Michigan Petroleum History

Oil discoveries in the 1920s would lead to finding the state’s only giant oilfield in 1957.


A 1961 Clare County historical marker explains Michigan petroleum history began in 1886, but that Michigan State Geologist Alexander Winchell had reported that oil and natural gas deposits lay under Michigan’s surface as 1860.

“First commercial oil production was at Port Huron, where 22 wells were drilled, beginning in 1886,” the marker continues. “Total output was small. Michigan’s first oil boom was at Saginaw, where production began about 1925. About three hundred wells were drilled here by 1927, when Muskegon’s ‘Discovery Well’ drew oil men from all over the country to that field.”

 Clarke Historical Library exhibit at Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant.

“Michigan Oil & Gas History,” a 2005 Clarke Historical Library exhibit at Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant. Photo by Kris Wells.

The Clare County historical marker notes that the Mt. Pleasant field, discovered in 1928, “helped make Michigan one of the leading oil producers of the eastern United States. Mount Pleasant became known as the “Oil Capital of Michigan.”

Central Michigan University Oil Exhibit

In the summer of 2005, a special petroleum exhibit opened at Central Michigan University’s (CMU) Clarke Historical Library, Mount Pleasant.

“They work hard, take risks, prosper, and by and large benefit everybody,” noted Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library, about oil and natural gas producers. “What I didn’t understand about the industry is that these people all know each other.”

Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library in Michigan.

Frank Boles (top), director of the Clarke Historical Library, designed an exhibit creatively combining documents and photographs to capture the attention of students. Photos by Kris Wells.

The library told their story with an “Oil and Natural Gas in Michigan” exhibit.

The state’s abundant oil production comes as a surprise to many, said Boles, who put the exhibit together with the cooperation of the Michigan Oil & Gas Association and the Michigan Oil & Gas Producers Educational Foundation.

Jack Westbrook, retired managing editor of Michigan Oil & Gas News magazine, marshaled the resources and worked tirelessly to ensure success, Boles said. “In a very real sense, there would be no exhibit if it were not for Jack.”

The exhibit was designed to designed to pique a visitor’s curiosity – and be transportable. The region’s students learned that Mount Pleasant, home to CMU, had its own oil boom in 1928 and today is known as the historical center of Michigan’s oil industry.

Exhibit visitors learned that more than 57,000 oil and gas wells had been drilled in their state since 1925 — and that Michigan ranks 17th in nationwide oil production and 11th in natural gas. More surprises awaited those students who looked more closely, Boles said.

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“We’re about usage,” he explained. “Our profit is people coming in, using our resources, and hopefully learning something. We want our exhibits to prompt them to dig deeper.”

Golden Gulch of Oil

Clarke Historical Library visitors learned about late 1920s oil discoveries and that after decades of dry holes or small oil finds, a  January 7, 1957, Houseknecht No. 1 well revealed Michigan’s largest oilfield, 29-miles-long. Ferne Houseknecht had convinced her uncle, Clifford Perry, to take time between his other farm projects to drill the historic well. Learn more in Michigan’s ‘Golden Gulch’ of Oil.

For the exhibit, Boles used just six walls and eleven cabinets to tell this and other stories, so careful planning was essential. He said that from the project’s outset, pursuit of community support, resources, and partners was essential.

Homemade cable-tool drill derrick built by Earl "Red" Perry Jr. at age 12.

Proudly showing off his homemade cable tool rig in 1932, Earl “Red” Perry Jr., 12, was the nephew of Cliff Perry — who would discover Michigan’s largest oilfield on January 7, 1957.

The exhibit began with storyboarding and the interactive process of writing and rewriting proposed text. Large photo formats with understandable text dominated the walls, while display cases featured unique artifacts and documents.

Visitors discovered a rich oil history and learned of the complex environmental issues Michigan has successfully addressed.

The 1970s “Pigeon River State Forest” ecological controversy was presented – along with its innovative solution. In 1976, Michigan became the first state in the nation to earmark state revenue generated through mineral, including oil and gas, activity for acquisition and improvement of environmentally sensitive or public recreation lands.

According to Jack Westbrook, all 83 Michigan counties have benefited from the fund’s $635 million collected from oil and gas revenues — and other states followed Michigan’s example. His book, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011: A 35 year Michigan investment heritage in Michigan’s public recreation future, can be found on Amazon Books (link below).

Visit the Clarke Historical Library.


Recommended Reading: American Oil And Gas History Book: Michigan’s Golden Gulch Of Oil: The Great Depression (2021); At Home in Earlier Mt. Pleasant Michigan: A visit with our neighbors of the past (2021); Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011: A 35-year Michigan Oil and Gas Industry Investment Heritage in Michigan’s Public Recreation Future (2011); Handbook of Petroleum Refining Processes (2016).


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an annual AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Michigan Petroleum History.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/exhibiting-michigan-petroleum-history. Last Updated: January 2, 2021. Original Published Date: June 19, 2014.


Oil & Gas History News, December 2021

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December 15, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 12

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our last monthly chronology of U.S. petroleum history for 2021. Thank you again for subscribing and sharing these articles with others. This latest newsletter features a 1905 gas-electric hybrid auto, helium produced from natural gas, an early boom town entertainer, and a pipeline that would challenge Standard Oil’s monopoly of railroad tank cars. There’s a lot more in our December issue, which concludes with a holiday article featuring a waxy petroleum product.

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.

December 13, 1905 – Hybrids evolve with Gas Shortage Fears

“The available supply of gasoline, as is well known, is quite limited, and it behooves the farseeing men of the motor car industry to look for likely substitutes,” declared a 1905 article in the Horseless Age. The popular monthly journal, first published in 1895, described early motor technologies, including compressed air propulsion systems, electric cars, steam and diesel power, as well as hybrids…MORE

December 7, 1905 – Helium discovered in Natural Gas

Scientists at the University of Kansas revealed the importance of natural gas for producing helium when they discovered significant amounts of helium in a 1903 natural gas well drilled at Dexter, Kansas. The town’s “Gas That Wouldn’t Burn” led to a multi-million dollar industry, according to the American Chemical Society, which in 2000 designated the discovery of Kansas helium in natural gas a national historic chemical landmark…MORE

December 1, 1865 – Lady Macbeth arrives at Famous Oil Boom Town

Shakespearean tragedienne Miss Eloise Bridges appeared as Lady Macbeth at the Murphy Theater in Pithole, Pennsylvania, America’s first famously notorious oil boom town. A January 1865 oilfield discovery had launched the drilling frenzy that created Pithole, which within a year had 57 hotels, a daily newspaper and the third busiest post office in Pennsylvania…MORE

November 22, 1878 –  Tidewater Pipe Company established

Byron Benson organized the Tidewater Pipe Company in Pennsylvania. In 1879 his company would build the first oil pipeline to cross the Alleghenies from Coryville to the Philadelphia Reading Railroad 109 miles away. The work – much of it done in winter using sleds to move pipe sections – bypassed Standard Oil Company’s dominance in transporting petroleum…MORE


Energy Education


Early petroleum technologies included cannons for fighting oilfield fires, especially in the great plains where lightning strikes often ignited storage tanks. Shooting holes in the tank allowed oil to drain until the fire died out. Photo courtesy Kansas Oil Museum, El Dorado.

Fighting Oilfield Fires with Cannons

“Oil Fires, like battles, are fought by artillery,” proclaimed an 1884 student newspaper article at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The firsthand account, “A Thunder-Storm in the Oil Country,” described the problem of oilfield lightning strikes. The MIT article not only reported the fiery destruction, but also the practice of using solid shot from cannons to extinguish burning oil tanks.

Learn more in Oilfield Artillery fights Fires.

Featured Articles

Oil Queen of California

Emma Summers would become a woman to be reckoned with in the early Los Angeles petroleum industry. A refined southern lady who graduated from Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, Summers moved to Los Angeles in 1893 to teach piano. With her home not far from where Edward Doheny had discovered the Los Angeles City field in 1892, she caught oil fever.

Learn more in Oil Queen of California.

First U.S. Drive-In Gas Service Station

“Good Gulf Gasoline” was sold on December 1, 1913, when Gulf Refining Company opened America’s first drive-in service station at the corner of Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unlike earlier simple curbside stations, this purposefully designed pagoda-style brick facility offered free air, water, crankcase service, and tire and tube installation.

Learn more in First Gas Pump and Service Station.

Rise and Fall of “Coal Oil Johnny”

The lucky life of John Washington Steele began in December 1844, when he was adopted as an infant to grow up on the McClintock family farm along Oil Creek, Pennsylvania. Fifteen years later, when the widow McClintock suddenly died, Johnny, at age 20, inherited a fortune in royalties. His petroleum wealth would not last, but for a time, “Steele was the greatest spender the world had ever known,” reported the New York Times.

Learn more in Legend of “Coal Oil Johnny.”

Oleaginous History of Wax Lips

Paraffin from America’s earliest oilfields soon found its way from refinery to candles, crayons, chewing gum, and an unusual candy. When Ralphie Parker and his 4th-grade classmates dejectedly handed over their Wax Fangs to Mrs. Shields in “A Christmas Story,” a generation might be reminded of what a penny used to buy at the local Woolworth’s store.

Learn more in Oleaginous History of Wax Lips

As we head into 2022, show your support for the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and its energy education website. A special thanks to this year’s members who have contributed to our efforts to preserve the history of exploration, production, transportation, products, etc. Too often neglected, U.S. petroleum history offers a context for understanding today’s energy challenges.

— Bruce Wells

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“A woman with a genius for affairs – it may sound paradoxical, but the fact exists. If Mrs. Emma A. Summers were less than a genius she could not, as she does today, control the Los Angeles oil markets.” – San Francisco Call newspaper, July 21, 1901.

Oil & Gas History News, November 2021

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November 17, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 11

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s monthly chronology of U.S. petroleum history. Our November issue features a 1952 Williston Basin oil production milestone; the 1880 death of the man who drilled America’s first oil well; an innovative two-tank railroad car of 1865; and the infamous 1929 Teapot Dome scandal. Also featured is the first U.S. auto show, which took place in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1900; the most popular models proved to be electric, steam, and gasoline…in that order.

Support AOGHS History News

“Very educational and interesting. Keep up the good work.” — New AOGHS Member

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.

November 15, 1952 – Williston Basin produces Millionth Barrel of Oil

The Williston Basin produced its millionth barrel of oil, which came from five fields in three North Dakota counties. By the end of 1952, monthly production would reach 356,000 barrels of oil. “Oil was first found in the Williston Basin along the Cedar Creek Anticline in southeastern Montana, in the 1920s,” noted the North Dakota Geological Survey…MORE

November 8, 1880 – Death of Father of U.S. Petroleum Industry

Edwin Laurentine Drake, the former railroad conductor who drilled the first U.S. commercial oil well, died in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at age 61. His famous 1859 Pennsylvania oil discovery had brought prosperity to many, but Drake lost all his money in speculative ventures. He became so destitute the Pennsylvania legislature voted him a $1,500 pension in 1873…MORE

November 1, 1865 – Densmore Railroad Oil Tank Car arrives

The first of James and Amos Densmore’s innovative railroad cars with two oil tanks arrived at the Miller Farm, four miles south of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The inventors would be awarded a U.S. patent in early 1866 for their dual tank design. Crude oil for the iron-banded wooden tanks on a flatcar came from Samuel Van Syckle’s two-inch iron pipeline, another petroleum industry first…MORE

October 25, 1929 – Cabinet Member guilty in Teapot Dome Scandal

Albert B. Fall, appointed Interior Secretary in 1921 by President Warren G. Harding, was found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office, becoming the first cabinet official in U.S. history to be convicted of a felony. An executive order from Harding had given Fall full control of the Naval Petroleum Reserves…MORE

Energy Education

Winton Motor Carriage 1898 ad

Of the 4,200 automobiles sold in 1900, less than a thousand were powered by gasoline. This ad for a Winton Motor Carriage with “hydrocarbon motor” – often identified as the first American automobile ad – appeared in a 1898 issue of Scientific American magazine. 

New York City hosts First U.S. Auto Show

America’s first gathering of the latest automotive technologies on November 3, 1900, attracted thousands to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Manufacturers presented 160 different vehicles and conducted driving and maneuverability demonstrations on a 20-foot-wide wooden track that encircled the exhibits. A 200-foot ramp tested hill-climbing power. New Yorkers welcomed automobiles as a way to reduce the estimated 450,000 tons of horse manure annually removed from the city’s streets.

Learn more in Cantankerous Combustion — 1st U.S. Auto Show.

Featured Articles

Manufactured Gas Companies become Con Edison

In November 1884, the largest U.S. gas utility company at the time was established in New York City when six gas-light companies — using manufactured “coal gas” — merged to form the Consolidated Gas Company. With revenue of $12.25 billion in 2020, Consolidated Edison can trace its earliest roots to the New York Gas Light Company, which received a charter from the state legislature in 1823. Later conflicts between crews from competing companies gave rise to the term “gas house gangs.”

Learn more in History of Con Edison.

Natural Gas Well lights Pittsburgh in 1878

While exploring for oil near Murrysville, Pennsylvania, a well drilled by Michael and Obediah Haymaker erupted natural gas on November 3, 1878. “Every piece of rigging went sky high, whirling around like so much paper caught in a gust of wind,” Michael Haymaker recalled. Without technologies to cap the well and no pipeline to exploit commercial possibilities, the Haymaker brothers’ well drew thousands of onlookers to a flaming torch that burned for 18 months. “Outlet of a natural gas well near Pittsburgh — a sight that can be seen in no other city in the world,” noted Harper’s Weekly.

Learn more in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

Olinda Oil Wells Star Pitcher vs. Babe Ruth

Former oilfield worker Walter “Big Train” Johnson returned to his oil patch roots for an exhibition game with Babe Ruth in Brea, California, on October 31, 1924. Three decades earlier, Johnson had started his baseball career as a 16-year-old pitcher for the Olinda Oil Wells. As baseball became America’s favorite pastime, many oil patch boom towns fielded teams – with names that reflected their communities’ enthusiasm and often their livelihood.

Learn more in Oilfields of Dreams – Gassers, Oilers, and Drillers Baseball.

Thanks to you, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society helps preserve U.S. petroleum history, which provides a context for understanding the modern energy business. With your continued support, AOGHS can expand its energy education resources, including links to community museums, historical societies, libraries, and others. Please share this newsletter to expand our petroleum history network. Generously support maintenance of the AOGHS website!

— Bruce Wells


“Gentlemen, it appears to me that there is much ground for encouragement in the belief that your company have in their possession a raw material from which, by simple and not expensive processes, they may manufacture very valuable products.” — Yale Professor Benjamin Silliman Jr. 1855 report to the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company.

© 2021 American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 3204 18th Street NW, No. 3, Washington, District of Columbia 20010, United States, (202) 387-6996

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Cool Coolspring Power Museum

Exhibits in the rustic hills of western Pennsylvania preserve a remarkable mechanical history of America.


A collection of buildings, artifacts, and outdoor engine exhibits are part of an unusual museum that can be found near Little Sandy Creek, just off Colonel Drake highway 36, about 10 miles northwest of Punxsutawney.

An impressive collection of historic engines, many of them lovingly restored and maintained by volunteers, educates visitors about the evolution of internal combustion engine technology that put an end to the age of steam.

The Cool Spring Power Museum’s long-time director spent decades collecting and preserving hundreds of historic engines of all shapes and sizes. In a 2004 interview, Dr. Paul E. Harvey explained why the collection was important.

Interior of Coolspring Power Museum with many one-cylinder egines.

The Coolspring Power Museum opened in 1985 near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It has the largest collection of historically significant stationary gas engines in the country, if the not the world. Photo courtesy Coolspring Power Museum.

“Internal combustion engines revolutionized the world around the turn of the 20th century in much the same way that steam engines did a century before,” noted Dr. Harvey, who co-founded the museum in 1985 about midway between between Punxsutawney and Brookville, Pennsylvania.

“One has only to imagine a coal-fired, steam-powered, airplane to realize how important internal combustion was to the industrialized world,” added Dr. Harvey, a medical doctor.

Coolspring Power Museum sign at museum.

The museum hosts many summer events, including a “History Day and Car, Truck & Tractor Show.” Photo by Bruce Wells.

According to Dr. Harvey, permanent exhibits at Coolspring include stationary gas “hit and miss” engines, throttle governed engines, flame ignition engines, hot tube ignition engines, and hot air engines ranging in size from a fractional horsepower up to 600 horsepower.

Many engine enthusiasts from around the country have sent significant pieces for display, he said. The grounds, as well as semi-annual shows, have expanded with visitors from Maine to California, as well as Canada and England.

Dr. Harvey explained that early internal combustion engines produced only a few horsepower and could not replace steam engines in most applications, but by 1890 they were powerful enough for most portable or remote operations as well as many small manufacturers.

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By 1900 the new power technology was replacing reciprocating steam engines for electric generation, Dr. Harvey noted. “By 1915 they were being considered for all but the largest installations where steam turbines have since dominated,” he added. Dr. Harvey and fellow enthusiast John Wilcox began collecting engines in the 1950s. Their collections were the basis of displays that would greatly multiply.

The museum is housed in 20 buildings that, besides its own large collection, contain many pieces placed there on loan. Dr. Harvey said the purpose of Coolspring was “to be the foremost collection of early internal combustion technology presented in an educational and visitor-oriented manner and to provide an operation that will gain support and generate substantial growth.”

Paul Harvey, co-founder of the Coolspring Power Museum in Pennsylvania, stands next to the 175 HP Otto engine.

Dr. Paul Harvey, co-founder of the Coolspring Power Museum in Pennsylvania, next to a 175 HP Otto engine he restored with help of museum volunteers. Photo courtesy the Coolspring Power Museum.

The collection documents the early history of the internal combustion revolution. Almost all of the critical components of today’s engines have their origins in the period represented by the collection (as well as hundreds of innovations no longer used). Some of the engines represent real engineering progress; others are more the product of inventive minds avoiding previous patents. All tell a story.

Although the museum’s focus is on stationary engines (with perhaps the largest collection in the world), Dr. Harvey explained that no museum of internal combustion engines would be complete without at least a few vehicles in its collection. Among the antique heavy trucks and semis, is a rare petroleum well service rig.

The Hanley & Bird Well Bailing Machine was designed to clean a well by lifting water, sand, and debris from the bottom of the well using a “bailer” attached to a cable, noted the museum director.

A Hanley and Bird Well Bailing Machine at the Coolspring Power Museum.

A “last of its kind” Hanley & Bird Well Bailing Machine from the Pennsylvania oilfields. Photo courtesy Coolspring Power Museum.

Five of the devices were built; the Coolspring Power Museum’s example is the only one to survive. “It was donated to the museum by EXCO Resources, the successor to H&B,” Dr. Harveys said. “It is very interesting as it uses a chain drive Mack rear end and a Ford front axle.”

Dr. Harvey recalled seeing the Hanley & Bird Well Bailing Machine driving through Coolspring on its way to service local natural gas wells. He said that the museum today displays it with the mast raised and ready to work. “It certainly shows the ingenuity of the local gas industry,” he reported.

The Coolspring Power Museum collection includes many engines used to power multiple wells in America’s first oilfields. The museum is off Route 36 midway between Punxsutawney and Brookville in western Pennsylvania.

As the steam engines revolutionized the world in the 1800s, the internal combustion engines on exhibit at the Coolspring Power Museum did the same at the start of the 20th century, according to Dr. Harvey.

“You have only to imagine a coal-fired, steam-powered, airplane to realize how important internal combustion was to the industrialized world,” the doctor added with a chuckle. The Coolspring Power Museum hosts events in the spring and summer, including the popular “History Day and Car, Truck & Tractor Show.”


Recommended Reading:  Around Titusville, Pa., Images of America (2004); Myth, Legend, Reality: Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry (2009); Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank (2008); A History of the New York International Auto Show: 1900-2000 (2000). 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 bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information: Article Title: “Cool Coolspring Power Museum.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/cool-coolspring-power-museum. Last Updated: November 1, 2021. Original Published Date: September 1, 2005.


Edwin Drake and his Oil Well

Oil patch historian pens definitive Drake biography in Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry


The man who would create the American petroleum industry was down to his last few pennies in August 1859. A letter was on its way from the company that had hired him to drill a well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The letter instructed him to close operations.

“As far as the company was concerned, the project was finished,” noted William Brice, PhD, in his detailed 2009 biography of Edwin L. Drake. “Fortunately that letter was not delivered until after they found oil.”

Cover of Edwin Drake biography by William Brice.On Saturday afternoon on August 27, at a depth of 69.5 feet, the drill bit had dropped into a crevice. Late the following afternoon Drake’s driller, “Uncle Billy” Smith, visited the site “and noticed a very dark liquid floating on top of the water in the hole, which, when sampled, turned out to be oil,” Brice explained.

Drake’s Folly, as it was known to locals, was not such a folly after all, “for Drake had shown that large quantities of oil could be found by drilling into the earth. And so began the modern petroleum industry,” 

Commissioned in 2007 by the Oil Region Alliance in Oil City, Pa., to write a new Drake biography, Brice, professor emeritus in geology and planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, published his 661-page Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry.

The book, part of the 2009 celebration of the 150th anniversary of America’s first oil well, includes more than 200 pages of reference material and dozens of rare images.

“Bill dug through the history related to Drake as no one has before, and the result is a much more complete picture of the man, his family and his accomplishments,” proclaimed geologist and editor of the Oilfield Journal Kathy J. Flaherty.

Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin L. Drake and the Early Oil Industry is a well-written account of Drake and his times — and the history and significance of his 1859 discovery,” added Bruce Wells of the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. “Bill Brice provides the careful research needed to sort out the nonsense and brilliance of the man who established the American petroleum industry.”

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A Johnstown resident, Pennsylvania, Brice was on the Pitt-Johnstown faculty from 1971 through 2005 and was a visiting professor in earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University from 1976 to 2002. Brice received the Distinguished Service Award from the History of Geology Division of the Geological Society of America in 2008. He has been president of the Petroleum History Institute and editor of its journal, Oil-Industry History.

“August 27, 1859, is one of those dates on which the world changed, Brice proclaimed in 2009. “Edwin Drake’s quest to find oil by drilling was a success, and the modern oil and gas industry took a giant leap forward.

Even though the use of petroleum dates back to the first human civilizations, the events of that Saturday afternoon along the banks of Oil Creek near Titusville, Pennsylvania, provided the spark that propelled the petroleum industry toward the future.”


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 bawells@aoghs.org. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Edwin Drake and his Oil Well.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/edwin-l-drake-oil-well. Last Updated: November 8, 2021. Original Published Date: August 1, 2009.


Oil & Gas History News, October 2021

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October 20, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 10

Oil & Gas History News

This month’s newsletter features historic oilfield discoveries in Arizona (1954), Louisiana (1901), Wyoming (1908), and Florida (1943). A Texas oilfield discovered in 1917 helped fuel the Allied victory in World War I. Another October petroleum history milestone is the Blue Flame, an LNG-fueled rocket car that set the world land speed record in 1970. Thank you for subscribing!

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.

October 18, 2008 – Derrick dedicated in Discovery 1 Park

The re-enactment of the dramatic moment that changed Oklahoma history highlighted a 2008 dedication of a new cable-tool derrick at Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville. Events celebrating the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well of 1897 included volunteer roughnecks and a water gusher from the 82-foot derrick that replaced one dedicated in 1948…MORE

October 13, 1954 – First Arizona Gas Well

Arizona became the 30th petroleum producing state when Shell Oil Company completed a natural gas well one mile south of the Utah border on Apache County’s Navajo Indian Reservation. The East Boundary Butte No. 2 well showed natural gas production of about 3 million cubic feet per day from depths between 4,540 feet to 4,690 feet, but just a few barrels of oil…MORE

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

Just 15 miles east of Edwin L. Drake’s first U.S. oil well at Titusville, Pennsylvania, an oilfield discovery at Triumph Hill sparked a wild rush of speculators and new drilling. America’s petroleum industry was barely seven years old when cable-tool derricks and engine houses replaced hemlock trees along the Allegheny River…MORE

September 27, 1915 – Deadly Explosion in Ardmore, Oklahoma 

A railroad car carrying casinghead gasoline exploded in Ardmore, Oklahoma, killing 43 people and injuring others. The car, which had arrived the day before, was waiting to be taken to a nearby refinery. Casinghead gasoline (also called natural gasoline) at the time was integral to the state’s petroleum development…MORE

September 21, 1901 – First Louisiana Oil Well

Just nine months after the January 1901 “Lucas Gusher” in Texas, another historic oilfield was revealed 90 miles east in Louisiana. W. Scott Heywood — already successful thanks to wells drilled at Spindletop Hill — completed a well that produced 7,000 barrels of oil a day on the Jules Clements farm…MORE


Energy Education

Blue Flame 1970 AOGHS

Sponsored by the American Gas Association and powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), the Blue Flame set a world land speed record of 630.388 mph on October 23, 1970. The rocket car’s record would remain unbroken for more than a decade.

Learn more in Blue Flame Natural Gas Rocket Car.

Featured Articles

Salt Creek Well brings Wyoming Boom

Wyoming’s first oil boom began October 23, 1908, when the Dutch-owned Petroleum Maatschappij Salt Creek completed the “Big Dutch” well — a gusher about 40 miles north of Casper. The Salt Creek area’s oil potential had been known since the 1880s, but a central salt dome received little attention until Italian geologist Cesare Porro recommended drilling there in 1906.

Learn more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.

“Roaring Ranger” erupts in Texas 

An October 17, 1917, wildcat well between Abilene and Dallas launched a Texas drilling boom that helped fuel the Allied victory in World War I. The McCleskey No. 1 well erupted oil south of the small town of Ranger, which had been founded in the 1870s near a Texas Ranger camp.

Learn more in Roaring Ranger wins WWI.

Converted Offshore Platform launches Rockets

Sea Launch, a Boeing-led consortium of companies from the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Norway, began commercial launches on October 9, 1999, using a modified semi-submersible drilling platform. The Ocean Odyssey launched a Russian rocket carrying a U.S. satellite. In 1988, the rig had been used by Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) for North Sea explorations.

Learn more in Offshore Rocket Launcher.

First Florida Oil Well

Humble Oil Company completed Florida’s first commercial oil well, the Sunniland No. 1, on September 26, 1943. The company had spent $1 million drilling to a depth of about 11,600 feet to complete the discovery well, located 12 miles south of Immokalee, near Big Cypress Preserve and the resort city of Naples.

Learn more in First Florida Oil Well.

Museum News

The California Oil Museum has temporarily closed its doors at the former Union Oil Company headquarters as ideas are considered for “re-energizing” the Santa Paula museum, which opened in 1950. Union Oil moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1901. The museum’s 1890 building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Please share these articles to expand our energy education network. Subscribers help the American Oil & Gas Historical Society maintain the AOGHS website and add articles to preserve U.S. petroleum history. Supporting members also help us promote community oil and gas museums — frontline energy educators.

— Bruce Wells


“Any survey of the natural resources used as sources of energy must include a discussion about the importance of oil, the lifeblood of all industrialized nations.” — Daniel Yergin, bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize

© 2021 American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 3204 18th Street NW, No. 3, Washington, District of Columbia 20010, United States, (202) 387-6996

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