Oil & Gas History News, October 2023

October 18, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 10

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our October newsletter. This month features many historic discoveries, including the “Roaring Ranger” of 1917 that helped fuel victory in World War I. Our weekly summaries include a 1931 multi-state pipeline; a converted offshore platform that began launching rockets in 1999; the founding of Skelly Oil in 1919; and wells drilled in New Mexico in the 1920s. October’s featured articles explore the record-setting King Ranch lease signed in 1933; the significance of geology in a 1915 Kansas oilfield discovery; newsworthy mid-19th century California oil wells; and the many stories behind the “Black Giant” discovered in East Texas on October 3,1930. Thanks for subscribing!

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 16, 1931 – Natural Gas Pipeline sets Record

America’s first long-distance, high-pressure natural gas pipeline went into service during the Great Depression; it linked the prolific Texas Panhandle gas fields to consumers in Chicago. The 980-mile bolted flange pipeline required 2,600 separate right-of-way leases…MORE

October 9, 1999 – Converted Offshore Platform launches Rocket

Sea Launch, a Boeing-led consortium of companies from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and Norway, launched its first commercial rocket using the Ocean Odyssey, a modified semi-submersible drilling platform. After a demonstration flight in March, a Russian Zenit-3SL rocket carried a DirecTV satellite to geostationary orbit…MORE

October 2, 1919 – Future “Mr. Tulsa” incorporates Skelly Oil

Skelly Oil Company incorporated in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with founder William Grove Skelly as president. He had been born in 1878 in Erie, Pennsylvania, where his father hauled oilfield equipment. Skelly’s success in the El Dorado oilfield east of Wichita, Kansas, helped him launch Skelly Oil and other ventures, including Midland Refining Company, which he founded in 1917…MORE

September 25, 1922 – First New Mexico Oil Well

Midwest Refining Company launched the New Mexico petroleum industry by completing the state’s first commercial oil well. Drilled near Shiprock on the Navajo Indian Reservation, the Hogback No. 1 well produced 375 barrels of oil per day. Midwest completed 11 more wells to establish the Hogback field as a major producer of the San Juan Basin…MORE

Energy Education

The 1917 oilfield discovery at Ranger, Texas, created a drilling boom as petroleum demand soared in Europe during World War I. Following the 1918 armistice, a member of the British War Cabinet would declare, “The Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.” Photo courtesy family of W.K. Gordon Jr. and Ranger Historical Preservation Society.

“Roaring Ranger” helps fuel WW I Victory

A wildcat well drilled halfway between Abilene and Dallas, erupted oil on October 17, 1917, launching a Texas drilling boom that helped fuel the Allied victory in World War I. The J. H. McCleskey No. 1 well revealed a giant oilfield two miles south of the small town of Ranger, which had been founded in the 1870s near a Texas Ranger camp in Eastland County. After the Great War, among the veterans attracted to North Texas was a young Conrad Hilton, who visited Cisco intending to buy a bank. When he witnessed the long line of roughnecks waiting for a room at the Mobley Hotel, he decided to buy the hotel instead. Ranger residents annually celebrate their 1917 oilfield discovery with a festival and parade down Main Street.

Learn more in Roaring Ranger wins WWI and Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel.

Featured Articles

King Ranch signs Largest Private Oil Lease

The largest U.S. private oil lease ever negotiated was signed in Texas during the Great Depression. The 825,000 acre King Ranch oil deal with Humble Oil and Refining, signed in 1933, would help the company become ExxonMobil, which has extended the agreement ever since. Despite unsuccessful wells drilled on the south Texas ranch for more than a decade, a Humble Oil geologist had been convinced an oilfield could be found.

Learn more in Oil Reigns at King Ranch.

Petroleum Geology reveals Mid-Continent Oilfield

In October 1915, the science of petroleum geology played a key role in discovering the El Dorado oilfield in Kansas — and the many other Mid-Continent fields that followed. Community leaders in El Dorado had been desperate for their town to live up to its name, especially after natural gas discoveries at nearby Augusta.  Drilled by a subsidiary of Cities Service Company, the discovery well revealed the 34-square-mile El Dorado oilfield.

Learn more in Kansas Oil Boom.

First California Oil Wells

About 35 miles north of Los Angeles, Pico Canyon produced limited amounts of crude oil as early as 1855, but there was no market for the oil. A small boom came a decade later in the northern part of the state when a well near natural oil seeps in Humboldt County, attracting more exploration companies. California’s first truly commercial oil well of September 26, 1876, led to construction of a pipeline and a kerosene refinery.

Learn more in First California Oil Wells.

“Black Giant” discovered in East Texas

With a crowd of more than 4,000 landowners, leaseholders and others watching, the Daisy Bradford No. 3 well was “shot” with nitroglycerin near Kilgore, Texas, on October 3, 1930. Geologists would be surprised when it became apparent the well on the widow Bradford’s farm — along with two other wells far to the north — proved to be part of the same oil-producing formation (the Woodbine) encompassing more than 140,000 acres.

Learn more in East Texas Oilfield Discovery.

Thank you for reading our October summary of petroleum history — the milestones that have shaped the modern energy industry. Your interest in this history is important, and if there are articles you especially liked, please share them with your friends. Also tell others about the AOGHS website, which continues to grow and attract a wider audience, including educators and students. Thanks too for any financial support of our work to preserve an important — but often neglected — part of American history.

— Bruce Wells

Help preserve history. Donate today.

Oil & Gas History News, September 2023

AOGHS logo Newsletter

September 20, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 9

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our latest look at U.S. petroleum history milestones and thank you for subscribing. We begin with America’s first company founded to drill for oil — it was reorganized in 1855 after having trouble finding investors; the 1866 establishment of the future Mobil Oil; a look at early cable-tool “jarring” technology; Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom of 1919; and the 1897 founding of Olds Motor Vehicle Company. Also featured this month is how a World War II anti-tank weapon evolved into a well perforating technology. We conclude with historic discoveries in three states: the first oil wells completed in California, Utah, and Louisiana. Thanks again for joining this unique history education network.

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 18, 1855 – First U.S. Oil Company reorganizes

In need of more capital, George Bissell and partner Jonathan Eveleth reorganized their New York-based Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company — America’s first oil exploration company — into the Seneca Oil Company of New Haven, Connecticut. They continued to seek investors for drilling a well to produce oil that could be refined into kerosene…MORE

September 11, 1866 – Distilling Kerosene in Vacuum leads to Mobil Oil

Carpenter and inventor Matthew Ewing patented a new method for distilling kerosene in a vacuum to produce lubricants. His innovation would lead to Mobil Oil. Three weeks after receiving his U.S. patent, Ewing and partner Hiram Everest founded the Vacuum Oil Company in Rochester, New York. Their first product was “Ewing’s Patent Vacuum Oil,” a leather conditioner…MORE

September 4, 1841 – “Rock Drill Jar” Patent for Percussion Drilling

Early drilling technology advanced when William Morris of West Virginia patented his “Rock Drill Jar.” It was an innovation he had been experimenting with while drilling brine wells. “The mechanical success of cable tool drilling has greatly depended on a device called jars, invented by a spring pole driller,” according to oil historian Samuel Pees, who in 2004 noted Morris began using the technology as early as the 1830s…MORE

August 30, 1919 – Natural Gas Boom at McKeesport, Pennsylvania

The “Snake Hollow Gusher” of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, revealed a natural gas field that attracted hundreds of exploration companies — and speculators. Drilled near the Monongahela River southeast of Pittsburgh, the discovery well produced 60 million cubic feet of gas a day. The drilling frenzy the gas field inspired resulted in $35 million invested in a nine-square-mile area…MORE

August 21, 1897 – Olds Motor Vehicle Company founded

American automotive pioneer Ransom Eli Olds (1864–1950) founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan. Renamed Olds Motor Works in 1899, the company became the first auto manufacturer established in Detroit. By 1901 Olds had built 11 prototype vehicles, including at least one powered by steam, electricity, and gasoline…MORE


Energy Education

Downhole Bazooka article AOGHS

Henry Mohaupt in September 1951 applied to patent anti-tank technologies he developed during World War II, including a conically hollowed out explosive “rocket grenade” fired from bazookas. 

Perforating Wells with Bazooka Technology

When World War II veteran Henry H. Mohaupt patented his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun,” he brought anti-tank technology — the bazooka — to the petroleum production industry. Mohaupt, a Swiss-born chemical engineer, had led a secret U.S. Army program to develop the weapon. His design to improve perforation of well casing used conically hollowed-out explosive charges to focus each detonation’s energy. This “rocket grenade” battlefield technology would greatly improve earlier oilfield perforating “bullets,” described in a 1938 Popular Science Monthly article as “another of the latest scientific aids to oil men, the underground machine gun.”

Learn more in Downhole Bazooka.

Featured Articles

California’s First Oil Boom

The earliest petroleum exploration companies often drilled near natural oil seeps. Discoveries of “black gold” after the Civil War launched the California petroleum industry. Even earlier, Pico Canyon, less than 35 miles north of Los Angeles, produced small amounts in 1855, but there was no market for the oil. The first California oil boom arrived a decade later in the northern part of the state.

Learn more in First California Oil Wells

Oil discovered in Uinta County, Utah

After decades of failed attempts by major oil companies, J.L. “Mike” Dougan of Salt Lake City on September 18, 1948, discovered Utah’s first significant oilfield. He had searched the state for more than 25 years before finding the Uinta Basin field about 10 miles southeast of Vernal. The Uinta Basin witnessed Utah’s first drilling boom following the discovery. A boom would later return later thanks to coalbed methane.

Learn more in First Utah Oil Wells.

Start of the Louisiana Oil Industry

Nine months after the headline-making January 1901 “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop Hill in Texas, another giant oilfield was revealed 90 miles east in Louisiana. W. Scott Heywood completed a wildcat well on the farm of Jules Clement that produced 7,000 barrels of oil a day from 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.”

Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Wells.

Thanks for reading and sharing September’s newsletter articles. Our website also has been updated with new state and national resource links, including Story Maps from the Texas General Land Office. As always, your feedback and suggestions are welcomed as we continue to expand the society’s network of oil patch historians. Help preserve petroleum history by supporting our efforts. Even a small contribution makes a real difference.

— Bruce Wells


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

Oil & Gas History News, August 2023

AOGHS Logo - Oil and Gas History Newsletter

August 16, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 8



Oil & Gas History News


Welcome to our end of summer (and back to school) petroleum history newsletter. Thanks for subscribing and sharing these articles, which helps add website visitors. This month’s topics offer a variety of people and events — from the 1986 opening of an oil museum in Union Oil’s historic headquarters to a 1920s oilfield cartographer who created a comic strip. Also featured is the iron pipeline that delivered natural gas in 1872; the evolution of a major British oil company’s logo; experiments with oilfield firefighting technologies; and how Spanish explorers in 1769 discovered “tar pits” that became a West Coast tourist attraction. We conclude with Howard Hughes Sr. patenting a two-cone roller bit in 1919 and two pipelines that helped win World War II. Thank you again for joining this petroleum history network! 



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 14, 1986 – Oil Museum Building listed as National Historic Place


The original headquarters of the Union Oil Company in Santa Paula, California, constructed in 1890 and turned into an oil museum since 1950, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the California Oil Museum on 1001 East Main Street offers docent-led tours of the restored Union Oil offices on the second floor…MORE



August 7, 1933 – Permian Basin inspires “Alley Oop” Comic Strip


Although the comic strip “Alley Oop” first appeared in August 1933, the popular Depression Era newspaper comic strip began with 1920s oilfield discoveries in the Permian Basin. A small West Texas oil town would later proclaim itself as the inspiration for cartoonist Victor Hamlin…MORE



August 1, 1872 – Iron Pipeline delivers 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 oil well, drilled in 1859. The two-inch iron pipeline carried natural gas five miles from a well producing four million cubic feet of natural gas a day…MORE



July 24, 2000 – BP unveils New Green and Yellow Logo


BP, the official name of a group of companies that included Amoco, ARCO and Castrol, unveiled a new corporate identity brand, replacing the “Green Shield” logo with a green and yellow sunflower pattern…MORE



Energy Education


Three-bladed airplane propeller

A “windmaking machine” driven by a three-bladed airplane propeller and powerful motor was used in 1929 to blow away the heat from men fighting an oilfield fire at Santa Fe Springs, California. “A track of boards was built for the machine over a lake of oil, mud and water in the ‘hot zone’ of the big fire.” Photo courtesy Hathaway Ranch and Oil Museum.


Oilfield Firefighting Technologies


Oilfield fires have challenged America’s petroleum industry since the earliest 19th century oil and natural gas wells. Oil storage tank fires, often caused by lightning strikes, were commonly fought using Civil War cannons. In the summer of 1929, about 400 volunteers fought a raging oilfield fire that had destroyed seven derricks at Santa Fe Springs, California. “Roaring Flames Turn Black Gold To Smoke,” proclaimed the Los Angeles Times. A local oil museum has preserved rare motion picture images of the propeller-driven “windmaking machine” in action — a silent film depicting an intense fire and firefighting equipment, “appropriately distant from the well head, including the wind machine. It looks like its use is more or less limited to blowing hot air, smoke and steam away from the workers and toward the fire.” 


Learn more in Oilfield Firefighting Technologies and Oilfield Artillery fights Fires


Featured Articles


Spanish describe La Brea Asphalt Pits


A Spanish expedition along the West Coast on August 3, 1769, came across what would be called the La Brea (the tar) Pits. “We debated whether this substance, which flows melted from underneath the earth, could occasion so many earthquakes,” noted a Franciscan friar. Commonly called tar pits, the sticky pools between modern Beverly Hills and downtown L.A. are actually comprised of natural asphalt, also known as bitumen.


Learn more in Discovering the La Brea “Tar Pits.”


Hughes patents Dual-Cone Roller Bit 


“Fishtail” drill bits became obsolete on August 10, 1909, when Howard Hughes Sr. of Houston, Texas, patented a roller bit consisting of two rotating cones. By pulverizing hard rock, his bit led to drilling faster and deeper. Hughes and business associate Walter Sharp secretly tested a prototype in the Goose Creek oilfield and established the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company to manufacture the dual-cone bit.


Learn more in Making Hole – Drilling Technology.


Big Inch Pipelines of WWII


In response to U-boat attacks on oil tankers along the eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico, construction began on the “Big Inch” pipeline on August 3, 1942. The $95 million project laid a 1,254-mile, 24-inch pipeline (Big Inch) from East Texas oilfields to Illinois. An accompanying 20-inch-wide line (Little Big Inch) carried gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil, and kerosene as far as New Jersey. 


Learn more in Big Inch Pipelines of WW II.



Every summer, oil and gas history festivals offer annual reminders of the role of petroleum in shaping the modern world. Many community museums participate in these oilfield heritage celebrations, helping preserve exploration and production milestones — and educating visitors about the industry’s early products (see kerosene for lamps). These museums also offer unique facilities for hosting K-12 education programs. Support them by visiting. Thanks again for reading our August newsletter. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcomed.


— Bruce Wells


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

Oil & Gas History News, July 2023


July 19, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 7


Oil & Gas History News


Welcome to our latest look at America’s petroleum history milestones. July’s sizzling summaries include a 1929 Permian Basin oilfield discovery that tested voluntary proration; establishment of a heating oil reserve in 2000; a New Jersey refinery fire that made early Edison newsreels; and the 19th century creation of gas utilities. Also featured is the CIA’s covert Soviet sub-lifting vessel that would be converted into the pioneer of all modern drillships. There’s much more oil patch history this month — like a 19th century petroleum product that now fuels rockets and the independent producer who discovered 11 Texas oilfields by 1945 and then built Houston’s famed Shamrock Hotel. Thanks for subscribing, and let us know your thoughts about this month’s edition.


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.


July 18, 1929 – Darst Creek Oilfield discovered in West Texas


With initial production of 1,000 barrels of oil a day, the Texas Company No. 1 Dallas Wilson well revealed a new West Texas oilfield at Darst Creek in Guadalupe County, about five miles from the southwestern edge of the Luling oilfield. The new field would be developed by Humble Oil and Refining (later Exxon), Gulf Production Company, Magnolia Petroleum (later Mobil), as well as the Texas Company (later Texaco)…MORE


July 10, 2000 – DOE establishes Home Heating Oil Reserve


President Bill Clinton directed Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to establish the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve (NEHHOR) for use during severe winters and other supply emergencies. The reserve of 2 million barrels was expected to last 10 days, the time required for tankers to bring more heating oil from the Gulf of Mexico to New York Harbor…MORE


July 5, 1900 – Edison films Standard Oil Refinery Fire in New Jersey


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


June 26, 1885 – Natural Gas Utility charted in Pennsylvania


Peoples Natural Gas Company incorporated — the first Pennsylvania natural gas company chartered by the state to regulate production, transmission, and distribution of natural gas. A similar utility incorporation had taken place a year earlier in New York City when six competing companies combined to form Consolidated Edison…MORE


Energy Education



The former 1970s top-secret CIA vessel Hughes Glomar Explorer (above) in 1998 would be converted into the world’s largest and most advanced drillship, spending the next 17 years working in deep-water sites around the globe. Photo courtesy American Society of Mechanical Engineers.


Secret History of Drillship Glomar Explorer


With members of the original engineering team and ship’s crew among the attendees at the presentation in Houston on July 20, 2006, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated the ship Glomar Explorer, an “historic mechanical engineering landmark.” The remarkable vessel’s story began in 1972 with Howard Hughes Jr. and a high-tech ship was ostensibly built to mine the sea floor. It actually was designed and built to secretly recover a lost Soviet ballistic missile submarine. After a $180 million shipyard conversion decades later, the Glomar Explorer began its record-setting career as a ultra-deep drillship. One offshore expert proclaimed the ship, “was decades ahead of its time and the pioneer of all modern drillships.”


Learn more in Secret History of Drill Ship Glomar Explorer.


Featured Articles


Fueling the Saturn V Rocket


A 19th century petroleum product made America’s July 20, 1969, moon landing possible. Five engines of the Saturn V’s first stage burned “Rocket Grade Kerosene Propellant” at 2,230 gallons per second — generating almost eight million pounds of thrust. The fuel was a highly refined kerosene RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1) that began in 1846 as “coal oil” for lamps.


Learn more in Kerosene Rocket Fuel.


“Diamond Glenn” McCarthy strikes Oil


Glenn H. McCarthy on July 21, 1935, struck oil 50 miles east of Houston, extending the Anahuac field. The well was the first of many for the Texas independent producer, who would discover 11 oilfields by 1945. He later invested $21 million to build the 18-story, 1,100-room Shamrock Hotel, spending another $1 million on its opening gala, which newspapers dubbed, “Houston’s biggest party.”


Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.


News & Research


Hidden History at Texas Land Office


The oldest state agency in Texas, the Texas General Land Office, includes Archives and Records (established in 1837) that preserve more than 35.5 million documents and 45,000 maps, dating back to the 16th century. It has just added “Texas Hidden History,” which uses mapping software to produce Story Maps.


175th Anniversary of Washington Gas Light 


Washington Gas Light (WGL), established by Congress on July 8, 1848, installed manufactured gas lights in the House and Senate chambers, the White House, and along Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover opened a pipeline valve to bring natural gas from fields in Kentucky and West Virginia.


Seeking Standard Oil’s Naptha History


A writer working on the history of lighting in New York City has noted Standard Oil produced almost all of the naphtha in the United States at the end of the 19th century. On the AOGHS Research Forum, he is seeking more information about how and where Standard Oil produced naphtha.



Thanks for reading our July issue and for sharing it with friends. This really helps bring new visitors to the AOGHS website, which needs annual supporting members. Financial support of any amount is appreciated and goes directly to keeping the website in operation. Adding editorial content also continues, as does linking to energy education resources. A recent request from the Texas General Land Office has made it the latest addition to our state resources page. Thank you again for subscribing. See you again next month!


— Bruce Wells



Preserve U.S. Petroleum History




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

This Week In Petroleum History, June 2023

June 21, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 6

Oil & Gas History News


Welcome to our newsletter on this first day of summer — and thank you for subscribing. This month’s chronology begins with the first oil to flow in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1977; discovery of New York’s Allegheny oilfield a century later; and the first federal gasoline tax (one-cent) in 1937. Also featured are Nebraska’s first commercial oil well in 1940 and the 1905 patent for a remarkable steel drum. This month’s featured image is a postcard of derricks at the boom town of Signal Hill, California. Two more articles look at a colorful petroleum product for children and PLUTO, the secret oil pipelines of World War II. This month concludes with a unique contribution from a reader and some museum news. Thanks again for subscribing. Find time this summer to visit an oil museum!

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

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline began carrying oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez at Prince William Sound. The oil arrived 38 days later, culminating the world’s largest privately funded construction project at the time. The Prudhoe Bay field had been discovered in 1968 about 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Construction of the 48-inch-wide pipeline began in April 1974. Oil throughput of the $8 billion pipeline peaked in 1988 at just over two million barrels per day…MORE

June 12, 1879 – Allegheny Oilfield discovered by O.P. Taylor

Orville “O.P.” Taylor completed the Triangle No. 1 well at a depth of 1,177 feet in Allegheny County, New York, revealing an oilfield that extended into Pennsylvania. His discovery came after two failed wells drilled near oil seeps first reported by a French missionary in in 1627. The Allegheny oilfield would launch a drilling boom and create the town of Petrolia…MORE

June 6, 1932 – First Federal Gasoline Tax

The federal government taxed gasoline for the first time when the Revenue Act of 1932 added a one-cent per gallon excise tax to U.S. gasoline sales. The first state to tax gasoline had been Oregon, which imposed a one-cent per gallon tax in 1919…MORE

May 29, 1940 – Nebraska’s First Oil Well

After more than a half century of dry holes, Nebraska’s first commercial oil well was completed near Falls City in the southeastern corner of the state. Eager to join other states benefiting from tax revenue gained from petroleum, Nebraska lawmakers had offered a $15,000 bonus for the first well to produce 50 barrels of oil daily for two months…MORE

May 23, 1905 – Patent issued for Improved Metal Barrel Lid

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.” Wehrhahn assigned patent rights to the widow of Robert Seaman, founder of Iron Clad Manufacturing — journalist Nellie Bly…MORE


Energy Education

The discovery of oil at Signal Hill in 1921 would help make California the source of one-quarter of the world’s oil output. Soon known as “Porcupine Hill,” the town was in the midst of the giant Long Beach oilfield. Postcard (circa 1930-1945) courtesy Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library, Digital Commonwealth.

Signal Hill Discovery brings California Oil Boom

Another southern California drilling boom began on June 23, 1921, when oil erupted 114 feet high at Signal Hill. The Alamitos No. 1 discovery well produced about 600 barrels of oil a day. By 1923, the oilfield 20 miles south of Los Angeles produced 259,000 barrels of oil a day. Derricks were so close to one cemetery that graves “generated royalty checks to next-of-kin when oil was drawn from beneath family plots.” Combined with the 1892 Los Angeles oilfield discovery and the 1920 Huntington Beach field, California alone produced one-fourth of the world’s oil. A 1952 monument in Signal Hill’s Discovery Well Park has served “as a tribute to the petroleum pioneers for their success here.”

Learn more in Signal Hill Oil Boom.

Featured Articles

Carbon Black Patent leads to Crayola Crayons

Crayola Crayons began in early May 1891, when Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith of Easton, Pennsylvania, were awarded a U.S. patent for their “Apparatus for the Manufacture of Carbon Black.” Their success would lead to creation of a new petroleum product that got its name from the French word for chalk, craie, and an English adjective meaning oily, oleaginous.

Learn more in Carbon Black & Oilfield Crayons.

PLUTO, the Top Secret Pipelines of WW II

To prevent fuel shortages following the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion, Operation PLUTO – Pipe Line Under The Ocean – became a top-secret Allied strategy. Pipe was wound onto enormous floating “conundrums” designed to spool off the pipe when towed across the English Channel. Each mile used over 46 tons of lead, steel tape and wire for crossing almost 70 miles from Isle of Wight to Cherbourg.

Learn more in PLUTO, Secret Pipelines of WW II.

Research & Museum News


Informal History of Indiana Refining

James Hines of Columbus, Indiana, earlier this month emailed the historical society the text of his chronology of the Indiana Refining Company, Havoline Motor Oil, and the Texas Company — Texaco. “Emphasis was placed on Indian Refining Company and on an accurate account of Havoline’s early days,” Hines noted, describing his research simply as “Informal History Notes.”

Learn more in Histories of Indian Refining, Havoline, and Texaco.

Alaska Oil and Gas Historical Society

The Alaska Oil & Gas Historical Society (AKOGHS) has been established to collect artifacts, documents and photos as educational resources for students and researchers. Alaska’s historical society plans on hosting special events and programs, offering “a unique opportunity to the public to learn about the rich history of the industry.”

Thanks for reading — and sharing — this June newsletter. The updated AOGHS website research forum also can help with research and information sharing. It’s easy to participate and make suggestions. As always, a special thank you to new and renewing supporting members, who recognize lessons of the past are important for meeting today’s energy challenges.

— Bruce Wells

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

Oil & Gas History News, May 2023

AOGHS Logo - Oil and Gas History Newsletter

May 17, 2023 –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 5


Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our May newsletter — and thanks for sharing it with others. This month’s summaries begin with Standard Oil’s court-mandated breakup in 1911; the first well drilled in what would become West Virginia; and a history of petroleum-related minor league baseball teams. We also look at the founding of Magnolia Petroleum in 1911. Three articles feature U.S. patents, including one issued in 1877 for a two-spouted oilfield lamp; another in 1942 for a combination drilling rig and farm truck; and the third for an offshore drilling platform — in 1869. We conclude with a small natural gas museum in Kansas and the shallow Oklahoma oilfield that launched the career of Erle Haliburton.


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 15, 1911 – Break Up of Standard Oil

After reviewing 12,000 pages of court documents, the Supreme Court issued its majority opinion mandating dissolution of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey into 34 separate companies. The Justice Department had filed an antitrust lawsuit against Standard Oil in 1909…MORE

May 8, 1918 – Shreveport Gassers go Extra Innings

As baseball became America’s favorite pastime, the Texas League’s Shreveport Gassers played 20 innings against the Fort Worth Panthers before the game was declared a tie. The Gassers were just one of many oilfield-related teams, including the Okmulgee Drillers, the Tulsa Oilers, the Independence Producers, the Beaumont Exporters, the Corsicana Oil Citys, the Wichita Falls Spudders, and the Iola Gasbags…MORE

May 1, 1860 – First West Virginia Oil Well

Virginia’s oil industry began about one year before the Civil War when John Castelli ”Cass” Rathbone (1858-1948) completed an oil well near Burning Springs Run in what today is West Virginia. The Rathbone well reached 300 feet and began producing 100 barrels of oil a day. Rathbone drilled more wells southwest of Parkersburg — the first petroleum boom to take place outside the Pennsylvania oil regions…MORE

April 24, 1911 – Magnolia Petroleum Company founded

Magnolia Petroleum Company began as a consolidation of several companies, the first of which began in 1898 as a kerosene refinery in Corsicana, Texas. As the company established service stations in southwestern states, Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) began acquiring the company in 1925 before merging with the Vacuum Oil Company in 1931. The new company, Socony-Vacuum Oil would later become Mobil Oil…MORE


Energy Education



Jonathan Dillen of Petroleum Centre, Pennsylvania, on May 3, 1870, received a U.S. patent for his safety derrick lamp, often called a “yellow dog” lantern in early oilfields because its two burning wicks resembled a dog’s glowing eyes at night. 

Oilfield Lantern with Two Spouts patented

Rare is the community museum with oilfield exhibits that doesn’t include at least one “yellow dog” lantern in its collection. Patented after the Civil War, the two-wicked “Derrick Safety Lamp” became an oilfield icon.. Some believe the lamp’s unusual design originated with the whaling industry, but neither the Nantucket nor New Bedford whaling museums have found evidence of this. Railroad museums include collections of cast iron smudge pots, but nothing quite like the heavy, crude-oil burning lanterns once prevalent in oilfields from Pennsylvania to California. The origins of the lantern remain in the dark.

Learn more in Yellow Dog – Oilfield Lantern.

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Inventing a Portable Drilling Rig

On May 19, 1942, George E. Failing (1889-1976) of Enid, Oklahoma, patented an innovative portable drilling rig he invented a decade earlier. His design combined a Ford farm truck and an assembly to transfer power from the engine to the drill. The concept had been put to the test in 1933, when a catastrophic fire threatened an entire Texas oilfield. Failing would be awarded more than 300 patents.

Learn more in Technology and the “Conroe Crater.”

Offshore Platform Patent of 1869

Any history of offshore oil exploration and production should include the “Rock Drill” platform design of engineer and shipbuilder Thomas Fitch Rowland (1831-1907) of New York City. Rowland, owner of Continental Iron Works, on May 4, 1869, patented his “submarine drilling apparatus.” The design for a fixed, four-legged offshore drilling platform came just a decade after the first commercial U.S. oil well.

Learn more in Offshore Rig Patent of 1869.

Kansas Museum for Natural Gas

A museum in southwestern Kansas preserves the history of one of the world’s largest natural gas fields — and the greatest source of helium. The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened in 1961 near a natural gas well drilled in 1945 and still producing. Founded by dedicated volunteers, the small museum and its exhibits serve “as a memento of the Hugoton gas field.”

Learn more in Hugoton Natural Gas Museum.

Halliburton and the Healdton Oilfield

In 1919, the Healdton oilfield already was known as the “poor man’s field” because of its shallow depth and low cost of drilling when a 27-year-old entrepreneur arrived. Erle Palmer Halliburton (1892-1957) began applying his “Method and Means for Cementing an Oil Well,” which he patented in 1921. His service company would take the new technology to oilfields worldwide.

Learn more in Halliburton and the Healdton Oilfield.

Thank you for taking the time to read (and hopefully share) these articles. Please visit the AOGHS website and stay tuned for more new research and articles about pioneers, technologies, and discoveries. Your continued interest in petroleum history is important, because the nation’s exploration and production heritage should be part of modern energy education. This historical society depends upon your support to deepen understanding of today’s energy challenges.

— Bruce Wells

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