, 1958 – Water Park opens in West Texas

october oil history

The Million Barrel Museum’s site was originally built to store Permian Basin oil. For scale, note the railroad caboose and car exhibit at right.

A water park inside a decades-old experimental concrete oil tank opened in West Texas. Leaks forced it to close after just one day. The Monahans,Texas, park had attracted swimmers, boaters, anglers and even skiers for its opening day.

A local couple had attempted to find a good use for the 525-foot by 422-foot “million barrel reservoir.” Once covered by a cedar roof, the tank had been completed in 1928 by Shell Oil due to a lack of pipeline for Permian Basin oil. Shell stopped using the tank because of leaks. Learn more in Million Barrel Museum.

October 6, 1886 – Natural Gas fuels Glass Manufacturing Company

A 900-foot-deep natural gas well in a corn field added to the Indiana natural gas boom, established the Indiana Natural Gas Company one year later, and created the Opalescent Glass Works (today Kokomo Opalescent Glass), a company that has been in continuous operation since 1888. The stained-glass manufacturer, which would almost succumb to bankruptcy when gas supplies later dwindled, sold more than 10,000 of pounds of glass to Louis Tiffany in 1893. Electric insulators were made for Edison General Electric with the excess glass, according to Kokomo Opalescent Glass, An Early History. Indiana’s first official natural gas well was drilled in 1867 by G. Bates, who found gas at a depth of 500 feet while searching for oil.



Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

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