Oil & Gas History News, February 2022

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February 16, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 2

Oil & Gas History News


Welcome to our latest summary of events in U.S. oil and natural gas industry history. This February newsletter features exploration and technology milestones, including the 1944 discovery of Alabama’s first oilfield by H.L. Hunt, who earlier made discoveries in Arkansas and East Texas. Also featured this month is a research request from an MIT associate professor, one of many educators who appreciate the AOGHS website’s outreach to petroleum industry professionals. Thank you again 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.

February 15, 1982 – Atlantic Storm sinks Drilling Platform

With rogue waves reaching as high as 65 feet during a deadly Atlantic cyclone, offshore drilling platform Ocean Ranger sank on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada, killing all 84 on board. Described at the time as the world’s largest semi-submersible platform, Ocean Ranger in November 1981 began drilling a third well in the Hibernia oilfield for Mobil Oil of Canada…MORE

February 7, 1817 – First Manufactured Gas Street Light

America’s first public street lamp fueled by manufactured gas illuminated Baltimore. The city’s Gas Light Company became the first U.S. commercial gas lighting company by distilling tar and wood to make its lamp gas. A replica of the original 1817 street light was dedicated in 1997 at the corner of North Holliday Street and East Baltimore Street…MORE

January 31, 1888 – Death of a Pennsylvania Oil Scout

Thirty-seven-year-old Justus McMullen, already a famous Pennsylvania oil scout, succumbed to pneumonia contracted while investigating production data from a well near Canonsburg. Often called “night riders of the hemlock,” oilfield detectives like McMullen debunked rumors and demystified well production reports, sometimes despite armed guards…MORE

January 24, 1895 – Independent Producers organize Pure Oil

To counter market dominance John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company and Trust, Pennsylvania independent oil producers, refiners, and pipeline operators organized Pure Oil Company in Pittsburgh. Before building a Chicago skyscraper for its new headquarters in 1926, Pure Oil had become the second vertically integrated U.S. petroleum company after Standard…MORE


Energy Education


Geological Map of Alabama printed in 1849 by Michael Tuomey, professor of geology, mineralogy and agricultural chemistry at the University of Alabama. He published the “First Biennial Report of the Geology of Alabama” one year later. Image courtesy University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections.

First Alabama Oil Well

Tar pills reportedly had been curing ills since the middle of the19th century, but Alabama’s petroleum industry officially began with discovery of its first oilfield in 1944. “Mineral tar” reports from the 1840s had inspired independent producer Haroldson Lafayette “H.L” Hunt to drill the Jackson No. 1 well, which he completed on February 17, 1944, at a depth of 2,585 feet in the Selma chalk. Michael Tuomey, the first state geologist of Alabama from 1848 until his death in 1857, had noted, “Patients visiting the Spring find the tar taken and swallowed as pills, the most efficient form of the remedy.”

Learn more in First Alabama Oil Well.


Featured Articles

Walter Trout’s Nodding Donkey

From eccentric wheels to the counter-balanced “nodding donkey,” technology for producing oil improved in 1925, thanks to Walter Trout. While working at Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company in East Texas, Trout sketched out his idea for a highly efficient oil production device — today’s iconic pump jack. A prototype was installed at a Humble Oil Company well near Hull, Texas. “The well was perfectly balanced, but even with this result, it was such a funny looking, odd thing that it was subject to ridicule and criticism,” Trout noted.

Learn more in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology

Texas Pipeline Art of “Daddy-O” Wade

Of about 2.5 million miles of U.S. energy pipelines, two 48-inch-wide sections have contributed to modern art. In 1993, offbeat Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade used petroleum pipe segments to make a giant, blue saxophone. Known for “keeping it weird” since making the scene in Austin in 1961, Wade created his sculpture for a Houston jazz club.

Learn more in “Smokesax” Art has Pipeline Heart.

Research Request

MIT associate professor: “I am doing research on the role of the University of Tulsa in the education of petroleum refining engineers and in particular am seeking information about a professor who taught there named W.L. Nelson, author of the textbook Petroleum Refinery Engineering, first published in 1936…”

Learn more in Petroleum History Forum.

Thanks for reading our monthly look at petroleum history milestones. Visit the AOGHS website for the latest articles and updated energy education contacts. Your suggestions are welcome, especially for adding links to the popular pages of state and national resources. Reader input also improves our editorial content for new and returning website visitors, just as sharing articles expands outreach. So does financial help from supporting members.

— Bruce Wells


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

AAPG – Geology Pros since 1917

Growing oil demand challenged petroleum geologists, who organized a professional association.


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

Beginning as the Southwestern Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, Oklahoma, about 90 geologists gathered at Henry Kendall College, now Tulsa University. Meanwhile, deadly mechanized technologies of the First War I brought desperation to finding and producing vast supplies of oil.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists 1917 logo

AAPG members maintain a professional business code.

On February 10, 1917, the group of earth scientists formed an association “to which only reputable and recognized petroleum geologists are admitted.”

In early January 1918, AAPG held a convention in Oklahoma City with a membership of 167 active and 17 associate members. The association issued its first technical bulletin from the papers delivered at the 1917 meeting. The new association’s mission included promoting the science of geology, especially as it related to oil and natural gas, and encourage “technology improvements in the methods of exploring for and exploiting these substances.”

AAPG founded in this Tulsa college

AAPG was founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at Henry Kendall College — today’s Tulsa University.

AAPG would also “foster the spirit of scientific research among its members; to disseminate facts relating to the geology and technology of petroleum and natural gas.”

Adopted its present name a year after the meeting at Henry Kendall College, AAPG began publishing a bimonthly journal that remains among the most respected in the industry. The peer-reviewed Bulletin included papers written by leading geologists of the day. With a subscription price of five dollars, the journal was distributed to members, university libraries, and other industry professionals.

By 1920, one petroleum trade magazine – after complaining of the industry’s lack of skilled geologists — noted the “Association Grows in Membership and Influence; Combats the Fakers.” The article praised AAPG professionalism and warned of “the large number of unscrupulous and inadequately prepared men who are attempting to do geological work.”

Similarly, the Oil Trade Journal praised AAPG for its commitment “to censor the great mass of inadequately prepared and sometimes unscrupulous reports on geological problems, which are wholly misleading to the industry.”

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Perhaps the best known such fabrication is related to the men behind the 1930 East Texas oilfield discovery — a report entitled  “Geological, Topographical And Petroliferous Survey, Portion of Rusk County, Texas, Made for C.M. Joiner by A.D. Lloyd, Geologist And Petroleum Engineer.”

Using very scientific terminology, A.D. Lloyd’s document described Rusk County geology — its anticlines, faults, and a salt dome — all features associated with substantial oil deposits…and all completely fictitious.  The fabrications nevertheless attracted investors, allowing Joiner and “Doc” Lloyd to drill a well that uncovered a massive oil field, still the largest conventional oil reservoir in the lower-48 states.

AAPG magazine cover of Bulletin

AAPG’s peer-reviewed journal.

Equally imaginative science came from Lloyd’s earlier descriptions of the “Yegua and Cook Mountain” formations and the thousands of seismographic registrations he ostensibly recorded. Lloyd, a former patent medicine salesman, and other self-proclaimed geologists, were the antithesis of the AAPG professional ethic.

In 1945, AAPG formed a “Committee on Boy Scout Literature” to assist the Boy Scouts of America in updating requirements for the “mining” badge, which had been awarded since 1911 (learn more in Merit Badge for Geology). By 1953, AAPG membership had grown to more than 10,000 and a permanent headquarters building opened Tulsa.

According to AAPG, the association’s 2021 membership included about 40,000 members in 129 countries in the upstream energy industry, “who collaborate – and compete – to provide the means for humankind to thrive.” The world’s largest professional geological society promotes a membership code that assures “integrity, business ethics, personal honor, and professional conduct.”

As part if the AAPG’s centennial in 2017, Robbie Rice Gries published a 405-page history of pioneering women in petroleum geology, Anomalies: Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology 1917-2017. Researched with help from AAPG volunteers, her book includes contributors’ personal stories, written correspondence, and photographs dating to the first decade of the 20th century. 

“The book should be read by every petroleum geologist, geophysicist, and petroleum engineer,” proclaimed Marlan W. Downey, founder of Roxanna Oil Company, who added, “partly for the pleasure of the sprightly told adventures, partly for a sense of history, and, significantly, because it engenders a proper respect towards all women professionals, forging their unique way in a ‘man’s world.’”  


Recommended Reading:  Anomalies: Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology 1917-2017 (2017); Trek of the Oil Finders: A History of Exploration for Petroleum (1975). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


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

Citation Information – Article Title: “AAPG – Geology Pros since 1917.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL:https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/aapg-geology-pros-since-1917. Last Updated: February 5, 2022. Original Published Date: April 29, 2014.


Oil & Gas History News, January 2022

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January 19, 2022  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 3, No. 1

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2022. Thank you for subscribing. January’s petroleum history milestones include the beginning of a pre-World War I oil boom in North Texas; the iconic Spindletop gusher of 1901; a deep 1948 Permian Basin discovery; an 1890s businesswoman who made explosives; and the 1950s search for oil west of Seattle. This month also features an offshore pioneer in technologies for remotely operated vehicles and dynamic positioning. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

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.

January 17, 1911 – North Texas Oil Discovery brings Boom

Producers Oil Company revealed the Electra oilfield in North Texas when its Waggoner No. 5 well began producing 50 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 1,825 feet. A rush of exploration companies resulted in many more discoveries on William Waggoner’s ranch, bringing prosperity to the town named after his daughter…MORE

January 10, 1901 – Texas Well launches Modern Oil Industry

The modern U.S. petroleum industry began on a hill in southeastern Texas when a well erupted near Beaumont. The Spindletop oilfield, which yielded 3.59 million barrels of oil by the end of 1901, would produce more oil in one day than all the rest of the world’s oilfields combined. The “Lucas Gusher” and other nearby discoveries changed American transportation by providing abundant oil for cheap gasoline…MORE

January 4, 1948 – Deep Discovery in Permian Basin

After years of frustration, exploration of the Permian Basin suddenly intensified again when a wildcat well found oil and natural gas in a deep geologic formation. The Slick-Urschel Oil Company drilled the well in partnership with geologist and independent producer Michael Late Benedum, who had discovered oilfields in Pennsylvania and West Virginia since the 1890s…MORE

December 28, 1898 – Mrs. Alford inherits a Nitro Factory 

Byron S. Alford died and left his nitroglycerin factory to his wife Mary, who would make the Bradford, Pennsylvania, business thrive. She was “the only known woman to own a dynamite and nitroglycerin factory,” declared a 2017 Smithsonian magazine article…MORE

December 20, 1951 – Oil discovered in Washington State 

A short-lived oil discovery in Washington foretold the state’s production future when the Hawksworth Gas and Oil Development Company completed a well in Grays Harbor County. The Tom Hawksworth-State No. 4 well near Ocean City initially produced 35 barrels of oil a day…MORE


Energy Education


An “underwater manipulator with suction support device” was one of many patents awarded to Howard L. Shatto Jr. for his offshore technology innovations. While working for Shell Oil Company, Shatto designed remotely operated vehicles that could install production equipment at a greater depth than divers could safely work. 


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ROVs — Swimming Socket Wrenches


Underwater robot technology began in the late 1950s when Hughes Aircraft developed a Manipulator Operated Robot — MOBOT — for the Atomic Energy Commission. Working on land, the robot performed in highly radioactive environments. The offshore oil industry recognized the potential of “underwater electronic nerves, hydraulic muscles, and TV eyes.” Howard L. Shatto Jr. (1924-2018) developed ROVs for the first subsea wellheads. In 1960, he designed the world’s first automatic control for dynamic positioning for Eureka, a Shell Oil core drillship. He was inducted into the Oilfield Energy Center Hall of Fame in 2000.

Learn more in ROV – Swimming Socket Wrench.

Featured Articles


Asphalt paves the Way

President Ulysses S. Grant in December directed that Pennsylvania Avenue be paved with Trinidad asphalt in December 1875. One year later, the president’s paving project covered about 54,000 square yards. By 1903, Congress had established a mechanical and chemical laboratory to test road materials. Within a decade, petroleum asphalt dominated the marketplace.

Learn more in Asphalt paves the Way

1866 Rotary Rig Design

An “Improvement in Rock Drills” patent issued after the Civil War included the basic elements of the modern petroleum industry’s rotary rig. On January 2, 1866, Peter Sweeney of New York City was granted U.S. patent No. 51,902 for a drilling system with many innovative technologies.

Learn more in Sweeny’s 1866 Rotary Rig

Inventive Oilfield Service Company Founders

Exploring the roots of oilfield service company giants Baker Oil Tools and Hughes Tools:  As the U.S. petroleum expanded following the January 1901 Spindletop discovery in Texas, service company pioneers like Ruben “Carl” Baker and Howard Hughes Sr. brought new technologies to oilfields.

Learn more in Carl Baker and Howard Hughes

Thank you again for helping the historical society preserve America’s petroleum history. We hope you will share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues. Telling others about AOGHS articles helps bring more visitors to our energy education website. Please also consider becoming a supporting member to increase our 2022 outreach.

— Bruce Wells


In memory of my brother Timothy G. Wells (1958 – 2022)

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

Michigan Petroleum History

Oil discoveries in the 1920s would lead to finding the state’s only giant oilfield in 1957.


A 1961 Clare County historical marker explains Michigan petroleum history began in 1886, but that Michigan State Geologist Alexander Winchell had reported that oil and natural gas deposits lay under Michigan’s surface as 1860.

“First commercial oil production was at Port Huron, where 22 wells were drilled, beginning in 1886,” the marker continues. “Total output was small. Michigan’s first oil boom was at Saginaw, where production began about 1925. About three hundred wells were drilled here by 1927, when Muskegon’s ‘Discovery Well’ drew oil men from all over the country to that field.”

 Clarke Historical Library exhibit at Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant.

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

The Clare County historical marker notes that the Mt. Pleasant field, discovered in 1928, “helped make Michigan one of the leading oil producers of the eastern United States. Mount Pleasant became known as the “Oil Capital of Michigan.”

Central Michigan University Oil Exhibit

In the summer of 2005, a special petroleum exhibit opened at Central Michigan University’s (CMU) Clarke Historical Library, Mount Pleasant.

“They work hard, take risks, prosper, and by and large benefit everybody,” noted Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library, about oil and natural gas producers. “What I didn’t understand about the industry is that these people all know each other.”

Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library in Michigan.

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

The library told their story with an “Oil and Natural Gas in Michigan” exhibit.

The state’s abundant oil production comes as a surprise to many, said Boles, who put the exhibit together with the cooperation of the Michigan Oil & Gas Association and the Michigan Oil & Gas Producers Educational Foundation.

Jack Westbrook, retired managing editor of Michigan Oil & Gas News magazine, marshaled the resources and worked tirelessly to ensure success, Boles said. “In a very real sense, there would be no exhibit if it were not for Jack.”

The exhibit was designed to designed to pique a visitor’s curiosity – and be transportable. The region’s students learned that Mount Pleasant, home to CMU, had its own oil boom in 1928 and today is known as the historical center of Michigan’s oil industry.

Exhibit visitors learned that more than 57,000 oil and gas wells had been drilled in their state since 1925 — and that Michigan ranks 17th in nationwide oil production and 11th in natural gas. More surprises awaited those students who looked more closely, Boles said.

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“We’re about usage,” he explained. “Our profit is people coming in, using our resources, and hopefully learning something. We want our exhibits to prompt them to dig deeper.”

Golden Gulch of Oil

Clarke Historical Library visitors learned about late 1920s oil discoveries and that after decades of dry holes or small oil finds, a  January 7, 1957, Houseknecht No. 1 well revealed Michigan’s largest oilfield, 29-miles-long. Ferne Houseknecht had convinced her uncle, Clifford Perry, to take time between his other farm projects to drill the historic well. Learn more in Michigan’s ‘Golden Gulch’ of Oil.

For the exhibit, Boles used just six walls and eleven cabinets to tell this and other stories, so careful planning was essential. He said that from the project’s outset, pursuit of community support, resources, and partners was essential.

Homemade cable-tool drill derrick built by Earl "Red" Perry Jr. at age 12.

Proudly showing off his homemade cable tool rig in 1932, Earl “Red” Perry Jr., 12, was the nephew of Cliff Perry — who would discover Michigan’s largest oilfield on January 7, 1957.

The exhibit began with storyboarding and the interactive process of writing and rewriting proposed text. Large photo formats with understandable text dominated the walls, while display cases featured unique artifacts and documents.

Visitors discovered a rich oil history and learned of the complex environmental issues Michigan has successfully addressed.

The 1970s “Pigeon River State Forest” ecological controversy was presented – along with its innovative solution. In 1976, Michigan became the first state in the nation to earmark state revenue generated through mineral, including oil and gas, activity for acquisition and improvement of environmentally sensitive or public recreation lands.

According to Jack Westbrook, all 83 Michigan counties have benefited from the fund’s $635 million collected from oil and gas revenues — and other states followed Michigan’s example. His book, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011: A 35 year Michigan investment heritage in Michigan’s public recreation future, can be found on Amazon Books (link below).

Visit the Clarke Historical Library.


Recommended Reading: American Oil And Gas History Book: Michigan’s Golden Gulch Of Oil: The Great Depression (2021); At Home in Earlier Mt. Pleasant Michigan: A visit with our neighbors of the past (2021); Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011: A 35-year Michigan Oil and Gas Industry Investment Heritage in Michigan’s Public Recreation Future (2011); Handbook of Petroleum Refining Processes (2016).


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

Citation Information – Article Title: “Michigan Petroleum History.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/exhibiting-michigan-petroleum-history. Last Updated: January 2, 2021. Original Published Date: June 19, 2014.


Oil & Gas History News, December 2021

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December 15, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 12

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to our last monthly chronology of U.S. petroleum history for 2021. Thank you again for subscribing and sharing these articles with others. This latest newsletter features a 1905 gas-electric hybrid auto, helium produced from natural gas, an early boom town entertainer, and a pipeline that would challenge Standard Oil’s monopoly of railroad tank cars. There’s a lot more in our December issue, which concludes with a holiday article featuring a waxy petroleum product.

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.

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,” declared a 1905 article in the Horseless Age. The popular monthly journal, first published in 1895, described early motor 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

Scientists at the University of Kansas revealed the importance of natural gas for producing helium when they discovered significant amounts of helium in a 1903 natural gas well drilled at Dexter, Kansas. The town’s “Gas That Wouldn’t Burn” led to a multi-million dollar industry, according to the American Chemical Society, which in 2000 designated the discovery of Kansas helium in natural gas a national historic chemical landmark…MORE

December 1, 1865 – Lady Macbeth arrives at Famous Oil Boom Town

Shakespearean tragedienne Miss Eloise Bridges appeared as Lady Macbeth at the Murphy Theater in Pithole, Pennsylvania, America’s first famously notorious oil boom town. A January 1865 oilfield discovery had launched the drilling frenzy that created Pithole, which within a year had 57 hotels, a daily newspaper and the third busiest post office in Pennsylvania…MORE

November 22, 1878 –  Tidewater Pipe Company established

Byron Benson organized the Tidewater Pipe Company in Pennsylvania. In 1879 his company would build the first oil pipeline to cross the Alleghenies from Coryville to the Philadelphia Reading Railroad 109 miles away. The work – much of it done in winter using sleds to move pipe sections – bypassed Standard Oil Company’s dominance in transporting petroleum…MORE


Energy Education


Early petroleum technologies included cannons for fighting oilfield fires, especially in the great plains where lightning strikes often ignited storage tanks. Shooting holes in the tank allowed oil to drain until the fire died out. Photo courtesy Kansas Oil Museum, El Dorado.

Fighting Oilfield Fires with Cannons

“Oil Fires, like battles, are fought by artillery,” proclaimed an 1884 student newspaper article at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The firsthand account, “A Thunder-Storm in the Oil Country,” described the problem of oilfield lightning strikes. The MIT article not only reported the fiery destruction, but also the practice of using solid shot from cannons to extinguish burning oil tanks.

Learn more in Oilfield Artillery fights Fires.

Featured Articles

Oil Queen of California

Emma Summers would become a woman to be reckoned with in the early Los Angeles petroleum industry. A refined southern lady who graduated from Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, Summers moved to Los Angeles in 1893 to teach piano. With her home not far from where Edward Doheny had discovered the Los Angeles City field in 1892, she caught oil fever.

Learn more in Oil Queen of California.

First U.S. Drive-In Gas Service Station

“Good Gulf Gasoline” was sold on December 1, 1913, when Gulf Refining Company opened America’s first drive-in service station at the corner of Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unlike earlier simple curbside stations, this purposefully designed pagoda-style brick facility offered free air, water, crankcase service, and tire and tube installation.

Learn more in First Gas Pump and Service Station.

Rise and Fall of “Coal Oil Johnny”

The lucky life of John Washington Steele began in December 1844, when he was adopted as an infant to grow up on the McClintock family farm along Oil Creek, Pennsylvania. Fifteen years later, when the widow McClintock suddenly died, Johnny, at age 20, inherited a fortune in royalties. His petroleum wealth would not last, but for a time, “Steele was the greatest spender the world had ever known,” reported the New York Times.

Learn more in Legend of “Coal Oil Johnny.”

Oleaginous History of Wax Lips

Paraffin from America’s earliest oilfields soon found its way from refinery to candles, crayons, chewing gum, and an unusual candy. When Ralphie Parker and his 4th-grade classmates dejectedly handed over their Wax Fangs to Mrs. Shields in “A Christmas Story,” a generation might be reminded of what a penny used to buy at the local Woolworth’s store.

Learn more in Oleaginous History of Wax Lips

As we head into 2022, show your support for the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and its energy education website. A special thanks to this year’s members who have contributed to our efforts to preserve the history of exploration, production, transportation, products, etc. Too often neglected, U.S. petroleum history offers a context for understanding today’s energy challenges.

— Bruce Wells

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“A woman with a genius for affairs – it may sound paradoxical, but the fact exists. If Mrs. Emma A. Summers were less than a genius she could not, as she does today, control the Los Angeles oil markets.” – San Francisco Call newspaper, July 21, 1901.

Oil & Gas History News, November 2021

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November 17, 2021  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 2, No. 11

Oil & Gas History News

Welcome to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s monthly chronology of U.S. petroleum history. Our November issue features a 1952 Williston Basin oil production milestone; the 1880 death of the man who drilled America’s first oil well; an innovative two-tank railroad car of 1865; and the infamous 1929 Teapot Dome scandal. Also featured is the first U.S. auto show, which took place in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1900; the most popular models proved to be electric, steam, and gasoline…in that order.

Support AOGHS History News

“Very educational and interesting. Keep up the good work.” — New AOGHS Member

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 15, 1952 – Williston Basin produces Millionth Barrel of Oil

The Williston Basin produced its millionth barrel of oil, which came from five fields in three North Dakota counties. By the end of 1952, monthly production would reach 356,000 barrels of oil. “Oil was first found in the Williston Basin along the Cedar Creek Anticline in southeastern Montana, in the 1920s,” noted the North Dakota Geological Survey…MORE

November 8, 1880 – Death of Father of U.S. Petroleum Industry

Edwin Laurentine Drake, the former railroad conductor who drilled the first U.S. commercial oil well, died in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at age 61. His famous 1859 Pennsylvania oil discovery had brought prosperity to many, but Drake lost all his money in speculative ventures. He became so destitute the Pennsylvania legislature voted him a $1,500 pension in 1873…MORE

November 1, 1865 – Densmore Railroad Oil Tank Car arrives

The first of James and Amos Densmore’s innovative railroad cars with two oil tanks arrived at the Miller Farm, four miles south of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The inventors would be awarded a U.S. patent in early 1866 for their dual tank design. Crude oil for the iron-banded wooden tanks on a flatcar came from Samuel Van Syckle’s two-inch iron pipeline, another petroleum industry first…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

Energy Education

Winton Motor Carriage 1898 ad

Of the 4,200 automobiles sold in 1900, less than a thousand were powered by gasoline. This ad for a Winton Motor Carriage with “hydrocarbon motor” – often identified as the first American automobile ad – appeared in a 1898 issue of Scientific American magazine. 

New York City hosts First U.S. Auto Show

America’s first gathering of the latest automotive technologies on November 3, 1900, attracted thousands to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Manufacturers presented 160 different vehicles and conducted driving and maneuverability demonstrations on a 20-foot-wide wooden track that encircled the exhibits. A 200-foot ramp tested hill-climbing power. New Yorkers welcomed automobiles as a way to reduce the estimated 450,000 tons of horse manure annually removed from the city’s streets.

Learn more in Cantankerous Combustion — 1st U.S. Auto Show.

Featured Articles

Manufactured Gas Companies become Con Edison

In November 1884, the largest U.S. gas utility company at the time was established in New York City when six gas-light companies — using manufactured “coal gas” — merged to form the Consolidated Gas Company. With revenue of $12.25 billion in 2020, Consolidated Edison can trace its earliest roots to the New York Gas Light Company, which received a charter from the state legislature in 1823. Later conflicts between crews from competing companies gave rise to the term “gas house gangs.”

Learn more in History of Con Edison.

Natural Gas Well lights Pittsburgh in 1878

While exploring for oil near Murrysville, Pennsylvania, a well drilled by Michael and Obediah Haymaker erupted natural gas on November 3, 1878. “Every piece of rigging went sky high, whirling around like so much paper caught in a gust of wind,” Michael Haymaker recalled. Without technologies to cap the well and no pipeline to exploit commercial possibilities, the Haymaker brothers’ well drew thousands of onlookers to a flaming torch that burned for 18 months. “Outlet of a natural gas well near Pittsburgh — a sight that can be seen in no other city in the world,” noted Harper’s Weekly.

Learn more in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

Olinda Oil Wells Star Pitcher vs. Babe Ruth

Former oilfield worker Walter “Big Train” Johnson returned to his oil patch roots for an exhibition game with Babe Ruth in Brea, California, on October 31, 1924. Three decades earlier, Johnson had started his baseball career as a 16-year-old pitcher for the Olinda Oil Wells. As baseball became America’s favorite pastime, many oil patch boom towns fielded teams – with names that reflected their communities’ enthusiasm and often their livelihood.

Learn more in Oilfields of Dreams – Gassers, Oilers, and Drillers Baseball.

Thanks to you, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society helps preserve U.S. petroleum history, which provides a context for understanding the modern energy business. With your continued support, AOGHS can expand its energy education resources, including links to community museums, historical societies, libraries, and others. Please share this newsletter to expand our petroleum history network. Generously support maintenance of the AOGHS website!

— Bruce Wells


“Gentlemen, it appears to me that there is much ground for encouragement in the belief that your company have in their possession a raw material from which, by simple and not expensive processes, they may manufacture very valuable products.” — Yale Professor Benjamin Silliman Jr. 1855 report to the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company.

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

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