Carbon Black & Oilfield Crayons

A 1903 petroleum product named for the French word for chalk, craie, and English adjective oily, oleaginous.


Petroleum has provided products worldwide, with some hiding in plain sight. For Pennsylvania’s Benny & Smith Company, common oilfield paraffin changed the company’s future by coloring children’s imaginations. Before inventing Crayola crayons, the partners patented a “dustless chalk” popular with teachers, a red oxide for paints, and Staonal — “stay-on-all” — the blackest of all markers. 

In 1881, three decades after America’s first oil well at Titusville, Pennsylvania, Crayola crayons began with a petroleum refining patent by Edwin Binney to make carbon black, an intensely black pigment.

Binney and his partner C. Harold Smith had launched their company selling inks, black polishes, and a chalk for schoolroom blackboards. Pennsylvania’s booming oilfields would prove key to their success, beginning with using natural gas in a patented “Apparatus for the Manufacture of Carbon Black.”

Binney & Smith Company later would add oilfield paraffin — the bane of oil producers since it clogged wells — and mix in colors to create a petroleum product named Crayola®.

New York oilfield pump and geology drawn with crayons by a fifth grader.

Fifth-grader’s skillful use of crayons to illustrate oil production. Image courtesy Pioneer Oil Museum of New York, Bolivar.

Manufacturing Carbon Black

On May 28, 1891, Binney received a patent for the company’s method to efficiently produce a fine, soot-like substance  more intensely black than any other pigment in use at the time.

“The objects of my invention are to manufacture lamp-black from oil in an improved and economical manner, whereby waste of the product and unnecessary expenditure of labor are avoided,” Binney noted in his patent application.

His patent (No. 453,140) proclaimed a process to “manufacture carbon-black from gas in such a manner as to obtain improved quality of black which shall have the soft flaky texture of lamp-black made in ordinary ways.”

1891 patent drawing for carbon black device invented by E. Benny.

Binney & Smith Company received an 1891 patent for an “Apparatus for the Manufacture of Carbon Black,” which produced a fine, soot-like black pigment – far better than any other in use.

The young U.S. petroleum industry, rapidly expanding its refineries to fuel kerosene for lamps, supplied Binney & Smith Company the oil and natural gas feedstock for the company’s carbon black. The heat and smoke resulting from the burning gas was directed to cool in revolving metal drums.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

The company refining process produced a fine, soot-like substance of incredible blackness — a better pigment than any other then used. Binney & Smith’s carbon black received an award at the 1900 Paris Exposition, a world’s fair of the century’s achievements.

It was not long before the inventors mixed their carbon black product with oilfield paraffin and other waxes to introduce a paper-wrapped black crayon marker for crates and barrels. The marker was promoted as being able to “stay on all” and accordingly named “Staonal.”

oil paraffin product Staonal markers

Resulting from an 1891 carbon black patent, Binney & Smith added oilfield paraffin to produce a black marker. Staonal is still sold.

Staonal became a highly successful company product, but was too laden with carbon black to be safe for use by children. Earlier, the company had found success manufacturing “dustless chalk” for schoolrooms and a red iron oxide for a red paint farmers used on barns.  

Classroom Chalk

Although they longed for color, students in Alice Stead Binney’s classroom had to settle for dustless chalk. In fact, An-Du-Septic dustless chalk was so popular among turn-of-the-century teachers that it won a Gold Medal at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Teachers like Alice loved the tidy new product, but their choices were limited. Pencils of the day were primitive, with square “leads” made from a variety of clays, slates, and graphite. Color writing implements were the toxic and expensive imports of artists, best kept away from schoolchildren.

Box of the dustless chalk made by Benny and Smith Co.

Experiments in 1902 produced An-Du-Septic, a white dustless chalk soon popular with teachers. Photo courtesy Benny and Smith Company.

Alice’s husband Edwin, and his cousin, C. Harold Smith, created An-Du-Septic chalk as a consequence of expanding their pigment business into the sideline production of slate pencils for schools.

In Easton, Pennsylvania, the Binney & Smith Company, formerly the Peekskill Chemical Works, was best known for its production of red iron oxide and carbon black for paints, inks, and stove and shoe polishes. That would change.

Slate pencils and the very successful An-Du-Septic dustless chalk nonetheless put Binney & Smith salesmen into America’s classrooms. The company’s sales force listened to teachers and learned there would be a ready market for inexpensive, non-toxic, brightly colored crayons.

“Crayola” from Oilfield Paraffin

By 1903, Binney & Smith was ready to launch a new product that would change childhood forever. Alice Binney provided the historic name by combining the French word for chalk, craie, with an English adjective meaning oily, oleaginous, creating Crayola®.

Manufacturing was based on small batches of carefully measured and hand-mixed pigments, paraffin, talc and other waxes. Paper labels were individually rolled by hand and pasted onto each crayon.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

The finished products were hand packed into individual boxes and shipped in wooden crates. Sixteen Crayola crayons sold for 10 cents; eight for 5 cents: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet, black, and brown. Crayola was an instant hit.

Vintage 1903 box of Crayola Gold Medal paraffin crayons.

Binney and Smith produced the first box of eight Crayola crayons in 1903 — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, and black.

The company’s proprietary formulas remain a closely guarded secret as demand for its crayons has continued to grow around the world. Production capacity reportedly is more than four million crayons every day, thanks to oilfield paraffin from distant petroleum refineries delivered to Crayola’s Easton factory in railroad tank cars.

In January 2007, Binney & Smith became Crayola LLC in recognition of the company’s number one brand. The company is now known as Crayola. Crayola has grown to become a $500 million dollar a year business — a successful union of the petroleum industry to the colorful world of children’s imaginations. 

“This organizational and name change showcases the company’s Crayola brand, sold by Binney & Smith since 1903,” explained the company, which also opened a museum in Easton. Crayola is sold in more than 80 countries, “and represents innovation, fun, kids and quality.”

As paraffin continued to find its way into more products (see The Crude History of Mabel’s Eyelashes), in 1912, Binney & Smith’s carbon black was used for the first time to make black tires.

Carbon Black Hits the Road

Until carbon black was added to improve durability, auto tires were white. Then in 1839, bankrupt Philadelphia hardware merchant and erstwhile inventor Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped rubber and sulfur on a hot stove top. The rubber charred like leather yet remained elastic, a discovery that led to “vulcanization.”

With the new process, natural rubber could be transformed into an industrial product with innumerable uses. Goodyear’s famous lawyer, Daniel Webster, praised his client’s invention. “It introduces quite a new material into the manufacture of the arts, that material being nothing less than elastic metal,” Webster proclaimed.

Automobile tires were the ideal application for this new product. Between 1895 and 1905, more than 77,000 new automobiles were registered in the United Stated (See Cantankerous Combustion — First U.S. Auto Show).

A 1904 Oldsmobile with white tires due to no carbon black

The tires of this 1904 Oldsmobile Model N Touring Runabout were not chosen for their color. Until B.F. Goodrich introduced “carbon black” into the vulcanizing process in 1910, auto tires were white.

The nation’s maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph, and automobile tires were white. Natural rubber pigments and zinc oxide used in the manufacturing process gave tires their color.

In 1910, the B.F. Goodrich Company found that adding carbon black to the vulcanizing process dramatically improved strength and durability. The material came from controlled combustion of both oil and natural gas. Its use in tires created an immense market – initially consuming one pound of carbon black for each two pounds of rubber.

As the automobile industry grew, so did demand for tires and for carbon black. By 1931, Texas was producing more than 200 million pounds of carbon black annually from just 31 plants – 75 percent of America’s total.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Today, most of America’s carbon black is still produced in Texas and Louisiana. Demand remains closely associated with automobile tires. Cabot Corporation, founded in Pennsylvania in 1882, is the largest U.S. producer of  intensely black material. In  2017, the company reported having 44 manufacturing plants in 21 countries and revenues of more than $2.7 billion.

Paraffin crayons and carbon black are among many petroleum products


Recommended Reading: –  Crayola Creators: Edward Binney and C. Harold Smith, Toy Trailblazers (2016); Carbon Black, Its Manufacture, Properties, and Uses (2018); The B.F. Goodrich Story Of Creative Enterprise 1870-1952 (2010). Your Amazon purchases benefit the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an annual AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact © 2023 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “’Carbon Black & Oilfield Crayons.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: May 16, 2023. Original Published Date: September 1, 2007.


Making a Two-Wick Camphene Lamp


Prior to the Civil War, the most popular lamp fuel in the country was a “burning fluid” called camphene, a volatile combination of turpentine and alcohol with camphor oil added for aroma. Until replaced by the far safer lamp fuel kerosene, two-wicked camphene lamps provided light for much of America.

Camphene’s explosive mixture required a double burner, according to Ron Miller, a self-taught tinsmith and “hands-on historian.” He became fascinated by the designs of these early illuminating lamps.

Reproduction camphene, kerosene, and whale oil lamps.

Jim Miller’s 19th century lamp tin recreations, left to right: a whale oil burner; an 1842 patented lard oil burner; a “Betty Lamp” fueled by fat; and a typical camphene two-wicked lamp.

“This adventure has deepened my appreciation for past craftsmanship and the intelligence of common place things in early America,” explained Miller in his 2012 For the love of History blog. “Besides, now I have all this cool stuff to play (teach) with.”

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

The key to learning about early to mid-19th century oil lamps was to study their burners, Miller noted (see Camphene to Kerosene Lamps), adding, “each type of fuel needed a specific style of burner to give the best light.”

Although most of the fuels have become obsolete, Miller “wanted to faithfully replicate the burners, in order to understand how they evolved,” he said, adding, “For the time being, substitute fuels would have to do.”

Miller fashioned tin into period lamp designs, including one fueled by fat — a “Betty Lamp” that “has an ancestry extending clear back to the Romans but had been improved on over time.” He also recreated a whale oil lamp, circa 1850, and a patented lard oil burner of 1842 (the lard needed to be warmed, to improve its fluidity).

A lard oil lamp based upon a burner patent from 1842.

Miller also created a lard oil lamp using a burner patent from 1842.

“These tubes never extend down past the mounting plate and never have slots for wick adjustment. Apparently, any heat added to the fuel caused an accumulation of gases and the possibility of an explosion,” he noted. Most surviving original burners have little covers to snuff out the flame and keep the fuel from evaporating.

“The style of lamp I chose to replicate is sometimes called a petticoat lamp by collectors for the flared shape of the base. Camphene lamps are often mislabeled as Whale Oil lamps but the difference is obvious once you know your burners,” Miller concluded about his replica.

“In case you wondered, my lamp burns modern lamp oil as I don’t need to kill myself in the pursuit of history,” the tinsmith added.


Recommended Reading:  Oil Lamps The Kerosene Era In North America (1978). 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 (AOGHS) 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 Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Making a Two-Wick Camphene Lamp.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: May 1, 2023. Original Published Date: March 11, 2018.


Standard Oil Whiting Refinery

Standard Oil scientists patented a process they called “thermal cracking.”


Beginning in the 1890s, the Whiting refinery of Standard Oil Company of Indiana first produced kerosene for lamps and later gasoline for autos to meet growing consumer demand.

Seventeen miles east of Chicago, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey began construction on a massive refinery complex in early May 1889.

BP whiting refinery near Chicago at sunset in 2013.

BP completed a multi-year, multi-billion dollar modernization project at the Whiting refinery in 2013. Photo courtesy Hydrocarbon Processing magazine.

Using advanced refining processes introduced by John D. Rockefeller, it would become the largest in the United States. The 1,400-acre complex, once operated by Amoco, was acquired by the British Petroleum Company in 1998. 

After acquiring Amoco and the refinery, British Petroleum became BP Amoco. That name was shorted to BP in 2001 after mergers with ARCO and Castrol. In 2021, the company brand changed to BP in lower-case type, often with the tagline “Beyond Petroleum,” and a stylized yellow and green sun.

The Whiting plant refined 152,000 barrels of oil per day in 2021.

Refining “Sour Crude”

About one month after construction of the then 235-acre refinery began, Rockefeller established a locally based subsidiary by incorporating Standard Oil Company of Indiana on June 18, 1889. The new company began processing oil at its Whiting refinery within a year.

In its early years, the Indiana refinery processed a sulfurous “sour crude” from the Lima, Ohio, oilfields — transported on Rockefeller controlled railroads. Most Americans, already putting out their tallow candles to buy lamps fueled with whale oil, lard, or the less costly but volatile camphene, embraced a new fuel — “rock oil” soon brought skyrocketing public demand.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Rockefeller had purchased considerable amounts of production from the Lima oilfield at bargain prices. Most experts in the new petroleum industry believed the thick oil virtually worthless. It could not be refined for a profit. The Whiting refinery, using a newly patented method, efficiently processed Ohio sour oil into high-quality kerosene.

Although gasoline was a minor by-product, two brothers in Massachusetts were building a gasoline-powered horseless carriage at about the time the refinery produced its first 125 railroad tank cars filled with kerosene. The gas-powered automobile helped relaunch the petroleum industry — see Cantankerous Combustion – 1st U.S. Auto Show.

“By the mid-1890s, the Whiting plant had become the largest refinery in the United States, handling 36,000 barrels of oil per day and accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. refining capacity” noted historian Mark R. Wilson in the Encyclopedia of ChicagoInitially it consisted of just a single facility, adds a company history on the Amoco website.

whiting refinery Standard Oil of Indiana logo

The Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, became the company’s most productive. Owned by BP since 1998, it has remained the largest U.S. refinery. Whiting has been home to the Northwest Indiana Oilmen since 2012.

Crude oil was processed into products that people and business needed: axle grease for industrial machinery, paraffin wax for candles, kerosene for home lighting.

“The company grew. By the early 1900s it was the leading provider of kerosene and gasoline in the Midwest” noted Wilson on the website. “Kerosene sales would eventually falter. But with car ownership booming across the United States, demand for gasoline would only go up and up.”

More Midwest Refineries

By 1910, the refinery is connected by pipeline to oilfields in Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as Ohio and Indiana. The Whiting facility employs 2,400 workers. In 1911, when Rockefeller was forced to break up his oil holdings, Standard of Indiana, with its main offices in downtown Chicago, emerged as an independent company.

Rockefeller’s Whiting scientists had patented a process they invented called thermal cracking, notes the Amoco website. It doubled the amount of gasoline that could be made from a barrel of oil and also boosted the gasoline’s octane rating.

Standard Oil’s process, which became standard practice in the refining industry, helped avert a gasoline shortage during World War I. To find its own oil supplies, Standard Oil of Indiana began its own exploration and production business, Stanolind.

In 1922, Standard Oil absorbed the American Oil Company, founded in Baltimore in 1910, and began branding products as Amoco, which later would become its company name. By 1952, Amoco was ranked as the largest domestic oil company.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

During the second half of the twentieth century, the U.S. refining industry became more concentrated in Texas, Louisiana, and California.

“The Chicago region became somewhat less important as an oil-processing center than it had been during the previous 60 years,” historian Mark Wilson concluded. “Still, the area remained home to some large refineries. The largest of these plants was the one at Whiting – the same facility that had brought refining to Chicago in 1890.” 

Across the border from Indiana, three major Illinois refineries also process oil in the Chicago area.  At the end of 2021, the Citgo refinery in Lemont processed 177,000 barrels of oil a day; the Joliet refinery owned by ExxonMobil processed 248,000 barrels of oil a day; and the Robinson refinery of Marathon Petroleum Company processed 192,000 barrels of oil a day (with a reported capacity for 253,000 barrels).

Refining Museum

A fourth refinery located in southern Illinois — and is almost as historic as Rockefeller’s Whiting plant — was constructed in 1918 by Shell. The giant  Wood River Refinery has operated north of St. Louis along the Mississippi River. 

The refinery, owned since 2013 by ConocoPhillips, has continued to be company’s largest —  processing 380,000 barrels of oil daily into millions of gallons of gasoline/fuel and thousands of barrels of asphalt. The Whiting refinery also has its own museum.

“The Wood River Refinery History Museum is located in front of the Conoco-Phillips Refinery on Highway 111 in Wood River, Illinois,” the museum notes on its website. “There are four buildings in our complex, so to see most of our collection, plan on spending some time.”

Whiting fielded a baseball team in 2012. The Northwest Indiana Oilmen is one of eight teams in the Midwest Collegiate League, a pre-minor league. To learn more about other petroleum history related baseball teams, see Oilfields of Dreams.

By 1982, Standard of Indiana refineries produce 1.2 million barrels of gasoline daily and serve 18,000 domestic gasoline retail outlets. Standard’s two largest refineries are located in Whiting and Texas City, Texas. Standard Oil of Indiana became Amoco Corporation in 1985 and three years later merged with British Petroleum (BP), the world’s largest industrial merger at the time.


Recommended Reading:  Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (2004); Whiting and Robertsdale – Images of America (2013). 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 (AOGHS) 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 © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Standard Oil Whiting Refinery.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: April 27, 2023. Original Published Date: June 15, 2013.


The Crude History of Mabel’s Eyelashes

How oilfield paraffin created Vaseline — and Maybelline.


Few associate 1860s oil wells with women’s eyes, but they are fashionably related. From paraffin to Vaseline, this is the story of how the goop that accumulated around the sucker rods of America’s earliest oil wells made its way to the eyelashes of women.

In 1865, a 22-year-old Robert Chesebrough left the prolific oilfields of Pithole and Titusville, Pennsylvania, to return to his Brooklyn, New York, laboratory. He carried samples of a waxy substance that clogged wellheads. He already had dabbled in the “coal oil” business with experiments on refinery processes.

Chesebrough’s laboratory expertise included distilling cannel coal into kerosene (coal oil), a lamp fuel in high demand among consumers. He also knew of the process for refining crude oil into a kerosene.

So, when Edwin L. Drake completed the first U.S. oil well in August 1859, Chesebrough was among those who rushed to Pennsylvania oilfields to make his fortune. 

Robert Chesebrough and horse-drawn wagons selling Vaseline in New York City, circa 1900.

Robert Chesebrough will find a way to purify the waxy paraffin-like substance that clogged oil wells in early Pennsylvania petroleum fields. Photo courtesy Unilever Corp.

“Now commenced a scene of excitement beyond description,” reported Scientific American. “The Drake well was immediately thronged with visitors arriving from the surrounding country, and within two or three weeks thousands began to pour in from the neighboring States.”

Chesebrough was convinced he too could get rich from the “black gold” of Pennsylvania’s oilfields.

Oilfield Sucker Rod Wax

In the midst of the Venango County exploration and production chaos, the young chemist noted a waxy buildup often confounded drilling.  This paraffin-like substance clogged the wellhead and drew curses from riggers who had to stop drilling to scrape it away.

Detail of circa 1900 Vaseline bottle from Drake Well Museum.

Robert Chesebrough consumed a spoonful of Vaseline each day and lived to be 96. This early bottle from the collection of the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

The only virtue of this goopy oilfield “sucker rod wax” was as an immediately available first aid for the abrasions, burns, and other wounds routinely afflicting the crews.

Paraffin to Vaseline

Chesebrough abandoned his notion of drilling a gusher and returned to New York, where he worked in his laboratory to purify the troublesome sucker-rod wax, which he dubbed “petroleum jelly,” one of America’s earliest petroleum products

By August 1865, Chesebrough had filed the first of several patents “for purifying petroleum or coal oils by filtration.”

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

The chemist experimented with the analgesic effects of his extract by inflicting minor cuts and burns on himself, then applying the purified petroleum jelly. He also gave it to Brooklyn construction workers to treat their minor scratches and abrasions.

Old Vaseline ad for New Idea Woman's Magazine, circa 1900.

After refining oilfield wax, Chesebrough experimented by inflicting minor cuts and burns on himself, then applying his petroleum balm.

On June 4, 1872, Chesebrough patented a new product that would endure to this day – “Vaseline.” His paraffin to Vaseline patent extolled new balm’s virtues as a leather treatment, lubricator, pomade, and balm for chapped hands. Chesebrough soon had a dozen wagons distributing the product around New York. 

Circa 1930 Maybelline mascara case with mirror with brush.

Customers at first used toothpicks to mix Vaseline with lamp black. By 1917, Tom Williams was selling premixed “Lash-Brow-Ine” by mail-order. Photo courtesy Sharrie Williams.

Customers used the “wonder jelly” creatively: treating cuts and bruises, removing stains from furniture, polishing wood surfaces, restoring leather, and preventing rust. Within 10 years, Americans were buying it at the rate of a jar a minute

An 1886 issue of Manufacture and Builder even reported, “French bakers are making large use of vaseline in cake and other pastry. Its advantage over lard or butter lies in the fact that, however stale the pastry may be, it will not become rancid.”

Flavor notwithstanding, Chesebrough himself consumed a spoonful of Vaseline each day. He lived to be 96 years old. It was not long before thrifty young ladies found another use for Vaseline.

Mabel’s Eyelashes

As early as 1834, the popular book Toilette of Health, Beauty, and Fashion had suggested alternatives to the practice of darkening eyelashes with elderberry juice or a mixture of frankincense, resin, and mastic.

“By holding a saucer over the flame of a lamp or candle, enough ‘lamp black’ can be collected for applying to the lashes with a camel-hair brush,” the book advised.

Chesebrough’s female customers found that mixing lamp black with Vaseline using a toothpick made an impromptu mascara. Some sources claim that Miss Mabel Williams in 1913 employed just such a concoction preparing for a date. Williams was dating Chet Hewes.

“What a Difference Maybelline Does Make” magazine ad from 1937.

Women were using Vaseline to make mascara by 1915. Cosmetic industry giant Maybelline traces its roots to the petroleum product. “What a Difference Maybelline Does Make” magazine ad from 1937.

Perhaps using coal dust or some other readily available darkening agent, she applied the mixture to her eyelashes for a date. Her brother, Thomas Lyle Williams, was intrigued by her method and decided to add Vaseline in the mixture, noted a Maybelline company historian.

A more reliable version of the story — told by Williams’ grandniece Sharrie Williams — has Mabel demonstrating “a secret of the harem” for her brother.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

“In 1915, when a kitchen stove fire singed his sister Mabel’s lashes and brows, Tom Lyle Williams watched in fascination as she performed what she called ‘a secret of the harem’ mixing petroleum jelly with coal dust and ash from a burnt cork and applying it to her lashes and brows,” Sharrie Williams explained in her 2007 book, The Maybelline Story and the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It.

“Mabel’s simple beauty trick ignited Tom’s imagination and he started what would become a billion-dollar business,” concluded Williams. Inspired by his sister’s example, he began selling the mixture by mail-order catalog, calling it “Lash-Brow-Ine” (an apparent concession to the mascara’s Vaseline content). Women loved it.

Three magazine ads for Vaseline used for mascara of silent screen star Theda Bara

Silent screen stars like Theda Bara, right, helped glamorize Maybelline mascara. By the 1930s, the paraffin to Vaseline to mascara concoction was available at five-and-dime stores for 10 cents a cake.

When it became clear that Lash-Brow-Ine had potential, Williams, doing business in Chicago as Maybell Laboratories, on April 24, 1917, trademarked the name as a “preparation for stimulating the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes.”

In honor of his sister Mabel (she married Chet Hewes in 1926), Williams renamed his mascara “Maybelline.”

Vintage mascara brush and case.

An unlikely petroleum product for women’s eyes.

Whatever its petroleum product beginnings, Hollywood helped expand the Williams family cosmetics empire. The 1920s silent screen had brought new definitions to glamour. Theda Bara – an anagram for “Arab Death” – and Pola Negri, each with daring eye makeup, smoldered in packed theaters across the country.

Maybelline trumpeted its mail-order mascara in movie and confession magazines as well as Sunday newspaper supplements. Sales continued to climb. By the 1930s, Maybelline mascara was available at the local five-and-dime store for 10 cents a cake.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Both Vaseline, now part of Unilever, and Maybelline, a subsidiary of L’Oréal, continue with highly successful products, distantly removed from northwestern Pennsylvania’s antique derricks and oil wells.

Unilever’s Park Avenue public relations agency, M Booth & Associates of New York, has proclaimed: “From Vaseline Petroleum Jelly – the ‘Wonder Jelly’ introduced in 1870, to Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion…Vaseline products have helped deliver healthy, moisturized skin for 135 years.”

Special thanks to Linda Hughes, granddaughter of Mabel and Chet Hewes, who reviewed the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s paraffin to Vaseline to Mascara article. She asked AOGHS add that Mabel was dedicated to her brothers work –- and helped run the Maybelline company in Chicago.

Crayola Crayons

Paraffin from early U.S. oilfields also proved key the phenomenal success of business partners Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith, who in 1891 patented an “Apparatus for the Manufacture of Carbon Black.”

Binney and Smith mixed carbon black with oilfield paraffin and other waxes to introduce a paper-wrapped black crayon marker for crates and barrels.

By 1903, the Binney & Smith Company of Easton, Pennsylvania, was adding colors for a new product, “Crayola” crayons. Learn more about their petroleum products in Carbon Black & Oilfield Crayons.

Oilfield paraffin also soon found its way into novelty candies like “wax lips.”


Recommended Reading:  The Maybelline Story: And the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It (2010). 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 (AOGHS) 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 Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “The Crude History of Mabel’s Eyelashes.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: April 21, 2023. Original Published Date: March 1, 2005.


Seeking Star Oil Company

Researching a Chicago oil products company sign.


A Chicago college student contacted the American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) seeking oil history research suggestions about a porcelain sign from the Star Oil Company. “I’ve tried to do some research on it but I haven’t even found a place to start,” the student noted. (more…)

Casinghead Gasoline at Glenn Pool

Making “wet gas” in an early 20th century Oklahoma oilfield.


Robert Galbreath and Frank Chesley completed their Ida Glenn No. 1 wildcat well on November 22, 1905, a few miles south of Tulsa. They opened the 12-square-mile Glenn Pool with cable-tool drilling after striking oil-bearing sands at depth of only 1,450 feet.

Production from the giant oilfield not only supplied refineries, but also presented a new commercial opportunity – making casinghead gas from oil wells. Exploration and production companies had long known pumping oil brought dissolved gases to the surface unpredictably, where reduced pressure released highly flammable gas.

The Oklahoma, railroad town of Kiefer, at the Glenn Pool oilfield, circa 1909. Photo courtesy Tulsa City-County Library.

The Oklahoma railroad town of Kiefer, at the Glenn Pool oilfield, circa 1909. Photo courtesy Tulsa City-County Library.

Dangerous “kicks” of light hydrocarbon fumes at oil wells have been part of petroleum production and routinely vented or ignited and flared off for safety. 

Although flaring can burn much of an oil well’s methane content, early 20th century technologies made it possible to extract valuable condensates before the gas was wasted. Oilfield engineering advances enabled processing an oil well’s gaseous mix into a liquid, resulting in gasoline of between 40 and 60 octane.

The gasoline made from the well’s fumes became known as casinghead gas (or casing head gas), wet gas, drip gas, absorption gasoline, residue gas, condensation gasoline, white gas, natural gasoline, and other names.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Compared to the 86-octane gasoline distilled from petroleum by refineries, casinghead gas was more unstable, volatile, and dangerous to transport. The low-cost condensate gasoline still had commercial possibilities.

Boom and Bust at Kiefer

In 1909, Douglas Warner “D.W.” Franchot opened the first of many casinghead gasoline plants spawned by discovery of the Glenn Pool. A Yale graduate and Civil War veteran, he had been a successful Ohio oil producer.

Franchot chose a construction site at the railroad siding town of Kiefer, a new boom town, “where there could be found every known method or device for separating a man and his money,” according to the newspaper Mounds Enterpriser.

Kiefer RR station on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway

D.W. Franchot & Company was established in Kiefer, Oklahoma, because the booming Glenn Pool oil town was on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway.

But for D.W. Franchot & Company, Kiefer was a great location because it was on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway (the “Frisco” line) connecting the Glenn Pool to Tulsa.

The notoriety of Kiefer’s oil boom rivaled that of Pithole, Pennsylvania, after the Civil War, and the giant oilfield discovery at Spindletop, Texas, in 1901.

“There was a two or three story building on the creek, just east of the railroad in Kiefer, where the workers could get a shave and haircut, get a bath, get a meal, get the service of a prostitute, get drunk, gamble and get rolled without ever leaving the building,” a Mounds Enterprise reporter claimed.

“It was not uncommon to find the dead body of one of these oil field workers in the creek, floating in the waist-deep oil,” the newspaper added. Shot-gun toting guards were hired to protect the Ida Glenn No.1 oilfield discovery well.

The D.W. Franchot & Company casinghead gas plant was the first to be built west of the Mississippi River. Despite Kiefer’s reputation, investment potential brought numerous ventures.

The booming town soon hosted Quaker Oil, Crosby & Gillespie, Chestnut & Smith, McJunkin & Company, Prairie Oil & Gas, the Glenn Gas Company, and the Gypsy Oil Company, which would boast its Kiefer casinghead gasoline plant as the “largest in the world.”

The first casing head gas plant west of the Mississippi River at Kiefer, Oklahoma.

Among the many new oilfield ventures attracted to Kiefer and the Glenn Pool, the Gypsy Oil Company boasted its casinghead gasoline plant was the world’s largest.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), by 1920 there were 315 casinghead plants in the state. A marker in Kiefer notes that in its heyday, the town was larger than Tulsa and home to 22,000 citizens, seven banks, three theaters, two lumber yards, an opera house, 16 barber shops, and numerous entertainment houses.

However, as the OHS also has noted of the Glenn Pool, “flush production between 1906 and 1908 ranged from eighteen to twenty million barrels per year before gas depletion, caused by massive venting, decreased the gas pressure.”

Glenn Pool’s decline would take Kiefer with it, and as the Great Depression began, the town’s population dropped to 600. After half a century of operation, Kiefer’s last casinghead gas company, Warren Petroleum, closed in 1974. About 2,000 people lived in the former boom town in 2020.

In 1972, a granite historic marker, “First Gas Processing Plant West of Mississippi River,” was erected Near Kiefer. It noted, “After gas processing had spread to Oklahoma it spawned two other petroleum-related processing entities. The petrochemical and the LP gas or bottled gas industries.”

Gas processing industry historic marker in Glenpool erected in 1972 by Oklahoma Historical Society with Oklahoma Petroleum Council.

“The gas processing industry west of the Mississippi River had its beginning near here in 1909 at the D.W. Franchot & Company Plant three miles west of this marker,” notes a Glenpool marker erected in 1972 by the Oklahoma Historical Society with Oklahoma Petroleum Council.

The early hazards of casinghead gas were exposed by fatal disasters, including a 1915 explosion in downtown Ardmore, Oklahoma, and the tragic 1937 New London school explosion in Texas, which ended the widespread use of condensate gasoline. Venting and flaring of oilfield well gas would continue.

Venting and Flaring

A lack of gathering line infrastructure at the Glenn Pool oilfield necessitated gas venting and flaring, but environmental concerns and the loss of potential tax revenues prompted state lawmakers to intervene. All of the 33 producing states have adopted regulations to limit or prevent the waste of gas resources.

However, flaring limits and other regulations have varied from state to state — and casinghead gas has remained a principle offender. Drilling technologies, designed for safety and environmental protection, now include step-flaring and other innovations, where surging gasses can be processed, stripped of useful products, and reduced to carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

As with the Glenn Pool boom 100 years earlier, associated gas production from modern wells must be carefully managed, especially in the Permian Basin in Texas and the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. In 2017, those two states vented or flared gas volumes 10 to 20 times those reported by the other states, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Economically viable alternatives to venting and flaring include new technologies that use compressed natural gas systems and modular, remotely operated mini-gas-to-liquid plants. Other methods feature staged flaring, smokeless combustion, and sensor methane surveillance.

Further, modular electricity generation and truck-mounted liquefied natural gas plants have become more practical, according to the World Bank, which has noted, “remotely operated mini-gas-to-liquid plants may often, in the right circumstances, be economically viable alternatives to flaring.”


Recommended Reading:  Petroleum Geology In Oklahoma (2013); Tulsa Oil Capital of the World, Images of America (2004); Tulsa Where the Streets Were Paved With Gold – Images of America (2000). Your Amazon purchases benefit 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 Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Casing Head Gasoline at Glenn Pool.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: March 30, 2023. Original Published Date: March 30, 2023.


Pin It on Pinterest