Luling Oil Museum and Crudoleum

Preserving central Texas oil history and the non-clairvoyant discovery of Luling’s 1922 oilfield.


In a restored 1885 mercantile building downtown, the Luling Oil Museum (also known as the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum) exhibits many kinds of historic drilling and production equipment from the Luling oilfield of the 1920s. The museum, which educates visiting students about the modern petroleum industry, gives little credence to the once widely told tale of Luling’s giant field being discovered thanks to a “reading” by a famous psychic. 

Known for its tasty BBQ ribs, a popular watermelon seed-spitting contest, and colorfully decorated oil pump jacks, Luling became part of  U.S. petroleum history when leading citizen Edgar B. Davis discovered oil there in 1922.

Decorated pump jack and city logo of Luling, Texas.

The city of Luling, Texas, has hosted a watermelon festival every June since 1954.

Luling’s oilfield discovery northeast of San Antonio and south of Austin allowed the small town to join recent oil booms already making headlines to the north in Ranger (1917) and Burkburnett (1918). By 1924, the Luling field had about 400 wells annually producing about 11 million barrels of oil. 

Years later, new technologies like horizontal drilling helped reinvigorated the Luling oil patch, according to the Luling Oil Museum director in 2013, Carol Voight, who was interviewed by Austin TV news. 

Luling, Texas, oil museum historic 1885 building

Exhibits in Luling’s restored 1885 mercantile store educate visitors about 1920s oil discoveries and their role in the Texas petroleum industry.

The museum “shows the contrast of the tools and technology of the past with those utilized in the oil industry today,” Voight explained. Exhibits trace the development of the oil industry — from the first U.S. oil well in 1859 in Pennsylvania to the social and economic impact on central Texas.

Housed in the 1885 Walkers Brothers mercantile store and renovated several times, the Luling Oil Museum building once sold “everything from nails and hammers, to ladies shoes, to toys. It was the oldest continually operating mercantile store in the Texas until it closed in 1984,” according a 2021 article about the latest renovation in the Lockhart Post-Register.

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The Luling Oil Museum purchased the building in 1994, “and set out to showcase what made Luling one of the toughest towns in Texas.” The latest renovation, which incorporated new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning powered from geothermal wells, has provided new exhibit spaces.

“We strive to demonstrate the struggles between the men and women who were the oilfield pioneers and to create a better understanding of the process of oil exploration and production,” noted one volunteer.

Central Texas Oil Patch Museum exhibit

Edgar B. Davis in 1922 discovered an oilfield 12 miles long. Photo by Bruce Wells.

“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. 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.

Museum staff in 2015 credited Luling area petroleum companies and service companies like Tracy Perryman, himself a multi-generation independent producer. One of the museum’s great outreach success stories was “Reflections of Texas Art Exhibit.”

Combined with the permanent oil exhibits, the art show attracted more school field trips from San Antonio. Another program was an annual quilt show, which brought another kind of audience into the museum’s oil exhibit spaces. Like many small oil and gas museums, the Luling museum depends on enthusiastic community support.

In a frugal approach to integrating downtown with outdoor exhibit space, the museum in 2012 partnered with Susan Rodiek, PhD, and graduate students of architectural design at Texas A&M University. Her student teams proposed designs to economically exploit existing facilities while providing new exhibit spaces. Students approached the project competitively, proclaiming the museum their “first client.”

young visitor to oil museum in Luling, TX

Dad signs the museum guestbook for this visitor. Photo by Bruce Wells.

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.”

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.”

Once known as the toughest town in Texas, visitors today flock to Luling on the first Saturday in April for the annual Roughneck BBQ and Chili Cook-Off. — where they have found “Best ribs in the country,” according to Reader’s Digest. Crowds also gather every June for the renowned Watermelon Thump Festival and Seed-Spitting Contest.

luling oil field

Museum Association Board Member Trey Bailey and his children. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The Guinness Book of World Records has documented Luling’s watermelon seed-spitting  with a distance of 68 feet, 9 and 1/8 inches, set in 1989. The distance reportedly is still unbeaten. 

Learn petroleum history at the Luling Oil Museum.

Discovering the Luling Oilfield

Although the Luling Oil Museum’s historic Walkers Brothers building was a center for trading cotton, crude oil replaced cotton in Luling’s future thanks to Edgar B. Davis and his Rafael Rios No. 1 discovery well of August 9, 1922.

After drilling six consecutive dry holes near Luling, Davis’ heavily in debt United North & South Oil Company finally struck “black gold.” The wildcat well revealed an oilfield that proved to be 12 miles long and two miles wide.

Some people proclaimed that Davis, president of the exploration company, found the town’s oil-rich geologic formation after getting a psychic reading from the then famous clairvoyant Edgar Cayce. In fact, a geologist working for Davis figured out the oilfield’s likely location. 

Decorated pump jack in Luling, Texas

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 was a top producing oilfield in the United States, exceeding the early 1900s fields of southeastern Texas, including  Sour Lake and even world-famous Spindletop Hill.

Exhibits at the Luling Oil Museum focus on the real science behind the discovery, which resulted in the town’s population skyrocketing from less than 500 people to 5,000 people within months after the Rafael Rios No. 1 well.

Psychic Dreams of Oil

Biographers of the once famous American psychic Edgar Cayce have noted 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.

Edgar Cayce at his drilling rig in 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.

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

In September 1920, Cayce became the clairvoyant partner of Cayce Petroleum Company. Guided by his own psychic readings, Cayce Petroleum Company leased some acreage around Luling. Not far away, Edgar B. Davis had drilled eight dry holes and nearly went broke before completing the discovery well for Luling’s oilfield. 

But raising capital for Cayce Petroleum drilling proved difficult and eventually led to loss of the Luling leases. Cayce’s company tried again 150 miles north in San Saba County, Texas. The psychic’s exploration company did not find oil.

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

Salt Dome Faults

In a 2017 email to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, long-time AOGHS member Dan Plazak noted Cayce spoke of finding oil at a salt dome at Luling. Petroleum and the geology of salt domes had been in the news since one had been found with a gusher at Spindletop Hill in 1901. 

Plazak, a consulting geologist and engineer, reported that that Cayce, “speaking in a trance, proclaimed that oil would be found at Luling associated with a salt dome. But there are no salt domes at Luling, and Cayce’s bad psychic advice could only have prevented Davis from finding oil.

“It was a geologist working for Davis who saw faulting in the outcrop, and correctly predicted that the oil would be trapped behind the fault,” Plazak added. 

An associate of Cayce, David Kahn, later wrote Davis asking the successful oilman to give some of the Luling profits to Cayce, but Davis declined. “Edgar Davis was famously generous, but his refusal to reward Cayce indicates that he didn’t consider Cayce to have been of much help,” explained Plazak in an email to AOGHS.

However, the geologist added, Davis continued to consult Cayce concerning possible presidential ambitions — Davis had convinced himself he was destined for the White House.

Plazak explained that it was a geologist working for Davis who saw faulting in the outcrop, and correctly predicted that the oil would be trapped behind the fault.

After a few early wells, “Cayce’s oil-exploration readings were a complete bust, both for his own oil company, and later for many other oil drillers, in locations all over the country.”

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In his email, Plazak — a “geologist and researcher of finding oil with doodlebugs, dreams, and crystal balls” from Colorado — added there are still those today who believe in psychic advice who no doubt are “raising money on the internet to drill yet another dry hole in San Saba County.”

Despite the psychic’s exploration readings not working, investors apparently can still be tempted with promotions of Cayce’s ability to find a “mother pool of oil.”

Additional interesting research from oil patch detective Dan Plazak can be found at Mining Swindles. 

A graduate of Michigan Tech and the Colorado School of Mining, Plazak in 2010 wrote “an entertaining and informative volume that delightfully investigates the history of mining frauds in the United States from the Civil War to World War I,” according to his publisher, the University of Utah Press.

“In his estimable work, A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top, Dan Plazak strikes it rich with his examination of the old west’s most successful villains and their crimes.” — Utah Historical Quarterly

Modern “Crudoleum”

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

petroleum product called Crudoleum

A psychic’s petroleum product sold today.

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. Baar Products Inc. of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, offers Crudoleum Pennsylvania Crude Oil Scalp Treatment.


Recommended Reading:  Texas Art and a Wildcatter’s Dream: Edgar B. Davis and the San Antonio Art League (1998); Drilling Technology in Nontechnical Language(2012); Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet (2001); A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top: Fraud and Deceit in the Golden Age of American Mining (2010). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

Learn more U.S. petroleum history by visiting the Luling Oil Museum in the historic Walkers Brothers building in downtown Luling.


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

Citation Information – Article Title: “Central Texas Oil Patch Museum.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: April 1, 2021. Original Published Date: June 21, 2015.


Discovering the La Brea “Tar Pits”

Natural California oil seeps created asphalt pools — not tar — that trapped Ice Age animals.


The sticky black pools that attract tourists between Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles are actually natural asphalt, also known as bitumen. Although the repetitive tar pits name has stuck, the seeps are part of America’s oil history.

The La Brea site, discovered by a Spanish expedition on August 3, 1769, originated from naturally produced California oil seeps found onshore and offshore. (more…)

Desk and Derrick Educators

Petroleum company women host first convention in 1952 at Houston’s Shamrock Hotel.

Since its founding a few years after World War II, a national association of women in the petroleum business has “ebbed and flowed with the tides of the energy and allied industries.” 

The trade group began when a secretary at Humble Oil & Refining Company organized a 1949 meeting in New Orleans. Three years later, representatives from other cities gathered there to establish the Association of Desk and Derrick Clubs (ADDC) of North America. 

Articles of association were signed on July 23, 1951, by the president of the New Orleans club and the presidents of clubs founded in Jackson, Mississippi, Los Angeles, California, and Houston, Texas. The newly organized group of business women began promoting energy education in the United States and Canada. 

Association of desk and derrick clubs logo.

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

“Greater Knowledge — Greater Service” became the ADDC motto of women working primarily as secretaries in the oil and natural industry. Many began organizing clubs in dozens of other oil producing states.

ADDC got its start thanks to the Humble Oil secretary who established the first club in New Orleans, according to the Permian Basin Petroleum Association magazine PB Oil & Gas

“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,” noted the 2012 article.

Awty’s Humble Oil & Refining Company had been founded in 1911, thanks to a giant oilfield discovery at Humble, Texas, four years after the famous 1901 Spindletop gusher. Production from the Humble field exceeded the total for Spindletop by 1946.

 Desk and Derrick Club members at meeting in 1950s.

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

“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,” the Midland Reporter-Telegram reported in 1951.

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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 PB Oil & Gas article added 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.

“Bit of Fun” 

According to the ADDC website, educating youth about earth science and how the petroleum industry works is part of the Desk and Derrick mission. Since 2004, the group 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 organization’s members adopted a motto, “Greater Knowledge — Greater Service.” 

In 1982, ADDC established The Desk and Derrick Educational Trust, “for the purpose of awarding scholarships to students pursuing a degree in a major field of study related to the petroleum, energy, or allied industries, with the objective of obtaining full time employment in the industry.”

A foundation was established in 1987 to assist members in developing educational projects and programs.

In 2018, about 1,200 women — and men — employed in or affiliated with the energy and allied industries comprised 48 clubs in seven regions. Membership numbers fluctuate in close relation to the state of the oil and gas industry — and oil prices.

ADDC has since continued to promote its energy education mission using a 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.”

ADDC Milestones

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 Club Bit of Fun book for kids.

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. The Shamrock Hotel was the largest in the United States at the time. Independent producer Glenn H. “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy spent $21 million to build it. 

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 – ADDC publishes its first “Bit of Fun” energy activity book.

2010 – Website is revamped; updated and improved.

ADDC 2022 Regions & Clubs

The annual national ADDC Convention & Conference, which will be hosted by the Northeast Region, has been set for September 21 to 25, 2022, at the DoubleTree Hotel Pittsburgh/Meadow Lands in Washington, Pennsylvania. The West Region will host the 2023 gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Map of the chapters of the Association of Desk and Derrick Clubs 2022.

2022 map of Association of Desk & Derrick Clubs courtesy

Central Region Clubs: Butler County, Dallas, Enid, Fort Worth, Graham, Great Bend, Liberal, Lone Star Club of Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Wichita, and Wichita Falls.

Northeast Region Clubs: Bay Area, Buckeye, Heartland Southern Illinois, Ohio Valley, Oil Heritage, Penn-York Oil & Gas Affiliates, Three Rivers, Tri-State, Tuscarawas Valley, and West Virginia.

Southeast Region Clubs: Baton Rouge, Corpus Christi, El Dorado, Lafayette, Morgan City, New Orleans, North Harris/Montgomery counties, Red River, San Antonio, Victoria, and Westbank.

West Region Clubs: Abilene, Alberta Foothills, Amarillo, Artesia, Farmington, Grande, Prairie, Midland, Pampa, and Roswell.

ADDC maintains links to each region’s club websites.

ADDC Field Trips

ADDC annual conventions have included field trips to offshore and onshore drilling rigs, refineries, manufacturing plants, and pipeline facilities. The 2013 convention in West Virginia took place in late September in Charleston, and coordinator Melinda Johnson managed the “Autumn in Appalachia” 62nd annual convention. At the time, the local club had 95 companies that were members.

The convention 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 the field trips, 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.

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.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact © 2022 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Desk and Derrick Educators.” Author: AOGHS.ORG Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: July 16, 2022. Original Published Date: July 21, 2014.

Oil & Gas History News, June 2022

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June 15, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 6

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our June newsletter, which arrives as summer begins and student field trips return to community oil and gas museums. Energy education programs should include petroleum history for teaching STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Oilfield exhibits and programs help capture the interest of young people. Please share our latest articles and resource links. Encourage your high school district to visit an oil museum this summer!

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

June 13, 1917 – Brothers found Phillips Petroleum Company

As oil prices rose above $1 per barrel during the early months of America’s entry into World War I, Frank and L.E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips consolidated their independent oil companies into Phillips Petroleum, based in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Assets rose from $3 million to $100 million, and in 1927 the company began selling its own gasoline in Wichita, Kansas, opening the first of more than 10,000 “Phillips 66” service stations…MORE

June 6, 1932 – Revenue Act includes First Federal Gasoline Tax

The U.S. government taxed gasoline for the first time when the Revenue Act of 1932 added a one-cent per gallon excise tax to gasoline sales. The first state to tax gas was Oregon, which imposed a one-cent per gallon tax in 1919. Colorado, New Mexico, and other states followed…MORE

May 30, 1911 – First Indianapolis 500 takes Seven Hours

The first Indianapolis 500-mile race began with 40 cars; only 12 finished the 1911 test of endurance and automotive technology. The winner averaged almost 75 mph after about seven hours of racing. All the cars except the winning No. 32 Marmon Wasp had two seats since most drivers traveled with “riding mechanics,” who manually pumped oil…MORE

May 23, 1905 – Patent issued for Improved Metal Barrel

Henry Wehrhahn, superintendent for the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn, New York, received the first of two 1905 patents that presaged the modern 55-gallon oil drum. The first design included “a means for readily detaching and securing the head of a metal barrel.” He assigned his patent to the widow of the founder of Iron Clad Manufacturing, journalist Nellie Bly…MORE

Energy Education

John Mather 1865 Pioneer Run Oil Creek AOGHS

John A. Mather opened a studio in Titusville, Pennsylvania, soon after America’s first commercial oil discovery of 1859. Mather became the new industry’s premier photographer, amassing more than 20,000 glass plate negatives, including this 1865 scene at Oil Creek. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Photographer documented New Oil Industry

What photographers Matthew Brady and James Gardner documented on Civil War battlefields, John Mather (1829-1915) accomplished in Pennsylvania’s oil region. “Virtually unknown, certainly unheralded, and completely unappreciated — in these few words is a description of John Aked Mather, pioneer photographer, whose skill, devotion, and energy endowed the petroleum industry with one of the finest pictorial records of growth and development of any early all-American industry.” — The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, January 1972.

Mather, who transported his camera and chemicals with a rolling darkroom and a floating studio, would be remembered as the “Oil Creek Artist.” A catastrophic 1892 Titusville fire and flood destroyed thousands of his prints and glass plates.

Learn more in Oilfield Photographer John Mather.

Featured Articles

Anniversary of “Mystery Well” of 1882

Every June, Pennsylvania oil patch historians celebrate an 1882 oil discovery at Cherry Grove. On June 18, 2022, they be will observing the 140th anniversary of their well. “The hilltop settlement of Cherry Grove saw national history in the spring and summer of 1882 when the 646 Mystery Well ushered in a great oil boom,” noted historian Paul Giddens in his 1938 classic, The Birth of the Oil Industry. “The excitement in the oil exchanges was indescribable. Over 4,500,000 barrels of oil were sold in one day on the exchanges in Titusville, Oil City and Bradford.”

Learn more in Cherry Grove Mystery Well.

Service Company celebrates Perforation Milestone

Fifteen years after its first perforation job, oilfield service company Lane-Wells in June 1948 returned to the same well near Montebello, California, to perform its 100,000th perforation. The publicity event took place at Union Oil Company’s La Merced No. 17 well. In the early 1930s, Walter Wells and oilfield tool salesman Bill Lane had developed a practical downhole gun that could shoot steel bullets through casing. Their multiple-shot perforator fired bullets by electrical detonation.

Learn more in Lane-Wells 100,000th Perforation.

Diesel Power sets Train Speed Record

On May 26, 1934, the diesel-electric “streamliner” Burlington Zephyr pulled into Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition after a nonstop 13-hour “dawn to dusk” run from Denver. The advanced locomotive’s record-breaking trip heralded the end of steam-powered passenger trains. Powered by a single, eight-cylinder diesel engine, the Zephyr burned just $16.72 worth of diesel fuel. The same distance for a coal-burning train would have cost $255.

Learn more in Adding Wings to the Iron Horse.

Thank you for subscribing! You are invited to join and support our outreach efforts on behalf of petroleum museums, state and national energy educators, researchers, teachers and students. Help AOGHS advocate energy education while preserving petroleum history, which offers a context for understanding today’s complex energy challenges.

— Bruce Wells


© 2022 American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 3204 18th Street NW, No. 3, Washington, District of Columbia 20010, United States, (202) 387-6996

Million Barrel Museum

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


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. (more…)

Oil & Gas History News, May 2022

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May 18, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 5

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our latest summary of events that shaped the energy industry. Thank you for subscribing and for your helpful comments and suggestions. This month’s issue looks at earth science and technology pioneers, historic oilfield discoveries in Ohio and Texas, and petroleum’s interesting connection with the Civil War. Also featured is a 70-foot marketing icon introduced in 1933 by one of the oldest U.S. oil companies. If you enjoyed these (and any other) articles, please share them!

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

May 16, 1817 – U.S. Geology Described and Mapped

Geologist and cartographer William Maclure presented the first detailed study of U.S. geology after he and three other earth scientists completed an extensive geological field trip in 1817. That same year Maclure was named president of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, a post he would hold for more than two decades. The Scottish American’s work earned him the title of “Father of American Geology”…MORE

May 9, 1863 – Confederate Cavalry raids Oilfield

A brigade of Confederate cavalry attacked a thriving oil town near the Ohio River in what would soon become West Virginia. Confederate Gen. William “Grumble” Jones led the cavalry attack on Burning Springs oilfield storage facilities containing thousands of barrels of oil. According to one West Virginia historian, the Confederate raid marked the first time an oilfield was targeted in war…MORE

May 2, 1921 – Oil discovered in Texas Panhandle

Following a series of discoveries revealing the giant Hugoton natural gas field in the Texas Panhandle, a well drilled near present-day Borger found an oilfield instead. Gulf Oil Company completed its Carson County wildcat well on the 6666 (the “Four Sixes”) Ranch of S.B. Burnett several miles east of the natural gas wells. The oilfield discovery soon attracted major oil companies to Amarillo and other North Texas towns…MORE

April 25, 1865 – Civil War Veteran patents Well Torpedo

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City received the first of his many patents for an “Improvement in Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells.” The invention used controlled down-hole explosions “to fracture oil-bearing formations and increase oil production.” Fracturing geologic formations using the Roberts Torpedo proved to be a key technological achievement for the petroleum industry…MORE

Energy Education

Sinclair Oil Dinosaur Pavilion at Chicago Century of Progress International Expo.

Sinclair Oil’s “Brontosaurus” first appeared at the 1933-1934 Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago. An updated version of the 70-foot marketing icon (and his Jurassic friends) would be viewed by millions and travel more 10,000 miles in 25 states following the New York World’s Fair in 1964-1965.

Sinclair Oil & Refining founded in 1916

After bringing together a collection of depressed oil properties, five small refineries, and untested leases, Harry Ford Sinclair founded Sinclair Oil & Refining Corporation on May 1, 1916. Destined to become one of the oldest continuous names in the U.S. petroleum industry, his company introduced its famous Brontosaurus and other dinosaurs during the Great Depression. In 1935, Sinclair Oil began publishing dinosaur stamps and an album that could be filled with colorful dinosaurs issued one at a time weekly at Sinclair service stations. Four million stamps would be issued, astounding marketing professionals

Learn more in Dinosaur Fever – Sinclair’s Icon.

Featured Articles

Lima Oilfield discovered in Ohio

The “Great Oil Boom” of northwestern Ohio began in May 1885, when Benjamin Faurot, drilling for natural gas, found oil instead. His discovery  revealed the petroleum-rich Trenton Rock Limestone at a depth of 1,252 feet. “The oil find has caused much excitement and those who are working at the well have been compelled to build a high fence around it to keep curiosity seekers from bothering them,” reported the Lima Daily Republican.

Learn more in Great Oil Boom of Lima, Ohio.

Coin-Operated “Slot Machine” Gas Pumps

Almost as soon as the first gas stations appeared, inventors began experimenting with ways to make user-friendly pumps for consumers. The revenue possibilities of self-service gasoline pumps prompted a number of innovators to develop coin-operated systems in the early 20th Century: “Drop the coin in the slot…Mr. Robot delivers the correct amount of gasoline.”

Learn more in Coin-Operated Gas Pumps

Thanks again for subscribing — and supporting — the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and our ongoing effort to incorporate history into classrooms. Please also support your local oil and gas museum. Many of these community energy educators have programs extending far beyond oilfield exhibits and archives. For just one example, see the oral history project conducted by students at an event tomorrow at the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College!

— Bruce Wells


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

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