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

Meanwhile, rapidly multiplying mechanized technologies of the “Great War” brought desperation to finding and producing vast supplies of oil. America entered the First War I two months after AAPG’s founding. An October 1917 giant oilfield discovery at Ranger, Texas, would inspire a British War Cabinet member to declare, “The Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”

American Association of Petroleum Geologists 1917 logo

AAPG members maintain a professional business code.

In  January 1918, the AAPG convention of in Oklahoma City reported a membership of 167 active and 17 associate members. After adopting its present name one year after organizing at Henry Kendall College, the group issued its first technical bulletin, using papers and presentations delivered at the 1917 Tulsa meeting.

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The now professional “rock hounds” produced a mission statement that included promoting the science of geology, especially relating to oil and natural gas. The geologists also committed to encouraging “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 also 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.

Finding Faults and Anticlines

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 first appeared in 1918, one year after the association’s first meeting in Tulsa.

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. The association’s 2022 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, a nonprofit organization, maintains a membership code to assure “integrity, business ethics, personal honor, and professional conduct.”

Oil Patch Historians

Longtime AAPG member Ray Sorenson, a Tulsa-based consulting geologist, has made numerous presentations about the history of petroleum. After publishing papers in leading academic journals, he adapted many of his contributions for the association’s 2007 Discovery Series, “First Impressions: Petroleum Geology at the Dawn of the North American Oil Industry.”  

Further, Sorenson continued to research and collect a vast amount of material documenting the earliest signs of oil — worldwide references to hydrocarbons earlier that the 1859 first U.S. oil well drilled by Edwin Drake in Pennsylvania.

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Drake expert and geologist and historian William Brice, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, in 2009 published Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry. His  661-page epic was researched and written as part of the U.S. petroleum industry’s 150th anniversary (learn more in Edwin Drake and his Oil Well),

As part if AAPG’s 2017 centennial events, geologist Robbie Rice Gries published Anomalies: Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology 1917-2017. Researched with help from AAPG volunteers, her 405-page book includes contributors’ personal stories, written correspondence, and photographs dating back to the early 1900s. 

The stories told in Gries’ book, “should be read by every petroleum geologist, geophysicist, and petroleum engineer,” stated independent producer Marlan Downey, founder of Roxanna Oil Company. “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); Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry (2009); The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (1991); The Birth of the Oil Industry (1936). 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 © 2023 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 2, 2023. Original Published Date: April 29, 2014.


Oil & Gas History News, January 2023

AOGHS oil history newsletter photo and logo.

January 18, 2023  –  Oil & Gas History News, Vol. 4, No. 1


Oil & Gas History News


Welcome to our first newsletter of 2023. Thank you for joining this community of energy educators, researchers, industry professionals — and oil patch historians. This month features many milestones, including a 1911 oilfield discovery near Wichita Falls, Texas; the Union exporting oil in 1862; an early rotary rig design; and how famed journalist Nellie Bly is connected to the 55-gallon oil drum. Also featured is a 1954 depth record; “fishing” a well for lost tools; and oilfield history in Arkansas. We hope this month’s featured image encourages an in-depth look at the history of the offshore oil and natural gas industry. 


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. 


January 17, 1911 – North Texas Oil Discovery brings Boom


The Producers Oil Company discovered the Electra oilfield in North Texas, bringing the first commercial oil production to Wichita County. The Waggoner No. 5 well produced 50 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 1,825 feet on land owned by local rancher William Waggoner, who had found traces of oil while drilling a water well for his cattle…MORE


January 9, 1862 – Union Oil arrives in England during Civil War


The Elizabeth Watts arrived at London’s Victoria dock after a six-week voyage from Philadelphia. The brig carried 901 barrels of oil and 428 barrels of kerosene from Pennsylvania oilfields. It was the first time America exported oil. Within a year, Philadelphia would export 239,000 barrels of oil. The United States became a net importer of oil in 1948…MORE


January 2, 1866 – Patent describes Early Rotary Rig


Peter Sweeney of New York City patented his design for an “Improvement in Rock Drills” that included basic elements of the modern rotary rig, describing it as a “peculiar construction particularly adapted for boring deep wells.” His patent, which improved upon an 1844 British design, used a roller bit with replaceable cutting wheels such “that by giving the head a rapid rotary motion the wheels cut into the ground or rock and a clean hole is produced.”…MORE


December 26, 1905 – Nellie Bly’s Ironclad 55-Gallon Metal Barrel 


Henry Wehrhahn, a superintendent for the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn, New York, received a patent that would lead to the modern 55-gallon steel drum. “My invention has for its object to provide a metal barrel which shall be simple and strong in construction and effective and durable in operation,” Wehrhahn noted. He would assign the patent to his employer, Elizabeth Seaman (Nellie Bly), the recent widow of the founder of Iron Clad Manufacturing…MORE


Featured Image

Offshore diver painting by Clyde Olcott.

Commercial divers once guided the drill pipe into the wellhead on the ocean floor, shown in this detail from “Stabbing In” by Clyde Olcott of Santa Barbara, California. New technologies would relieve divers of this dangerous offshore work. Illustration from The History of Oilfield Diving: An Industrial Adventure by Christopher Swann, published in 2007.


Offshore Technology and Deep Sea Roughnecks


The modern U.S. offshore oil and natural gas industry began in 1938, when Pure Oil and Superior Oil companies built a freestanding drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. After World War II, Kerr-McGee drilled the first well out of sight of land, and in 1948, underwater television cameras were first used for survey, inspection, and repair work. The Navy also developed deep sea technologies for submarine rescue as underwater robots began to evolve. The first floating drilling rig to use subsea well control spudded its first well in 1955 in the Santa Barbara Channel. The latest technologies require skilled men and women petroleum geologists, engineers, and offshore professionals.


Learn more in Deep Sea Roughnecks


Energy Education Articles


Updated editorial content on the American Oil & Gas Historical Society website includes these articles:


Ohio Oil Company drills to Record Depth


A 1954 well drilled by the Ohio Oil Company reached a world-record depth of 21,482 feet southwest of Bakersfield, California. The Kern County well was “halted by a fishing job.” Founded in 1887 in northwestern Ohio, a leading oil-producing region at the time, the company was headquartered in Findlay by 1930, when it purchased Transcontinental Oil with the “Marathon” trademark and slogan “Best in the long run.” Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 1962, the Ohio Oil Company formally adopted the name Marathon.


Learn more in Marathon of Ohio Oil


Gone Fishing for Downhole Tools


From the earliest days of America’s petroleum industry, drilling stopped when a tool got stuck downhole. The challenge of retrieving broken (and often expensive) equipment obstructing a well — “fishing” — began in Pennsylvania a few days after the first commercial well in 1859, drilled with cable-tools. Early well fishing methods often used wedges on a spear or in a cylinder for recovering lost tubing or casing. Many could be created on site since most cable-tool rigs already had a forge for sharpening bits on the derrick floor.


Learn more in Fishing in Petroleum Wells


 Oil Boom arrives in Arkansas


A well completed in the Union County field at El Dorado, Arkansas, on January 10, 1920, marked the true beginning of oil production in Arkansas. “Suddenly, with a deafening roar, a thick black column of gas and oil and water shot out of the well,” noted one observer. A young H.L. Hunt soon arrived from Texas (with $50 he had borrowed) and joined lease traders and speculators at the Garrett Hotel. “Union County’s dream of oil had come true,” reported the local newspaper.


Learn more in  First Arkansas Oil Wells


Thank you for reading this latest brief look at energy industry milestones. Your interest means a lot, especially as we expand the society’s online presence with new content. Help add to our outreach by sharing articles — at least the ones you like. Become a supporting member to make a real difference in energy education. As a friend of AOGHS recently observed, knowing America’s petroleum history is important so that “informed public policy decisions may periodically balance energy, economic, and environmental objectives.” 


— Bruce Wells

Michigan Petroleum History

Oil discoveries in the 1920s would lead to finding the state’s 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 early as 1860.

“First commercial oil production was at Port Huron, where 22 wells were drilled, beginning in 1886,” the marker notes. “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 Kristin L. 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.

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“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 Kristin L. 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.”

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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.

“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 Clarke Historical Library exhibit, Boles used 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.

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 in 1957. Photo courtesy Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.

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.

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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 © 2023 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: October 5, 2022. Original Published Date: June 19, 2014.


Oil & Gas History News, December 2022

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

Oil & Gas History News

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

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

December 19, 1924 – Government debates Oil Conservation

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

December 13, 1905 – Hybrids evolve with Gas Shortage Fears

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

December 7, 1905 – Helium discovered in Natural Gas

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

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

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

November 21, 1925 – Magnolia Petroleum incorporates

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


Energy Education

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

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

Bird’s-Eye Views preserve Petroleum History

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

Learn more in Oil Town “Aero Views.”


Featured Articles

Coin-Operated Gasoline Pump

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

Learn more in Coin-Operated Gas Pumps.

Glenn Pool Field brings Tulsa Oil Boom

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

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

Project Gasbuggy tests Nuclear Fracturing

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

Learn more in Project Gasbuggy tests Nuclear “Fracking.”

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

— Bruce Wells

Oil & Gas History News, November 2022

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

Oil & Gas History News


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

This Week in Petroleum History Monthly Update

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

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

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

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

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

October 31, 1871 – Modern Refinery Technology patented

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

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

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

Energy Education


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

Featured Articles


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

ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums

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


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

Conocophillips petroleum museum interior oil exhibits in Bartlesville, OK.

The Conoco Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma, tells the story of a company that began as a kerosene distributor serving 19th century pioneers. 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. Oklahoma’s first oil wells were drilled near oil seeps when the state was still Indian Territory . (more…)

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