Oil & Gas History News, July 2021

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July 21, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 7


Oil & Gas History News


Welcome to the July newsletter — and a special thank you to our new subscribers! This month’s issue offers many summertime milestones in petroleum history, including the discovery of a major oilfield at Cook Inlet Basin, Alaska, in 1959, and the first “natural gas Jubilee” of Paola, Kansas, in 1887. Also featured is Armais Arutunoff, inventor of a revolutionary oilfield technology. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.


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 19, 1957 – Major Oil Discovery in Alaska Territory

Although some oil production had occurred earlier in the territory, Alaska’s first commercial oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil, which completed the Swanson River Unit No. 1 in Cook Inlet Basin. The well yielded 900 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 11,215 feet. Alaska’s first governor, William Egan, would proclaim the discovery provided “the economic justification for statehood for Alaska.”…MORE


July 12, 1934 – Emory Clark launches “Clark Super 100” Stations


Two years after paying $14 for a closed, one-pump gas station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Emory Clark incorporated what would become the Clark Oil & Refining Corporation. Eliminating common services like maintenance, engine repair, and tire changing, he set out to create a network of stations that focused on selling premium gasoline only, “Super 100 Premium.”…MORE


July 5, 1900 – Edison films Standard Oil Refinery Fire


An early morning lightning strike at the Standard Oil Company refinery at Bayonne, New Jersey, set off explosions in three storage tanks. “Within minutes after the fire began, the company siren sounded, bringing its own fire department and tugboats into action,” the Jersey Journal reported. Efforts to fight the blaze were featured in one of the earliest newsreels of the Thomas A. Edison Company…MORE


June 28, 1887 – Kansans celebrate First Natural Gas Jubilee


After erecting flambeau arches at the four corners of the town square, citizens of Paola, Kansas, hosted what local leaders described as “the first natural gas celebration ever held in the West.” Excursion trains from nearby Kansas City and elsewhere brought almost 2,000 people, “to witness the wonders of natural gas.”…MORE


June 21, 1893 – Submersible Pump Inventor born


Armais Arutunoff was born to Armenian parents in Tiflis, Russia. In 1916, he developed the first electrical centrifugal submersible pump, but after emigrating to America in 1923, Arutunoff could not find financial support for his down-hole production technology. Thanks to help from his friend Frank Phillips of Phillips Petroleum, in 1928 Arutunoff moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and established the oilfield service company that would become REDA…MORE


Energy Education

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported the United States continued to lead the world in petroleum production in 2020 as coal production fell to its lowest level since 1965. Despite volatility in oil markets, the nation’s crude oil exports reached a record high in 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic reducing global energy use, non-fossil fuel sources accounted for 21 percent of U.S. energy consumption.


After welcoming visitors to the Smithsonian’s Hall of Petroleum in the summer of 1967, the 13-foot by 56-foot “Panorama of Petroleum” by Oklahoma artist Delbert Jackson was almost forgotten. The city of Tulsa recovered the mural and in 1998 restored and installed it at the Tulsa International Airport, where Jackson’s oilfield panorama can be seen today. 


Remembering the Smithsonian’s 1967 Hall of Petroleum


With a collection of more than three million artifacts, the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., includes surprisingly few related to exploration and production history. It wasn’t always so. In the summer of 1967, an entire wing, the Hall of Petroleum, opened in the museum. Exhibits gave the public, “some conception of the involved nature of the processes of finding and producing oil and its preparation for consumption – whether by automobiles, airplanes, power stations, household furnaces, or the petrochemical industry,” noted the catalog. Learn more in Smithsonian’s Hall of Petroleum.


Oil & Gas Museums


Depression era rural life of East Texas changed drastically with the discovery of oil in 1930, and the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College houses an authentic recreation of the giant oilfield’s history. Digitized movies now play inside the museum’s Boom Town Theater, refurnished as part of a two-year museum renovation project.


The Museum of North Texas History in downtown Wichita Falls features everything from airplanes, autos, and military memorabilia. Exhibits about the petroleum industry — a major part of life in North Texas since a 1911 discovery at Electra — include rare photos from the boom days, drill bits, and other equipment.


In Taft, California, the West Kern County Museum, run entirely by volunteers, is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting artifacts, books, and equipment that tell the story of West Kern County. The museum educates visitors about the Midway Sunset field, which by 1915 produced half the state’s oil, helping California lead the nation in production.


After a pandemic-cancelled symposium in 2020, a group of oil and natural gas geologists and historians will be gathering in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this fall. You are invited to attend the next Annual Symposium and Field Trip of the Petroleum History Institute, September 28 to October 1, 2021.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society depends on financial help from subscribers who become supporting members of AOGHS. Please share this newsletter to increase our outreach among friends at community museums — and visit an oil museum this summer!


— Bruce Wells


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

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

Desk and Derrick Educators

Petroleum industry secretaries hosted a 1951 energy education convention at Shamrock Hotel in Houston.


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

“Greater Knowledge – Greater Service” is the motto of the Association of Desk and Derrick Clubs (ADDC) of North America, which began with a club founded in New Orleans.

Soon, hundreds of the growing number of women working in the petroleum industry – primarily as secretaries – were organizing clubs in other cities.

Association of desk and derrick clubs logo.

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

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

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

 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.

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

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

The PBOil&Gas article 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” for Young People

Educating youth about the earth sciences and how the petroleum industry works has remained 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,” according to the nonprofit ADDC website. Membership numbers have fluctuated over the year in close relation to the state of the oil and gas industry – and oil prices. In 2018, about 1,200 women – and men – employed in or affiliated with the energy and allied industries comprised 48 clubs in seven regions.

ADDC today promotes its energy education mission using variety of programs, including seminars, field trips, and individual clubs hosting the annual national convention. “Thousands of hours of education have been provided for members through monthly programs on the many facets of this industry and given by speakers ranging from company CEO’s to oil-well-fire fighters,” explains the website.

Among ADDC’s historic milestones are: 1949 – The first club is founded in New Orleans by Inez Awty Schaeffer.

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

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

Desk and Derrick 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.

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.

AOGHS membership ad for 2020

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

1996 – The first association website goes online in September.

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

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

2010 – Website is revamped; updated and improved.

West Virginia ADDC Convention in 2013

ADDC annual convention field trips have visited offshore drilling rigs, refineries, manufacturing plants, and pipeline facilities. The 2013 convention took place in late September in Charleston, West Virginia. The West Virginia Desk and Derrick Club hosted “Autumn in Appalachia” for the 62nd annual convention, says General Arrangements Chair Melinda Johnson. The club has 95 member companies and meets the third Tuesday of each month at various locations across the state, adds Johnson.

Desk and Derrick clubs in seven ADDC regions map.

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

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

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

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


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 bawells@aoghs.org. © 2021 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Desk and Derrick Educators.” Author: AOGHS.ORG Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/desk-derrick-educators. Last Updated: July 19, 2021. Original Published Date: July 21, 2014.


Oil & Gas History News, June 2021

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June 16, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 6

Oil & Gas History News

As a long-awaited summer arrives, community museums can look forward to to welcoming tourists and other visitors. Thanks to our subscribers and supporting members, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society has built a network of these dedicated energy educators. There is museum news among our June newsletter’s stories. These stories include early oilfield publications, technology milestones, and an 1894 unexpected oil discovery in Corsicana, Texas.

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 14, 1865 – First Edition of Pennsylvania Oil Region Newspaper

The hometown of the first American oil well got its first newspaper when brothers William and Henry Bloss published a four-page broadsheet, the Titusville Morning Herald. Initial circulation was 300 for the new daily, which is still published today. The first edition’s articles included a brief reference to the oil interests of John Wilkes Booth, who visited the region in 1864…MORE

June 9, 1894 – Water Well finds Oil in Corsicana 

A contractor hired by the town of Corsicana to drill a water well found oil instead, launching the Texas petroleum industry seven years before the more famous discovery at Spindletop Hill. Despite the discovery bringing petroleum riches to Corsicana, the city paid the contractor only half of his $1,000 fee; the agreement had been for completing a water well…MORE

June 1, 1860 – First Book about Oil published

Less than 10 months after Edwin L. Drake completed the first commercial oil well at Titusville, Pennsylvania, Thomas A. Gale published an 80-page pamphlet many regard as the first book about America’s petroleum resources. The Wonder of the Nineteenth Century: Rock Oil in Pennsylvania and Elsewhere described the advantages of the new fuel source for kerosene lamps…MORE

May 24, 1902 – Earliest Oil & Gas Journal published

Holland Reavis founded the Oil Investors’ Journal in Beaumont, Texas, with articles focusing on financial issues in the giant oilfield discovered a year before at Spindletop Hill. In 1910, Patrick Boyle acquired the publication, changed it to a weekly, and expanded coverage to become the Oil & Gas Journal…MORE

Energy Education


In 1954, a revolutionary offshore oil drilling platform went to work for Shell Oil Company in the East Bay oilfield, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. When Mr. Charlie left its New Orleans shipyard on June 15, it became the world’s first mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU). Photo courtesy Murphy Oil Corporation.

First Mobile Offshore Drilling Rig

Capable of drilling wells in water up to 40 feet deep, Mr. Charlie’s mobile design originated with Alden “Doc” LaBorde, a World War II Navy veteran and Kerr-McGee Company marine superintendent. In 1954, Murphy Oil adopted his design as an alternative to permanent, pile-supported drilling platforms tendered by utility boats. Recognized as a historical mechanical engineering landmark in 2012, Mr. Charlie today operates as the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition in Morgan City. Learn more in Mr. Charlie, First Mobile Offshore Drilling Rig.

Oil & Gas Museums

In addition to the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition — and the popular Galveston, Texas-based Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum — oil and gas museums are reopening across the country.

If you are looking for a unique venue to host upcoming  events or meetings, check with your local museum! Beyond its outstanding Permian Basin exhibits, the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, offers unique indoor and outdoor spaces for any kind of gathering.

The Penn Brad Oil Museum in northwestern Pennsylvania’s scenic McKean County, “preserves the philosophy and spirit of a historic oil community” and the world’s first billion dollar oilfield. By 1881, oil from the region’s Devonian Bradford Sands accounted for 83 percent of all U.S. production.

Oilfield exhibits can be seen at a museum in Columbia, Texas, the capital of the Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1837. Now known as West Columbia, this community southwest of Houston is home to the Columbia Historical Museum, which opened in 1990. Brazoria County’s many historic oilfield discoveries include the West Columbia field, revealed in 1917 by former Texas Gov. James Hogg.

Finally, after a summer of educational visits to museums, consider joining the American Oil & Gas Historical Society in attending the fall 2021 Annual Symposium and Field Trip of the Petroleum History Institute, September 28 to October 1, in Pittsburgh.

Help AOGHS continue its preservation advocacy work on behalf of community oil and gas museums. Share this monthly newsletter and our latest outreach efforts. Among many projects, the historical society is supporting a 2021 effort  by the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition in receiving National Historic Landmark designation for Mr. Charlie.

— Bruce Wells

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

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

Oil & Gas History News, May 2021

AOGHS logo Newsletter

May 19, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 5

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our May summary of U.S. energy milestones that have led to today’s energy industry. This month includes more oil and gas museum news, the story of an 1882 “mystery well” in Pennsylvania, and two noteworthy patents for oilfield-related technologies. As always, your comments are welcomed — and a special thank you to our new subscribers and the many readers who share 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. 

May 17, 1882 – Mystery Well shocks Pennsylvania Oil Prices

With the U.S. petroleum industry less than 25 years old, a “Mystery Well” at Cherry Creek, Pennsylvania, flowed at 1,000 barrels of oil a day. Once a closely guarded secret, news of the prolific discovery sent shock waves through early oil trading markets. Certificates for more than 4.5 million barrels of oil were sold in one day at oil exchanges in Titusville, Oil City and Bradford…MORE

May 12, 2007 – Oil and Gas Museums open in Oklahoma

As part of the Oklahoma statehood centennial celebration, ConocoPhillips Corp. opened the Conoco Museum in Ponca City and the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville. Conoco began in 1875 as the Continental Oil and Transportation Company, using horse-drawn wagons to deliver kerosene in Ogden, Utah. Brothers Frank and L.E. Phillips in 1917 consolidated their successful exploration companies to form Phillips Petroleum Company, which merged with Conoco in 2002…MORE

May 3, 1870 – Lantern with Two Spouts patented

Jonathan Dillen of Petroleum Centre, Pennsylvania, received a U.S. patent for his “safety derrick lamp,” a two-wicked lantern popularly known as the “Yellow Dog” in early oilfields. Dillen created his lamp, “for illuminating places out of doors, especially in and about derricks, and machinery in the oil regions, whereby explosions are more dangerous and destructive to life and property than in most other places…MORE

April 26, 1947 – Oil Industry promoted on Radio

For the first time since its establishment in 1919, the American Petroleum Institute (API) launched a national advertising campaign. “The theme of the drive is that the petroleum industry is a modern and progressive one, and is now turning out the best products in its history,” noted Billboard. “Radio this week struck real pay dirt as a ‘Gusher’ will come mainly from expansion of current air time…MORE

Energy Education

George Failing Drilling Truck AOGHS

On May 19, 1942, George E. Failing received a U.S. patent for a portable drilling rig he had invented a decade earlier using his Ford farm truck and an assembly to transfer power from the engine to the drill. Failing would receive more than 300 patents for oilfield tools. Photo courtesy GEFCO.

Technology Pioneers save Conroe Oilfield

When a catastrophic fire threatened the entire production of a Texas oilfield in early 1933, George E. Failing of Enid, Oklahoma, and H. John Eastman of Long Beach, California, applied new technologies to end the crisis. A well in the Conroe field had roared into flames, cratered, and swallowed two nearby rigs before Failing arrived with his portable rig to drill relief wells. H. John Eastman, known today as the father of directional drilling, later would apply recently perfected surveying instruments that allowed “the bit burrowing into the ground at strange angles,” according to Popular Science. Learn more in Technology and the “Conroe Crater.”

Oil & Gas Museums

In southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton  began welcoming visitors on May 16, 1961. Volunteer docents explained the history of what was then the largest natural gas field in the world. Covering more than 14 counties in Kansas, the Hugoton field extends 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. It remains the world’s greatest source of helium. Learn more in Hugoton Natural Gas Museum.

All oil patch historians are encouraged to visit community oil and gas museums this summer. Many have begun reopening in PennsylvaniaOklahomaTexasCalifornia, and other states.

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

As the historical society adds more teacher and student subscribers, an encouraging number of supporting members are active or retired petroleum engineers, geologists, and other industry professionals. Their financial support, comments, and suggestions are appreciated. Thanks again to all AOGHS members for helping to preserve petroleum history.

— Bruce Wells

Summer Travels to Oil Museums

It’s summertime and visiting a petroleum museum is easy.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Happily, the spring of 2021 has witnessed many community oil and gas museums beginning to reopen — and they now need your support, because Covid-19 put an abrupt end to visits. The links below can help you check any museum’s status for both in-person distance learning programs.


As millions of Americans cautiously begin trekking across the country on summer vacations, among the most educational but less well known stops are community oil and natural gas museums in the 33 producing states. For the many thousands of people who today work (or have worked) in the energy industry, energy education opportunities abound at community festivals.

Oklahoma and Texas alone offer dozens of museums with petroleum related exhibits and events. Meet the dedicated docents – many retired petroleum geologists, engineers, exploration and production executives, oilfield services company (and station) owners, and more. Plan your summer travels to oil museums today!

Texas Energy Museum exhibit

Petroleum exhibits educate visitors to the Texas Energy Museum in Beaumont, where a 1901 oil discovery at Spindletop Hill launched the modern petroleum industry. Photo by Bruce Wells.

In Texas, the Petroleum Museum in Midland includes many summer energy education programs for kids, as does an offshore rig museum in Galveston. Other community oil and gas museums and annual “derrick festivals” can be found in California, Illinois, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Ohio. Alabama even has a small county museum in Gilbertown with an “old Hunt oil rig” similar to the one that discovered the first oilfield in Alabama in 1944.

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

Kids play at Drake Well Museum wooden derrick

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

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

Western New York boasts a museum in Bolivar with some of the nation’s earliest petroleum artifacts. While dairying and livestock have become the cash crops, the region still produces a small amount of very high quality oil and natural gas, says Director Kelly Lounsberry. This museum tells the story of oil and natural gas production in the region.

Pioneer Oil Museum of New York

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

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

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

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

AOGHS membership ad for 2020

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

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


The Drake Well Museum’s outdoor exhibits include a recreation of the original cable-tool derrick Drake used. A popular summer attraction is the “Nitro” well fracturing reenactment that demonstrates the use of “go-devils” for fracturing a well. Visit the museum gift shop to find a reprint of the Early Days of Oil, by Dr. Paul Giddens, a book considered to be the “Bible” of information about the birth of the U.S. petroleum industry. Many images are from originals made by photographer John A. Mather and today housed at the museum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America’s First Billion Dollar Oilfield

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

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

A few hours drive to the east of Titusville, the Penn-Brad Oil Museum (and historical oil well park), near Bradford, takes visitors back to the early boom times of “The First Billion Dollar Oil Field.” Guided tours are conducted by retired geologists or petroleum engineers who volunteer their time to relate exciting first-hand experiences. The museum is located three miles south of Bradford, along Rt. 219, near Custer City. Nearby is the 125-year-old refinery of the American Refining Group – reportedly the oldest continuously operating refinery in the country.

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

The museum maintains stationary internal combustion engines for education and enjoyment. Photo by Bruce Wells.

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

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

The Coolspring Power Museum is located east of Pittsburgh just off Route 36 midway between Punxsutawney to the south and Brookville to the north. According to Director Paul E. Harvey, the collection presents an illuminating history of the evolution of internal combustion technology that put an end to the steam powered era. Twice a year engine collectors from around the country gather on the extensive grounds – and the “barking” of hundreds of antique engines lasts several days.

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


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 bawells@aoghs.org. © 2021 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Summer Travels to Oil Museums” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/pennsylvania-petroleum-vacation. Last Updated: May 15, 2021. Original Published Date: May 7, 2013.

ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums

Oklahoma oil and natural gas history exhibited in Ponca City and Bartlesville.


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

Conocophillips petroleum museum interior oil exhibits

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

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

The Conoco Museum includes five areas exhibiting the evolution of the company’s business identity, marketing – and onshore and offshore technologies. (more…)

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