Million Barrel Museum

1928 experimental concrete reservoir for Permian Basin oil became a water park three decades later. For one day.


Tourists traveling I-20 in West Texas should not miss the Monahans oil museum in the heart of the Permian Basin. Not just a collection of artifacts, the Million Barrel Museum’s big attraction is a former experimental oil tank the size of three football fields.

The Permian Basin once was called a “petroleum graveyard” — until a series of oilfield discoveries beginning in 1920 brought exploration companies to the vast, arid region. Completed near Big Lake in 1923, the Santa Rita No. 1 well alone would endow the University of Texas with millions of dollars.

But as oilfield discoveries grew, the lack of infrastructure for storing and transporting large volumes of oil proved to be a problem. (more…)

Hugoton Natural Gas Museum

Kansas museum exhibits 1920s natural gas field and world’s greatest helium source.


A small museum in southwestern Kansas preserves the history of one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened in 1961 not far from a producing gas well drilled in 1945.

Hugoton’s museum, founded by Gladys Renfro and a group of dedicated volunteers, has served “as a memento of the Hugoton gas field and the progressive development of Stevens County.”

The farming community proclaimed as America’s “Natural Gas Capital” also hosts a Car Show & Rod Run every August. (more…)

Louisiana Oil City Museum

Preserving Louisiana petroleum history at Caddo Lake.


A 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines brought America’s rapidly growing petroleum industry to northwestern Louisiana. A state museum in appropriately named Oil City tells the story.

Originally the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, in May 2004 the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum was dedicated as a state museum under the Louisiana Secretary of State. 

Oil rplatforms in 1911 on Caddo Lake, Louisiana.

Gulf Refining Company in 1911 built drilling platforms to reach the oil beneath Caddo Lake, Louisiana. The early “offshore” technologies worked, and production continues today.

Located about 20 miles north of Shreveport, the first public museum in Louisiana dedicated to the petroleum industry maintains an extensive local history library and collected photographic archives. Exterior exhibits include the former depot of the Kansas City Southern Railroad. (more…)

Oil & Gas History News, April 2023

AOGHS Logo for Newsletter

April 19, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 4


Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our April look at events that helped shape the modern energy industry. Thank you for subscribing. Although this month begins with a fatal well fire in 1861, important infrastructure advancements follow. Also featured is the 1951 discovery of the Williston Basin on a North Dakota farm; the invention of kerosene a century earlier; and the 1919 establishment of the American Petroleum Institute. And with SpaceX launches making headlines, our photo is the Ocean Odyssey, an offshore drilling platform converted for launching rockets in 1999. We conclude with a promotion of community museums, a history symposium next month, and some research help requests. As always, your comments are welcomed.


This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

Links to summaries from five weeks of U.S. oil and natural gas history, including new technologies, oilfield discoveries, petroleum products, and pioneers. 


April 17, 1861 – Oil Well Fire Tragedy in Pennsylvania

The early lack of technology for controlling wells led to a deadly oil well fire at Rouseville, Pennsylvania — and a painting today in the collection of a Smithsonian art museum. Among the 19 people killed was leading citizen Henry Rouse, who had subleased land along Oil Creek. When his well erupted oil from a depth of just 320 feet, the good news attracted Rouseville residents…MORE

April 10, 1866 – Brothers patent Railroad Oil Tank Car

James and Amos Densmore of Meadville, Pennsylvania, patented their “Improved Car for Transporting Petroleum” developed a year earlier in the Pennsylvania oil region. Using two large wooden tanks, the Densmore car improved oil industry transportation infrastructure before being replaced by the more practical metal horizontal tank. Amos later invented the modern typewriter keyboard…MORE

April 4, 1951 – North Dakota Oil Well finds Williston Basin

After eight months of drilling in weather that included severe snowstorms, Amerada Petroleum discovered a North Dakota oilfield. The state’s first commercial oil well revealed the Williston Basin two miles beneath Clarence Iverson’s farm. It was the first major discovery in a new geologic basin since before World War II. By 2008, the basin would  produce more than five billion barrels of oil…MORE

March 27, 1855 – Canadian Chemist trademarks Kerosene

Canadian physician and chemist Abraham Gesner patented a process to distill coal into kerosene. “I have invented and discovered a new and useful manufacture or composition of matter, being a new liquid hydrocarbon, which I denominate Kerosene,” he proclaimed. Because his new illuminating fluid was extracted from coal, consumers called it “coal oil” as often as kerosene…MORE

March 20, 1919 – American Petroleum Institute founded

Tracing its roots to World War I when the petroleum industry and Congress worked together to fuel the war effort, the American Petroleum Institute (API) was founded in New York City. Within two years, API had improved upon an 1876 French scale to measure petroleum density relative to water…MORE


Energy Education

1999 rocket launch from converted offshore drilling platform.

With an orbital test on March 27, 1999, the Ocean Odyssey, a converted semi-submersible drilling platform, became the world’s first floating equatorial launch pad. Photo courtesy Sea Launch.

Converted Offshore Drilling Rig launches Rocket

The Ocean Odyssey, a self-propelled, semi-submersible drilling platform designed to endure 110-foot North Atlantic waves, became a floating rocket launching pad. On March 27, 1999, a Russian Zenit-3SL rocket — fueled by kerosene and liquid oxygen — placed a demonstration satellite into geostationary orbit from the Ocean Odyssey’s remote Pacific Ocean launch site (Latitude 0° North, Longitude 154° West). “The Sea Launch rocket successfully completed its maiden flight today,” Boeing announced. “The event, which placed a demonstration payload into geostationary transfer orbit, marked the first commercial launch from a floating platform at sea.”

Learn more in Offshore Rocket Launcher.


Featured Articles

An 1886 Indiana Natural Gas Field

Exploration companies rushed to Portland, Indiana, on March 28, 1886, after a giant natural gas field was found at a depth of only 700 feet. The discovery came just months after a spectacular gas well about 100 miles to the northeast – the “Great Karg Well” of Findlay, Ohio, that revealed the multistate Trenton limestone formation.

Learn more in Indiana Natural Gas Boom.

Spindletop Boom leads to Texaco

About one year after the famous gusher at Spindletop Hill, Texas, Joseph “Buckskin Joe” Cullinan and Arnold Schlaet established The Texas Company on April 7, 1902. Headquartered in Beaumont, the company driller Walter Sharp — future partner of Howard Hughes Sr. — would discover another giant oilfield at the spa town of Sour Lake Springs.

Learn more in Sour Lake produces Texaco.

“Wild Mary Sudik” featured in 1930s Newsreels

On March 26, 1930, highly pressured natural gas from the 6,500 foot-deep Wilcox Sand proved too difficult to control in the giant Oklahoma City field. Within a week of the “Wild Mary Sudik” gusher, Hollywood newsreels featured it in theaters across the country. A radio program gave daily updates on efforts to control the well.

Learn more in World-Famous “Wild Mary Sudik.”


Museums & Events

Summer brings Energy Education

As summer approaches, staff and volunteers at community oil and gas museums are preparing exhibits, visitor programs, and other educational events. Support these energy educators and their museums by visiting. Plenty of oil patch festivals are taking place too, including last week’s 38th Annual East Texas Gusher Days at Gladewater, Texas. Next Wednesday, Corsicana’s Derrick Days celebrate an 1894 oilfield discovery.

Oil History Symposium and Field Trip

The annual gathering of a dedicated group of historians is set for May 11-13 in New Harmony, Indiana, as the Petroleum History Institute (PHI) hosts its popular Oil History Symposium and Field Trip. The latest gathering will include an Illinois Basin field trip and presentations to be published in the next PHI journal, Oil-Field History. It’s not too late to register.


History Research

In addition to encouraging comments on articles, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society updates its website forums for sharing research information and leads. 

Old Star Oil Company Sign

A Chicago college student seeks oil history research suggestions about a porcelain sign from the Star Oil Company. “All I have to go off of is the sign with the name of a building in Chicago in the bottom corner,” he explains in his email. “I’m hoping you could help me find out even a little information about this company, I’m not looking to sell or anything.”

Learn more in Seeking Star Oil Company.

Identifying a Circa 1915 Gas Pump

The lead mechanic at the San Diego Air & Space Museum writes, “I’m hoping someone visiting the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s website can help me identify the gas pump we are restoring here at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. I believe it’s a Gilbert and Barker from 1915 or so.”

Learn more in Petroleum History Research Forum.

Thanks for reading our latest newsletter. Special thanks to new subscribers and supporting members who are linking their personal and business website to the AOGHS site. This helps expand our online presence, as does any mention of our articles on social media — and sharing of this monthly newsletter with your friends. We hope you enjoyed reading the April issue! — Bruce Wells

Oil & Gas History News, March 2023

AOGHS logo Newsletter

March 15, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 3

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our March review of petroleum history milestones. We begin with the 1974 end of the OPEC oil embargo; then a fatal 1935 well explosion in Utah; voters in Long Beach, California, approving offshore drilling in 1962; and the world’s first LNG tanker arriving in England in 1962. Our featured image is the iconic flying-horse trademark atop the historic Magnolia Petroleum Building in Dallas. This month also features how an 1829 Kentucky brine well led to oil being bottled as medicine; the 1902 oilfield at a Texas spa town that led to Texaco; and Wyatt Earp’s 1920s California oil leases. As always, the article summaries link to updated website articles, which we hope you will enjoy and share with others!

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

Links to summaries from four weeks of U.S. oil and natural gas history, including new technologies, oilfield discoveries, petroleum products, and pioneers. 

March 13, 1974 – OPEC ends Oil Embargo

A five-month oil embargo against the United States was lifted by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel formed in 1960. The embargo, imposed in response to America supplying the Israeli military during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, created gasoline shortages, prompting voluntary rationing and a ban of gas sales on Sundays…MORE

March 6, 1935 – Search for First Utah Oil proves Deadly

More than a decade before Utah’s first commercial oil well, residents of St. George had hoped the “shooting” of a well drilled by Arrowhead Petroleum Company would bring black gold prosperity. A crowd had gathered to watch as workers prepared six, 10-foot-long explosive canisters to fracture the 3,200-foot-deep Escalante No. 1 well. An explosion occurred as the torpedoes, “each loaded with nitroglycerin and TNT and hanging from the derrick,” were being lowered into the well…MORE

February 27, 1962 – California Voters approve Offshore Drilling

Voters in Long Beach, California, approved the “controlled exploration and exploitation of the oil and gas reserves” underlying their harbor south of Los Angeles. The city’s charter had prohibited drilling there since a 1956 referendum, but advances in offshore technology offered new and environmentally sensitive opportunities to exploit an additional 6,500 acres of the Wilmington oilfield…MORE

February 20, 1959 – First LNG Tanker arrives in England

After a 27-day voyage from a processing facility just south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker arrived at Canvey Island in England’s Thames estuary, the world’s first LNG terminal. Converted from a 1945 cargo ship, the experimental Methane Pioneer demonstrated that large quantities of LNG could be transported safely across the ocean…MORE


Featured Image

Magnolia Building SMU Libraries AOGHS

Completed in 1922, the Magnolia Petroleum building was “a great peg driven into the ground holding Dallas in its place.” The Mobil Oil Pegasus first perched on it in 1934, after Vacuum Oil Company trademarked the flying horse in 1911. Image is a detail from a postcard given to visitors of the Magnolia Building’s observatory tower, courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, digital collections.

Pegasus Trademark takes Flight

On March 16, 1911, a Vacuum Oil Company subsidiary in Cape Town, South Africa,  trademarked a distinctive flying horse logo inspired by Pegasus of Greek mythology. Based in Rochester, New York, the petroleum company had built a successful lubricants business long before gasoline was a branded product. In 1931, after earlier acquiring Magnolia Petroleum, Standard Oil of New York combined with Vacuum Oil and adopted the flying trademark. The Socony-Vacuum company, which became Mobil Oil in 1966, erected its rotating red Pegasus in 1934 on the Magnolia headquarters building in Dallas. The city’s skyline featured the sign from 1934 until 1999, when structural issues forced its removal. Thanks to a local initiative, Pegasus returned to the 400-foot building on January 1, 2000.

Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark


Energy Education Articles

Updated editorial content on the American Oil & Gas Historical Society website includes these articles:

Salt Well Driller discovers Oil in 1829

On March 11, 1829, while drilling for brine using a spring-pole on a farm near Burkesville, Kentucky, Martin Beatty found oil at a depth of 171 feet. Disappointed, he searched elsewhere. Because oil from his well would be bottled and sold, some consider Beatty’s discovery the earliest commercial oil well in North America. Beatty had drilled brine wells to meet growing demand from Kentucky settlers needing dried salt to preserve food. He bored his wells by percussion drilling — raising and dropping a chisel from a sapling, an ancient technology for making hole.

Learn more in Kentucky’s Great American Oil Well.

Sour Lake produces Texaco

The Sour Lake oilfield was revealed on March 7, 1902, about 20 miles northwest of Beaumont, Texas, where the world-famous Spindletop Hill field had been discovered one year earlier. The spa town of Sour Lake, known for its “sulphureus spring water,” would become a boom town where many major oil companies, including Texaco, got their start. A monument marks the site where in 1903 the Texas Company’s Fee No. 3 well flowed at 5,000 barrels of oil a day.

Learn more in Sour Lake produces Texaco

Wyatt Earp’s California Oil Wells

On February 25, 1926, in Kern County, California, an oil well invested in by former lawman Wyatt Earp began producing 150 barrels of oil a day, confirming his belief in the field five miles north of Bakersfield. In July 1924, Getty Oil Company had begun drilling on the Earp lease. “Old Property Believed Worthless for Years West of Kern Field Relocated by Old-Timer,” declared the San Francisco Examiner, describing Earp, 75, as the “pioneer mining man of Tombstone.”

Learn more in Wyatt Earp’s California Oil Wells

Thank you again for reading and sharing our latest “Oil & Gas History News,” a free email newsletter that is adding new subscribers almost daily. Special thanks to all of our supporting members. You make this monthly history preservation effort possible. Every contribution, large or small, helps maintain the AOGHS website and add content. Your comments and suggestions also are always welcomed.

— Bruce Wells


© 2023 American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 3204 18th Street NW, No. 3, Washington, DC 20010, United States, (202) 387-6996

Oil & Gas History News, February 2023

AOGHS logo Newsletter

February 15, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 2


Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to this latest look at America’s exploration and production history — and a petroleum product — the plastic that launched the hula hoop craze of the 1950s. Also featured are an iconic, two-wicked derrick lamp; the earliest U.S. gas street lights; the financial power of oil exchanges; and the story behind Glomar Explorer, a deep-drilling ship that began as a top-secret project. This month’s history news also covers the first Alabama oil well, which was drilled in 1944 by H.L. Hunt, and a look at the “night riders of the hemlocks” — oil scouts. We conclude with petroleum geologists founding a professional association in 1917 and the Depression era oil boom town story of a Texas Ranger known as “El Lobo Solo.”

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

Links to summaries from four weeks of U.S. oil and natural gas history, including new technologies, oilfield discoveries, petroleum products, and pioneers.

February 13, 1924 – Forest Oil adopts Yellow Dog Logo

Forest Oil Company, founded in 1916 as an oilfield service company by Forest Dorn and his father Clayton, adopted a logo featuring the popular, two-wicked “yellow dog” oilfield lantern. The logo included a keystone shape to symbolized the state of Pennsylvania, where Forest Oil pioneered water-flooding methods to improve production from the 85,000-acre Bradford oilfield. The lantern’s name is said to come from the two burning wicks resembling a dog’s eyes at night…MORE

February 7, 1817 – Street Light burns Manufactured Gas

Fueled by manufactured gas (distilled from tar and wood), America’s first public street lamp illuminated Market Street in Baltimore, Maryland, making Gas Light Company of Baltimore the first U.S. commercial gas lighting company. Artist Rembrandt Peale had earlier demonstrated the brightness of manufactured gas with a “ring beset with gems of light” in his art and natural history museum. City officials erected a replica of the original street lamp in 1997…MORE

January 30, 1998 – Spy Ship relaunches as Ultra-Deep Drill Ship

Decades after secretly recovering parts of a lost Soviet ballistic missile submarine for the CIA, and after a $180 million shipyard conversion, the Glomar Explorer began its a record-setting career as a deep-water drill ship for the petroleum industry. The large vessel, a pioneer in advanced offshore technologies, was launched in 1972 as the Hughes Glomar Explorer as part of the top-secret “Project Azorian” to raise submarine K-129 from a depth of more than three miles…MORE

January 23, 1895 – Standard Oil closes Oil Exchanges

Standard Oil Company of New Jersey’s petroleum purchasing agency in Oil City, Pennsylvania, notified independent producers it would only buy their oil at a price, “as high as the markets of the world will justify” — and not “the price bid on the oil exchange for certificate oil.” Oil City’s exchange had become the third largest financial exchange of any kind in the United States, behind New York and San Francisco…MORE


Energy Education


Prompted by the post World War II boom in demand for plastics, in 1954 Phillips Petroleum Company introduced Marlex, a synthetic polymer that would stand out from among thousands of the company’s patents. But transition from Phillip’s Bartlesville, Oklahoma, lab to market proved difficult. Enter Wham-O.

Petroleum Polymer leads to Fun

Phillips Petroleum research chemists J. Paul Hogan and Robert L. Banks had been experimenting with gasoline additives in the early 1950s. After adding chromium oxide as a catalyst, they unexpectedly produced a new polymer — crystalline polypropylene. When the company introduced its new high-density plastic Marlex, marketing executives believed the product, “would be a big hit and that Phillips would not be able to keep it on the shelves.” But when customers failed to materialize, Phillips Petroleum found itself with warehouses full of pellets with high tensile strength. Relief would come from an unexpected source, the Wham-O Toy Company.

Learn more in Wham-O and Petroleum Product Hoopla


Featured Articles


Oil Scouts, Night Riders of the Hemlocks

Since the petroleum industry’s earliest days, “scout tickets” have reported the progress of wells, with oilfield scouts the sleuths who separated oil well fact from fiction. Justus McMullen, a “night rider of the hemlocks,” in 1888 succumbed to pneumonia he contracted while investigating production data from a well near Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He already had contributed much to the early petroleum industry as publisher of the Petroleum Age newspaper.

Learn more in Oil Scouts – Oil Patch Detectives.

Petroleum Geologists get Organized 

About 90 geologists gathered at Henry Kendall College (now Tulsa University) and on February 10, 1917, organized what would become the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). World War I had added desperation to finding and producing supplies of U.S. oil, and the earth scientists formed an association, “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.”

Learn more in AAPG – Geology Pros since 1917.

Ranger tamed East Texas Oilfield

“El Lobo Solo” – The Lone Wolf – Texas Ranger Manuel T. Gonzaullas died February 13, 1977, at age 85 in Dallas. When Kilgore became “the most lawless town in Texas” after discovery of the East Texas oilfield in 1930, Gonzaullas was chosen to tame it. “Crime may expect no quarter in Kilgore,” he once declared from the heart of the largest oilfield in the lower-48 states. The once famous Ranger was “highly suspicious of anyone without calluses on his hands.”

Learn more in Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger.

Thank you for subscribing. Help us connect to others by forwarding this month’s newsletter to your friends. They can sign up for themselves by visiting our website. Comments and suggestions are welcomed — especially from teachers and students. Meanwhile, as our internet presence continues to grow, so do our website costs. Please support our ingoing work to preserve an often neglected part of U.S. history.

— Bruce Wells

Pin It on Pinterest