LaViness Family Oilfield History

Researching the life of Mareau LaViness, who worked in early Oklahoma oilfields.

 

While researching their history, the LaViness family discovered a relative who worked in America’s earliest Pennsylvania oilfields. Family member Mareau Fisher LaViness drilled oil wells in Kansas and the Indian Territory that would become Oklahoma in 1907.

By the time he died in 1930, Mareau had explored for oil in the new state of Oklahoma, especially near Drumright, in a giant field between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Years of research by his descendants revealed he ended up spending 16 years in Oklahoma’s Drumright-Cushing oilfield.

According to the family’s ancestry research, their relative was awarded the honorary title “Father of the Oil Industry in Oklahoma” during the International Petroleum Exposition and Congress in downtown Tulsa, an annual event that would continue for decades.

Oklahoma newspaper photo of Mareau F. VaViness, 1927.

Mareau F. LaViness was proclaimed “The Father of the Oil Industry in Oklahoma ” in 1927, three years before his death at age 78. Photo from Tulsa Daily World.

The LaViness family discovered Mareau’s petroleum industry history after pouring over newspaper clippings, visiting local libraries and county archives, and spending hours traveling in Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York looking for information on Mareau LaViness (also spelled LeViness).

Researching an Oil Patch Life

According to research by relative William Knoles, three generations on his mother’s side of the family worked in Pennsylvania oilfields in the late 1800s. He contacted the American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) in November 2021 seeking information about his family’s link to the early U.S. petroleum industry. 

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“I am trying to find out as much information regarding my mother’s family last name LaViness, sometimes recorded as LeViness,” Knoles explained in his email to AOGHS. 

As U.S. petroleum exploration moved westward from Pennsylvania oilfields, so apparently did the family’s great-grandfather (and possibly great-great grandfather). Mareau LaViness reached booming Kansas and Oklahoma oilfields by the early 1900s.

Knoles included in his email an image of a newspaper article describing Mareau as “The Father of the Oil Industry in Oklahoma.” The one-paragraph story appeared in the September 28, 1927, edition of the Tulsa Daily World with the headline, “Oil Industry’s Dad.”

M.F. Laviness, 75, of Drumright, can claim without any contradiction to be the father of the oil industry in Oklahoma. He drilled the first two wells in Oklahoma to find oil in marketable quantities. They were drilled in 1896 and 1897 at Muskogee and Bartlesville, respectively. Laviness began his connection with the infant oil industry 63 years ago when he was but 12 years of age. He has been connected with it ever since.

He was one of the enthusiastic old-timers of the oil game who took part in the International Petroleum Exposition Monday, the article reported.

Originally held in downtown Tulsa beginning in 1923, the IPE in 1927 found a permanent home on acreage leased from the Tulsa State Fair, according to “Tulsa Gal” of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The expo date was moved to May to not conflict with fall festivities at the fairgrounds.

After some preliminary research, the LaViness family learned that Mareau was employed by the Cudahy Oil Company.

After exploring the AOGHS website, he decided to seek help and joined the society as a supporting member. “I am just trying to find as much information as I can find and any information you could supply or direct me toward would be greatly appreciated.”

Renee’ LaViness seeks Oil History

In February 2022, Renee’ LaViness emailed the historical society and offered more family details (William Knoles is her husband’s first cousin). She also has explored ancestry websites and found newspaper clippings from Kansas and Oklahoma confirming that Mareau Fisher LaViness took part in the first commercial oil well in Oklahoma.

“My husband said his parents once took him and his brothers to see the Nellie Johnstone and Mareau’s name was on a plaque that named all the men who drilled that well,” she explained. Completed in 1897, the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 was drilled along the Caney River near Bartlesville, at the time a trading post in Indian Territory.

Today, a granite marker and 72-foot replica of the well’s cable-tool derrick preserve Oklahoma’s petroleum history in Bartlesville’s Discovery One Park. Other exhibits include an oilfield cannon once used for extinguishing oil tank fires — by shooting holes in them (see Oilfield Artillery fights Fires).

A pink granite rock marks the spot of first Oklahoma oil well.

A pink granite rock marks the spot where a large crowd gathered at Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well to witness history being made in 1897. Photo by Bruce Wells.

But when Renee’ and husband visited the well in its park a few years ago, “Mareau’s name was not on the current plaque that is there. This really bothered my husband, so I set out to find what I can to prove his part.”

Cudahy Oil Company

Renee’ hopes AOGHS members and website visitors might offer more information. Her newspaper clippings describe Mareau as the “Father of the Oil Industry in Oklahoma,” because of his role in drilling the Bartlesville well.

Cudahy Oil Company, owned by a Chicago millionaire, financed drilling the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well, which first showed signs on oil in March 1897. 

On April 15, 1897, Cudahy Oil fractured the downhole geologic formation by  “shooting” the well with nitroglycerin.  The oilfield discovery well began producing up to 75 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 1,320 feet. LaViness family research revealed Cudahy Oil’s fracturing expert came from Neodesha, Kansas, weeks earlier. At the site, he worked with “Mr. M.F. Laviness, the superintendent of works.”

First Oklahoma oil well noted in Neodesha (Kansas) Register, April 2, 1897..

Family history research discovered M.F. LaViness in this Neodesha (Kansas) Register article of Friday, April 2, 1897.

Despite the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well’s oil production, Cudahy Oil Company was confronted with a lack of infrastructure for moving oil to markets. With no storage tanks, pipelines, or railroads available, the well was capped for two years.

Although the 1897 Bartlesville well would be considered Oklahoma’s first commercial oil well, several Indian Territory oil wells preceded it.

Mareau Fisher LaViness (1852-1930).

Mareau Fisher LaViness (1852-1930). Photo courtesy Renee’ LaViness.

Dr. H.W. Faucett and Choctaw Oil and Refining Company successfully completed a small producing well in 1888. One year later, another small producer was drilled near oil seeps at Chelsea (learn more in Another First Oklahoma Oil Well). Another marginally producing well was drilled in 1889 by Cudahy Oil and Mareau at Muskogee, according to Renee’.

As the 20th century began, other mid-continent exploration companies and industry pioneers arrived, including wildcatter Thomas Slick, who discovered the giant Cushing-Drumright field in 1912 (see Oklahoma’s King of the Wildcatters). 

Father of the Oil Industry in Oklahoma

Cudahy Oil Company and Mareau LaViness are connected to Oklahoma’s earliest petroleum discoveries. According to his 1930 obituary in the Drumright Derrick, the title “The Father of the Oil Industry in Oklahoma” was awarded to Mareau during the 1927 Tulsa international oil expo.

“As a driller, Laviness was employed on the first oil well drilled in Oklahoma near Bartlesville,” the Drumright newspaper noted. “He was 78 years old, a member of the Knights of Pythias and a resident of Drumright for 16 years. He was well known in the oil fields there.”

Mareau Fisher LaViness 1930 obituary.

Mareau Fisher LaViness died on August 24, 1930, at 78, according to his Drumright, Oklahoma, obituary.

Family research uncovered that Mareau traveled from Lima, Ohio, to Oklahoma on a regular basis, stopping in Kansas, “where he was frequently mentioned in the newspapers as ordering more supplies for the drilling in Oklahoma,” Renee’ reported. “Gene’s mother had conveyed that he worked for Cudahy when she first told us about the family history and we started researching. So, that was finally confirmed when I found the articles.” 

Darker Discoveries

“I believe Mareau may have known William Hale, who was involved in the Osage murders,” Renee’ added, referring to a bloody criminal conspiracy of unsolved 1930s murders that left dozens of Osage killed for headrights to their land (Oklahoma Historical Society historian Jon D. May’s Osage Murders).

“But I’ve never found any information to link them, other than one water-damaged photo that looks like it might have Mr. Hale in it,” Renee’ La Viness noted. “But I think most of the oil men in the Territory knew each other, or knew of each other, from what I’ve seen in the newspapers.”

Mareau was buried in the Drumright city cemetery. “Family lore says Mareau was quite well off, but he blew it all on women and wine. From what I’ve seen of the times and the town where he spent most of the last part of his life, I can believe that, sadly,” Renee’ wrote in her email to AOGHS.

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More information about her research is on Ancestry.com, according to Renee’, who said researchers can visit that site to look up Mareau Fisher LaViness. “If you find photos and records by JesPiddlin, that’s me,” Renee’ explained, adding she would be happy to share copies of documents and newspaper clippings she has discovered.

“I’m excited to be in contact with you and look forward to finding ‘proof’ of my husband’s great-great-grandfather’s part in the oil industry,” Renee’ concluded.

Want to help Renee’ LaViness and William Knoles learn more about the petroleum industry career of Mareau Fisher La Viness? Please comment below or contact bawells@aoghs.org

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Recommended Reading:  Oil in Oklahoma (1976); The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil (1985); Killers of the Flower Moon (2018). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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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. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “LaViness Family Oilfield History.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/oil-almanac/laviness-family-oilfield-history. Last Updated: April 12, 2022. Original Published Date: March 1, 2022.

 

Wyatt Earp’s California Oil Wells

Famous lawman and wife gambled on Kern County oil leases.

 

Old West lawman and gambler Wyatt Earp in 1920 bet oil could be found on a barren piece of California scrub land. A century later, his Kern County lease is still paying royalties.

Ushered into modest retirement by notoriety, Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt Earp had alternately lived in suburban Los Angeles or tended to gold and copper mining ventures at their “Happy Days” camp in the Whipple Mountains near Vidal, California. 

The quietly retired Earps were known, if not successful, entrepreneurs with abundant experience running saloons, gambling houses, bordellos (Wichita, Kansas, 1874), real estate, and finally western mining ventures. Josephine “Josie” Marcus Earp had been by Wyatt’s side since his famed 1881 O.K. Corral gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona.

Wyatt Earp and wife Josie at mining camp.

Circa 1906 photo of Wyatt Earp and wife Josie at their mining camp with dog “Earpie.”

In California, Josie’s younger sister, Henrietta Marcus, had married into wealth and thrived in Oakland society while Josie and Wyatt roamed the west. “Hattie” Lehnhardt had the genteel life sister Josie always wanted but never had. When Hattie’s husband Emil died by suicide in 1912, the widow Lehnhardt inherited a $225,000 estate.

Money had always been an issue between the Earps, according to historian John Gilchriese. Josie frequently reminded Wyatt that he had once employed a hard-up gold miner named Edward Doheny as an faro lookout (an armed bouncer) back in a Tombstone saloon. Doheny went on to discover the Los Angeles oilfield in the early 1880s.

The giant Los Angeles oilfield made Doheny millions of dollars — as it did with local piano teacher Emma Summers, who would become known as “Oil Queen of California.”

Earp’s venture into the oil patch began in 1920, when he gambled on an abandoned placer claim in southern California.

Kern County Gamble

In 1901, an oil exploration venture had drilled a wildcat well about five miles north of Bakersfield in Kern County. The attempt generated brief excitement, but nothing ultimately came of it. When Shasta Oil Company drilled into bankruptcy after three dry holes, the land returned to its former reputation — worthless except for sheep grazing.

Earp decided to bet on black gold where Shasta Oil had failed. But first, California required that he post a “Notice of Intent to File Prospectors Permit.” He sent his wife to make the application. But on her way to pay the fees with paperwork in hand, Josie was diverted by gaming tables. She lost all the money, infuriating Wyatt and delaying his oil exploration venture.

Later and largely with sister-in-law Hattie Lehnhardt’s money, Earp finally secured the Kern County lease claim he sought.

Wyatt Earp CA oil Lease map.

Wyatt Earp purchased a mineral lease in Kern County, PLSS (Public Land Survey System) Section 14, Township 28 South, Range 27 East, where oil wells would be drilled in the 1920s.

The San Francisco Examiner declared, “Old Property Believed Worthless for Years West of Kern Field Relocated by Old-Timers.” The newspaper — describing Earp as the “pioneer mining man of Tombstone” — reported that the old Shasta Oil Company parcel had been newly assessed.

“Indications are that a great lake of oil lies beneath the surface in this territory,” the article proclaimed. “Should this prove to be the case, the locators of the old Shasta property have stumbled on to some very valuable holdings.”

Meanwhile, competition among big players like Standard Oil of California and Getty Oil energized the California petroleum market.

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By July 1924, Getty Oil had won the competition and began to drill on the Earp lease. On February 25, 1926, completed with production of 150 barrels of oil a day. Nine successful wells in 1926 produced almost 153,000 barrels of oil.

“Getty has been getting some nice production in the Kern River field ever since operations were started,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Rarely exceeding 300 barrels of oil a day, the Getty wells were not as large as other recent California discoveries (see Signal Hill Oil Boom), but they produced oil from less than 2,000 feet deep, keeping production costs low. Royalty checks would begin arriving in the mail. At age 78, Wyatt Earp’s oil gamble finally paid off.

But there was a catch.

No Royalty Riches

Because of her gambling, Josie Earp had become so notoriously incapable of managing money that Earp gave control of the lease to her younger sister, Hattie Lehnhardt. At the same time, he directed that his beloved wife, “receive at all times a reasonable portion of any and all benefits, rights and interests.”

With that, Earp’s venture in the Kern County oil business became a footnote to his legend, already well into the making. By the time of his death on January 13, 1929, his gamble on oil, still known as the Lehnhardt Lease, had paid Josie only $6,000.

The disappointing results would prompt Josie to write, “I was in hopes they would bring in a two or three hundred barrel well. But I must be satisfied as it could have been a duster, too.”

When benefactor Hattie Lehnhardt died in 1936, her children and some litigation put an end to the 20 percent of the 7.5 percent of the Getty Oil royalty money formerly paid to their widowed aunt Josephine. Eight years later, when Josephine died, she left a total estate value of $175 (reportedly including a $50 radio and a $25 trunk).

The Lehnhardt Lease in Kern County would remain active, operated in 2020 by the California Resources Production Corporation, according to ShaleXP.

Kern County Museums

Beginning in 1941, the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield has educated visitors with petroleum exhibits on a 16-acre site just north of downtown. The museum offers “Black Gold: The Oil Experience,” a permanent $4 million science, technology, and history exhibition. The museum also preserves a large collection of historic photographs.

Oil-Worker Monument at West Kern Oil Museum.

A roughneck monument with a 30-foot-tall derrick was dedicated at in Taft, California, in 2010. Photo courtesy West Kern Oil Museum.

In Taft, the West Kern Oil Museum also has images from the 1920s showing more than 7,000 wooden derricks covering 21 miles in southwestern Kern County. Run by volunteers, the museum collects, preserves, and exhibits equipment telling the story of the Midway Sunset field, which, by 1915, produced half of the oil in California. The state led the nation in oil production at the time.

Since 1946, Taft residents have annually celebrated “Oildorado.” In 2010, the community dedicated a 30-foot Oil Worker Monument with a derrick and bronze sculptures of Kern County petroleum pioneers.

Both Kern County museums played credited roles in the 2008 Academy Award-winning movie “There Will Be Blood.” Production staff visited each while researching realistic California wooden derricks and oil production machinery. During a visit to the West Kern Oil Museum, Production Designer Jack Fisk purchased a copy of 1914 cable-tool derrick blueprints.

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Recommended Reading:  Black Gold in California: The Story of California Petroleum Industry (2016); Early California Oil: A Photographic History, 1865-1940 (1985); Pico Canyon Chronicles: The Story of California’s Pioneer Oil Field (1985); Black Gold, the Artwork of JoAnn Cowans (2009). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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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. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Wyatt Earp’s California Oil Wells.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/oil-almanac/wyatt-earps-california-oil-wells. Last Updated: February 22, 2021. Original Published Date: October 30, 2013.

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Petroleum History Research Forum

Forum for sharing information about artifact research and preserving petroleum history.

 

Updated April 27, 2022

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) established this oil history forum page to help AOGHS members share research. For oilfield-related family heirlooms, the society also maintains an Oil & Gas Families page to help locate suitable museum collections for preserving these unique histories. Information about old petroleum company stock certificates can be found at the popular forum linked to Is my Oil Oil Stock worth Anything?

Here is a simple way to help researchers share ideas and oil and gas historical information! Contact the society at bawells@aoghs.org if you would like your research question added to this oil history forum. Please use the comment section to answer or make suggestions.

Post your answers or comments at the bottom of this page.

 

Oil History Forum

 

Latest Research Request: April 27, 2022

Seeking Information about Doodlebugs

From a Colorado author, consulting geologist and engineer:

I am trying to gather information on doodlebugs, by which I mean pseudo-geophysical oil-finding devices. These could be anything from modified dowsing rods or pendulums to the mysterious black boxes. Although literally hundreds of these were used to search for oil in the 20th century, they seem to have almost all disappeared, presumably thrown out with the trash. If anyone has access to one of these devices, I would like to know.

— Dan Plazak

Please post reply in comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org. Dan Plazak is a longtime AOGHS supporting member and a contributor to the historical society’s article Luling Oil Museum and Crudoleum.

 

Research Request: February 8, 2022

Know anything about W.L. Nelson of University of Tulsa?

From an associate professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts:

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. He taught at Tulsa until at least the early 1960s. He was also one of the founders of the Oil and Gas Journal and author of the magazine’s “Q&A on Technology” column. If anyone has any leads for original archival sources by or about Nelson and UT, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Thank you and best wishes, M.G. 
 
Please post reply in comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.
 
 
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Oil History Forum

Research requests from 2021:
 

Star Oil Company Sign

Looking for information about an old porcelain sign from the Star Oil Company of Chicago.

Learn more in Seeking Star Oil Company.

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Bowser Gas Pump Research

I have a BOWSER, pump #T25988; cut #103. This is a vintage hand crank unit. I can’t seem to find any info on it! Any help would be appreciated, Thank You. (Post comments below) — Larry

A early Bowser Gasoline Pump illustration in AOGHS oil history forum.

Hand-cranked Bowser Cut 103 Pump.

Originally designed to safely dispense kerosene as well as “burning fluid, and the light combustible products of petroleum,” early S.F. Bowser pumps added a hose attachment for dispensing gasoline directly into automobile fuel tanks by 1905. See First Gas Pump and Service Station for more about these pumps and details about Bowser’s innovations.

Bowser company once proclaimed its “Cut 103” as “the fastest indoor gasoline gallon pump ever made” with an optional “hose and portable muzzle for filling automobiles.”

Collectors’ sites like Oldgas.com offer research tips for those who share an interest in gas station technological innovations.

Circa 1900 California Oilfield Photo

My grandfather worked the oilfields in California in the early 1900’s.

Detail of circa 1900 CA oilfield posted in AOGHS oil history forum.

Unidentified California oilfield, circa 1900, posted in AOGHS oil history forum.

He worked quite a bit in Coalinga and also Huntington Beach. He had this in his old pictures. I would like to identify it if possible. The only clue that I see is the word Westlake at the bottom of the picture. What little research I could do led me to believe it might be the Los Angeles area?

I would appreciate any help you can provide. (Post comments below.) — B.

Cities Service Bowling Teams

I was wondering if there are any records or pictures of bowling leagues and teams for Cities Service in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Houston, Texas, or Lafayette, Louisiana. I would appreciate any information. My dad was on the team. (Post comments below.)  — Lisa

Oilfield Storage Tanks

My family has a farm in western PA and once had a small oil pump on the land. I’m trying to learn how the oil was transported from the pump. I know a man came in a truck more than once each week to turn on the pump and collect oil, but I don’t know if there was a holding tank, how he filled his truck, etc. (My mother was a child there in the ’40s and simply can’t recall how it all worked.) Can anyone point me at a resource that would explain such things? I’m working on a children’s book and need to get it right. Thank you. — (Post comments below.)  Lauren

Author seeking Historical Oil Prices

Can anyone at AOGHS tell me what the ballpark figures are in the amount of petroleum products so far extracted, versus how much oil-gas is left in the world? Also: the price per barrel of oil every decade from the 1920s to the present. And the resulting price per gallon during the decades from 1920 to the present year? I have almost completed my book about an independent oilman. Please post reply in comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.

— John

Painting related to Standard Oil (ESSO)

I am researching an old oil painting on canvas that appears to be a gift to Esso Standard Corp. Subject: Iris flowers. There is some damage due to age but it is quite interesting. The painting appears to be signed in upper right corner: Hirase?

ESSO flower print for customers in AOGHS oil history forum.

On the back, along each side, is Japanese writing that I think translates to “Congratulations Esso Standard” and “the Tucker Corporation” or “the Naniwa Tanker Corporation.” Date unknown, possibly 1920s.

I am not an expert in art nor Japanese culture, so some of my translation could be incorrect. I was hoping you or your colleagues might shed some light on this painting.

— Nancy

Please post oil history forum replies in the comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.

Early Gasoline Pumps

For the smaller, early stations from around 1930, was the gas stored in a tank in the ground below the dispenser/pump? — Chris  Please ad comment below.

Oilfield Jet Engines

I was wondering about a neat aspect of oil and natural gas production; namely, the use of old, retired aircraft jet engines to produce power at remote oil company locations, and to pump gas/liquid over long distances in pipelines. Does anyone happen to recall what year a jet engine was first employed by the industry for this purpose? Nowadays, there is an interesting company called S&S Turbine Services Ltd. (based at Fort St. John, British Columbia) that handles all aspects of maintenance, overhaul and rebuilding for these industrial jets.

— Lindsey 

Please post reply in comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.

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Natalie O. Warren Propane Tanker Memorabilia

My father spent his working life with Lone Star Gas, he is gone many years now I am getting on. Going through a few of his things. A little book made up that he received when he and my mother attended the commissioning of the Natalie O. Warren Propane Tanker. I am wondering if it is of any value to anyone. Or any museum.

— Bill  

Please post reply in comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.

Elephant Advertising of Skelly Oil

My grandfather owned a Skelly service station in Sidney, Iowa in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a photo of him with an elephant in front of the station. I recall reading somewhere that Skelly had this elephant touring from station to station as an advertising stunt. Does anyone have any more history on the live elephant tour for Skelly Oil? I’d love to find out more. —  Jeff  Please ad comment below.

Tree Stumps as Oilfield Tools

I am a graduate student at the Architectural Association in London working on a project that looks at the potential use of tree stumps as structural foundations. While researching I found the following extract from an article on The Petroleum Industry of the Gulf Coast Salt Dome Area in the early 20th century: “In the dense tangle of the cypress swamp, the crew have to carry their equipment and cut a trail as they go. Often they use a tree stump as solid support on which they set up their instruments.” I have been struggling to find any photos or drawings of how this system would have worked (i.e. how the instruments were supported by the stump) I was wondering if you might know where I could find any more information?

— Andrew  

Post oil history forum replies in the comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.

Texas Road Oil Patch Trip

“Hi, next year we are planning a road trip in the United States that starts in Dallas, Texas, heading to Amarillo and then on to New Mexico and beyond. We will be following the U.S. 287 most of the way to Amarillo and would like to know of any oil fields we could visit or simply photograph on the way. From Amarillo we plan to take the U.S. 87. We realise this is quite a trivial request but you help would be much appreciated.”

— Kristin 

Please post oil history forum replies in the comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.

Antique Calculator: The Slide Rule

Here’s a question about those analog calculating devices that became obsolete when electronic pocket calculators arrived in the early 1970s…Learn more in Refinery Supply Company Slide Rule.

Please post oil history forum replies in the comments section below or email bawells@aoghs.org.

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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. Contact the society at bawells@aoghs.org if you would like a research question added. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells.

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Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger

Famed lawman tamed oil boom towns during the Great Depression.

 

During much of the 1920s, a Texas Ranger became known for strictly enforcing the law in booming oilfield communities and on the border. By 1930, discovery year of the giant East Texas field, he was known as “El Lobo Solo” — the lone wolf — the Ranger who brought order to the boom town of Kilgore.

Manuel Trazazas Gonzaullas was born in 1891 in Cádiz, Spain, to a Spanish father and Canadian mother who were naturalized U.S. citizens. At age 15 he witnessed the murder of his only two brothers and the wounding of his parents when bandits raided their home. Fourteen years later, he joined the Texas Rangers.

Manuel "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas, Texas Ranger portrait of the lawman

“Give Texas more Rangers of the caliber of ‘Lone Wolf’ Gonzaullas and the crime wave we are going through will not be of long duration,” reported the Dallas Morning News in 1934.

“He was a soft-spoken man and his trigger finger was slightly bent,” independent oilman Watson W. Wise characterized him during a 1985 interview in his office in Tyler, Texas. “He always told me it was geared to that .45 of his.”

(more…)

A 1941 Letter to Consolidated Edison of N.Y.

Preserving a father’s letter about efficient light bulb use – and Con Ed’s prompt reply.

 

The evolution of efficient lighting and the search for safe and inexpensive illumination has been part of U.S. energy history since kerosene became a popular lamp fuel in the mid-19th century. Even earlier, illuminating gaslight manufactured from coal provided street lighting in Baltimore (1817), Philadelphia (1836), and other cities.

In September 1882, Thomas A. Edison began operating the first commercial U.S. power station in New York City. The coal-fired plant on Pearl Street powered six dynamos to provide electricity to homes in lower Manhattan. Four years later, six gas New York City companies merged into a giant utility, the Consolidated Gas Company.

 Consolidated Edison Pearl Street Station in 1882.

Coal fueled Manhattan’s Pearl Street Station in 1882, the first U.S. electric power plant.

By 1920, Edison’s electric company had become a subsidiary of Consolidated Gas. With electric sales outpacing gas sales, Consolidated Gas changed its name to Consolidated Edison Company of New York in 1936 (see History of Con Edison). Five years later, John Weingart’s father Robert wrote the company seeking the best strategy for turning out lights to lower utility bills.

“I have a wonderful short 1941 correspondence from my father Robert asking the Consolidated Edison Company of New York whether you use more energy turning out lights when you leave a room if you know you’ll be back soon,” explained John Weingart in a November 2019 email to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society.

“I’d like to share it with others who might enjoy it,” Weingart added.

Incandescent light bulb Question

15 West 106 Street
New York, N.Y.
October 21, 1941

Consolidated Edison Company
4 Irving Place
New York, N.Y.

Gentlemen

As a consumer of electricity for many years, I would appreciate an answer to the following questions:

Is there any truth to the report that more electricity is consumed by turning lights on and off frequently than by leaving them burning?

If so, what is the minimum time required for a light to be out before being relit, in order to effect a saving to the consumer? If this varies according to the size of the bulb, please give figures for 10, 25, 40, 50, 60 and 100 watts respectively.

Would you mind giving a brief technical explanation.

Very truly yours

Robert A. Weingart

New Yorker Robert Weingart 1941 letter to the Con Edison.

New Yorker Robert Weingart’s 1941 letter to the Con Edison.

Con Edison Customer Service in 1941

Weingart received a reply from the world’s largest electric utility the next day in a letter from Con Ed’s “Manager of the Sales Technical Bureau.”

CONSOLIDATED EDISON COMPANY OF NEW YORK, Inc.

4 IRVING PLACE

NEW YORK, N.Y.

October 22-1941

Mr. Robert A Weingart
15 West 106 Street
New York, N Y

Dear Sir

The belief that more electricity is consumed by turning electric lights on and off frequently than by leaving them burning has, from a practical point of view, no basis in fact.

An incandescent electric light consists essentially of a resistance, usually called a filament, surrounded by a glass bulb. The passage of an electric current through the filament causes it to heat to incandescence at which point it emits light. The function of the glass bulb is to prevent oxygen in the air from coming into contact with the filament in order to prevent the destruction of the filament by oxidation. The interior of the bulb is, in modern lamps, filled with an inert gas, such as nitrogen or argon. For a very small fraction of a second after an electric current is turned on to such a bulb, and until the filament is heated, more than normal current will pass through the filament. This is probably the basis for the belief expressed in your letter, but the increase in the amount of electricity consumed is so small that it could not be measured by ordinary metering apparatus and even the cumulative effect of a great many on and off operations could not be measured with ordinary metering equipment.

The operation of a fluorescent lamp is different in principle from that of an incandescent lamp but the same conclusion holds, that is, that there is no increase in electricity because of frequent turning on and off of the amp which could be measured with ordinary metering equipment. However, in the case of the fluorescent lamp the frequent turning on and off of the lamp is apt to shorten its life considerably through dissipation of the coating on the heating element and the lamp should be applied, therefore, to situations which require frequent starting and stopping, such as in flasher signs.

I trust that this is a satisfactory answer to your question.

Very truly yours,

J C Murtha, Manager
Sales Technical Bureau

JCM/hb

1941 letter to Robert Weingart from Consolidated Edison.

John Weingart rightly believes his father’s 1941 letter and the response should be remembered as part of U.S. energy history.

“One of the most striking thing about this correspondence remains, I think, that the question is still unresolved to many (maybe most ) lay people,” he concluded. “When I’ve mentioned this letter or shown it to friends, the first comment often is, ‘Yeah, I’ve wondered about that too.’ And, then the apparent detailed, informative response dated only one day after the initial letter of inquiry remains remarkable.”

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Recommended Reading:  Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 (2017);. Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Join today as an annual AOGHS supporting member. 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: “OA 1941 Letter to Consolidated Edison of N.Y.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/oil-almanac/a-1941-letter-to-con-ed-of-n-y. Last Updated: March 22, 2022. Original Published Date: January 18, 2019.

Buffalo Bill Shoshone Oil Company

Wild West showman Col. William F. Cody’s unlucky adventures seeking black gold in Wyoming.

 

Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s legacy extends beyond his Wild West show. A Wyoming town named for him preserves his Big Horn Basin heritage. Lesser known is his brief exploration into the oil business.

In his day, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” made W.F. Cody the most recognized man in the world. His fanciful Indian attacks on wagon trains, the marksmanship by Annie Oakley, and other attractions drew audiences in America and Europe.

Buffalo Bill Cody, oil company investor, pictured in buckskins

“It would be hard to imagine the history of Wyoming around the turn of the 20th century without Buffalo Bill,” notes one historian. 1915 photo courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Cody became a promoter of the Wyoming frontier town he helped found in 1896 that bears his name. The local newspaper he and a partner started in 1899 is still publishing today. The Cody Enterprise continues to acknowledge W.F. Buffalo Bill Cody on its masthead.

buffalo bill oil company post of wild west show

A “Buffalo Bill Wild West show circa 1899” poster by Courier Lithographing Co., Buffalo, N.Y., shows cowboys rounding up cattle and a portrait of Col. W.F. Cody on horseback. Image courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

As a partner in the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company, he enticed the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad to build an extension from Toluca, Montana, to Cody to ensure future growth and prosperity in the Big Horn Basin of north-central Wyoming.

 buffalo bill with investors at his oil company oil well drilling site

W.F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, right of center in black hat, and other investors at an oilfield on the Shoshone Anticline near Cody, Wyoming, around 1910. Photo courtesy the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Always an entrepreneur, the showman had earlier formed the W.F. Cody Hotel Company when the railroad reached Sheridan, about 150 miles east of Cody, in 1892. He opened the Irma Hotel (named after his daughter) in Cody in 1902. Historian Robert Bonner reported the veteran showman would promote his enterprises endlessly with anyone who would listen.

“He saw great possibilities in every direction, and he had an unquestioned faith in his personal ability to achieve whatever he set out to do,” explained Bonner in a 2007 book about the famed showman. “He was always willing to back up his words with his money.” (more…)

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