This Week in Petroleum History, October 24 to October 30
October 26, 1970 – Joe Roughneck Statue dedicated in Texas
Governor Preston Smith of Texas dedicated a “Joe Roughneck” statue in Boonsville on the 20th anniversary of a giant natural gas field discovery there.
In 1950, the Lone Star Gas Company Vaught No. 1 well discovered the Boonsville field, which produced 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas over the next 20 years. By 2001 the field reached production of 3.1 trillion cubic feet of gas from 3,500 wells.
Joe Roughneck began life in the 1950s as a character in Lone Star Steel Company advertising. He was soon adopted by the industry. A bronze Joe Roughneck bust has been awarded since 1955 at the annual Chief Roughneck Award ceremony of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. A Joe Roughneck bronze bust, originally created by noted Texas artist Torg Thompson, continues to be awarded to each Chief Roughneck recipient.
In addition to the Boonsville monument, Joe’s rugged mug today sits atop three different Texas oilfield monuments: Joinerville (1957), Conroe (1957) and Kilgore (1986). Learn more in Meet Joe Roughneck.
October 27, 1763 – Birth of the “Father of American Geology”
William Maclure, a Scottish-born American geologist and “stratigrapher,” was born in 1763. He created the earliest geological maps of North America in 1809.
After settling in the United States in 1797, Maclure explored the eastern part of North America to prepare the first geological map of the United States. His travels from Maine to Georgia in 1808 resulted in the first geological map of the new United States, published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society in 1809.
“Here, in broad strokes, he identifies six different geological classes,” a Princeton historian reported later. “Note that the chain of the Appalachian Mountains is correctly labeled as containing the most primitive, or oldest, rock.”
When Benjamin Silliman, a Yale chemist, organized the American Geological Society in 1819, Maclure is elected its first president. Most geologists consider Maclure (1763-1840) the “Father of American Geology.” In the 1850s, Silliman’s son, also a Yale chemist, analyzed samples of Pennsylvania “rock oil” for refining into kerosene. His report led to drilling America’s first oil well in 1859.
October 27, 1938 – DuPont names Petroleum Product “Nylon”
DuPont chemical company announced that “nylon” would be the name of its newly invented synthetic fiber yarn made from petroleum. Discovered in 1935 by Wallace Carothers at a DuPont research facility, nylon is considered the first commercially successful synthetic polymer.
Carothers, now known as the father of the science of man-made polymers, called the new polymer Nylon 6 because of the adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine each contained six carbon atoms per molecule.
Nylon found widespread applications in consumer goods, including toothbrushes, fishing lines, luggage and lingerie, or in special uses such as surgical thread, parachutes, or pipes. Learn more in Nylon, a Petroleum Polymer.
October 28, 1868 – Explosive Technology praised
In Pennsylvania, the Titusville Morning Herald reported on the latest oilfield technology – the nitroglycerin torpedo. “It would be superfluous, at this late day, to speak of the merits of the Roberts Torpedo,” the 1868 newspaper article explained. “For the past three years, it has been a most successful operation, and has increased the production of oil in hundreds upon hundreds of oil wells to an extent which could hardly be overestimated.” Learn more in Shooters – a “Fracking” History.
October 27, 1923 – Lion Oil Refining Company founded in Arkansas
Lion Oil Company was founded as the Lion Oil Refining Company in El Dorado, Arkansas, by Texan Thomas Harry Barton.
Barton earlier had organized the El Dorado Natural Gas Company and acquired a 2,000-barrel-a-day refinery in 1922. Thanks to production from the nearby Smackover oilfield, his newly formed Lion Oil Refining Company grew to 10,000 barrels a day capacity. The company acquired 58 oil wells producing 1.4 million barrels of oil by 1925.
A merger with Monsanto Chemical in 1955 brought the gradual disappearance of the familiar “Beauregard Lion” logo. Today, Lion Oil (an affiliate of Delek U.S. Holdings, Inc.) markets petroleum products, including gasolines, low-sulfur diesel, solvents, propanes and asphalt. Read more Arkansas history in Arkansas Oil and Gas Boom Towns.
October 28, 1926 – Yates Field discovered in West Texas
The 26,400-acre Yates oilfield was discovered in a remote area of Pecos County, Texas, in the increasingly prolific Permian Basin.
Drilled in 1926 with a $15,000 cable-tool rig, the Ira Yates 1-A produced 450 barrels of oil a day from just under 1,000 feet. Prior to the discovery, Ira Yates had struggled to keep his ranch, located on the northern border of the Chihuahua Desert.
“Drought and predators nearly did him in” notes one account, until he convinced a San Angelo company to explore for oil west of the Pecos River.
The Yates wildcat well – completed by the Mid-Kansas and Transcontinental Oil Companies – was 30 miles from the nearest oil pipeline. A 55,000-barrel steel storage tank was under construction when four more Yates wells begin yielding an additional 12,000 barrels of oil daily. Ira Yates received an $18 million oil royalty check on his 67th birthday. Also see Alley Oop’s Oil Roots and Santa Rita taps Permian Basin.
Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio program Exploring Energy, 9 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Bruce Wells calls in on the last Wednesday of every month. Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society today with a tax-deductible donation. © This Week in Petroleum History, AOGHS 2016.