September 7, 1917 – Oilfield Legacy of Texas Governor Hogg –

After drilling 20 dry holes, the Tyndall-Wyoming Oil Company completed the No. 1 Hogg well  50 miles south of Houston. Four months later, a second well produced about 600 barrels a day. The discoveries ended a succession of dry holes dating back to 1901 — when former Texas Governor James “Big Jim” Hogg paid $30,000 for the lease (he also helped launch the Texas Company, predecessor to Texaco).

Although Gov. Hogg died 11 years before the Tyndall-Wyoming Oil Company wells found oil in the giant West Columbia oilfield, fortunately for his family, he stipulated in his will that the mineral rights should not be sold for at least 15 years after his death. Learn more in Governor Hogg’s Texas Oil Wells.

September 7, 1923 – California Oilfield discovered at Dominguez Hills

Maj. Frederick Russell Burnham discovered oil in Dominguez Hills, an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, California, in 1923. His well produced about 1,200 barrels of oil a day from about a depth of about 4,000 feet. Maj. Burnham, a decorated soldier in both the U.S. and British armies, was once known as “King of the Scouts.”

The Burnham Exploration Company and partner Union Oil Company of California opened the Dominguez Hills oilfield, “a two-square mile, two-mile deep stack of eight producing zones.”

Portrait of Maj. Frederick R. Burnham in his British Army uniform, 1901.

Maj. Frederick R. Burnham in his British Army uniform, 1901.

The region was named for a Spanish soldier who in 1784 received a land grant for grazing cattle. “But family fortunes truly took off with discovery of oil in the 1920s, first in the Torrance area and then, most resoundingly, on Dominguez Hill itself,” explained a California State University historian in 2007.

By 1933, Maj. Burnham’s exploration company and Union Oil had paid more than $10 million to stockholders. Learn more California history in First California Oil Wells and Discovering Los Angeles Oilfields.

September 8, 1891- Patent issued for “Flexible Driving Shafts”

The modern concept of horizontal drilling may have begun with two late-19th century patents by John Smalley Campbell of London. After receiving a British patent for his “useful improvements in flexible driving shafts or cables” in 1889, Campbell received a U.S. patent (no. 459,152) for his drilling method.

While Campbell described the patent as ideal for dental procedures, “the patent also carefully covered use of his flexible shafts at much larger and heavier physical scales,” reported oil historian Stephen M. Testa in a 2015 article for Pacific Petroleum Geology.

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September 9, 1855 – Birthday of Discoverer of Spindletop Oilfield

Anthony Francis Lucas was born (named Antun Lučić) in Split, Croatia, After receiving an 1875 engineering degree at the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria, he served as a captain in the Austrian navy before immigrating to America. He became a U.S. citizen in 1885, changed his name to Lucas, and worked as a mining engineer in Washington, D.C.

50-foot granite monument commemorates the Lucas gusher in Texas.

A 50-foot monument to Anthony Lucas’ 1901 oil discovery was dedicated in 1941 and moved to the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in 1977. Photo by Bruce Wells.

While developing salt mines in Louisiana, Lucas learned of Pattillo Higgins and an unlikely search for oil at Spindletop Hill in Beaumont, Texas (see Prophet of Spindletop). Lucas took charge of drilling effort and discovered the massive oilfield in January 1901. The headline-making “Lucas gusher” led to the founding of hundreds of petroleum companies.

Learn more in Spindletop launches Modern Petroleum Industry.

September 9, 1928 – Oklahoma regulates Oil Production

A state regulatory body for the first time issued an order limiting oil production for the entire state. The move was an effort to control excessive production from many newly discovered Oklahoma oilfields, including several giants of the Seminole oil boom. With falling oil prices (and tax revenue), the Oklahoma Corporation Commission set the state’s oil production limit to 700,000 barrels daily and limited production of wildcat wells to 100 barrels of oil a day.

September 10, 1879 – Merger of Two California Companies will lead to Chevron

Today headquartered in  in San Ramon, California, Chevron Corporation began in 1879 when the Pacific Coast Oil Company acquired California Star Oil Works, which a few months earlier had made the first major California oil discovery.

Circa 1870s Pacific Coast Oil Company logo with derricks.

The Pacific Coast Oil Company’s logo included derricks at Pico Canyon, site of California’s first commercial oil discovery. Photo courtesy of Chevron.

As the future major U.S. oil company grew, its retail outlets added dozens of service station logos — including Standard Oil Company of California’s chevron, the Texaco red star, the orange disc of Gulf Oil, and the Unocal “76” logo. “We trace our beginnings to an 1876 oil discovery at Pico Canyon, north of Los Angeles, which led to the formation of the Pacific Coast Oil Company,” notes Chevron, which acquired Gulf Oil in 1984 and merged with Texaco in 2001.

September 10, 1969 – Second Test of Nuclear Fracking of Natural Gas Well

A 40-kiloton nuclear device was detonated underground about eight miles southeast of present-day Parachute, Garfield County, Colorado. Project Rulison was the second of three natural gas reservoir stimulation tests involving nuclear explosions in wells.

Newspaper headline in 1969 for Rulison atomic explosion test at natural gas well.

Experimental nuclear fracturing of natural gas wells took place as late as 1973. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library.

The unusual “fracking” tests were part of Operation Plowshare, a government program to study peaceful uses of nuclear explosions. The first, Project Gasbuggy, was a December 1967 detonation of 29 kilotons in a New Mexico natural gas well. The third detonation took place in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, in 1973. All of the Operation Plowshare tests produced unusable, radioactive natural gas.

September 11, 1866 – Distilling Kerosene in Vacuum leads to Mobil Oil

Matthew Ewing, a carpenter, patented a new method for distilling kerosene in a vacuum to produce lubricants. His post-Civil War invention would lead to Mobil Oil. Three weeks after his patent, Ewing and partner Hiram Everest founded Vacuum Oil Company in Rochester, New York. Their first product was “Ewing’s Patent Vacuum Oil,” a leather conditioner.

Circa 1870 advertisement for "Ewing's Patent Vacuum Oil"

Beginning in 1866, “Ewing’s Patent Vacuum Oil” preserved and lubricated leather harnesses.

After Ewing left the partnership, Everest found success with an improved Vacuum Harness Oil. He distributed the lubricant in square containers previously used for canned oysters. Everest sold 75 percent interest in Vacuum Oil to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company in1880.  The vacuum-produced lubricants company evolved into Socony Mobil in 1955 and later into Mobil Oil before becoming ExxonMobil in a 1999 merger.

Learn more Mobil Oil history in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.

September 12, 1866 – First Texas Oil Well finds Oil at 106 Feet Deep

The Texas petroleum industry began when Lyne Taliaferro Barret and his Melrose Petroleum Oil Company drilled a well east of Nacogdoches that produced 10 barrels of oil per day.

Map of region east of Nacogdoches, home of first Texas oil well.

Lyne Taliaferro Barret in 1859 leased 280 acres east of Nacogdoches, Texas, in an area known for oil seeps.

The Confederate Army veteran’s No. 1 Isaac C. Skillern well, drilled in an area already known as Oil Springs, found the newly prized resource at a depth of 106 feet. The well’s modest oil production and limited access to markets soon led to his company’s failure. The field laid dormant for nearly two decades — until other exploration companies found oil nearby.

With wells producing into the 1950s, the Nacogdoches field would become the oldest oilfield in the Lone Star State. Learn more about Barret’s 1866 oil discovery and “the oldest town in Texas” in First Texas Oil Well.

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Recommended Reading: California State University, Dominguez Hills (2010); Pico Canyon Chronicles: The Story of California’s Pioneer Oil Field (1985); Giant Under the Hill: A History of the Spindletop Oil Discovery at Beaumont, Texas, in 1901 (2008); Atoms for Peace and War 1953-1961 (2017); Nacogdoches, Images of America (2009); Early Texas Oil: A Photographic History, 1866-1936 (2000). 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. Please become an annual AOGHS supporting member today. Help us maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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