Oil & Gas History News, December 2022

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December 21, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 12

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our last newsletter of 2022 — and thank you for subscribing. We begin with a 1924 debate over oil as a strategic resource, and the 1905 fear of gasoline shortages — the same year helium was discovered in natural gas. Also noted is the first U.S. auto race in 1895 (it lasted 10 hours); the 1925 founding of Magnolia Petroleum; and bird’s-eye views of early oil boom towns by cartographer Thaddeus Fowler. We conclude with a 1927 patent for coin-operated gas pumps; the 1905 oilfield discovery that helped make Tulsa “Oil Capital of the World;” and a look at Project Gasbuggy, the experimental 1967 nuking of a natural gas well to increase production. Please support our work to preserve petroleum history in 2023.

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

December 19, 1924 – Government debates Oil Conservation

Declaring “the supremacy of nations may be determined by the possession of available petroleum and its products,” President Calvin Coolidge appointed a Federal Oil Conservation Board to appraise oil policies and promote conservation of the strategic resource. With Navy ships converting to oil from coal, the resulting crude oil shortages in 1919 and 1920 gave credibility to predictions of domestic supplies running out within a decade…MORE

December 13, 1905 – Hybrids evolve with Gas Shortage Fears

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

December 7, 1905 – Helium discovered in Natural Gas

University of Kansas professors Hamilton Cady and David McFarland revealed the importance of natural gas for producing helium when they discovered helium in a “howling gasser” drilled two years earlier at Dexter, Kansas. The small town had envisioned a prosperous future attracting new industries, until it was learned the gas would not burn…MORE

November 28, 1895 – Inventor Duryea wins First U.S. Auto Race

Six of America’s first “motor cars” left Chicago for a 54-mile race to Evanston, Illinois, and back through the snow. Inventor Frank Duryea won the first U.S. auto race in just over 10 hours, averaging 7.3 mph. “Persons who are inclined to decry the development of the horseless carriage will be forced to recognize it as an admitted mechanical achievement, highly adapted to some of the most urgent needs of our civilization,” reported the Chicago Times-Herald…MORE

November 21, 1925 – Magnolia Petroleum incorporates

With roots dating to an 1889 refinery in Corsicana, Texas, Magnolia Petroleum Company incorporated. The original association had sold refined petroleum products through more than 500 service stations in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. Within a month of the company’s founding, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New York (Socony) purchased most of Magnolia Petroleum’s assets…MORE

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Energy Education

Bird's-eye view of Oil City PA 1896 Fowler Map AOGHS

An 1898 lithograph of Oil City, Pennsylvania, by cartographer Thaddeus M. Fowler, who created hundreds of bird’s-eye perspectives for towns and cities, including oil boom towns in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas. Photo courtesy Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. 

Bird’s-Eye Views preserve Petroleum History

Traveling from Pennsylvania to Texas at the turn of the century, Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842-1922) created bird’s-eye-views of America’s earliest petroleum boom towns. His cartographic depictions — perspective maps not drawn to scale — sometimes included wooden derricks. The Library of Congress has preserved 324 Fowler panoramas, including many from Pennsylvania oilfields. In 1890, he created a lithograph of Wichita Falls, Texas. Illustrations of the courthouse, school, bank, and grocery store surround the map. Fowler traveled to Oklahoma to produce a panorama of Bartlesville in 1917 and Tulsa in 1918.

Learn more in Oil Town “Aero Views.”

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Featured Articles

Coin-Operated Gasoline Pump

Lewis Starkey of Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1927 patented a “Self Operating Filling Station,” an electrically powered coin-operated gasoline dispenser. His L.P. Starkey Pump Company competed with other manufacturers of pumps that did not need an attendant. But a coin-operated pump had risks. “It is evident that a vending machine liable to hold fifty or a hundred half-dollars would be a magnet for thieves,” noted Scientific American magazine.

Learn more in Coin-Operated Gas Pumps.

Glenn Pool Field brings Tulsa Oil Boom

Two years before Oklahoma statehood, the Glenn Pool (or Glenpool) oilfield was discovered on November 22, 1905, on the Creek Indian Reservation. The greatest oilfield in America at the time, its production helped make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.” Many prominent independent oil producers, including Harry Sinclair and J. Paul Getty, got their start during the Glenn Pool boom.

Learn more in Making Tulsa “Oil Capital of the World.

Project Gasbuggy tests Nuclear Fracturing

On December 10, 1967, scientists detonated a 29-kiloton nuclear device in a natural gas well east of Farmington, New Mexico, to test the feasibility of using nuclear explosions to stimulate release of gas trapped in shale deposits. The experiment was part of a federal program known as “Plowshare,” begun in the late 1950s to explore peaceful uses of nuclear bombs.

Learn more in Project Gasbuggy tests Nuclear “Fracking.”

Historical perspective has been essential for understanding energy news in 2022. Our updated website articles and research links provide the context behind the headlines. This has been possible because of our subscribers and the annual renewals of the historical society’s supporting members. Thank you again. As we look forward to the new year, please continue to help us grow this unique energy education network.

— Bruce Wells

Oil & Gas History News, November 2022

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November 16, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 11
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Oil & Gas History News

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Welcome to our November newsletter, the historical society’s latest look at U.S. petroleum exploration, production and transportation milestones. This month’s chronology includes an historic 1947 Gulf of Mexico well; a land speed record set in 1965; the breakthrough in refining technology of 1871; and the infamous 1920s Teapot Dome scandal. Also featured is the 1908 oilfield discovery at Salt Creek, Wyoming, that launched the state’s petroleum industry. We conclude with the first time America exported oil, Houston Ship Channel history, and how a North Texas oil boom led to the first Hilton hotel. Thank you for reading and sharing these articles. If you haven’t already, please support our work!
Preserve Oil History - Support AOGHS

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

November 14, 1947 – First Oil Well drilled Out of Sight of Land

America’s modern offshore petroleum industry began in the Gulf of Mexico with the first well completed out of sight of land. Brown & Root Company constructed a freestanding platform 10 miles offshore for Kerr-McGee and partners Phillips Petroleum and Stanolind. The experimental platform Kermac 16, which could withstand winds as high as 125 miles per hour, was built at a time when no equipment specifically designed for offshore drilling yet existed…MORE

November 7, 1965 – Jet Fuel powers World Land Speed Record

Ohio drag racer Art Arfons set a world land speed record of 576.553 miles per hour at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. His homemade Green Monster was powered by JP-4 fuel (a 50-50 kerosene-gasoline blend) in an afterburner-equipped F-104 jet engine. Between 1964 and 1965, often referred to as “The Bonneville Jet Wars,” Arfons set the speed record three times…MORE

October 31, 1871 – Modern Refinery Technology patented

Petroleum refining became more efficient thanks to Henry Rogers of Brooklyn, New York, who patented an “apparatus for separating volatile hydrocarbons by repeated vaporization and condensation.” Rogers introduced many elements seen in modern refineries, including “fractionating” towers that improved upon earlier processes of extracting kerosene by simple distillation in kettle stills…MORE

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

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

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J.E. Stimson circa 1903 photo of Wyoming oil wells, courtesy Wyoming State Archives.
Development of Wyoming’s Salt Creek oilfield in Natrona County began in the late 1880s and continued to expand through the 1930s. J.E. Stimson photo of Uinta County wells drilled by Atlantic and Pacific Oil Company, circa 1903, courtesy Wyoming State Archives.
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Wyoming Oil Boom at Salt Creek
Tales of a Wyoming “tar spring” led to a shallow well drilled in 1883 with the oil sold to Union Pacific Railroad to lubricate train axles. Others small discoveries followed, but the state’s first major boom arrived on October 23, 1908, when a Dutch-owned company discovered the giant Salt Creek oilfield about 40 miles north of Casper. Wyoming’s salt dome formation had been neglected until 1906, when Italian geologist Cesare Porro recommended drilling there. Completed at a depth of 1,050 feet with initial production of 600 barrels of oil a day, the oilfield discovery well would lead to Wyoming producing one-fifth of all oil in the United States by 1930.
Learn more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.
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Featured Articles

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America exports Oil during Civil War
The United States exported petroleum for the first time on November 19, 1861, when the merchant brig Elizabeth Watts departed the Port of Philadelphia for Great Britain. The Union brig, about 100 feet long, carried a cargo of 901 barrels of Pennsylvania crude oil and 428 barrels of refined kerosene. Philadelphia’s Peter Wright & Sons had hired the vessel, whose nervous crew sailed down the Thames River to London after 45 days. It took another 12 days to unload the barrels.
Learn more in America exports Oil.
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President Wilson dedicates Houston Ship Channel
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The Houston Ship Channel, the “port that built a city,” opened for oceangoing vessels on November 10, 1914, making Texas home to a world-class commercial port. President Woodrow Wilson saluted the occasion from his desk in the White House by pushing an ivory button wired to a cannon in Houston. A band played the National Anthem from a barge in the center of the Turning Basin while the daughter of Houston Mayor Ben Campbell sprinkled white roses onto the water. “I christen thee Port of Houston; hither the boats of all nations may come and receive hearty welcome,” she said.
Learn more in Houston Ship Channel.
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Hilton visits Texas Boom Town, buys First Hotel
The first Hilton Hotel came in 1919 when Conrad Hilton visited Cisco, in booming North Texas, intending to buy a bank. While waiting at the train station’s telegraph office, he saw a long line of roughnecks standing at a small hotel across the street. Later in Be My Guest, Hilton recalled telling the startled telegraph operator, “He can keep his bank! Then I strode out of the station and across the street to a two-story red brick building boosting itself as the ‘Mobley Hotel.’”
As the end of 2022 nears, we hope more subscribers to this newsletter will help support it and keep our popular website in operation. Even a small contribution can make a big difference. It’s also a good time to become part of this community of oil patch historians. Let us know if you would like to volunteer your time and expertise. Finally, please share with young people the website’s articles and education links, because the past is the present and the future, too.
— Bruce Wells
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With your help, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society will continue to bring you articles about U.S. petroleum history and its role in modern energy education.

Oil & Gas History News, October 2022

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October 19, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 10

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our latest newsletter. This month features some of the earliest oil companies, a post-Civil War drilling boom (and bust) in Pennsylvania, exploration in Arizona, the first oil well fire, and a family’s keepsake. October industry milestones include the founding of Union Oil Company of California in 1890; Samuel Van Syckel’s 1865 oil pipeline; the 1930 giant oilfield discovery on a widow’s farm in East Texas; and California’s first commercial oil well, the Pico No. 4, completed in 1876. Also featured is expanded coverage of community oil and gas museum news. Thank you for subscribing and sharing this newsletter!

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.

October 17, 1890 – Union Oil of California founded

Lyman Stewart, Thomas Bard and Wallace Hardison founded the Union Oil Company of California by merging their petroleum properties to compete with Standard Oil of California, founded 20 years earlier. Union Oil made strategic alliances with small oil producers to build pipelines from Kern County oilfields to the Pacific coast. “This gave the independent producers an alternative to what they perceived as the low prices paid by Standard Oil and the high freight rates charged by the railroads,” explained a 1914 mining engineer bulletin. Union Oil moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1901…MORE

October 10, 1865 – Oil Pipeline constructed in Pennsylvania

A two-inch iron pipeline began transporting oil five miles through hilly terrain from a well at booming Pithole, Pennsylvania, to the Miller Farm Railroad Station at Oil Creek. With their livelihoods threatened, teamsters attempted to sabotage the pipeline, until armed guards intervened. Built by Samuel Van Syckel, the pipeline used 15-foot welded joints. Three 10-horsepower Reed & Cogswell steam pumps pushed the oil at a rate of 81 barrels per hour. With up to 2,000 barrels arriving at the terminal every day, more storage tanks were soon needed…MORE

October 3, 1930 – East Texas Oilfield discovered on Widow’s Farm

With more than 4,000 landowners, leaseholders, creditors and spectators watching, the Daisy Bradford No. 3 wildcat well was successfully shot with nitroglycerin near Kilgore, Texas. “All of East Texas waited expectantly while Columbus ‘Dad’ Joiner inched his way toward oil,” historian Jack Elder noted in 1986. “Thousands crowded their way to the site of Daisy Bradford No. 3, hoping to be there when and if oil gushed from the well to wash away the misery of the Great Depression.” The discovery revealed an oil-producing formation (the Woodbine) that would encompass more than 140,000 acres…MORE

September 26, 1876 – First California Oil Well

After three failed attempts, Charles Mentry and his California Star Oil Works Company discovered the Pico Canyon oilfield north of Los Angeles with California’s first commercial oil well. Drilled with cable-tools in an area known for natural seeps, the Pico No. 4 well produced 25 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 370 feet. Pico Canyon oilfield production led to construction of California’s first oil pipeline and refinery — riveted stills on a brick foundation today preserved by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, and among the oldest refineries in the world…MORE

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Energy Education

Stereograph view of derricks at Triumph Hill, PA , circa 1870.

A circa 1870 stereograph by Frank Robbins (1846-1924) of the east side of Triumph Hill near Tidioute, Pennsylvania. Exploration companies and speculators rushed to the Allegheny River Valley after an oilfield discovery on October 4, 1866. Photo courtesy The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Derricks of Triumph Hill

As demand for kerosene soared after the Civil War, the nation’s new petroleum industry discovered a prolific Pennsylvania oilfield west of Tidioute (pronounced tiddy-oot). The quiet hillsides of hemlock woods began vanishing in October 1866 when “oil fever” came to Triumph Hill. Despite growing recognition that crowded drilling reduced production, the boom continued as investors tried to cash in before the oil ran out. The excitement at Tidioute was joined by the roughneck-filled towns of Triumph and Babylon, where “sports, strumpets and plug-uglies, who stole, gambled, caroused and did their best to break all the commandments at once.”

Learn more in Derricks of Triumph Hill.

Featured Articles

Exploring Arizona Oil History

Reports of natural oil seeps in the late 1890s encouraged exploration for commercial quantities of the resource long before Arizona statehood in 1912. But finding a productive oilfield would prove elusive until a part-time prospector from Pennsylvania drilled wells that showed traces of oil. The wells caught the attention of other exploration companies, including several arriving from a 1901 headline-making oilfield discovery at Spindletop Hill in Texas.

Learn more in First Arizona Oil and Gas Wells

First American Oil Well catches Fire

On October 7, 1859, the derrick and engine house of the first U.S. commercial oil well caught fire. The Titusville, Pennsylvania, well had been completed in August by Edwin L Drake for the Seneca Oil Company of New Haven, Connecticut. Drake worked with driller William “Uncle Billy” Smith, who used steam-powered cable-tools. The fire started when Smith inspected a vat of oil at the well using an open lamp. The flames also consumed the driller’s home. Drake would quickly rebuild at his already famous well site.

Learn more in First Oil Well Fire.

Preserving a Family Keepsake

While working as a foreman in the oilfield service industry in the 1950s, Charles Gerringer’s father Harold operated an innovative diesel-fueled tractor in New York and Pennsylvania. The family preserved the trade magazine advertisement featuring Harold driving the latest Caterpillar. “My Dad worked for N.V.V. Franchot and was a foreman in the oil and gas fields around Allegany, New York,” Charles wrote in 2019. “I have an advertisement of him using one of the first modern Caterpillar tractors to pull a well.”

Learn more in Oil Well Tractor Ad Keepsake

Museum News & Events

West Kern Oil Museum — Planning continues for events celebrating next year’s 50th anniversary of the 1973 opening of the West Kern Oil Museum (WKOM), according to Director Arianna Mace. The museum in Taft hosted Boom Town Days on October 15 and publishes The Pumper, a quarterly newsletter.

The Olinda Oil Museum and Trail — On October 6, the City of Brea celebrated the centennial of the Brea-Olinda Oilfield’s Field House, once a petroleum company office and now filled with exploration and production artifacts. The museum was awarded a Certificate of Congressional Recognition by U.S. Rep. Young Kim.

Drake Well Museum and Park — Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) members visited the site of America’s first commercial oil well in Pennsylvania during a September tour of Titusville, Franklin, and Oil City. Founded in 1971 at Michigan Technological University, the society preserves historic industrial sites, structures, and equipment.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center — Docked at Pier 20 in Galveston, Texas, the retired jack-up drilling rig Ocean Star operated in the Gulf of Mexico from 1969 to 1984. Owned by the Oilfield Energy Center (OEC), the offshore museum has resumed its in-person STEM and monthly Family Day programs, according to Education Director Doris Thomas.

Earth Science Week — Every October since 1998, the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has organized Earth Science Week to promote understanding and appreciation of the earth sciences. Participants at this year’s October 9-15 events included museums, geological surveys, parks, colleges and universities.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Thank you for taking the time to read our October newsletter. Please share it with others and tell tell them about the AOGHS website. Help this ongoing effort to preserve America’s energy history and encourage its use by educators. Your commitment to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society ensures our future operations.

— Bruce Wells

P.S.  Special thanks to staff and directors at oil and gas museums. Please keep those emails and newsletters coming.

Oil & Gas History News, September 2022

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September 21, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 9

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our Fall newsletter. Thank you for subscribing, which helps support the historical society’s website. This month’s articles examine first oilfield discoveries in Louisiana (1901) and Texas (1866), and a 1919 Pennsylvania natural gas field described as “the scene of the Pittsburgh district’s biggest boom and loudest crash.” Also featured are petroleum industry pioneers and the 1910 founding of a utility holding company that became today’s Citgo. There’s an article about development of spherical tanks — a key industry technology for storing and transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG). Our September newsletter concludes with a brief look at two excellent community oil and gas museums.

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

September 21, 1901 – First Louisiana Oil Well

W. Scott Heywood, already a successful independent operator thanks to wells drilled months earlier at Spindletop Hill, Texas, completed the first Louisiana well, which produced 7,000 barrels of oil a day on the farm of Jules Clement. Drilled six miles northeast of Jennings, the Clement No. 1 well found the oilfield at a depth of 1,700 feet. “The well flowed sand and oil for seven hours and covered Clement’s rice field with a lake of oil and sand, ruining several acres of rice,” noted the Jennings Daily News…MORE

September 12, 1866 – First Texas Oil Well

Although people often think of the oil discoveries at Spindletop or Corsicana, the Texas petroleum industry was born when Lyne Taliaferro Barret’s Melrose Petroleum Oil Company completed a well east of Nacogdoches. It produced 10 barrels of oil a day. The Confederate Army veteran’s No. 1 Isaac C. Skillern well, drilled in area known as Oil Springs, found the prized resource for making kerosene at a depth of 106 feet. The well’s modest oil production and limited access to markets led to the failure of Melrose Petroleum Oil Company…MORE

September 5, 1885 – Birth of the “Filling Station” Gas Pump

Modern gasoline pump design began with inventor Sylvanus F. (Freelove) Bowser, who sold his first pump to grocery store owner Jake Gumper of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Designed to safely dispense kerosene as well as “burning fluid, and the light combustible products of petroleum,” Bowser’s pump included a 42-gallon tank, marble valves, a wooden plunger, and an upright faucet. Thanks to his pump’s success, Bowser formed the S.F. Bowser Company and patented his invention in 1887. The Bowser “Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump” would become known to motorists as a “filling station.”…MORE

August 30, 1919 – Gas Boom (and Bust) in Pennsylvania

The “Snake Hollow Gusher” of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, revealed a natural gas field that attracted hundreds of petroleum companies and new ventures. The discovery well southeast of Pittsburgh produced more than 60 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, and the drilling frenzy it inspired resulted in $35 million invested in a nine-square-mile area. “Many residents signed leases for drilling on their land,” the local newspaper reported. “They bought and sold gas company stock on street corners and in barbershops transformed into brokerage houses.” The excitement ended in early 1921 when gas production declined…MORE

August 24, 1892 – “Prophet of Spindletop” founds Oil Company

Patillo Higgins, who would become known as the “Prophet of Spindletop,” organized the Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company and leased 2,700 acres near Beaumont, Texas. Higgins believed oil-bearing sands could be found at a geologic salt dome four miles south of town. A self-taught geologist, Higgins had noticed oil and natural gas seeps at Spindletop Hill while taking his Sunday school class on picnics…MORE

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Energy Education

Horton Spherical Tank 1947 Patent AOGHS

On September 23, 1947, a company already well known for building water towers and iron bridges patented the “Hortonsphere,” the trademarked name for its improved design of pressurized storage vessels named after company founder Horace E. Horton (1843-1912). Patent image detail courtesy U.S. Patent Office, Washington, DC.

Chicago Bridge & Iron Company Spherical Pressure Vessels

The Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I), founded in 1889 by Horace Ebenezer Horton, built the world’s first “field-erected spherical pressure vessel,” according to the company. The giant storage globes were once constructed by riveting together wrought iron plates. Highly pressured spherical vessels are key to storing and transporting liquified natural gas (LNG) produced by cooling natural gas at atmospheric pressure to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit. A safe and efficient storage globe was one of the great innovations to come to the oil patch. Led by Horton’s son George, CB&I officially named the “Hortonspheres” after his father.

Learn more in Horace Horton’s Spheres.

Featured Article

Cities Service discovers Giant Mid-Continent Oilfields

Founded in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in 1910 as a public utility holding company, Henry L. Doherty’s Cities Service Company quickly expanded into oil exploration and production. The company’s fortunes skyrocketed in 1915, when a subsidiary, Wichita Natural Gas Company, discovered the 34-square-mile El Dorado oilfield in Kansas. By 1918, the El Dorado field produced 29 million barrels of oil — almost nine percent of the nation’s oil. In 1928, the Cities Service subsidiary Empire Oil & Refining discovered another giant Mid-Continent field at Oklahoma City. Cities Service, renamed Citgo Petroleum in 1966, was acquired by state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela in 1991.

Learn more in Cities Service Company.

Museum Updates

Return to In-Person Energy Education

Community oil museums have been returning to hosting special student and teacher programs. One example was the September 3rd “Kids’ Day and Educators’ Day” at the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College. Designed to teach the science, geography, and history behind the region’s 43-mile-long oilfield, events included a program about postcards from the oil patch, according to Director Olivia Moore. Collector and petroleum geologist Jeff Spencer also lectured on the life of pioneering Texas photographer Jack Nolan. “To learn about postcards, which our special exhibit currently showcases, we had the kiddos during Kids’ Day color and mail postcards at our Henderson Post Office in Boomtown, USA!”

Visit the East Texas Oil Museum.

West Virginia Museum Improvements

Repairs are planned for the antique tin ceilings of the Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg, thanks to a $16,000 local economic development assistance grant awarded this month by West Virginia legislators. Built in 1899, the building was home to the W.H. Smith Hardware Company until the 1980s. Today, four floors of exhibits educate visitors about the state’s petroleum history, which began with finding oil in brine wells. The museum notes that by the early 1900s, natural gas production had risen, and from 1906 to 1917, “West Virginia was the leader in gas production in the United States.” More oilfield exhibits can be found along the scenic Little Kanawha River on the grounds of 31-acre Burning Springs Park, site of a restored 1860 oil well.

Visit West Virginia’s Oil & Gas Museum.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Thank you for reading our latest highlights from the website’s updated chronology, “This Week in Petroleum History,” which is posted every Monday. Let us know your thoughts about this month’s edition. And once again, a special thank you to the historical society’s annual supporting members!

— Bruce Wells

Oil & Gas History News, August 2022

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August 17, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 8

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our August newsletter. This month’s petroleum milestones include the end of U.S. gasoline rationing in 1945; reflection seismic technology used to find oil in 1921; the first pipeline delivery of natural gas in 1872; and Spanish explorers who discovered oil in the New World in 1543. Also featured is the 1918 discovery of “the world’s wonder oil pool” in Texas and the 100th anniversary of the Luling oilfield, which produced folklore along with oil. Community oil patch festivals are highlighted too, especially in Pennsylvania, where the oil industry began this month in 1859.

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. 

August 15, 1945 – End of World War II Gas Rationing

Gasoline rationing ended the day after President Harry Truman announced World War II was over. Food rationing had begun in the spring of 1942 with rubber and gasoline added in December. The Office of Price Administration issued coupon books to conserve oil for fighting the war. Civilian drivers received a windshield sticker and ration coupons for gasoline limiting them to four gallons a week. A ration book “B” sticker allowed business owners eight gallons a week…MORE

August 9, 1921 – Seismography reveals Geological Structure

A team led by University of Oklahoma geophysicist John C. Karcher conducted the world’s first reflection seismograph measurement of a geologic formation, pioneering the use of reflection seismic technology in petroleum exploration. Prof. Karcher’s seismography method would lead to discovery of many of the world’s largest oil and natural gas fields. His geological section measurement followed limited tests in June and July in Oklahoma City…MORE

August 1, 1872 – Iron Pipeline delivers Pennsylvania Natural Gas

The first recorded large-scale delivery of natural gas by pipeline began when gas was sent to more than 250 residential and commercial customers in Titusville, Pennsylvania, home of America’s first commercial oil well, completed in August 1859. The two-inch iron pipeline carried natural gas five miles from a well producing four million cubic feet of gas per day…MORE

July 25, 1543 – Oil reported in New World

The first documented report of oil in the New World came after a sudden storm forced Spanish explorer Don Luis de Moscoso to land two of his brigantines at the mouth of the Sabine River. He had succeeded expedition leader Hernando de Soto and built seven of the small vessels to sail down the newly discovered Mississippi River and westward along the Gulf Coast…MORE

Energy Education

Burkburnett, Texas, oilfield derricks and tank cars, circa 1919.

Circa 1919 image of Burkburnett, Texas, “the world’s wonder oil pool, showing eight months phenomenal development, viewed from the northwest side, opposite Fowler farm.” Photo detail from the Almeron Newman Photographic Company, courtesy Library of Congress.

Boom Town Burkburnett

The Burkburnett oilfield discovery of July 29, 1918, on a farm along the Red River launched a drilling boom that brought prosperity to North Texas. Drilled by the Fowler Farm Oil Company, the well was completed at the northeastern edge of Burkburnett, which had been founded in 1907. The town was named by President Theodore Roosevelt, who had hunted wolf nearby with rancher Burk Burnett. Less than one year after the Fowler discovery, a well on another farm added 27 square miles to the Burkburnett oilfield, bringing more exploration, production, and oilfield service companies to Wichita County.

Learn more in Boom Town Burkburnett

Featured Articles

A Brief History of Drilling Technology

“A good cable-tool man is just about the most highly skilled worker you’ll find,” one oilfield roughneck noted. “Besides having a feel for the job, knowing what’s going on thousands of feet under the ground just from the movement of the cable, he’s got to be something of a carpenter, a steam-fitter, an electrician, and a damned good mechanic.” – Voices from the Oil Fields, 1939.

Learn more in Making Hole — Drilling Technology

Luling Oilfield Discovered 100 Years Ago

Edgar B. Davis had been determined to find oil near Luling, Texas. On August 9, 1922, after drilling six consecutive unsuccessful wells, his United North & South Oil Company struck “black gold.” The financially struggling company’s Rafael Rios No. 1 well revealed an oilfield that proved to be 12 miles long and two miles wide. The subsequent drilling boom produced tales of Davis finding the oilfield only after consulting a psychic. The bogus oil patch reading came from the “The Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce, who claimed to have helped Davis and other wildcatters.

Learn more in Luling Oil Museum and Crudoleum.

Oil Museum Events

In a restored 1885 mercantile building downtown, exhibits at the Luling Oil Museum focus on the real science behind the Rafael Rios No. 1 well and the oilfield that produced 11 million barrels of oil by 1924. Luling celebrated the 100th anniversary of its oilfield discovery in August — and has hosted a watermelon festival every June since 1954.

The Luling museum and other community oil and gas museums enjoyed a happier summer this year, which brought the return of festivals. On Saturday, August 20, residents of Ames, Oklahoma, will celebrate the 45th annual Ames Day. Events take place around the Ames Astrobleme Museum, which opened in 1992. In Chickasaw County, the 40th annual Healdton Oilfield Days (including rodeo and car show) is planned for August 26-27. The Healdton Oil Museum preserves the history of one of Oklahoma’s great oil booms, which began in Healdton in 1913.

In Pennsylvania, many new visitors explored the Venango Museum of Art Science & Industry in Oil City during the recent 44th annual Oil Heritage Festival. Tourists also explored nearby Drake Well Museum exhibits during August’s Titusville Oil Festival, which offered excursions on the historic Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad. In Bradford, the Derrick Day Festival at the end of July showcased the Penn Brad Oil Museum and the 151st anniversary of the world’s first billion dollar oilfield.

Many other Community museums have joined in celebrating petroleum heritage. They are also hosting K-12 education programs for the new school year. Some have opened facilities like the Energy Education Center at the Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado. In 2023, the West Kern Oil Museum, operated almost entirely by volunteers in Taft, California, looks forward its 50th year of educating visitors about the state’s energy industry.

Help preserve AOGHS!

Again, a special thank you to all of our subscribing members, especially those whose generosity allows the website to reach thousands of new visitors each month. Energy educators increasingly recognize the value of this network. Great friendships start with shared interests.

— Bruce Wells

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

Oil & Gas History News, July 2022

AOGHS Logo - Oil and Gas History Newsletter

July 20, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 7

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our July newsletter. This month’s petroleum industry milestones include a 1915 petroleum-powered washing machine, the 2008 still record-high oil prices, a Thomas Edison Company film of a New Jersey refinery fire in 1900, and a Kansas town that celebrated its natural gas field in 1887. There’s also Trans-Alaska Pipeline history. And with this summer’s heatwave stressing roads (and airport runways), we feature the history of asphalt. Thanks again for subscribing. Sharing oil history makes a difference.

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

July 19, 1915 – Powering Washing Machines and Lawn Mowers

Inventor Howard Snyder applied to patent his engine-powered washing machine that could be fueled by gasoline, kerosene or alcohol. He would assign the rights to the Maytag Company. His appliance for “the ordinary farmer” who lacked access to electricity, used a one-cylinder, two-cycle engine, which would soon be adapted for lawn mowers…MORE

July 11, 2008 – World Oil Price hits Historic High

The price of crude oil reached a record high of $147.27 per barrel before dropping back to $145.08. Oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange had peaked at $145.29 a barrel eight days earlier. As supply fears subsided, the price fell below $37 a barrel by early 2009. A decade later, U.S. petroleum consumption ranked number one worldwide, exceeding 20.5 million barrels per day…MORE

July 5, 1900 – Edison films New Jersey Refinery Fire

An early morning lightning strike at Standard Oil Company of New Jersey’s refinery at Bayonne set off explosions and fires in three storage tanks, each with a capacity of 40,000 barrels of oil. Within minutes of the start of the intense but nonfatal blaze, the company’s own fire department and tugboats rushed to fight it…MORE

June 28, 1887 – Kansans celebrate First Natural Gas Jubilee

After erecting flambeau arches at the four corners of the town square, Paola, Kansas, residents hosted, “the first natural gas celebration ever held in the West.” Events included a grand illumination of natural gas street lights, “with the gas attached to a yard sprinkler by a rubber hose, and when it was ignited there appeared nests of small blazes which were beautiful and attractive.”…MORE

June 20, 1977 – Oil begins Flowing in Trans-Alaska Pipeline

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline began carrying oil 800 miles from the North Slope’s Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez at Prince William Sound. The oil arrived 38 days later, culminating the largest privately funded construction project in the world. In 1968, Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) and Exxon discovered the Prudhoe Bay field 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Construction of the 48-inch-wide pipeline began in April 1974…MORE

Energy Education

Workers paving Pennsylvania Ave with asphalt.

Beginning in 1876, Pennsylvania Avenue was first paved with bitumen imported from Trinidad. Thirty-one years later, a better asphalt made from petroleum repaved the pathway to the Capitol. The nation’s mobility would soon depend on a product from the bottom of the refining process.

Asphalt Paves the Way

As the U.S. centennial neared, President Ulysses S. Grant directed Pennsylvania Avenue be paved with Trinidad asphalt. By 1876, the president’s paving project covered about 54,000 square yards using the imported natural bitumen. The use of asphalt from crude oil refining would prove to be a better alternative, dramatically improving roadways. During World War II, runway surfaces had to handle larger and heavier loads, prompting innovation in asphalt composition and paving technology. Road building would become a huge industry to accommodate the postwar boom.

Learn more in Asphalt Paves the Way

Featured Articles

Many First Oklahoma Oil Wells

Early petroleum exploration began near oil seeps in Indian Territory. The Cherokee Nation in 1884 passed a law authorizing organization of a company, “for the purpose of finding petroleum, or rock oil.” A shallow well completed near Chelsea in 1890 produced oil, but did not achieve the fame of Bartlesville’s Nellie Johnstone No. 1 gusher of 1897.

Learn more in Another First Oklahoma Oil Well

Association of Desk & Derrick Clubs

A women’s petroleum industry association began when a secretary at Humble Oil & Refining Company organized a 1949 meeting in New Orleans. The Association of Desk & Derrick Clubs articles of association were signed on July 23, 1951, by the president of the New Orleans club as well as the presidents of clubs founded in Los Angeles, Houston, and Jackson, Mississippi.

Learn more in Desk and Derrick Educators

Preserving a 1921 Refining Publication

A July addition to the historical society’s Oil & Gas Families page has its own connection with U.S. refining history — and an artifact in search of a home. The Benner family seeks to preserve their grandfather’s 1921 issue of “The Atlantic Connect Rod,” published by Atlantic Refining, which would become ARCO. By 1921, the Philadelphia-based venture opened the nation’s earliest gas stations; Benner was responsible for identifying locations.

Learn more in Preserving a 1921 Atlantic Refining Publication

Visit the AOGHS website often and please encourage your friends to subscribe to this free monthly newsletter. They will be joining a growing number of people who recognize the importance of preserving America’s petroleum history. As supporting membership continues to grow, so does the website’s education network on behalf of community museums. Understanding the nation’s oil history in all of its complexity is important to our energy future.

— Bruce Wells

© 2022 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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