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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,” writes William Brice, PhD, in his detailed biography of Edwin L. Drake. “Fortunately that letter was not delivered until after they found oil.”

On Saturday afternoon on August 27, at a depth of 69.5 feet, the drill bit had dropped into a crevice, Brice notes. 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.

“Drake’s Folly, as it was known to the local population, 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,” proclaims 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,” adds 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.”

A Johnstown resident, Pa., 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 currently is editor of the Petroleum History Institute journal Oil-Industry History.

“August 27, 1859, is one of those dates on which the world changed, Brice explains. “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.”

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AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information.  © 2019 AOGHS.

 

AAPG

AAPG members maintain a professional business code.

As early 20th century worldwide demand for oil grew – but the science for finding it remained obscure – a small group of geologists organized the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

Beginning as the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma, about 90 geologists gathered at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University, and on February 10, 1917, formed an association “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

merit badge

AAPG-inspired geology badge.

The Boy Scouts of America geology merit badge began in 1911 as a mining badge – one of less than 30 scouting merit badges. The mining merit badge evolved into the rocks and minerals badge and in 1953 became the geology merit badge.

The story behind the geology merit badge is best told by a member of the Houston Geological Society, which offers potential badge earners many resources. Geologist Jeff Spencer, himself an Eagle Scout, provided details for this article.

Spencer has published more than 20 oilfield history papers and is a frequent contributor to Oil-Industry History, the annual journal of the Petroleum History Institute, Oil City, Pennsylvania.

According to Spencer, the original mining merit badge had four basic requirements, including naming at least 50 minerals; describing the 14 great divisions of the earth’s crust; and defining terms like watershed, delta, drift, fault, glacier, terrace and stratum.

Scouts seeking the mining merit badge also were required to identify 10 different kinds of rock and describe methods for mine ventilation and safety devices.

Spencer notes that the first mention of oil and natural gas appeared in 1927 – the mining merit badge requirement asked Scouts to “explain how we locate petroleum and natural gas pools, and how we obtain oil and gas.”

merit badge

The geology merit badge replaced the rocks and minerals badge in 1953.

In 1945, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) formed a “Committee on Boy Scout Literature” at the urging of industry leaders, including A.C. Bace, a geologist with Stanolind, and George W. Pirtlem, an independent geologist from Tyler, Texas.

Oklahoma geologist Frank Gouin chaired the AAPG committee’s effort to revise the badge and its requirements, Spencer says. In 1953, the geology merit badge officially replaced the rocks and minerals badge.

Spencer notes that the 1953 merit badge’s description of what a geologist does said that four out of five geologists become “oil geologists” with an expected starting salary of $300 per month.

“You may have to be a nomad instead of settling down for life in one spot,” it continued. “You may have to ‘sit on’ a well all night and then drive a hundred miles to report on it. You may have to burn in India, freeze in Alaska, or do both in the Texas Panhandle.”

Although minor revisions of the geology merit badge occurred in 1957, the next major change came in 1982, adding anticlines, synclines, and faults with a requirement to draw simple diagrams showing unconformity, strikes and dips.

The last major revision of the geology merit badge occurred in 1985, Spencer says, again with the cooperation of AAPG leadership. The merit badge now has 13 requirements, organized under five categories: earth materials, earth processes, earth history, geology and people, and careers in geology.

The earth materials section includes the collection and identification of rocks and minerals.

The earth processes section covers geomorphology, the hydrologic cycle, volcanoes, mountain building, and the ocean floor.

The earth history section includes the geologic time chart, fossils, and continental drift. The geology and people section covers environmental geology and energy sources with a field trip option in this category.

In addition to its involvement in geology merit badges, AAPG and its chapters serve the scouting program in many ways, Spencer concludes. The Houston Geological Society has sponsored Explorer Posts and worked with the Houston Museum of Natural Science to teach elements of the merit badge.

merit badge

OPEC-inspired energy badge.

There now are more than 120 merit badges. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 – and the need for energy conservation – led to creation of an “energy” merit badge in 1977.

In 2013, Jeff Spencer published a selection of oil patch post cards via Arcadia Publishing’s postcard history series. Texas Oil and Gas includes more than 200 vintage black-and-white images through decades of oil booms throughout the state. Chapters reflect the Lone Star State’s petroleum heritage by region, including “Spindletop and the Golden Triangle,” a prolific area in southeast Texas between Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange.

Read more about Spencer’s book in Postcards from the Texas Oil Patch.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

 

As part of Oklahoma statehood centennial celebrations, ConocoPhillips in 2007 opened two state-or-the-art museums. Today, rare oilfield artifacts, historic images, and energy education programs focus on the petroleum industry’s past and future at the Ponca City and Bartlesville museums .

conocophillips petroleum museum

A circa 1880s Continental Oil Company horse-drawn tank wagon welcomes visitors to the Conoco Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma, which opened in 2007. Phillips Petroleum Company, once headquartered 70 miles east in Bartlesville, merged with Conoco in 2002.

conocophillips petroleum museum

The Conoco Museum tells the story of a petroleum company that began as a small kerosene distributor serving 19th century pioneer America.

“These museums reaffirm our Oklahoma roots,” proclaimed Jim Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, on May 12, 2007. His company built the Conoco Museum in Ponca City and the Phillips Museum in Bartlesville as “gifts to the people of Oklahoma, visitors to the state, and our employee and retiree populations around the world.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

million barrel museum

In Monahans, Texas, the Million Barrel Museum tells the story of how a lack of pipelines during 1920s West Texas oil discoveries  led to the construction of a massive concrete tank. Photo courtesy Texas Historical Commission.

monahans oil museum

The Million Barrel Museum’s 525 foot by 422 foot main attraction, originally built to store Permian Basin oil in 1928, became a water park for just one day in 1958. Photo courtesy Top of Texas Gazette.

monahans oil museum

Founded in 1881, Monahans incorporated two years after oil was discovered in 1926.

Tourists traveling on I-20 in West Texas should not miss the Monahans oil museum in the heart of the Permian Basin. Not just a petroleum-related museum, it is a Million Barrel Museum whose main attraction is an elliptical cement oil tank the size of three football fields.

The Permian Basin was once known as a “petroleum graveyard” until a series of successful wells beginning in 1920 brought exploration companies to the arid region. The Santa Rita No. 1 well alone would endow the University of Texas with millions of dollars.

Lack of infrastructure for storing and transporting the oil proved to be a problem. “There were great oil discoveries around 1926 and few places to put the oil. No pipelines or tanks,” says Elizabeth Heath, chairwoman of the Ward County Historical Commission. A single well in the Hendricks field produced 500 barrels a day.

“Unfortunately, the Roxana Petroleum Company – later absorbed by Shell Oil – did not have a pipeline to get all that oil to a refinery,” adds journalist Mike Cox in a 2006 article. To solve the problem, the company decided to build a giant concrete reservoir. Using mule-drawn equipment, workers completed an excavation and laid wire mesh over the packed earth, Cox explains in his “Texas Tales” column. Contractors then started pouring tons of concrete.

“By late April 1928 workers hammered away at a wooden cover for the colossal tank, placing creosote-soaked support timbers at 14 foot intervals across the sprawling reservoir floor,” he reports. The timbers supported a domed redwood roof covered with tar paper. Completion of the walls, pillars and roof took just three months because construction took place 24 hours a day. Read the rest of this entry »

 

About 450 million years ago, a meteor struck north-central Oklahoma, creating an impact crater – an astrobleme – more than eight miles wide.

The Ames Crater impact site is one of six oil-producing craters in the United States.

As•tro•bleme (noun) – A depression, usually circular, on the surface of the Earth that is caused by the impact of a meteorite. From mid-20th century. astro- + Greek blçma “wound from a missile”

Today, the small. rural community of Ames proudly claims the crater as its own – and as an important contributor to the geological knowledge of the nation’s petroleum industry. Read the rest of this entry »

 

In a restored 1885 mercantile building downtown, the Luling Oil Museum (also known as the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum) displays a variety of historic equipment from the Luling oilfield. Some people say the giant field was discovered by a psychic.

luling oil field

Exhibits in Luling’s restored 1885 mercantile store educate visitors about a 1922 oil discovery – and the modern petroleum industry.

Although famous for its BBQ ribs and watermelon seed-spitting contest, Luling, Texas, still rises and falls with the fortune of am oilfield discovered more than a century ago.

In 1924, just two years after its discovery, the Luling oilfield had about 400 wells annually producing about 11 million barrels of oil.

Modern drilling and production technologies have reinvigorated the Luling oil patch, noted Luling Oil Museum Director Carol Voight in 2013, when she was featured on Austin TV news. Voight explained the historic oilfield’s return to prosperity was thanks to horizontal drilling technology.

luling oil field

Edgar B. Davis in 1922 discovered an oilfield 12 miles long.

Once known as the toughest town in Texas, visitors to Luling on the first Saturday in April now find the streets crowded with families enjoying the Roughneck BBQ and Chili Cook-Off. “Best ribs in the country,” Reader’s Digest once proclaimed. Crowds today rally again in Luling beginning on the last Thursday in June for the Watermelon Thump Festival – and Seed-Spitting Contest. The Guinness Book of World Records documents the contest’s still unbeaten distance of 68 feet, 9 and 1/8 inches set in 1989.

Just a few steps from the carefully calibrated arena where the watermelon seed-spitting record was set, visitors find the oil museum, housed in an 1885 former mercantile store. The historic Walker Brothers building in the heart of the business district.

The museum “shows the contrast of the tools and technology of the past with those utilized in the oil industry today.” Exhibits trace the development of the oil industry – from the first strike in 1859 in Pennsylvania to the social and economic impact on Central Texas. “We strive to demonstrate the struggles between the men and women who were the oil field pioneers and to create a better understanding of the process of oil exploration and production,” noted one volunteer.

“Our collection includes a working model of a modern oil rig, pump jacks, the ‘Oil Tank Theater,’ and an excellent assortment of tools from each decade of the oil industry,” added Voight.

Revealing the Luling Field

The museum’s restored building was constructed in 1885 as a place where cotton was financed and traded. But oil replaced cotton in Luling’s future thanks to Edgar B. Davis’ Rafael Rios No. 1 well of August 9, 1922.

After drilling six consecutive dry holes near Luling, the heavily in debt United North & South Oil Company brought in the Rafael Rios No. 1 well – discovering an oil field 12 miles long and two miles wide.

Local lore says Davis, a leading citizen of Luling and president of the company, found the well only after getting a psychic reading from famed clairvoyant Edgar Cayce (see below). Today, the museum introduces visitors to the science behind the discovery and to Luling’s oil boom, when the town’s population grew from 500 to 5,000 almost overnight.

luling oil field

After sampling “the best ribs in the country,” visitors to Luling, Texas, marvel at the many decorated pump jacks seen in its historic downtown.

By 1924, Luling a major U.S. oilfield. To preserve the city’s petroleum heritage, a large collection of locally donated artifacts illustrate not only how it was in “the olden days,” but also what can be accomplished with community efforts, cooperation, and creative programs.

Voight credited Luling area oilmen and especially Tracy Perryman, a multi-generation independent producer.

One of the museum’s great outreach success stories has been its “Reflections of Texas Art Exhibit,” Voight added.

For five years, the art show has brought a growing regional audience to the museum. Another unconventional program is the annual Davis Street Quilt Show, which draws yet another new audience into the museum’s exhibit space.

Educating Young People

luling oil field

Dad signs the museum guestbook for this visitor.

Like all community oil and gas museums, the Luling Oil Patch Museum must carefully manage its limited budget, said Voight. Required maintenance and repairs are expensive and the costs of a needed expansion prohibitive.

In a frugal approach to integrating downtown park expansion with outdoor exhibit space, the museum partnered with Susan Rodiek, Ph.D. and students of her graduate architectural design studio at Texas A&M University.

Voight said six teams of students were assigned to create designs that could economically exploit existing property and facilities, while providing Luling and the museum with new exhibit spaces. Students approached the project competitively, proclaiming the museum to be their “first client.”

Museum Association Board Member Trey Bailey noted, “The preliminary designs that the Aggie students presented to us were fantastic. There were some terrific concepts and the work was detailed and quite fascinating.”

luling oil field

Museum Association Board Member Trey Bailey and his children.

Voight added, “They really got it – Luling’s rich heritage in oil, the E.B. Davis story and more. Being able to get this quality of work and vision is tremendous to our efforts to showcase some of the true historic gems of Luling.

“Dr. Rodiek and her able team have again offered us the ability to get this project moving, especially considering the limited budget we have at this time.”

The Luling Oil Museum staff and the Chamber of Commerce, which share space in the historic Walker Brothers building, are interested in sharing their approaches and learning from other museums’ experience.

Psychic Edgar Cayce 

Biographers of the once famous American psychic Edgar Cayce note that he found his own mysterious path into exploring the oil patch at Luling.

In 1904, Cayce was a 27-year-old photographer when a local news-paper described his “wonderful power that is greatly puzzling physicians and scientific men.”

The Hopkinsville Kentuckian reported that Cayce – from a hypnotic state – could seemingly determine causes of ailments in patients he never met.

By 1910, the New York Times proclaimed that “the medical fraternity of the whole country is taking a lively interest in the strange power possessed by Edgar Cayce to diagnose difficult diseases while in a semi-conscious state.”

As his reputation grew, Cayce expanded his photography business with the addition of adjacent rooms and a specially made couch so he could recline to render readings. He became known as “The Sleeping Prophet” while his readings expanded beyond medical diagnoses into reincarnation, dream interpretation, psychic phenomenon…and advising oilmen.

luling oil field

Edgar Cayce visits his drilling site in San Saba County, Texas, in 1921. The famed psychic’s abilities failed him searching for oil.

Psychic Oil Company

Sidney Kirkpatrick, author of Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet, writes that Cayce in 1919 provided detailed trance revelations to several oil-men probing the prolific Desdemona oil field in Eastland County, Texas. The results inspired Cayce and several partners to form their own company.

In September 1920 he became the clairvoyant partner of Cayce Petroleum Company.

Guided by psychic readings, Cayce Petroleum Company leased acreage around Luling. But raising capital for drilling proved difficult and eventually led to loss of the lease.

Not far away, Luling’s most revered citizen, Edgar B. Davis, drilled eight dry holes and nearly went broke before bringing in Rafael Rios No. 1, the discovery well for the highly productive Luling field.

Local lore and abundant literature proclaim that Davis found his well only after getting a Cayce reading.

Undaunted by the loss of its lease in Luling, Cayce Petroleum tried again 150 miles north in San Saba County, Texas.

Psychic Dry Hole

luling oil field

A psychic’s petroleum product sold today.

Cayce’s readings included, “detailed descriptions given of the various rock geological formations that would be encountered as they drilled,” notes Kirkpatrick.

The Rocky Pasture No. 1 well would drill beyond 1,650 feet in search of what Cayce described as a 40,000 barrel per day “Mother Pool.” It was a dry hole. Cayce Petroleum Company ran out of money and failed.

Today, the psychic oilman’s legacy lives on at his Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Virginia, founded in 1931, and “the official world headquarters of the work of Edgar Cayce, considered America’s most documented psychic.”

An invention from Cayce’s venture into the oil business remains on the market – his “pure crude oil” product he recommended as a first step toward replenishing healthy hair. Cayce invented a “pure crude oil” product he called Crudoleum, which  is sold today as a cream, shampoo and conditioner.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 

Summer brings millions of Americans trekking across the country on vacation. Among the more unusual stops, if less well known, are community oil and natural gas museums in the 33 producing states. Oklahoma and Texas alone offer dozens of museums with petroleum related exhibits. Plan your summer travels to oil museums today!

In Texas, the Petroleum Museum in Midland includes many summer energy education programs for kids, as does an offshore rig museum in Galveston.

Other oil museums can be found in California, Illinois, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Ohio. Alabama even has a small county museum in Gilbertown with an “old Hunt oil rig” similar to the one that discovered the first oilfield in Alabama in 1944.

Further, many communities celebrate their petroleum heritage every summer with parades, special events, and museum tours (see Community Oil & Gas Festivals).

oil museums

Visitors to the Drake Well Museum along Oil Creek in Titusville, Pennsylvania, can tour a replica of the Edwin Drake’s cable-tool derrick and steam-engine house among other outdoor exhibits.

For those interested in the industry’s exploration and production history and traveling this summer, check out these petroleum museums with exhibits chronicling the nation’s discoveries.

Exhibits at a museum in Bolivar, N.Y., include oilfield engines, maps, documents, pictures, models and tools. Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum once owned an petroleum products company there – and sold oil cans.

Western New York boasts a museum in Bolivar with some of the nation’s earliest petroleum artifacts.

While dairying and livestock have become the cash crops, the region still produces a small amount of very high quality oil and natural gas, says Director Kelly Lounsberry. This museum tells the story of oil and natural gas production in the region.

The first U.S. well specifically intended to obtain natural gas was dug near Fredonia by William Hart, who had noticed gas bubbles on the surface of a creek. In 1821, he dug a 27-foot well and built a “log pipe” to bring gas to nearby houses for lighting.

Hart’s work led to the formation of the Fredonia Gas Light and Water Works Company – the first U.S. natural gas company, according to the American Gas Association, Washington, D.C., which was founded in 1918.

Further, thanks to the region’s oilfield production, L. Frank Baum opened a petroleum products business in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1883. The future author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz once sold buggy wheel axle grease – and oil cans (learn more in Oil in the Land of Oz).

Just to the south of Bolivar, there are many museums and historic attractions in the state where the modern industry began: Pennsylvania.

East of I-79 in northwestern Pennsylvania, the Drake Well Museum in Titusville exhibits “Colonel” Edwin Drake’s famous August 27, 1859, discovery well – today recognized as the first U.S. oil producer. Soon after Drake made his discovery, iron pipelines about two inches in diameter were transporting natural gas more than five miles.

The Drake Well Museum’s outdoor exhibits include a recreation of the original cable-tool derrick Drake used. A popular summer attraction is the “Nitro” well fracturing reenactment that demonstrates the use of “go-devils” for fracturing a well.

Visit the museum gift shop to find a reprint of the Early Days of Oil, by Dr. Paul Giddens, a book considered to be the “Bible” of information about the birth of the U.S. petroleum industry. Many images are from originals made by photographer John A. Mather and today housed at the museum.

Located on 270 Seneca Street in Oil City – in a Beaux Arts building listed in the National Register of Historic Places – the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry preserves the oil region’s industrial heritage. Its exhibits include a 1928 Wurlitzer Theater Organ.

Once a world-fomous Pennsylvania boom town, visitors today can walk the grassy paths of Pithole’s former streets.

Once a world-famous Pennsylvania boom town, visitors today can walk the grassy paths of Pithole’s former streets.

Another must-see visit, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Historic Pithole Visitors Center – site of a vanished 1865 oil boom town today managed by Drake Well Museum. The ghost town is in Oil Creek State Park

A dedicated group of railroad enthusiasts maintain the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad, a nonprofit group that offers trips through the historic oil region. Near the railroad is the refurbished home of “Coal Oil” Johnny. Read his fascinating tale in the Legend of “Coal Oil Johnny.”

In nearby by Oil City is a center dedicated to the study of the oil heritage region at Clarion University – Venango Campus.

The Barbara Morgan Harvey Center for the Study of Oil Heritage contains hundreds of rare books that document the history of the region, newspaper clippings from the early 1900s, minutes from the meetings of early companies from the late 1800s, maps and photographs.

The First Billion Dollar Oilfield

The Penn-Brag Museum -- and Historical Oil Well Park -- is located three miles south of Bradford, Pennsylvania, on Route 219, near Custer City.

The Penn-Brad Oil Museum — and Historical Oil Well Park — is located three miles south of Bradford, Pennsylvania, on Route 219, near Custer City.

A few hours drive to the east of Titusville, the Penn-Brad Oil Museum (and historical oil well park), near Bradford, takes visitors back to the early boom times of “The First Billion Dollar Oil Field.”

Guided tours are conducted by retired geologists or petroleum engineers who volunteer their time to relate exciting first-hand experiences. The museum is located three miles south of Bradford, along Rt. 219, near Custer City.

Nearby is the 125-year-old refinery of the American Refining Group – reportedly the oldest continuously operating refinery in the country.

Before leaving Pennsylvania, visit one of the world’s largest collections of oilfield engines. Century old “hit and miss” gas engines, vintage oilfield equipment, and early electric generators are among the permanent exhibits at a unique “power museum” in Coolspring.

 The museum maintains stationary internal combustion engines for education and enjoyment.

The museum maintains stationary internal combustion engines for education and enjoyment.

With perhaps the largest 19th century engine collection in the world, the museum is housed in 13 buildings with about 250 engines – many of them operational.

The Coolspring Power Museum is located east of Pittsburgh just off Route 36 midway between Punxsutawney to the south and Brookville to the north.

According to Director Paul E. Harvey, the collection presents an illuminating history of the evolution of internal combustion technology that put an end to the steam powered era.

Twice a year engine collectors from around the country gather on the extensive grounds – and the “barking” of hundreds of antique engines lasts several days.

Community oil and gas museums are linked to the AOGHS website. Museum events and K-12 education efforts are featured alongside stories of America’s petroleum heritage.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.org energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 

oil seeps

Outside the Page Museum of Los Angeles, life-size replicas of several extinct mammals are featured at the Rancho La Brea in Hancock Park. Although commonly called the “tar pits,” the pools are actually comprised of asphalt.

oil seeps

“Tar pits” form when crude oil seeps to the surface through fissures in the earth’s crust and part of the oil evaporates.

The La Brea “tar pits,” discovered on August 3, 1769, by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola, exemplify the many natural oil seeps of southern California.

“We proceeded for three hours on a good road; to the right were extensive swamps of bitumen which is called chapapote,” Franciscan friar Juan Crespi noted in a diary of the expedition.

“We debated whether this substance, which flows melted from underneath the earth, could occasion so many earthquakes,” he added.

Crespi – the first person to use the term bitumen – described the sticky pools in southern California where crude oil had been seeping from the ground through fissures in the coastal plain sediments for more than 40,000 years. Read the rest of this entry »

 

desk and derrick

The first Desk and Derrick club was founded in New Orleans in 1949.

Since the first Desk and Derrick club meeting in 1949, this national association has “ebbed and flowed with the tides of the energy and allied industries.”

“Greater Knowledge – Greater Service” is the motto of the Association of Desk and Derrick Clubs (ADDC) of North America, which began with a club founded in New Orleans. Soon hundreds of women who worked in the petroleum industry – primarily as secretaries – were organizing clubs in other cities.

In 1951, they gathered in New Orleans to share ways to promote energy education in the United States and Canada. ADDC articles of association were signed on July 23 by presidents of the clubs founded in Los Angeles, Houston, Jackson and New Orleans.

“A New Orleans secretary working for Humble Oil & Refining organized the first Desk and Derrick,” notes a January 2012 article in the Permian Basin Petroleum Association magazine PBOil&Gas.

desk and derrick

By 1951, there were 1,500 Desk and Derrick members in the United States and Canada. Photo courtesy Permian Basin Petroleum Association.

“Inez Awty (later Schaeffer) was tired of writing reports about things she knew little about and believed women working for oil companies wanted to see and know more about a derrick and other aspects of the industry,” the article explains.

The article also quotes a 1951 Midland Reporter-Telegram that notes, “Miss Awty thought if men in the oil industry could be organized and know other men outside their own company, then the women could do likewise.”

With a combined membership of 883 women, the charter clubs dedicated themselves to “the education and professional development of individuals employed in or affiliated with the petroleum, energy and allied industries and to educate the general public about these industries.”

The PBOil&Gas article says that in April 1957, a guest speaker was a young Midlander named George H.W. Bush, who reviewed offshore drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Printing a Bit of Fun

Educating young people remains a key part of the group’s mission. Since 2004 Desk and Derrick has published in English and Spanish “Bit of Fun with PetroMolly and PetroMack,” an energy activity book designed for third and fourth graders.

In 1957 the group adopted its motto, “Greater Knowledge – Greater Service,” notes the nonprofit organization’s ADDC website. In 2018, about 1,200 women – and men – employed in or affiliated with the energy and allied industries comprised 48 clubs in seven regions. ADDC has accomplished its energy education mission using variety of programs, including seminars, field trips, and individual clubs hosting the annual national convention.

“Thousands of hours of education have been provided for members through monthly programs on the many facets of this industry and given by speakers ranging from company CEO’s to oil-well-fire fighters,” explains the website.

Among ADDC’s historic milestones are:

1949 – The first club is founded in New Orleans by Inez Awty Schaeffer.

July 23, 1951 – Articles of association are signed by presidents of the clubs founded earlier in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston and Jackson, Mississippi.

December 1-2, 1951 – First Board of Directors meet in New Orleans.

desk and derrick

ADDC published its first “Bit of Fun” Energy Activity Book in 2004.

1952 – A newsletter is published (today’s The Desk and Derrick Journal) after Josephine Nolen of Odessa, Texas, wins a contest for its name: The Oil and Gal Journal.

1952 – The first convention is held at the Shamrock Hotel in Houston led by the first association president, Lee Wilson Hoover. Forty member clubs are represented by almost 1,000 registrants.

1957 – “Greater Knowledge – Greater Service” is adopted as a motto.

1977 – “of North America” is deleted from the association’s name and the acronym ADDC becomes common usage.

1987 – The ADDC Foundation is established and the first issue of The Desk and Derrick Journal published, replacing the Oil and Gal Journal.

1988 – Delegates at the annual convention approve equitable membership in the association, opening membership to men.

1996 – The first association website goes online in September.

2001 – Celebration of the association’s 50th anniversary year.

2004 – Publishes the first “Bit of Fun” Energy Activity book.

2010 – Website is revamped; updated and improved.

A West Virginia ADDC Convention

ADDC annual convention field trips have visited offshore drilling rigs, refineries, manufacturing plants, and pipeline facilities. The 2013 convention took place in late September in Charleston, West Virginia.

The West Virginia Desk and Derrick Club hosted “Autumn in Appalachia” for the 62nd annual convention, says General Arrangements Chair Melinda Johnson. The club has 95 member companies and meets the third Tuesday of each month at various locations across the state, adds Johnson.

Clubs in each of the seven ADDC regions host membership meetings.

Her convention’s program included education seminars and the choice of five day-long field trips. Among the seminars were Five Traits of Professionalism; Intro to Petroleum Engineering; Hot Oil and Gas Plays in the Appalachian Basin; Formulas and More – Excel Training; and Leadership and Effective Communication.

On one of field trip, service company representatives from Nabors Services provided a seminar and demonstration on fracturing treatments in the Marcellus Shale. Convention attendees learned the steps in performing a hydraulic fracturing treatment and the difference between how a conventional reservoir and an unconventional reservoir is fractured, says Johnson.

Another field trip visited a Halliburton oil field service yard for education on coil tubing – with a “snubbing” unit demonstration. Another trip was to a Baker Hughes center in Clarksburg where visitors learned about directional drilling and viewed down hole motors, rotary steerable subs, and different kinds of drill bits.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.org energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 

Before publishing his children’s book in 1900, L. Frank Baum sold oil products from a company he founded in Syracuse, New York.

The Tin Man’s oil can in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can trace its roots to America’s earliest oilfields. L. Frank Baum founded an axle oil business before becoming the world-famous children’s book author.

“Sometimes, when researching history, you find places where it’s still alive,” says Evan Schwartz, author of Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story. Schwartz’s search for the Tin Man’s mythic oil-can led him to finding that in the 1880s L. Frank Baum and his brother owned a petroleum products business in Syracuse, New York. The business continues to this day.

oil can

L. Frank Baum – whose father found success in Pennsylvania oilfields – served as chief salesman for Baum’s Castorine Company, which he founded with his brother on July 9, 1883.

The future world-famous author of the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz once sold cans of buggy wheel and axle oil for a living.

In 1883, Baum and his brother Benjamin launched their small business offering lubricants, oils, greases – and “Baum’s Castorine, the great axle oil.”

Reporting on the July 9, 1883, opening, the Syracuse Daily Courier newspaper noted that Baum’s Castorine was a rust-resistant axle grease concoction for machinery, buggies, and wagons. The grease was advertised to be “so smooth it makes the horses laugh.”

oil can

L. Frank Baum’s sales trips may have influenced Oz. “On one of these trips, while installing a window display for a customer, the idea of the Tin Woodman came to him.”

Baum’s Castorine Company prospered with L. Frank Baum serving as superintendent and chief salesman for the next four years.

“He was a traveling salesman for the company,” notes a 2011 exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Michigan. “On one of these trips, while installing a window display for a customer, the idea of the Tin Woodman came to him.”

The exhibit also explains that  although the company enjoyed some success, it “came to an end when the bookkeeper gambled away the profits.”

Baum wrote of Baum’s Castorine Company, “I see no future in it to warrant my wasting any more years of my life in trying to boom it.” Baum sold the business. In May 1900 he published the first of his children’s classics.

Son of a Successful Oilman

L. (Lyman) Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York, on May 15, 1856, the seventh of nine children of Cynthia Stanton and Benjamin Ward Baum – one of only five of the children to survive into adulthood.

Thanks to Benjamin Ward Baum’s financial success in the newly born Pennsylvania petroleum industry, the young Baum grew up in an environment where his imagination and love of reading flourished.

oil can

Baum’s Castorine products “are designed to extend machine life and reduce your maintenance costs.”

In 1860, just one year after America’s first commercial oil discovery, Benjamin Ward Baum closed the family barrel-making business to risk his fortunes in the western Pennsylvania oilfields. “Frankie” was then only four and a half years old.

Productive oil wells drilled near Titusville and Cherry Tree Run will bring Benjamin Ward Baum great wealth.

“Benjamin recognized a splendid opportunity and joined the crowds who moved in to exploit the oilfields and develop the area. A hundred new wells were drilled every month, ingenious mechanical contrivances were invented, towns and cities were built,” writes Katharine M. Rogers in her 2002 book, L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography.

“Benjamin began acquiring oilfields, including a particularly profitable one at Cherry Tree Run, a few miles south of Titusville,” Rogers explains. “He later bought property between Bradford, Pennsylvania, and Olean, New York, where he helped to develop the hamlet of Gilmour and built a hotel and an opera house.”

By 1862, the elder Baum owned Carbon Oil Company – and was a well-established oilman. His success helped finance diversification into dry goods and other mercantile businesses.

Son Frank found employment in several of these family ventures as a young man. When his father purchased the Cynthia Oil Works in Bolivar, New York, Frank operated a retail outlet for awhile.

“The Cynthia Oil Works, the first refinery in Bolivar Township, was erected on the Porter Cowles flats at the north end of Bolivar village in 1882,” explains historian Ronald G. Taylor.

“The plant, owned by B.W. Baum & Son, dealers in oil leases and managers of the first opera house at Richburg, was designed as a lubricating oil works and for the manufacture of ship oil of 300 fire test for illuminating on board ships,” Taylor notes.

However, there was no longer unlimited free enterprise in the oil fields, says Rogers in her book.

“John D. Rockefeller had moved in and was increasingly controlling distribution. In 1878, Benjamin organized a group of independent producers to break Rockefeller’s grip by building a pipeline from Bradford to Rochester, where the oil could be transferred to tank cars and shipped to refineries in New York and Buffalo.”

Although the Standard Oil Company used its influence with the New York Central Railroad and the state legislature to block the plan, Rogers says, Baum continued to find success by discovering productive wells in New York.

oil can

“Oz” historian and author Evan L. Schwartz’s search for the Tin Man’s oil can led him to the modern Baum’s Castorine Company in Rome, New York.

oil can

L. Frank Baum’s father once owned an oil company in Bolivar, New York, where a museum today exhibits the region’s extensive petroleum history.

In 1887, after almost 30 years in the oil business, Benjamin Ward Baum died in New York. His father’s prosperity in the oil business permitted Frank to pursue writing, publishing journals and writing for the stage.

There were nine daily and 18 weekly newspapers published in the oil region, Rogers notes, and “Benjamin Baum had used some of his oil profits to acquire a string of small theaters in New York and Pennsylvania.”

Finding the Tin Man’s Oil Can

When historian Evan L. Schwartz researched his 2009 book, Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story, he was surprised to learn of the role petroleum played in Baum’s life – and that the Tin Man’s oil can trace its roots to Baum’s Castorine Company.

oil in land of oz

L. Frank Baum sold his Baum’s Castorine Company in 1888. His many Castorine sales trips may have led to the idea of a Tin Woodman character for his book, illustrated by W.W. Denslow.

“L. Frank Baum sold cans of buggy wheel oil for a living as the co-owner of Baum’s Castorine Company of Syracuse, New York,” Schwartz explains, noting the company’s troubles that led to Baum’s selling it in 1888.

Schwartz describes discovering that the company still manufactures industrial oils and lubricants under the brand name, Baum’s Castorine Company.

“So I visited the current location in Rome, New York, and sat down for a peek into the archives with owner Charles Mowry, whose grandfather was one of the investors who bought the company from Frank Baum himself,” Schwartz explains.

“The smells of fine lubricant wafted in the air as I perused the collection of historic oil cans and heard the legend of Baum’s magic balms,” he says. “What if Frank had never sold oil cans? Would we have never met the heartless Tin Man? And in 1939, why wasn’t Baum’s Castorine given the chance to pony up for some choice product placement?”

Learn about the historic Alleghany petroleum industry by visiting the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York in Bolivar.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.org energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 

The Illinois Oilfield Museum is located in Oblong, Illinois, on Highway 33, southeast of Effingham. First opened in 1961, the museum moved into a new building in 2001.

Building a community oil museum is not for the faint of heart. “Money and volunteers, volunteers and money,” are the biggest challenges, according to John Larrabee, board president for the Illinois Oilfield Museum and Resource Center on the outskirts of his hometown of Oblong, Illinois.

“The first thing you have to have is a goal and the determination to keep at it, no matter what. Don’t give up, whatever happens,” Larrabee explained in a 2004 interview with Kristin L. Wells, an American Oil & Gas Historical Society volunteer. Read the rest of this entry »

 

It’s Summertime and visiting Oil History is Easy

Take a summer vacation into America’s historic “oil patch.” Have fun and learn some petroleum history by visiting a host of U.S. oilfield communities, their museums and annual festivals.

Three days of country music highlight the annual festival in Midland, Texas.

Three days of country music highlight the annual festival in Midland, Texas.

In addition to maintaining an updated list of museums, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society draws attention to many big and small cities – and their annual festivals celebrating an industry that helped make them (and the United States) prosper since August 1859.

This list of community events – a work in progress – may not include all petroleum-related celebrations. Visit the community museum links for insights into local festivals and oil shows in your state. Please contact AOGHS to add one here!

Among the biggest oil patch festivals that take place in Texas, the “Crude Fest” just outside of Midland is one of the premier music festivals in West Texas, “featuring some of the biggest names from the Texas Red Dirt Country music genre,” declares its organizers. Begun in 1999, the three-day festival has grown every year. Before or after the music extravaganza and BBQ competitions, visit the Petroleum Museum in Midland. Read the rest of this entry »

 

A March 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines near Shreveport brought the first petroleum riches to northern Louisiana. A museum in Oil City today tells the story. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Natural Gas Museum

Although natural gas had been discovered as early as 1922, the vast potential of the Hugoton-Panhandle field was not known until a 1927 well about 2,600 feet below the surface southwest of Hugoton.

Natural Gas Museum

In southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton is above a giant natural gas producing area (in red) that extends 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

Natural Gas Museum

The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum includes the Santa Fe Train Depot in Hugoton, Kansas.

A small museum in western Kansas sits above a giant natural gas field.

In far southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened on May 16, 1961. It educates visitors about one of the largest natural gas fields in North America. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid, Oklahoma, tells the stories of settling the Cherokee Strip – and includes a variety of oil and gas exhibits. The museum opened in 2011 in partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The heritage center stands on one of the most historic spots in the history of the American West, notes the center’s website. The grounds overlook a watering hole on the Chisholm Trail and a collection of buildings – including the only remaining 1893 U.S. Land Office. “Staking a claim to a piece of land on the day of ‘the land run’ was only the beginning of a long and hard journey for those who poured over the border on September 16, 1893.”

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center opens

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

Hundreds gathered for the April 1, 2011, opening of the $10 million Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center on the east side of Enid, Oklahoma.

“Opening the heritage center is the closing of one chapter, but just the beginning of another to fulfill our pledge of claiming our past and inspiring our future,” announced the independent oilman who was instrumental in its completion in 2011.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center Chairman Lew Ward, describing the April 1, 2011, opening in Enid, Oklahoma. The $10 million center’s opening followed six years of dedicated work, explained Ward, who died in March 2016 after leading state and national energy industry associations and receiving numerous lifetime achievement awards.

“Exhibits and programs will make a significant impact on future generations,” noted Ward, who founded Enid-based Ward Petroleum in 1963. Ward, an independent producer who died in 2016, was a 1953 graduate of Oklahoma University (B.S. in petroleum engineering). He served as chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America from 1995 to 1997 and received the petroleum industry’s Chief Roughneck Award in 1999; the American Oil and Gas Historical Society presented him with its Oil Patch Preservationist Award in 2007.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center includes a 1927 portable drilling rig created by petroleum technology pioneer George E. Failing, who added a drilling rig to a Ford farm truck. The same engine that drove the sturdy truck across the oilfields was used to power its rotary drill.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

Annually awarded since 1955, the U.S. petroleum industry honored Heritage Center Chairman Lew Ward in 1999 as “Chief Roughneck.”

In 2005 the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center Inc. was created through a partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Sons & Daughters of the Cherokee Strip Pioneers Association and the Phillips University Legacy Foundation. The museum was founded by the association at Phillips University in the early 1960s.

In 1975 the museum was constructed at its present location at the eastern edge of Enid and became a property of the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1976.

For example, Ward noted the center’s oral history library contained more than 260 interviews capturing the stories of the Cherokee Strip from those who have lived them. “This growing library is an invaluable component of historical research for our region,” he added.

“Trained staff and volunteers collect the oral histories of people from the Cherokee Strip and Northwest Oklahoma,” Ward said. “The interviews are then transcribed and made available to the public and for use in the Research Center.”

Further, a the center has hosted teachers seminars on the Enid campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, according to Ward.

The seminar explained to teaches how to incorporate lessons of leadership into their curriculum through the study of history,” he explained.

In November 2013, the center was selected by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) to partner in the statewide school education programs – OERB Homeroom.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

In 1917, Herbert H. Champlin purchased a small refinery on the outskirts of Enid. By 1944 his company operated service stations in 20 states.

OERB spends millions of dollars annually to provide teacher training, curricula and programs that bring the petroleum industry to classrooms across the state –  and offers free field trips to selected museums.

“We are thrilled that the Heritage Center has been chosen to partner with OERB in their school education program,” said Museum Director Andi Holland.

“The heritage center’s Dave Donaldson Oil and Gas Gallery is well equipped marking the beginnings of oil and gas production in the Cherokee Strip through its economic importance to Northwestern Oklahoma today,” Holland added.

The center’s gallery includes a series of interactive features about how natural resources are found, produced and refined.

A program already created by the heritage center’s education department is called “Boom and Bust, Natural Resources in the Cherokee Strip,” said Cody Jolliff, the Enid museum’s education director.

“This partnership will allow more students to attend the heritage center and learn more about Northwest Oklahoma and the rich natural resources that impact our lives,” Jolliff added.

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center’s exhibits include: The Outlet – Learn about life before the land run, and how the run changed the course of history; The Land & the People Gallery – Hear the stories of settlers in the years after they staked their claims.

Also among the exhibits, the Thelma Gungoll Phillips University Gallery – Celebrate the founding and history of the first private university in the state.

Finally, the Dave Donaldson Oil & Gas Gallery offers a Champlin Oil exhibit. “The Champlin Refining Company, which for many years held the distinction of being the nation’s largest fully integrated oil company under private ownership, was based at Enid,” notes the Oklahoma Historical Society.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.org energy education website with a donation today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 

oil postcards

Published in 2013, Texas Oil and Gas, is part of Arcadia Publishing’s series of books featuring historic postcards.

For anyone interested in exploring petroleum history – or vintage oil postcards from Texas – one book combines both in an educational 128 pages.

The history of America’s petroleum industry provides an important context for teaching young people the modern energy business. Published in 2013, Texas Oil and Gas by Jeff Spencer is a teaching resource that should be in many Texas high-school classrooms.

A geologist with Amromco Energy, Houston, Spencer has authored or co-authored more than 20 oilfield history papers. He has documented petroleum-related postcards from West Virginia, California, Ontario, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Texas.

A tenacious researcher and collector – the majority of the book’s more than 200 images are from the author’s private collection – Spencer acknowledges help received from Texas oil museums. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The hour-long morning Exploring Energy radio show includes a Wednesday segment that offers energy education articles from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. The show, which began in January 2012, in 2014 added weekly editorial contributions from AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells, who calls in on the last Wednesday of every month to talk history.

Exploring-Energy-Live-detail-AOGHS

Listeners nationwide can find the show broadcasting online weekday mornings 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The “Remember When Wednesdays” are also available an the online archive maintained by Shawn Wilson.

In addition to interviews of regularly scheduled guests from government and industry (from top executives to roughnecks and tool pushers) the Oklahoma radio program offers weekly looks at the industry’s neglected history.

As part of a partnership with the “Exploring Energy Network,” an energy education radio program and monthly publication, AOGHS contributes both feature articles and guest commentary. Since being added in April 2014, the Wednesday talk-radio show has  included stories from the historical society’s “This Month in Petroleum History.”

The Elk City KECO 96.5 FM radio program Exploring Energy is live nationwide on the Internet on most weekday mornings.

Although the show hosts regularly discuss Oklahoma’s energy scene, they also look at national issues – and interview industry professionals often straight from the historic Anadarko Basin oilfields.

Elk City is above the deepest part of the Anadarko, which extends into Kansas, Colorado and the Texas Panhandle. A prominent Elk City tourist attraction is one of the largest drilling rigs in the world, the 180-foot Parker Drilling Rig 114 on display along Route 66.

Educating Listeners about the Energy Business

According to co-host Shawn Wilson, frank discussion often occur when owners and employees of area companies appear as guests.” Wilson came to Elk City working in the oilfields in 1981 – during Oklahoma’s deep-drilling natural gas boom.

Read the rest of this entry »

 




A collection of buildings in the rustic hills of western Pennsylvania preserves a remarkable mechanical history of America. The buildings and outdoor exhibits are part of a museum that can be found near Little Sandy Creek, just off Colonel Drake highway 36, about 10 miles northwest of Punxsutawney.  

Coolspring Power Museum

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.

The Coolspring Power Museum educates visitors about the evolution of internal combustion engine technology that put an end to the age of steam.

The museum’s long-time director – with the help of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers – has spent decades collecting and preserving hundreds of historic engines of all shapes and sizes.

“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,” notes Director Paul E. Harvey, who co-founded the museum in 1985 about midway between between Punxsutawney and Brookville, Pennsylvania.




Coolspring Power Museum

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

“One has only to imagine a coal-fired, steam-powered, airplane to realize how important internal combustion was to the industrialized world,” adds Harvey, medical doctor who lives across from the museum.

According to 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 says. The grounds, as well as semi-annual shows, have expanded with visitors from Maine to California, as well as Canada and England.

Harvey explains 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.


By 1900 the new power technology was replacing reciprocating steam engines for electric generation, Harvey notes.

“By 1915 they were being considered for all but the largest installations where steam turbines have since dominated,” he adds.

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 today is housed in 20 buildings that, besides its own large collection, contain many pieces placed there on loan. Harvey says the vision of Coolspring is “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.”

Coolspring Power Museum

Paul Harvey, co-founder of the Coolspring Power Museum in Pennsylvania, stands next to the 175 HP Otto engine he owens and restored with the help of the museum’s many dedicated 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), Harvey explains that no museum of internal combustion engines would be complete without at least a few vehicles in its collection.

Coolspring Power Museum

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

Among the antique heavy truicks 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, notes Harvey.

Five were built and the museum’s example is the only one to survive.

“It was donated to the museum by EXCO Resources, the successor to H&B,”Harveys says. “It is very interesting as it uses a chain drive Mack rear end and a Ford front axle.”

Harvey recalls seeing it driving through Coolspring on the way to service local natural gas wells, adding that the museum displays it with the mast raised and ready to work. “It certainly shows the ingenuity of the local gas industry,” he concludes.


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.

“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,” concludes Harvey.

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

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 




mid-continent geologists

The 2017 AAPG Mid-Continent Section Meeting in downtown Oklahoma City took place near the Devon Energy Center, the company’s 50-story, $750 million headquarters that opened in 2012.

A field trip into the heart of Oklahoma petroleum history (co-hosted by the American Oil & Gas Historical Society), combined with many earth science exhibits, presentations, and speeches from industry executives to highlight a September  2017 meeting of mid-continent geologists in Oklahoma City.

Thanks to a sponsorship by the Oklahoma Geological Foundation, AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells attended the 2017 Mid-Continent Section meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). He spoke about the lengthy history of hydraulic fracturing during an October 3 technical session.

mid-continent geologists

The four-day section meeting began September 30 at the Cox Business Services Center. Exhibit booths opened the next day. The technical program included workshops and 100 oral and poster presentations.

On September 30, Wells joined geologists on a field trip to the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville. The group also visited the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 replica derrick in Discovery One Park, where Oklahoma’s first oil well was completed in 1897.

The field trip included a tour of Frank Phillips’ Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve. According to CEO Bob Fraiser, a special effort is underway to raise funds for the the long-term preservation of the Frank Phillips Mansion in downtown Bartlesville.

In Bartlesville, field trip members were joined by educator and historian Kay Little, owner of Little History Adventures. She provided insights about the life of Frank Phillips, his company, and the history of Woolaroc. Staff members at the museum also answered questions – and introduced Jim Low, the grandson of Phillips, who happened to be visiting.

mid-continent geologists

AAPG’s 2017 conferences have featured a special traveling mural: “In the Beginning…100 years, 100 AAPG Women Who Forged the Path.” The portraits are from the recently published book, Anomalies – Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology: 1917 – 2017 by Robbie Rice Gries.

mid-continent geologists

Joan Bruns, a geologist with Baker Hughes, a GE Company, arranged a tour of the Mid-Continent Geological Library in the original 1923 home of the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association.

The day-long field trip offered an opportunity to discuss the AOGHS energy education mission and the petroleum history articles posted on AOGHS.org. During the bus ride Wells played a selection of DVDs he collected over the years from community oil museums.

The AAPG meeting at the Cox Business Services Center focused on recent advancements in technology, “with some of the brightest professionals in out industry,” according the meeting chairman, Thomas Cronin. It began with five September 30 workshops.

A sixth special workshop was held for teachers. “More! Rocks in Your Head,” was led by Rochard Opalka at the Petroleum Club, which also hosted several receptions. Ninety-six exhibit booths opened at the Cox Business Services Center the next day.

mic-continent geologists

After leading a field trip earlier, veteran geologists Robert Allen of Ardmore and Robert Newman of Ada, Oklahoma, spoke at the October 3 technical session, “The Arbuckle Mountains as a Laboratory for Geological Education.”

In addition to conference activities at the center, AOGHS’ Wells toured the nearby Mid-Continent Geological Library and visited the downtown headquarters buildings of Devon Energy and Continental Oil. His October 3 presentation featured details from a popular AOGHS website article first posted in 2007, Shooters – A “Fracking” History.

Energy Education Contacts

Wells shared education outreach ideas with AAPG members, other speakers, and exhibitors. He attended alumni receptions of Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas universities. Wells also viewed mud-logging technologies in an Exlog company trailer, guided by Jami Poor, a geologist with MAP Royalty.

mid-continent geologists

Among the exhibitors were Molly Yonker, education and outreach coordinator for the Oklahoma Geological Survey in Norman; and Angela Forrest of the Kansas Geological Society and Library in Wichita.

Wells discussed earth science education strategies with Molly Yunker, education coordinator for the Oklahoma Geological Survey, and Prof. Jennifer Roberts, chairperson of the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas.

According to AAPG’s Joel Alberts, who organized the field trip and is a Jayhawk alumni, new geoscience facilities have been completed on the Lawrence campus; an Earth, Energy and Environment Center will open for classes in spring 2018. KU offered its first geology class almost 150 years ago.




Among the presenters at the meeting was geologist Ray Sorenson, who has spent years researching where in North America oil had been reported prior to America’s first commercial well of 1859. His extensive documentation of reports of natural seeps and other signs of oil or gas was the basis of an October 3 presentation.

mid-continent geologists

AAPG Mid-Continent Section President Doug Davis Jr., at left, was among the visitors to the replica of Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well of 1897. Volunteer Randi Olsen, who recently moved to Bartlesville from Florida, assisted in an engine-running demonstration — and water gusher.

mid-continent field trip

Dan Droege welcomed AAPG President Charles Sternbach to Discovery One Park. Also pictured are AAPG members Jami Poor and Joel Alberts, who organized the field trip. Droege was instrumental in the derrick’s reconstruction in 2008.

“Pre-Drake published accounts of oil and natural gas were known from thirty-one states and five Canadian provinces,” he explained, adding that production (not necessarily used) came from wells at 28 locations in 10 states and two provinces.

Sorenson’s on-going research is collected in 31 notebooks organized by topic. Some of his discoveries have been added to AOGHS articles, including the history of the First Alabama Oil Well.

Sorenson was among a group of earth science historians and educators, including 2015-2017 AAPG Mid-Continent Section President H.W. “Dub” Peace II, and Robert Allen, a consulting geologist from Ardmore and a close friend of Robert Newman, professor emeritus, East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma.

Allen and Newman hosted another AAPG September 30 field trip, “The Arbuckle Mountains As A Laboratory For Geological Education.” They took a group south along I-35 to quarries with rocks of every age, from pre-Cambrian to Permian. The geologists reportedly discussed the “three Fs: folding, faulting and fried pies.”

During his five days in Oklahoma City, Wells also met several top industry leaders and spoke to employees of the new oil and gas technology center of Baker Hughes, a GE Company (BHGE). He toured the center courtesy BHGE geologist Joan Bruns and Mike Ming, the general manager and former Oklahoma Secretary of Energy.


BHGE was created on July 3, 2017, when General Electric completed a buyout of Baker Hughes Inc. The combined company is the world’s second-largest oilfield service provider by revenue (behind Schlumberger), according to Fortune.

BHGE built its Oklahoma City tech center above two specially drilled wells for on-going experiments. Scientists there are examing emerging oilfield digital technologies, including advancements in computed tomography core scans and 3-D printing. “Tomorrow’s Energy Company: A New Way of Doing Business” was the topic for October 2 luncheon speech by BHGE president and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli.

Another luncheon speaker leads a major petroleum company’s R&D program in shale gas and oil. Claudia Hackbarth, vice president of unconventional technology at Shell International Exploration and Production Inc. of Houston, also runs Shell TechWorks, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

mid-continent geology

A dozen poster presentations were among the 96 company, university, and professional organization exhibitors in the Cox Business Services Center.

On Oct. 3, Hackbarth spoke on “Innovation in Unconventional Resource Development: Data, Nano, Sensing, Trial and Error; And Good Old Fashioned Hard Work.”

Steve Wyett, a senior vice president at the Bank of Oklahoma, was the meeting’s opening day keynote speaker. He discussed “Oil Price Dynamics in a Changing
World.”

Among AAPG leadership attending the Mid-Continent Section Meeting was current national AAPG President Charles A. Sternbach, who updated members about current AAPG activities. He is an expert on the life of Amos Eaton, a pioneering New York State geologist who created geological maps based on the excavation of the Erie Canal in the 1820s.

A week earlier Sternbach attended the AAPG Easter Section Meeting in Morgantown, West Virginia, and presented “The Erie Canal’s 200th Anniversary and the Map that changed the New World – Pioneering Geology Mapmakers across the Atlantic.” It has been posted on YouTube: Charles Sternbach – Amos Eaton Maps the Erie Canal. On October 15, he would be giving the presidential address at the opening session of the 2017 AAPG International Conference & Exhibition in London.

The Oklahoma City meeting featured member awards, including the 2017 Robey H. Clark Award. The 2017 recipient was Ernie Morrison, “for his long time, dedicated service as a Councilor Member and as the President of the AAPG Mid-Continent Section.”

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 




 Mid-Continent Geological Library

The Mid-Continent Geological Library (MCGL) in Oklahoma City is housed in the original 1923 home of the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association.

Carefully filed in rows of cabinets where bales of cotton once stood, a library of mid-continent well data benefits the Oklahoma petroleum industry. The Mid-Continent Geological Library (MCGL) collection preserves well data. It is a lot of geologic history.

Housed in a refurbished 1923 building once own by cotton growers, MCGL is within walking distance of the Oklahoma City headquarters of several leading U.S. energy companies, including Devon Energy and Continental Resources.

The library offers researchers thousands of easily accessible geological histories; its growing digital archive is the premier repository for mid-continent well logs, according to Chief Executive Officer Mike Harris.

Mid-Continent Geological Library

Library CEO Mike Harris explains that a typical log documenting the findings of a drilled well and can unfold to many feet depending on drilled depth.

Thanks to the Oklahoma City Geological Society (OCGS), which began the collection in the 1960s, the library moved from the First National Center to its present 10 NW 6th Street site in January 2015. The society also began the legal process to make the library independent.

In the summer of 2017, MCGL officially became a 501(c)(3) separate organization, says Harris, who heads both organizations. Geological society members continue to support and give historic records to the library. Today’s collection of MCGL modern well log histories is the result of a long-standing arrangement between the geological society and the state of Oklahoma.




Mid-Continent Geological Library

A MCGL drawer containing strip/sample logs. These are filed in section, township and range (congressional grid) order.

Well logs submitted by operators to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for required public release are provided to MCGL on a biweekly basis, Harris reports.

On behalf of the state, MCGL staff scans the newly released logs, which also are printed and filed in the library’s log files, where they are available to library members and other users. Lists of released logs are posted online after processing. CDs containing log images are returned to the state.

Importantly, new well log data files are immediately uploaded to the MCGL digital library where subscribers are able to view and download them. “This is well before they can be accessed from commercial services or the state,” Harris explains. That is a benefit of library membership.

 Mid-Continent Geological Library

The MCGL building includes a growing number of digital files, a modern audio-visual conference room, and many images depicting Oklahoma petroleum history, which began a decade before statehood in 1907.

The well log library originated in 1966 when several OCGS geologists acquired a private collection, Harris notes. It now operates autonomously from the geological society, allowing more of the general public to explore the collection.

“Anyone can be a member of the library. It is a public resource. As a not-for-profit, anyone who wants to pay the dues can have access to the facility’s information,” he explains.

Accessibility is a key part of MCGL mission of collecting, preserving and archiving geological data, Harris adds. Online researchers must buy a subscription, which helps fund operations and on-going development the MCGL Digital Library.


The influx of well data and other information is continuous, which adds value, he says. Exploration companies frequently have their geologists join to gain early access.

The original home of the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association, the building was built in 1923 with two floors and a full basement. The second floor offers a large meeting area with multi-media facilities, Harris notes.

Large, slanted glass windows in the roof (uncovered during renovation) once helped illuminate bales of cotton for consistent evaluation and pricing.

The first floor of MCGL is devoted to geological data library content, geologists work spaces, and staff offices. There are cabinets filled with manually-typed and handwritten sheets called Scout Tickets.

Mid-Continent Geological Library

This is “just a portion of the significant volume of donated historical well data that has been given to the library,” says Harris, who adds that volunteers help review the material.

The information was once gathered by a special kind of oilfield detectives who first made their appearance soon after the Civil War.

“The well scout was an individual who would meet with well scouts from other companies to exchange information on wells being drilled,” says Harris. “You can’t have too much information.”

Work areas for research share space for MCGL part-time staff, “who regularly perform document scanning and indexing for preservation of our irreplaceable materials,” says Harris.

Mid-Continent Geological Library

A hand-drawn strip log records various structure features and type of rocks, clays, shales, and formations.

The basement has more geological data library content as well as reference materials, documents, journals, and maps. Some of the older maps are remarkably detailed — hand drawn and colored, often many years ago by independent geologists.

The basement includes storage areas for boxes of documents and artifacts donated to the library. Each will be carefully sorted through by a staff member, a volunteer or Harris himself.

Many of the boxes of donated materials come from the families of petroleum geologists who have passed away. The contents can vary, but there often are records that should be preserved.

“These are just a portion of the significant volume of donated historical well data that has been given to the library,” says Harris. “Our members volunteer their time to go through the materials to determine what should be added to our collection.”

Opening the boxes themselves can become a discovery process, he adds, noting that “we often find unique and one-of-a-kind documents.”

Against one basement wall is the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association’s original walk-in safe. “It was left in place during the 2014 renovation of the building as a record of the past,” Harris says. “The concrete wall is about a foot thick. The safe combination was one number — 36!” Why, remains a mystery, he adds.

The OCGS is an affiliate member of the Mid-Continent Section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

Devon Energy, with its 50-story, $750 million headquarters located nearby, contributed $1 million to the original OCGS Capital Campaign and secured naming rights for the library’s renovated building, the OCGS Devon Geoscience Center.

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AOGHS.ORG welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membership information.  © 2018 AOGHS.

 




With exhibits collected over many decades by Francis “F.T.” Sr., the Felty Outdoor Oil Museum of Burkburnett, Texas, has displayed machinery from the height of a 1918 North Texas oil boom. Portable cable-tool spudders were watched over by museum founder’s son, F.T. Felty, Jr.

Francis “F.T.” Felty Jr., in 2004 stands by a photograph of himself “playing” on his father’s drilling rig.

Three generations of the Felty family have kicked historic Burkburnett oilfield mud from their boots while maintaining the Felty Outdoor Oil Museum.

The first, Francis “F.T.” Felty Sr., worked in Wichita County through the revival of a North Texas drilling boom during World War Two. Responding to the war’s steel shortages, he crisscrossed the oil patch in a truck pulling used casings. It turned into a long career in the oil patch.

When the senior Felty moved from salvaging and began drilling in the 1970s, it was within sight of the historic 1918 Burkburnett discovery well. He had begun collecting old oil field equipment in the 1950s – and a lot of rocks, noted his son, Francis “F.T.” Felty Jr., owner of the F.T. Felty Operating Company Read the rest of this entry »

 




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

A 1961 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.”

The Clay 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

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

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.”

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.

They were surprised to learn 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.

“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.”

For example, students learn that after decades of dry holes or small oil discoveries, the Houseknecht No. 1 discovery well on January 7, 1957, revealed Michigan’s largest oil field, 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.

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, is available at Amazon.

Visit the Clarke Historical Library.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 




Adding Family Petroleum Heritage to Museum Collections

Millions of Americans have worked in the petroleum industry and many have left family records and photographs of their “oil patch” careers. The American Oil & Gas Families project and museum links offer help in locating suitable homes for preserving the histories of America’s oil families.

collage-2016-07-07Albert Jefferys in Texas, Louisiana, Rumania, Pennsylvania and England, 1904-1913.Family photography preserved by his granddaughter, Sheila Morshead.

Finding the Right Museum


California resident Sheila Morshead contacted the historical society about her family’s photo albums – a collection of petroleum-related images documenting her grandfather’s career, circa 1910.

After finishing scanning the images, Sheila said she hoped to find a good home for preserving her increasingly fragile originals. Many of her grandfather’s images came from the Beaumont, Texas, region (with others from Louisiana and as far away as England and Romania). She hoped someone would want to preserve the original album pages.

Thanks to Troy Gray, director of the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, Sheila has accomplished her mission.

Some of Sheila’s photos depict early refineries at Beaumont. Others show oil terminals in Galveston Bay, a 1909 pumping station under construction near Moores, Louisiana, and even the apparently good fishing at Port Bolivar in the Gulf of Mexico (a few examples out of more than 120 pages are below).

Morshead

One of the more than 120 family album pages of the petroleum-related career of Albert Jeffreys to be part of the permanent collection of the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum thanks to his granddaughter.

jeffreys

Sheila Morshead continues to research details about her grandfather’s career. She believes this is a 1912 photo of Albert Jeffreys with his surveying tripod.

One page from the album depicts photos from a survey camp with tents and an equipment wagon on “the bald prairie” of Texas in July 1911. It includes a photo of “Mississippi Slim,” her grandfather’s co-worker.

“My Grandfather was Albert Jeffreys from Great Britain,” Sheila explains about the family images, adding that Albert “Jeff” Jeffreys first arrived in the United States in 1908. The next year he got married in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Albert’s wife Florence – “Flo” – also was from Great Britain, Sheila adds. “Their daughter Dorothy Kathleen Jeffreys – my mother – was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in January 1912.”

After a few busy years in Texas, Albert’s oil patch career took him to the Caucasus region of southwestern Russia in 1914. “He was sent there by the British government to work in the oilfields for his service to the country during World War I,” explains Sheila, who studied early chapters of Dan Yergin’s The Prize, to learn petroleum industry history.


“Albert eventually escaped during the Bolshevik revolution by way of Norway and returned to England,” adds his granddaughter. “I am trying to decipher the many stamps on his old passport.  Needless to say, I am getting pleasantly lost in looking up British oil companies.”

After talking with Troy about his museum’s collections at the Lamar University, she removed a few original images to keep for siblings. She plans on donating all the rest as she continues to research dates and other family documents.

The Albert Jeffreys Family Collection

“Here are some annotations about the scanned pictures,” Shelia noted when she emailed AOGHS seeking help in locating an appropriate oil museum or library to preserve them. “There are lots more pictures, and I can do more exact research on dates, but as you can see most have locations written on them and some dates.”

morshead

The family album includes a cable-tool oil well (with walking beam). Next to it is a photo of two unidentified men with surveying equipment. A third photo shows men standing in front of a New York Central and Hudson River Railroad car; another depicts a pipeline laying work crew.

Undated images from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, include Albert Jeffreys (in heart) and his surveying co-workers along with an "Ida Bunch" family photo and riding a roller coaster in Shreveport.

Undated images from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, include Albert Jeffreys (in heart) and his surveying co-workers along with an “Ida Bunch” family photo and riding a roller coaster in Shreveport.

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After returning from England to Louisiana oilfields in 1909, the family made stops in Handley and Electra, Texas, which included a rare blizzard, before moving on to New Orleans.

morshead

Three of Albert Jeffreys’ images documenting the Magnolia Company refinery in Beaumont, Texas, circa 1912.

morshead

In addition to images of the Magnolia oil refinery, Albert Jeffreys photographed other circa 1910 refineries, including one near Corsicana and the “Chaison Refinery” below.

morshead

morshead

Both Albert and wife Florence enjoyed fishing in Galveston Bay between his frequent surveying trips in Texas in 1910 – and a visit to the pipeline pumping station in Moores, Louisiana.

morshead

Albert “Jeff” and “Flo” Jeffreys lived in Kirksville, Texas, and enjoyed fishing out of Port Bolivar around 1911.


With many family photos in the process of being preserved for posterity, Albert “Jeff” Jeffery’s petroleum career continues to fascinate his granddaughter. “I still intend to do more looking as it is a puzzle full of interesting pieces,” says Sheila.

“For example, my grandfather’s father worked for a British oil company and my grandfather’s son Stanley Rex Jeffreys was a geologist with the landmark geology survey of California, which I believe was completed sometime in the 1950s and was part of the concerted effort to identify oil producing areas in California,” Shelia explains. “So, there were three generations of Jeffreys oil men.”

Geologic mapping in California began in 1826 when the first geologic survey in the state was done by a British naval officer, according to History of Geologic Maps of California of the California Geological Survey.

1901 Gusher at Spindletop

morshead

A replica wooden derrick recreates the excitement of a major oil discovery of January 10, 1901. Photo courtesy Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

Albert Jeffreys worked in Texas oilfields just a few years after a famous oil discovery about three miles south of Beaumont. The January 10, 1901, “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop Hill would soon lead to southeastern Texas producing more oil in one day than the rest of the world’s oilfields combined. Major petroleum companies like Texaco got started there.

Both the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum and the Texas Energy Museum in Beaumont tell the story of the Spindletop well, a “wildcat” discovery that created the greatest petroleum boom in America – far exceeding the first U.S. oil discovery well in 1859 in Pennsylvania.

Gladys City, now partially recreated on the museum’s grounds, was originally envisioned by Patillo Higgins of the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company. Known as the Prophet of Spindletop, he predicted oil would be found near the city he designed in 1892. Spindletop launched the modern petoleum industry a few years later.

Learn more about finding a museum to preserve family photos at Oil Families

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 

It trucks petroleum history from the oil patch to teachers and students. It educates them about the modern exploration and production industry. It’s the interactive Mobile Energy Education Training Unite from the heart of the Pennsylvania oil patch. Nice to MEET-U.

Mobile Energy Education

The traveling exhibit includes a colorful exterior and the internal exhibits that “went from papers taped on the wall in 2009 to 14 televisions and three-dimensional objects,” notes the MEET-U newsletter.


When Pennsylvania students cannot find time to visit a museum to learn about energy, an 18-wheeler brings their state’s petroleum history to them: MEET-U.

Since its updated version in 2011, the Mobile Energy Education Training Unit annually tours schools.

The traveling exhibits include bright exterior graphics and internal age-adaptable exhibits that “went from papers taped on the wall in 2009 to 14 televisions and three-dimensional objects,” notes Drake Well Museum’s MEET-U website page.

Thanks to museum staff, the trailer includes historical exhibits and oil patch artifacts that educate visitors about Pennsylvania’s rich petroleum heritage – and the evolution of modern exploration and production technologies. The students’ reviews have been positive.

MEET-U

MEET-U includes historical exhibits that educate visitors about Pennsylvania’s rich petroleum heritage.

“Since opening in the summer of 2009, over 90,000 people have visited the educational exhibits in MEET-U in a number of cities, towns, fairs and other events in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio,” the museum proclaims. “In 2012 over 20,000 people saw MEET-U.”

MEET-U also has developed winter programs. The rig travels into classrooms targeting 4th graders and meeting state and national standards in social studies, economics, and science.

Improvements include a second touch-screen monitor. MEET-U is designed to be divided into three zones: the using zone, the finding/production zone, and the energy zone.


The energy zone asks visitors to choose energy source for the future – and presents the pros and cons to their choice.

The tractor-trailer truck logged more than 7,000 miles in 2010 – and participated in three forums, three industry functions, four fairs and five festivals to educate about 30,000 adult visitors.

MEET-U participated in the 2010 Boy Scouts of America camp at Moraine State Park in September, where 9,000 scouts registered for the three-day event.

“Due to the overwhelming success of the project, MEET-U is already scheduled for 23 schools visits, six industry events and 14 community fairs or festivals in 2011,” the website notes. “The key word here is already, because we know there will more.”




Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.

 

AOGHS.ORG NEWS                               
December 17, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Petroleum History Calendar features Energy Education

For the first time, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) has printed an energy education petroleum history calendar that includes dates with descriptions of milestones, oilfield discoveries, technologies, pioneers, and more.

The society’s 2015 “Today in American Petroleum History” calendar, printed in partnership with the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, is an ideal gift for friends, family and anyone who works in the oil and natural gas industry, according to AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells. Each month offers historical facts along with one of 12 Library of Congress oil patch photos from the 1930s.

“This unique AOGHS petroleum history calendar is the first of an annual energy education project,” Wells said. “It may be useful for teacher workshop programs, association members and company employees.”

Depending on the number ordered, the price per 11-inch by 17-inch calendar could be as low as $5 each. Beginning in 2016, the industry’s milestone dates will be available in customized calendar editions, Wells added.

“The petroleum industry’s social, economic and technological achievements provide an important context for teaching the modern energy business,” explained Wells, who founded the Washington, DC-based website in 2003. For more information about the petroleum history calendar, email bawells@aoghs.org. Visit www.aoghs.org to order.

Bruce Wells
Executive Director
American Oil & Gas Historical Society
3204 18th Street, NW, No. 3
Washington, DC 20010

 

Field Trip to Oil City and Titusville, Pennsylvania

Titusville or Bust! The Energy Economists Rock Oil Tour of 2009 was the educational adventure of Washington, D.C., professionals, August 21-22, courtesy members of the National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics.

The National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics is a nonprofit organization. NCAC hosts a popular monthly luncheon.

“Adam Sieminski, the originator of the Rock Oil Tour, developed the following release about the tour,” noted Mark Lively, NCAC treasurer, and chief organizer of a monthly luncheon for NCAC members, a lot of students and special guests.  Adam  Sieminski, chief energy economist at Deutsche Bank, invited the historical society to participate in the Rock Oil Tour.

Nearly 50 oil history buffs set off for an education-packed bus ride from Washington, D.C., early on August 21, heading for Oil City and Titusville, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern oil era exactly 150 years ago on August 27, 1859.

John Jennrich of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission photographs the group during a 2009 visit to the Edwin L. Drake Memorial in Titusville, Pennslylvania. “The six-hour trip from Washington to the Pennsylvania oil region was enlivened by a series of videos presented by Bruce Wells, executive director of the American Oil and Gas Historical Society.”

The Rock Oil Tour two-day excursion was hosted by the National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics.

“There are a quite a few members in our chapter with a passion for energy history and our industrial heritage” said Adam Sieminski, Deutsche Bank energy analyst, who helped organize the trip along with Michelle McCaughey from the American Petroleum Institute (API), John Jennrich, from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who volunteered to be the official photographer, and NCAC treasurer Mark Lively, at Utility Economic Engineers.

The tour included many stops at historic “oil patch” landmarks. John Felmy of the American Petroleum Institute, left, was among those who inspected the McClintock No. 1 — the world’s oldest continuously producing oil well. It has been producing just off PA 8 south of Rouseville since August 1861.

The six-hour trip from Washington to the Pennsylvania oil region was enlivened by a series of videos presented by Bruce Wells, executive director of the American Oil and Gas Historical Society, covering the early days of oil development in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas. The group learned how whale oil and coal oil gave way to rock oil as Col. Edwin Drake made drilling for oil practical by coming up with the innovation of casing his cable-tool drilled well with iron pipe.

John Felmy from API gave a short lecture on one of the next big technical breakthroughs, the Tidewater Pipeline, built in 1878-79 from the Bradford field to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This was the first true long-distance pipeline (six-inches in diameter, 109 miles) that eventually helped open up the East Coast markets for safer and less expensive energy for lighting.

At the Drake Well Museum, Susan Beates, at left, a curator and historian, led a tour of the grounds and buildings. The museum tells the story of the beginning of the modern oil industry with operating oil field machinery and historic buildings in a beautiful park setting.

After the lunch stop, our crew was kept fully alert as they tried to complete the “Oil Industry Folklore Quiz” handed out Branko Terzic and concentrated on a rousing testimonial to the medicinal value of petroleum products from Sarah McKinley. Upon arrival in Oil City, the group was welcomed by the staff of the Venango Museum, dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the oil region’s industrial legacy and rich cultural history, including its beautiful beaux arts building.




After lunch, “our crew was kept fully alert as they tried to complete the ‘Oil Industry Folklore Quiz’ handed out Branko Terzic,” notes Adam Sieminski. Branko is a past chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

That evening, Wells outlined the efforts underway at the AOGHS to encourage the preservation of the history of U.S. oil and natural gas exploration and production. The Society provides advocacy for museums and other organizations across the entire United States that work to preserve that rapidly disappearing early history through exhibitions, material preservation and educational programming.

On Saturday morning, Marilyn Black, of the Oil Region Alliance, joined the tour to provide a running commentary as the group explored the Oil Creek Valley. First stop was the McClintock Well No. 1, spudded in 1861 and believed to be the oldest well in continuous production in the world. These days, the well is only pumped a few times a year, produces more brine than crude, but supplies enough for souvenir bottles sold at the celebrated Drake Well Museum.

After visiting the impressive memorial to Drake that was erected in Woodlawn Cemetery by his friends, the group saw the Titusville homes of John Mather, a famous oil region photographer who recorded the early days of the oil boom in Pennsylvania, and Ida Tarbell, a journalist, writer and social reformer known for her articles against big business and often credited with starting the movement that ultimately caused the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust.

The tour included a chance to “make hole” using a spring pole outside the Drake Well Museum.

At the Drake Well Museum, Susan Beates, a curator and historian, led a tour of the grounds and buildings. The museum tells the story of the beginning of the modern oil industry with operating oil field machinery and historic buildings in a beautiful park setting. Standing in the historically accurate replica of Drake’s first well was a highlight of the trip.

“We ended our tour to the area with a talk by regional experts at the oil ghost town of Pithole,” said Sieminski. Pithole went from woods, to a town of 15,000 people and back to woods again in the space of about two years in the mid-1860s, according the exhibits at the Pithole Visitors Center.

“It was a perfect reminder of the boom-and-bust, precarious and often controversial nature of the oil business,” Sieminski noted.

Sara Banaszak was widely praised for coming up with the “Rock Oil Tour 2009” baseball cap. More photographs are posted on NCAC’s website.

Joe Dukert and Larry Spancake made the front cover of Oil City’s newspaper on Saturday morning- in a feature article on the NCAC tour. Sara Banzakwas widely praised for coming up with the “Rock Oil Tour 2009” baseball cap that served as our admission ticket at all the stops. Adam claims to have been particularly impressed with an early description that turned up of our beloved first President, George Washington, as one of the nation’s early ‘oil speculators’ who bought land in what is now West Virginia because it was known to have oil seeps.

Mark Lively couldn’t get over the fact that the gasoline component of petroleum was initially considered to be a waste product dumped into Oil Creek, because early refiners only wanted the kerosene cut. John’s photos from the trip will be posted on the web soon, and in the meantime we have a great video from Kevin Book who says he is still sorting through the voluminous video footage he shot — but he has already loaded a short clip on hydraulic fracturing in its early days that made an explosive impression on him.


The overwhelming consensus opinion on the trip was that the camaraderie and educational value were exceptional, and many suggestions were made for a follow-up trip, including these possibilities: underground coal mine; LNG import facility; nuclear power plant, solar manufacturing factory, oil refinery. Brankosaid he will come up with an appropriate quiz for any eventuality!

Editor’s Note — In addition to being part of this group of oil patch enthusiasts, a AOGHS Executive Director was fortunate was invited to speak at the 36th annual institute of the National Association of Division Order Analysts in Washington, D.C. He also participated in Titusville’s 150th oil discovery anniversary and was interviewed by Cleanskies.tv — now EnergyNow — where he described the significance of America’s first oil discovery.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

 




Oil and Natural Gas is SPE’s fun, colorfully illustrated, and information-filled book on the history and uses of oil. This hardbound book is appealing to kids of all ages and adults! Currently available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese.” – Energy4me

Detailed illustrations tell the story of the industry’s heritage in Oil and Natural Gas – a book from the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Best of all, it can be downloaded for free, thanks to Energy4me.

Discovering the story of petroleum – and the many ways it shapes the world – is the theme of this illustrated guide to the industry’s past, present and future.

“Our world is ruled by oil. People have used oil for thousands of years, but in the last century we have begun to consume it in vast quantities,” begins the first chapter, which explains one of the world’s largest and most complex industries.

Oil and Natural Gas is an educational book specifically targeted for students. The book, adapted for SPE from a 2007 edition by DK Publishing, London, features such topics as ancient oil, oil for light, natural gas, deepwater technology, piped oil, refineries, global oil, electricity, oil substitutes, and job opportunities.

In 74 pages, the hardbound edition offers young people a surprisingly comprehensive introduction to the history and many uses of oil. Detailed illustrations tell much of the story.

With more than 79,000 members in 110 countries, SPE shares technical knowledge about the upstream oil and natural gas industry. The society’s energy education website is for students, teachers.

Oil and Natural Gas is available at the “essential energy education” SPE website Enery4me, designed to help Americans become more educated energy consumers. SPE members are available to make presentations at a schools — and can provide copies of the book for the library or classroom.

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AOGHS.ORG welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membership information.  © 2017 AOGHS.

 




Ed Jacobsen, once an oil company sales representative in the Chicago area, bought his first service station in the late 1960s. More than three decades and six stations later, he retired to his wife’s hometown of Three Lakes in the Northwoods region of upper Wisconsin. But Ed missed the world of service stations. He began visiting flea markets and garage sales before creating a Wisconsin petroleum museum.

Ed Jacobsen’s expertise – and love for “the world of service stations” – resulted in the 2006 opening of Wisconsin’s Northwoods Petroleum Museum. The museum has help attracted nearly 2,000 people to an annual car show.

By 2006, as Ed’s petroleum-related memorabilia climbed above 2,700 items. He (and his wife) realized there was a looming storage problem — although he still maintained that technically, he was not a collector.

“Many collectors buy, sell or trade memorabilia to make money,” he says. “I believe in the educational value of these items – and preserving a history many people may have forgotten.” Read the rest of this entry »

 




energy education

The historic Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City — site of the society’s popular 2007 Energy Education Conference & Field Trip.

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society has hosted several energy education conferences – unique gatherings of education professionals, including state and national teacher workshop practitioners, petroleum museums directors, associations and oil and natural gas company representatives.

A May 31 to June 2, 2007,  Energy Education Conference & Field Trip in Oklahoma City brought together leading education experts. The Golden Driller statue in Tulsa was among the stops of a concluding field trip that followed panel discussions, classroom demonstrations, receptions and an awards banquet.

Read the rest of this entry »