September 13, 1975 – President dedicates Petroleum Museum – 

President Gerald R. Ford addressed 400 guests attending the opening ceremony for the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library and Hall of Fame in Midland, Texas. After touring the museum, he was presented with a 15-inch bronze sculpture, “Dressing the Bit,” depicting two cable-tool rig workers with their tools.

Pump jacks on exhibit at the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas

President Gerald Ford spoke at the Petroleum Museum’s 1975 opening in Midland, Texas. Photo courtesy Petroleum Museum.

The museum, which completed an $18 million renovation in 2016, maintains more than 60,000-square-feet of space for geological, technical, and cultural exhibits. It houses the world’s largest collection of Chaparral racing cars and offers an extensive research library and archive. Outdoor exhibits include drilling rigs, pumping units, and other oilfield machinery. 

A 15-inch bronze sculpture by Lincoln H. Fox titled, "Dressing the Bit," depicts two workers with early percussion-drilling tools.

“Dressing the Bit,” by Lincoln H. Fox. Photo courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

With resumed in‐person programs for Family Science Nights this fall, a visit to the Petroleum Museum, “is an amazing journey through over 230 million years of history.” 

September 14, 1871 – President Grant visits Pennsylvania Oil Region

During a tour of northwestern Pennsylvania, President Ulysses S. Grant visited Titusville, Petroleum Center, and Oil City to learn more about the nation’s growing petroleum industry. Consumer demand for kerosene for lamps had led to drilling the first commercial U.S. oil well at Titusville in 1859. The 18th U.S. president would help improve Washington City’s streets, directing in 1876 that Pennsylvania Avenue be paved with Trinidad asphalt (see Asphalt Paves the Way).

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September 14, 1929 – West Texas Well sets Record

A West Texas well struck oil at a depth of 1,070 feet and produced an astounding 204,672 barrels of oil a day — the nation’s most productive single well up until that time. The Yates 30-A initially produced 8,528 barrels of oil per hour, according to the Handbook of Texas Online.

The Pecos County well was drilled just a few hundred yards from the 1926 discovery well of the giant Yates field, the Ira G. Yates 1-A.

Drilling rig in Yates oilfield in Pecos County, Texas.

The Yates field has been producing continuously since the 1920s. Pecos County alone covers more than 4,700 square miles. Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.

First discovered in 1920, the Permian Basin’s massive size had been confirmed in 1923 by the Santa Rita No. 1 well. The Yates 30-A well, operated by Transcontinental Oil and the Mid-Kansas Oil and Gas Company (then a subsidiary of Ohio Oil Company) and brought an oil boom to Midland and Odessa. The Yates oilfield produced its one-billionth barrel of oil in 1985. 

“The Yates field, among the largest ever found in the United States, has been in continuous production for 85 years and has been exploited by a list of oil companies, some of them no longer in existence,” noted the Houston Chronicle in 2011.

September 14, 1960 – OPEC founded in Baghdad

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created at the Baghdad Conference by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela (later joined by nine other countries). Headquartered in Vienna, Austria, since 1965, OPEC’s objective is to “coordinate and unify petroleum policies among member countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.”

September 15, 1886 – Trenton Field brings Indiana Natural Gas Boom

When natural gas discoveries in Ohio excited speculation in Indiana, a group of investors established the Eaton Mining & Gas Company. They were rewarded when the company’s first well found natural gas. Unknown at the time, the 920-foot-deep well in east central Indiana had discovered the 5,120-square-mile Trenton gas field.

Indiana cities erected the “flambeaux” arches to promote natural gas supplies.

Cities in Indiana and Ohio erected “flambeaux” arches to attract new industries. Indiana banned them in 1891, an early effort to legislate conservation. Photo of Findlay, Ohio, during its 1888 Gas Jubilee courtesy Hancock Historical Museum.

Spreading over 17 Indiana counties and into Ohio, the field became the largest in the world by the 1880s. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie proclaimed natural gas replaced 10,000 tons of coal a day for making steel as new pipelines attracted manufacturing industries — until production all but vanished by the early 1900s.

Learn more in Indiana Natural Gas Boom

September 16, 1908 – Carriage Maker incorporates General Motors

William Crapo “Billy” Durant, co-owner of the largest  U.S. manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages, founded General Motors Holding Company in Flint, Michigan. His Durant-Dort Carriage Company had taken control of Buick Motor Company and would acquire Olds Motor Works of Detroit, along with many others.

An Olds 37-B model, GM's 1000000th car

General Motors sold its 1,000,000th car in 1919, an Oldsmobile 37-B model. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Within just two years, General Motors purchased dozens of auto manufacturing companies, including Cadillac and Oakland Motor Car (Pontiac). “Fortunately for the Ford Motor Company, William Durant was denied a ‘buy-out loan’ of $9.5 million by his bankers,” notes a GM historian.

Although Durant was ousted from GM for over-extending the company’s finances, he returned in 1918 after arranging a reverse merger with the Chevrolet Motor Car Company, which he had founded with Louis Chevrolet in 1911. With the acquisition of Chevrolet and truck manufacturing company, by 1955 General Motors became the first U.S. company to make more than $1 billion in a single year.

September 18, 1855 – First U.S. Oil Company reorganizes

In need of more capital, George Bissell and partner Jonathan Eveleth reorganized their Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, the first oil company in the United States, to attract investors for drilling in search of oil to be refined into kerosene.

september petroleum history

America’s first oil company, Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, reorganized as Seneca Oil Company of New Haven Connecticut in 1858, one year before drilling the first U.S. Well.

The businessmen re-incorporated the New York-based Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, established in 1854 to explore oil seeps Bissell had found near Titusville). The new exploration venture, Seneca Oil Company of New Haven, Connecticut, replaced New York City capital markets, which had shown little interest in drilling for oil, seen as too speculative.

Seneca Oil Company hired a former railroad conductor, Edwin L. Drake, who overcame financial and technical obstacles to complete the first American oil well in 1859.

September 18, 1948 – Oil discovered in Utah

J.L. “Mike” Dougan, president of the Equity Oil Company, completed the state’s first significant oil well in the Uinta Basin. Dougan’s small company beat out larger and better financed competitors, including Standard Oil of California, Pure Oil, Continental, and Union Oil Company. His oil discovery launched a deep-drilling boom in Utah.

petroleum history september

Begun in 1948 in the giant Uinta Basin, Utah’s petroleum industry continues today thanks to reserves of coalbed methane gas.

Unlike the earlier attempts, Dougan drilled beyond the typical depth of 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. His Ashley Valley No. 1 well, 10 miles southeast of Vernal, produced 300 barrels of oil a day from about 4,000 feet. Production soon averaged almost one million barrels of oil a year from 30 wells.

Following Dougan’s success, a new generation of exploration and production companies began drilling to 8,000 feet and eventually far deeper into the Uinta Basin. Learn more in First Utah Oil Wells.


Recommended Reading: Midland, Images of America (2010); Yates: A family, A Company, and Some Cornfield Geology (2000); The Extraction State, A History of Natural Gas in America (2021); Myth, Legend, Reality: Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry (2009); Utah Oil Shale: Science, Technology, and Policy Perspectives (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. For more information, contact Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.


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