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Salt wells, oil wells, and salted wells bring excitement & controversy to western New York in 1890s.

bliss salt & oil

Oil ruined saltwater wells long before petroleum became a profitable commodity. Then in August 1859, “Colonel” Edwin Drake drilled specifically for oil, found it in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and the U.S. petroleum industry was born.

Crude oil, whether retrieved by a spring-pole or cable-tool derrick, could be refined into the new wonder of illumination, kerosene. While drilling for salt brine remained a viable proposition, the new oil business brought spectacular tales of enormous wealth for a lucky few.

By 1878, Vacuum Oil Company (the future Mobil Oil) came looking for oil and natural gas in western New York’s oddly-named Wyoming County. Near the village of Bliss, drillers hit a 70-foot-thick bed of rock salt instead of petroleum. Vacuum Oil wasn’t in the brine business and promptly sold its interest to Wyoming Valley Salt Company. Other salt ventures followed, bringing Bliss new prosperity. Oil exploration companies moved on.


E.J. Wheeler and T.W. Lawrence – described as “two wide-awake business men of Bliss” – joined with prominent local insurance man, Norman R. Howes, to incorporate Bliss Salt & Oil Company in 1892. Stock sales would support drilling for salt, but striking oil or natural gas would be even better. In March 1892, capital stock was authorized at $4,000. “The company has over 3,000 acres of land leased and the shareholders expect to receive a good income from their investment,” reported the Wyoming County Times.

Bliss Salt & Oil Company’s first well was drilled on Stephen Bliss’ farm between Wiscoy Creek and the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh railroad tracks. The company hired F.J. “Fitch” Adams as driller. He was a 14-year veteran of Pennsylvania’s giant Bradford oilfield, 50 miles to the south. At depth of 635 feet, Adams drilled into natural gas, but continued deeper using the gas to fuel the rig’s 25-horsepower boiler.

The company reported to investors, “Salt will no doubt be reached at about 2,500 feet and as we have an abundance of water and a good supply of gas for fuel, this will be one of the best locations for salt plants in America.” Drilling went on to a total depth of 2,956 feet, passing through a second gas sand layer (100 feet thick) on the way to becoming the deepest salt well in Eagle Township.

bliss salt & oil

The presence of natural gas excited shareholders, who held a vote in August to increase capital stock to $6,000. Bliss Salt & Oil announced it was “Going After Gas.”

In April 1893, the company’s second well discovered natural gas at less than 600 feet deep. The Wyoming County Times featured “Booming Bliss” and declared, “A natural gas expert from Buffalo has advanced the opinion that this well will furnish 170,000 cubic feet of gas every twenty-four hours, and that the supply will last for years.”

The news drew Standard Oil Company’s attention. Agents were rumored to be scouting the area. Driller “Fitch” Adams was cited in the Times as believing the wells were “in the gas belt” and that the supply would be permanent. “He backs his opinion by buying stock….A number of experts have given their opinion that the supply is inexhaustible,” the newspaper added.


Bliss Salt & Oil secured a boiler and steam-engine and prepared to drill a third well; but by August, U.S. financial markets were deep into the Panic of 1893 (a harbinger of the Great Depression). Oil Well Supply Company sued both Fitch Adams and Bliss Salt & Oil Company to recover unpaid debts and won.

But then an unexpected show of oil at Bliss Salt & Oil No. 2 well convinced Standard Oil Company agents to make their move. The Times reported, “That was enough for them. They immediately wanted all of the remaining unissued stock and would pay cash for it.” In a quickly engineered takeover, Standard Oil bought out Bliss Salt & Oil shareholders.

bliss salt & oil

However, subsequent Standard Oil exploration efforts suggested the No. 2 oil well discovery was a scam. It was reported the oil was likely poured from a can into the well’s borehole to fool oil scouts. During the gold rush, when crooked miners planted nuggets in worthless mines to fool investors, it was called, “salting the mine.” The local newspaper defended its readership and excoriated the Standard Oil Company.

Amid the controversy, Bliss Salt & Oil Company elected a new board of directors in March 1894. Investors meanwhile read a litany of corporate skulduggery in competing newspapers, including one in nearby Arcade, where the Wyoming County Herald noted:

“Left His Creditors – Norman R. Howes, A Prominent Citizen of Bliss, Absconds. – Becoming Involved in Financial Matters He Leaves Everything behind. – His Defalcations Aggregate, a Large Amount – Attachments on His Goods.”


For the next few years, the absent Howes was repeatedly and unsuccessfully summoned by the court. On May 10, 1895, “in pursuance of a judgment and decree of foreclosure and sale,” the remaining assets of Bliss Salt & Oil Company were auctioned in a sheriff’s sale by direction of the court.

The Wyoming County Times opined, “The truth of the matter seems to be that Mr. Howes became involved in business enterprises which have proven unrenumerative to save himself from what he had already put in them, borrowed money in hopes that business would soon revive and that as a consequence he would be able to retrieve that which he had lost.”

Learn more petroleum history of the Empire State by visiting the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York in Bolivar, Allegany County.

The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

Kansas and Oklahoma subsidiaries discover Mid-Continent oilfields.


Cities Service Company was formed in September 1910 by Henry Latham Doherty as a public utility holding company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

As astute businessman, Doherty bought natural gas producing properties in Kansas and Oklahoma. He acquired distributing companies and linked them to natural gas supplies. His company derived income from the subsidiary corporations’ stock dividends. Read the rest of this entry »

“Snake Hollow Gusher” brings drilling boom (and bust) to Pittsburgh.


“Rarely, a community sees its pulse quicken with a get-rich quick beat, feels the boom fever strike, suffers the chill of disillusion when the ‘El Dorado’ fades out and then recovers,” noted the Pittsburgh Press on July 15, 1934.  “But this is what happened at the McKeesport gas field, scene of the Pittsburgh district’s biggest boom and loudest crash,” the newspaper added. McKeesport Gas Company was among the casualties.

Following America’s first commercial oil discovery in Northwestern Pennsylvania in 1859, natural gas development began in Western Pennsylvania in the late 1870s.

Two brothers discovered a massive natural gas field and brought a new energy resource to Pittsburgh factories. Read more about the once famous Haymaker well in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

For investors, history seemed to be repeating itself two decades later. McKeesport Gas Company was one of about 300 petroleum companies that sprang up within six months of an August 30, 1919, discover – a runaway natural gas well near McKeesport.

The “Snake Hollow Gusher” between the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, blew in at more than 60 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. Drilled by S. J. Brendel and David Foster, the discovery well prompted a frenzy that saw $35 million dollars invested during the boom’s seven-month lifespan.

McKeesport Gas Company incorporated on December 5, 1919, and two-weeks later enticed investors with advertisements in the Pittsburgh Press and the Gazette Times newspapers. “Over 500 Acres of Leases in the Heart of the McKeesport Gas Fields,” proclaimed one ad, offering stock at $1.25 a share.

“Many residents signed leases for drilling on their land,” notes a local reporter. “They bought and sold gas company stock on street corners and in barbershops transformed into brokerage houses in anticipation of fortunes to be made.”

However, of the estimated $35 million sunk into the nine square mile area of the boom, only about $3 million came out. By the beginning of 1921, natural gas production was falling in about 180 producing wells – and more than 440 wells were dry holes. A circa 1920 panoramic photograph at the Library of Congress captures the drilling boom at the McKeesport, Snake Hollow, Gas Belt, by Hagerty & Griffey.

McKeesport Gas

“McKeesport, Snake Hollow, Gas Belt,” a circa 1920 panoramic photograph by Hagerty & Griffey. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2007661480/.

The McKeesport natural gas field was reported as, “the scene of the Pittsburgh district’s biggest boom and loudest crash.”

The Library of Congress photography collection includes “McKeesport, Snake Hollow, Gas Belt” with several McKeesport Gas Company wells at the far left.  The company likely drilled a few of the boom’s hundreds of dry holes and with funds exhausted, disappeared into petroleum history.

Fifteen years later, McKeesport Mayor George H. Lysle explained to a Pittsburgh newspaper reporter how the town survived the “seven-month wonder” natural gas boom:

“Other boom towns,” he said, “were built merely on the strength of the wealth that was to pour from their wells or mines. But McKeesport and vicinity was established before the boom came. When it was over, people still had their jobs in the mills and stores, the permanent population remained, and the natural resources of the district, except for gas, were still as great as ever. We were still a great industrial community.”

Today, greater knowledge of geology and advanced production technologies are promising far surer results than the Snake Hollow Gusher. The region’s latest gas boom – the Marcellus Shale – extends across western Pennsylvania into other Appalachian Basin states.

McKeesport Gas Company stock certificates have collectible value.



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a  contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membershio information.  © 2019 Bruce A. Wells

Citation Information: Article Title: “McKeesport Gas Company.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/stocks/mckeesport-gas-company. Last Updated: August 26, 2019.

African American entrepreneurs start Oklahoma oil venture in 1917.

Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company opened offices in this building on East 2nd Street in a segregated district of downtown Oklahoma City known for its prospering businesses and jazz music nightlife.

Discovery of Oklahoma’s giant Healdton oilfield in August 1913 about 20 miles northwest of Ardmore launched years of investment as companies formed to secure leases and drill. Healdton’s field was shallow and its low cost of drilling attracted many small ventures that operated on capital raised by aggressive stock sales. “Blue Sky” laws had yet to restrain advertising excesses and competition for investors was fierce (see Homestead Oil Company). Decades of production from the oilfield would yield more than 200 million barrels of oil, but leave hundreds of forgotten companies buried in its history.

Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company

When a group of foundering Coffeyville, Oklahoma, investors gave up on their 100-acre oil lease in 1917, four African American entrepenuers bought out the venture and its unfinished 1,360-foot-deep well, which had encountered “several light sands” and a water-filled borehole. Wilson Newman, J.C. Pratt, S.M. Holland, and Heston Welborn formed the Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company, capitalized at $50,000, and set up offices on East 2nd Street in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma’s Daily Ardmoreite reported on August 15, 1918, that Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company moved a Star Rig to explore for oil on land adjacent to the town of Tatums.

Today, East 2nd Street is the heart of the “Deep Deuce” district and is known for its historic jazz and culture. But in 1917, that part of downtown was exclusively for “coloreds,” segregated to the other side of the Santa Fe railroad tracks. It was the era of Gov. William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray’s Jim Crow laws (the Civil Rights Act was still half a century away), but along East 2nd Street African-American businesses and neighborhoods prospered.

Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company moved into offices at 319 and 321 East 2nd Street, across from the Black Dispatch weekly, established two years earlier by Roscoe Dunjee. Advertised as the “Largest circulation Negro journal in Oklahoma,” the paper soon carried Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company promotions encouraging readers to invest. “Buy Stock in a Home Company – With Men Whom You Know at its Head…100 acres leased and shallow wells producing the high-grade of oil,” declared one ad. The company announced plans “to deepen our 1,360 foot well to the lower pay.” Early investors could get in for the bargain price of $1 a share.

As Ardmore Lubricating Oil operations continued into June 1919, news reports for stockholders were mixed. The company completed a producing well on its 100-acre lease that yielded one barrel of oil a day of “high grade lubrication oil.” The company’s chemist predicted it would be worth $10 a barrel at a time when ordinary oil was selling for $2 dollars per barrel.

In 1920, Ardmore Lubricating Oil began moving equipment to drill a well just outside Tatums, about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City. The company announced it would build its own refinery there to process its especially valuable oil from the Healdton field. Tatums was one of about 50 all black towns in the former Indian Territory that grew from post Civil War reconstruction. These self-segregated communities were reflective of the times; they remain as reminders of America’s struggle with race and identity.

With a new lab opened in 1920 upstairs at its Oklahoma City offices, the company’s wells reportedly could produce “high grade lubrication oil” and “Icthyol Oil,” a salve for eczema and other skin conditions.

The superintendent, manager and stock salesman of the Ardmore Lubricating Oil, H.E. Baker, published a telegraphed message about the Tatums well site: “We have three wells producing the highest grade and most valuable oil found in the United States, the great drug Icthyol Oil, one of the most sought for and needed products of the world today.”

“Icthyol” was a popular European skin ointment produced from dry distillation of sulfur-rich oil shale, but Ardmore Lubrication Oil Company executives declared they could refine it from Tatums’ crude oil and process it in their own laboratory. In February 1920, the company announced a four-day grand opening to celebrate their new lab upstairs. “The general public is cordially invited to come and see Kerosene, Automobile Oil and Icthyol,” noted an Ardmore Lubrication Oil promotion. Other ads proposed mutually beneficial business arrangements with merchants, investors, farmers, and consumers.

Increasingly creative financing and uninterrupted stock sales were needed for Ardmore Lubrication Oil to remain solvent. The Black Dispatch in 1921 praised H.E. Baker, noting his company’s “development grows by leaps and bounds…You can get into this company now on the ground floor, $10 is all that you can invest at this time for each member of the family, this will insure at the outset an equal opportunity for all, later on the hundreds of stock holders can get together and determine as to the larger plan of organization.”

Tatums’ townspeople in 1927 hosted and acted in “Black Gold,” a silent picture produced by Norman Studios and featuring an “All Colored Cast.”

However, construction of the Ardmore Lubricating Oil refinery in Tatums still had not begun by August 1921. News about the company’s oil wells grew scarce as Baker sold his own leases. The last appeals for new investors appearing in the Black Dispatch were nevertheless optimistic:

“Wonderful Opportunities In Larger Faith And Deeper Hole,” proclaimed the newspaper. “To anyone with a limited amount of brains it can be seen that a little more faith and a deeper hole will bring into the hands of the Negro landholders in this section the millions of dollars, which their white neighbors all around them are reaping hourly from the derricks that have lunched great holes in the earth and are spouting liquid treasure everywhere.”

A few years later, but too late for Ardmore Lubricating Oil, the area around Tatums did experience an oil boom that was celebrated on the big screen. In 1927, townspeople hosted the making of Black Gold, a silent picture produced by Norman Studios and distributed to all-black theaters the next year. The Florida-based studio described its movie as a “stirring epic of the oil fields” with a cast including, “U.S. Marshall L.B. Tatums. and the entire all-colored City of Tatums, Oklahoma.”

The action-packed melodrama featured Ace Brand, his sweetheart Alice, and a one-legged cowboy (named Peg), who overcame both adversity and injustice in the oil patch. While the film’s happy ending delivered an oil gusher, Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company did not. Few financial records remain about the company, but Gateway to Oklahoma History and the Black Dispatch’s archives offer more context to this almost forgotten story from U.S. petroleum history.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information: Article Title: “Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/stocks/ardmore-lubricating-oil-company. Last Updated: July 4, 2019. ___________________________________________________________________________________



U.S. petroleum industry began in remote Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The discovery of oil along a small creek in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in August 1859 launched the American petroleum industry. Drilled just 69.5 feet deep by former railroad conductor Edwin Drake, the well produced oil that could be refined into an inexpensive lamp fuel, kerosene.

Drake, who pioneered drilling technology, borrowed a local kitchen water pump to fill the first oil barrels. Early oil production from his and other northwestern Pennsylvania wells brought new refineries to Oil City and Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River. Demand for kerosene quickly outpaced the inexpensive but volatile lamp fuel camphene. Kerosene also replaced expensive whale oil. A typical four-year whaling voyage returned with 40,000 gallons; New oilfields produced 10 million gallons of kerosene in 1860 alone.

Drake’s well, drilled for the first U.S. oil company established by George Bissell, brought the country’s first drilling boom as entrepreneurs rushed in. Farmers who leased their land were among the first to benefit. “Oil Creek was soon taken up and within a relatively short time, the entire valley as far back as into the hillsides, had been leased or purchased,” author Paul Gibbons noted. With the science of petroleum geology yet to debut, early oil explorers searched near oil seeps and the “rich territory was limited to flats along the streams,” Gibbons added. Natural gas discoveries would later arrive to the benefit of Pittsburgh industries.

Sherman Well of 1861

The 200-acre farm of J.T. Foster on a Pioneer Run hillside off Oil Creek was in “the dry diggings” where few were willing to gamble. Nonetheless, some newly minted oilmen gathered a few investors to try their luck. Capital was hard to come by. On the Foster farm, one struggling “poor-boy” outfit had to trade a one-sixteenth interest for $80 and an old shotgun to continue drilling on its Sherman Well.

Four acres close to the Sherman well sold for $220,000 as venture oil capitalists, entrepreneurs, and speculators tried their luck in the newly created petroleum industry.

Drilling along Oil Creek continued undiminished, but in September 1861 on the Funk farm, the Empire well began flowing a river of oil under its own pressure. They called it a “fountain well.” Some said it initially produced 2,000 barrels of oil a day. Other successful wells followed.

Back on the Foster farm lease, the Sherman well, formerly saved by an old shotgun, in March 1862 was completed as the “best single strike of the year,” despite being “above all the other flowing wells” according to the Hornellsville Tribune. Leases on the farm became highly prized. Historian and author Terence Daintith observed that “subleasing was also a money machine.” The Venango Citizen reported, “Territory along the river above and below Franklin has been changing hands at high figures, and preparations are being made for active work.”

Just four acres close to the Sherman well sold for $220,000 as venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and speculators tried their luck in the newly created petroleum industry. The Foster Farm Oil Company and the oddly named Shoe & Leather Petroleum Company were among the many corporations formed to exploit exploration opportunities.

Foster Farm Oil Company

Foster Farm Oil Company incorporated in February 1865. Based in Philadelphia and capitalized at $1.5 million, the company offered 150,000 shares to the public. “The Foster Farm is owned by a company of ten gentlemen, and is known as the Foster Farm Oil Company,” reported the The Titusville Morning Herald. E.C. Bishop (Elisa Chapman ) was principal owner as well as one time general agent, treasurer, and superintendent.

The new company secured acreage on the Foster farm that already had 12 wells pumping 100 barrels of oil a day. Foster leased acreage in small tracts to several new companies vying for closest proximity to known producers. Oil prices had always fluctuated wildly, but a standard 42-gallon barrel of crude oil sold in 1865 for about $6.50, including a Civil War excise tax of $1 per barrel.

Foster Farm Oil Company continued drilling and subleasing small tracts. In April 1866, it drilled a well producing 300 barrels of oil a day from 612 feet deep. Then a second well produced at 310 barrels, a third at 100, and another at 350 barrels of oil a day. In 1867, Foster Farm Oil Company sold 1,000 barrels of oil at $2.10 each.

All over the Pioneer Run hillside, wooden derricks with steam engines pumped away even as overproduction drained the oilfield. Margins disappeared and companies began to fail. Vanango County historians confirm, “Not one of the other fifty or sixty wells on the Foster farm, some of them Sherman’s, was particularly noteworthy.”

Foster Farm Oil Company’s fortunes faded as did the value of its stock. In 1869, total U.S.oil production topped 4 million barrels and oversupply drove many out of business. After 10 years in the oil patch, Elisha C. Foster departed to enter the banking business in Connecticut.

By 1871, shares of Foster Farm Oil were being auctioned off along with other “Stocks, Loans, etc.” The following year, 5,000 shares of Foster Farm Oil Company were offered at 11 cents a share. Litigation began to overtake the failing company in 1873; it would continue long after the drilling boom had moved on, finally being settled by the Connecticut Superior Court in 1886.

Shoe & Leather Petroleum Company

Shoe & Leather Petroleum Company incorporated in New York City in March 1865 to join the Pennsylvania oil rush. The company initially capitalized at $400,000, later reduced to $160,000. “Until the spring of 1865, the Foster Farm, Pioneer Run and vicinity were considered dry territory. Through the exertions of Mr. David Harris of this city, the Shoe & Leather Petroleum was formed,” reported the Titusville Morning Herald.

The company leased six acres on the Foster farm, then subleased them into 11 smaller tracts – the kind sought by smaller, speculative operations. “Substantial leaseholders could milk their leases by subleasing small lots for large premiums and high royalties,” historian Daintith later noted. “Far more money could be made this way than by actual production.”

By 1867, Shoe & Leather Petroleum had five producing wells, on five different tracts, with five different operators, yielding about 350 barrels of oil a day. But frantic production at Pioneer Run and Oil Creek, compelled land owners above oil reserves to drill, “regardless of price or market demand, in order to prevent his neighbor from draining his reserves.” This traditional “law of capture” rendered an oily landscape thick with derricks.

Overproduction and waste depleted reservoir pressures. Wells were pumped dry. Triumph Hill, Pithole and others reinforced the precedent of oil discovery, drilling boom, and inevitable bust.By 1902, United States Investor reported Shoe Leather & Petroleum Company had “disappeared” and concluded, “The supposition is that the company has gone out of existence.” Two years later, Smythe’s Directory of Obsolete American Securities and Corporations confirmed the company, “Extinct. Stock worthless.”

The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019Bruce A. Wells.


Drilled in 1889 and completed a year later near oil seeps at Chelsea in Indian Territory, the story behind the another first Oklahoma oil well is not as well known as the Bartlesville gusher seven years later.

another first Oklahoma oil well

The Cherokee Nation town began as a stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1881.

Under President Andrew Jackson, Congress enacted the Indian Removal Act of 1830, forcibly relocating native American tribes westward to what would later become known as Indian Territory.

In the thinking of the day it seemed a good place to send them,”remote from white settlements…no thought was given to the possibility of disturbing them again…it was intended to settle them there for all time.” Read the rest of this entry »


Failed oilman turns assassin! Not finding his fortune in the booming oilfields in the Union, did this once popular actor seek fame as a martyr to the Confederacy?

Dramatic Oil Company

John Wilkes Booth’s dreams of Pennsylvania oil wealth ended in July 1864. Photo by Alexander Gardner courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

As the Civil War approached its bloody conclusion, in January 1864 John Wilkes Booth made the first of several trips to Franklin, Pennsylvania, where he purchased an oil lease on the Fuller farm.

Maps of the day reveal the three-acre strip of land on the farm, about one mile south of Franklin and on the east side of the Allegheny River. A small marker can be found at the site where he drilled an oil well, which is about 21 miles south of another marker – and museum – where the first commercial U.S. oil well was drilled by Edwin Drake.

Drake’s August 27, 1859, discovery launched a drilling boom that made newspaper headlines (the industry’s first “dry hole” a few days later did not). Read the rest of this entry »

Modern U.S. shale oil production has grown at a record pace thanks to drilling and production technologies (including hydraulic fracturing), that produce from shales and other low permeability “tight oil” formations. But a century ago, oil shale was an unconventional resource mined, crushed and transported to a retorting facility.

In the early 20th century, mining shale was an oil extraction process that converted organic matter within the rock (kerogen) into synthetic oil and gas, which could be used as a fuel or upgraded for an oil refinery feedstock. By 1912, the strategic importance of America’s mined oil shale production led to establishment of the Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, “to insulate the United States from foreign dependency on oil during times of war.”

Meanwhile, fuel oil also began replacing coal in U.S. warships (See Petroleum and Sea Power), as World War I erupted in Europe. After more than three years of neutrality, America entered the war on April 2, 1917. Recognizing wartime demand for oil, Van H. Manning, director, U.S. Bureau of Mines, declared, “We have as yet untouched our great reserves of shale that contain oil…and are conservatively estimated to contain many times the amount of oil that has been or will have been produced from all the porous formations in this country.”

Central Oil Shale Refining Company formed with $500,000 capitalization and set up offices in Chicago. The venture saw a financial opportunity in mining oil shale and secured leases on 480 acres in Garfield County, Colorado, an area with known deposits. Central Oil Shale Refining also leased a total of about 5,000 acres in Kentucky, Kansas, and Texas. These investments were a gamble on the margins of supply and demand.

Despite the risks, Central Oil Shale Refining presented “Expert Information on Oil Shale” to stockholders and potential investors at Chicago’s Palmer House hotel. Company executives promoted the mining and distillation of Colorado oil shales as an opportunity not to be missed. It helped that publications like Oil Field Engineering (December 1917) proclaimed oil shales as “A New Source of Gasoline.”

Oil shale operator Joseph Bellis presented a business model to the Palmer House audience, describing oil shale production process and economics. Bellis, a veteran of Colorado oil shale mining in the Piceance Creek Basin, later published a paper in the Colorado School of Mines’ quarterly magazine. His presentation may have helped Central Oil Shale Refining stock sales, but the company’s trajectory had already been determined on a farm near Ranger, Texas.

Concerns about U.S. wartime oil supplies declined — along with oil prices — soon after an October 17, 1917, gusher halfway between Abilene and Dallas. Still annually celebrated by area residents, “Roaring Ranger” J.H. McCleskey No. 1 well produced 1,600 barrels of oil a day. Other wells in the oilfield would yield up to 10,000 barrels of oil daily. The North Texas drilling boom opened giant fields near Desdemona and Breckenridge (Conrad Hilton would buy his first motel in Cisco). An even bigger oilfield was found in 1918 at Burkburnett, near Wichita Falls. With suddenly abundant supplies, oil sold for less than $2 per barrel — five cents a gallon.

Central Oil Shale Refining was in deep trouble. Even if every ton mined resulted in 50 gallons of oil, it would take more than 1,300 tons of shale every day to match the McCleskey’s well production alone. The numbers didn’t work and debts needed to be paid. In a last effort to survive, Central Oil Shale Refining reorganized with the same officers, moved its offices, and subtly changed its name to Central Oil Shale and Refining Company. The new company quickly failed, leaving a brief shadow in financial records.

In the 1980s, new technologies revolutionized petroleum production from low-permeability shales. Although geologists had known of the potential of drilling in these “tight oil” formations, only one percent of U.S. natural gas production came from shale as late as 2000. But by applying horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques, in 2010 shale gas production reached more than 20 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which has predicted that by 2035, almost 50 percent of the United States’ natural gas supply will come from shale gas.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.



Texas-Arizona Petroleum Company orginated with Los Angeles businessman Allan B. Reynolds. Prior to forming his oil company, Reynolds was a director of the American Mineral Products Company (capitalized at $200,000, with all stock subscribed by 1918). Then he got into the oil business by founding two companies. More would follow, none would survive the Great Depression.

Reynolds first organized the American Refineries Company of America (sometimes called National Refineries Company of America) capitalized at $10 million; in May 1919, he formed the Texas-Arizona Petroleum Company of Fort Worth, Texas, capitalized at $500,000.

“Allan B. Reynolds, engineer and geologist from Los Angeles, is president of the organization,” noted The Oil & Gas News. “Mr. Reynolds’ success in the oil fields, since his advent a few months ago, has been one of the sensations of the oil world, his crowning achievement being the organization of the new corporation which he heads.”

By July 1919, Texas-Arizona Petroleum had drilled a shallow well in Coleman County, Texas. the company wanted to supply its own oil to a refinery it planned to build with a daily capacity of 4,000 barrels of oil. The facility would be on a 52-acre tract on the Rock Island Railroad line, about two miles east of Fort Worth. Reynolds’ company also leased 3,200 acres in the Pecos River Valley, in addition to its holding in Eastland County and Burkburnett (see Boom Town Burkburnett).

Dallas newspapers began carrying Texas-Arizona Petroleum stock promotions and describing how expansion and acquisitions had prompted an increase in capital stock first to $1 million then to $3million. The company proclaimed many recent accomplishments, including “with hearty approval of over 3,000 stockholders, made contract for drilling eight wells on Eastland tract surrounded by gushers, bought a 4,000-barrel refinery partially completed with 62 acres in North Fort Worth, and placed a limited amount of stock on the market at $2.00 per share.”

Texas-Arizona Petroleum continued growing as it absorbed Bosque Petroleum Company, Comanche Chief No. 1, Comanche Chief No. 3, Oklahoma Oil & Gas Syndicate, Arkansas Ranger Oil Company, and Northwestern Oil Company. Capitalization of the additional companies amounted to more than $1 million. The company also leased 18,000 acres in New Mexico’s Chavez and Roosevelt counties, plus 100 acres in Limestone County, Texas. It purchased a partially completed Texas Producing and Refining Company refinery in North Fort Worth with the intent to double its capacity to 8,000 barrels of oil a day.

According to the company, these expansions “created wide interest among oil men as it announced that it would refine all the by-products of petroleum oil, something that but very of the refineries in the world are attempting. As there are approximately 190 of the by-products some idea of the magnitude of the proposition can be gained by the statement.”

In 1920, with his other ventures underway and the Fort Worth refinery still under construction, Reynolds incorporated the Mexico-American Petroleum Company with himself as president and capital stock of $5 million with $600,000 subscribed. This company was reported to have leases on 60,000 acres in Texas and New Mexico. But despite enthusiastic promotions and sometimes contradictory information, all of Reynolds’ companies — National Refineries, American Refineries, Mexico-American, and Texas-Arizona Petroleum did not survive long in the competitive U.S. petroleum industry. The Texas-Arizona Petroleum Company disappeared from financial records by the early 1930s.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.


Oil discoveries in northwest Louisiana’s Bull Bayou in 1913 prompted exploration companies to drill wells to define the field’s limits. Many of these companies organized quickly and had little oilfield experience.

Aspiring entrepreneurs infected by Louisiana oil fever included a group of capitalists from Beaumont, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona, who acquired leases in Pine Island and De Soto parishes. In September 1915, they incorporated their Developers Oil & Refining Company with $250,000 capitalization.

Finding investors to begin and sustain drilling operations required promotion and sale of Developers Oil & Refining stock. With states slowly passing laws to discourage fraudulent promotions, newspapers were awash with exaggerated claims and imaginary profits. (In 1912, Arizona had followed Kansas to become only the second state with “blue sky” laws designed to protect investors. ) Fraudulent financial schemes nonetheless continued.

Developers Oil & Refining Company began its promotional campaign in April 1916 with an Indianapolis News advertisement offering stock shares for 25 cents each, noting the company, “will complete independent oil drilling on 3,000 acres; refining our own oil will pay double dividends…not a wildcat proposition.”

Another Developers Oil & Refining promotion appeared in the Oregon News’ Business Opportunities column: “FORTUNE within your grasp; owning 3,000 acres Louisiana’s rich oil fields, will drill 15 wells and buiId refinery; want 1,000 investors each with $20 to join us; this buys 100 shares, par value $100; strictly legitimate enterprise.” In an adjacent column, the already notorious stock swindler, Henry H. Hoffman, trolled for “suckers” with his own scheme: “$10 invested with us has made others $300 in less than six months; let us send you our magazine, ‘Profitable Investments,’ six months free, which tells how to make your money make you independent.”

Developers Oil & Refining also advertised in Bisbee, Arizona, newspapers seeking 1,000 investors to advance $10 each to get in on the ground floor of a sure thing. By December 1917, the company had drilled its Safford No. 1 well down to 1,680 feet on a De Soto Parish lease. The Oil Trade Journal reported the company increased its capitalization from $1 million to $3 million and, “has perfected plans for the building of a large refinery ‘somewhere on the Gulf Coast.’”

“There is every indication also that the new field will be extended for miles south of the present Bull Bayou production,” added the Oil Paint & Drug Reporter. The Safford No. 1 “blew itself in, spurting oil all over the top of the derrick” in July 1918. Encouraging reports noted, “it would only take a small producer to make it a paying proposition.”

Investors rejoiced, but salt water intrusion and a failed down-hole “fishing” job near 1,800 foot depth junked the well. Successful completion of the Safford No. 1 well was prevented only by “accident or inexperience,” according to Oil Paint & Drug Reporter. Despite the failure, the Oil & Gas News soon after reported, “unmistakable evidence of the presence of oil and gas in large quantities and the entire territory lying between the Bull Bayou and the Developer’s (abandoned) well is now dotted with derricks.”

Financial World warned its readership, “A.C. McClaughry of the Developers Oil & Refining Company pursues his goal of “making the poor man rich overnight. How can a person believe a security is secure when it is admitted that unless $2,500 is at once raised, the company will lose all it so gallantly fought for?”

By March 1919, McClaughry’s promotions provoked another harsh rebuke from Financial World: “He expects to do it by putting everybody into the stock at ten cents a share and expects the stock then to ascend like an aeroplane to one dollar a share.”

Developers Oil & Refining tried once again with the Safford No. 2 and got deep enough to set casing, but there was insufficient production to make the well commercially viable. The exploration company failed, leaving behind its fairy tale epitaph in the August 30, 1920, issue of Financial World, headlined “In the Land of Fairy Finance.”

The article condemned company officer R.E. Davidson: “Finding that he could not succeed in making an oil company out of the Developers Oil & Refining Co., he admits the fact to the stockholders and then throws up the sponge.”

Davidson made his case to stockholders, “I used your money for the purpose for which it was intended…I put the drill bits into the oil sands and used the funds of the company to do it, and if the Lord, when he made this earth, did not put oil under the wells we drilled, blame the fault on nature and not on me.”

Financial World editors suggested dissatisfied stockholders, “direct their complaints to the Lord, post office address – Heaven.”


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.



Pawnee Bill Oil CompanyAs World War I neared its end in 1918, Maj. Gordon William “Pawnee Bill” Lillie entered the oil business in Yale, Oklahoma, by forming the Pawnee Bill Oil Company.

Despite not being as famous as his Wyoming friend Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Lillie was “widely known as a showman, a teacher and friend of the Indian and finally as a colonizer in Oklahoma and builder of his state,” according his biographer.

In 1908, the two Bills joined their shows to form “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East,” promoted as “a glorious cavalcade of dazzling brilliancy,” explains Glenn Shirley in his 1958 book Pawnee Bill: A Biography of Major Gordon W. Lillie. The combined shows offered “an almost endless procession of delightful sight and sensations.”

However, times were changing and public taste was turning to a new form of entertainment, motion pictures. By 1913, the showmen’s partnership was over and their show foreclosed. Lillie turned to other ventures – real estate, banking, ranching, and like his former partner Cody, the U.S. petroleum industry.

Oil discoveries near Yale (population of only 685 in 1913) had created a drilling boom that made it home to 20 oil companies and 14 refineries. In 1916, Petrol Refining Company added a 1,000-barrel-a-day-capacity plant in Yale, about 25 miles south of Lillie’s Oklahoma ranch.

The trade magazine Petroleum Age reported that for Pawnee Bill, “the lure of the oil game was too strong to overcome.” He founded the Pawnee Bill Oil Company on February 25, 1918, and bought Petrol Refining’s new “skimming” refinery in March.

An early type of refining, skimming (or topping) removed light oils, gasoline and kerosene and left a residual oil that could also be sold as a basic fuel. To meet growing demand, refineries built west of the Mississippi River often used the inefficient but simple process. Lillie’s company became known as Pawnee Bill Oil & Refining and contracted with the Twin State Oil Company for oil from nearby leases in Payne County.

Pawnee Bill Oil Company

Under headlines like “Pawnee Bill In Oil” and “Hero of Frontier Days Tries the Biggest Game in All the World,” the Petroleum Age extolled that “Pawnee Bill, sole survivor of that heroic band of men who spread the romance of the frontier days over the world…who used to scout on the ragged edge of semi-savage civilization, is doing his bit to supply Uncle Sam and his allies with the stuff that enables armies to save civilization.”

By July 30, 1919, Pawnee Bill Oil (and Refining) Company had leased 25 railroad tank cars, each with a capacity of about 8,300 gallons. But the end of “the war to end all wars” drastically reduced demand for oil and refined petroleum products. By 1921, most Oklahoma refineries were operating at about 50 per cent capacity, with 39 plants shut down.

Although Lillie’s refinery was among those closed, he did not give up. In February 1921, he incorporated the Buffalo Refining Company and took over the Yale refinery’s operations. He was president and treasurer of the new company. By June 1922, the Yale refinery was making daily runs of 700 barrels of oil, about half its skimming capacity.

Pawnee Bill Oil company“At the annual stockholders’ meeting held at the offices of the Pawnee Bill Oil company in Yale, Oklahoma, in April, it was voted to declare an eight per cent dividend,” reported the Wichita Daily Eagle.

“The officers and directors have been highly complimented for their judicious and able handling, of the affairs of the company through the strenuous times the oil industry has passed through since the Armistice was signed,” added the Kansas newspaper. “Many of the Independent refineries have been sold at receivers’ sale. The financial condition of the Pawnee Bill company is in fine shape.”

What happened next remains a mystery since financial records of Pawnee Bill Oil Company are rare, but a 1918 stock certificate signed by Lillie is valued by collectors (it can be found online selling for about $2,500). Lillie’s Wyoming friend Cody also formed several oil exploration ventures, including the Shoshone Oil Company.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.




John D. Rockefeller in 1970 founded Standard Oil Company. By 1890, his complete dominance of the U.S. petroleum industry put every small oil venture in his path at risk. The Ohio Oil Company was founded to fight back – but was quickly absorbed.

Independent producers found themselves with only one market, Standard Oil Company, and their own oversupply of crude oil driving prices down. Rockefeller believed only a few large, vertically integrated oil companies could survive and prosper; smaller companies simply could not. “We will take your burden,” Rockefeller said. “We will utilize your ability; we will give you representation; we will all unite together and build a substantial structure on the basis of cooperation.” Read the rest of this entry »


Marathon of Ohio Oil

The Ohio Oil Company in 1930 purchased Transcontinental Oil, a refiner that had marketed gasoline under the trademark “Marathon” since 1920. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

The Ohio Oil Company was founded in 1887 by Henry M. Ernst in northwestern Ohio, at the time a leading oil producing region. It would become Marathon Oil of Ohio.

John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust purchased the company, known as “The Ohio” in 1889 and in 1905 moved headquarters from Lima to Findlay.

Establishing itself as a major pipeline company, by 1908 the Ohio controlled half of the oil production in three states.

The Ohio resumes independent operation in 1911 following the dissolution of the Standard Oil monopoly. Oil exploration expanded as far away as Wyoming.

In 1915, the Ohio assigned 1,800 miles of pipeline, as well as gathering and storage facilities, to its newly acquired Illinois Pipe Line Company. The Ohio then purchased the Lincoln Oil Refining Company to better integrate and develop crude oil outlets.

“Ohio Oil saw the increasing need for marketing their own products with the ever increasing supply of automobiles appearing on the primitive roads,” explains Gary Drye. “They finally ventured into marketing in June 1924 with the purchase of Lincoln Oil Refining Company of Robinson, Illinois.

Marathon of Ohio Oil

The Ohio Oil Company marketed its oil products as “Linco” after purchasing the Lincoln Oil Refinery in 1920. Undated photo of a station in Fremont, Ohio.

Drye, a collector of gas station antiques, notes that with an assured oil supply for the small refinery, the “Linco” brand expanded.

Meanwhile, a subsidiary in 1926 co-discovered the giant Yates oilfield in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and West Texas.

“With huge successes in oil exploration and production ventures, Ohio Oil realized they needed even more retail outlets for their products,” Drye reports. By 1930 Ohio Oil distributed Linco products throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky.

Marathon of Ohio Oil

In 1930 Ohio Oil purchased Transcontinental Oil, a refiner that had marketed gasoline under the trademark “Marathon” across the Midwest and South since 1920. Acquiring the Marathon product name included the Pheidippides Greek runner trademark and the “Best in the long run” slogan.

Marathon of Ohio Oil

Adopted in 2011, the third logo for corporate branding in Marathon Oil’s 124-year history.

According to Drye, Transcontinental “can best be remembered for a significant ‘first’ when in 1929 they opened several Marathon stations in Dallas, Texas in conjunction with Southland Ice Company’s ‘Tote’m’ stores (later 7-Eleven) creating the first gasoline/convenience store tie-in.”

The Marathon brand proved so popular that by World War II the name had replaced Linco at stations in the original five state territory. After the war, Ohio Oil continued to purchase other companies and expand throughout the 1950s.

In 1962, celebrating its 75th anniversary, The Ohio changed its name to Marathon Oil Company and launched its new “M” in a hexagon shield logo design. Other milestones include:

1981 – U.S. Steel (USX) purchased the company.
1985 – Yates field produced its billionth barrel of oil.
1990 – Marathon opened headquarters in Houston.
2005 – Marathon became 100 percent owner of Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC, which later became Marathon Petroleum Corp.
2011 – Completed a $3.5 billion investment in the Eagle Ford Shale play in Texas.

On June 30, 2011, Marathon Oil became an independent upstream company and unveiled an “energy wave” logo as it prepared to separate from Marathon Petroleum, based in Findlay. Read a more detailed history in Ohio Oil Company and visit the Hancock Historical Museum in Findlay.

Ohio Oil’s California Record

Marathon of Ohio Oil

A  1954 trade magazine noted the record depth reached by the Ohio Oil Company’s Kern County well that ending as a dry hole.

As deep drilling technologies continued to advance in the 1950s, a record depth of 21,482 feet was reached by the Ohio Oil Company in California.

Completed on December 31, 1954, the well was about 17 miles southwest of Bakersfield in prolific Kern County, in the San Joaquin Valley. At more than four miles deep, the well’s down-hole drilling technology was not up to the task and becomes stuck.

The challenge of retrieving obstructions from deep in a well’s borehole – “fishing” – has challenged the petroleum industry since the first tool stuck at 134 feet and ruined a well spudded just four days after the famous 1859 discovery by Edwin Drake in Pennsylvania. See The First Dry Hole.

In a 1954 article about deep drilling technology, The Petroleum Engineer noted the Kern County well of the Ohio Oil Company – today’s Marathon Oil – set a record despite being “halted by a fishing job.” The well was a dry hole.

Another 1953 Kern County well drilled by Richfield Oil Corporation produced oil from 17,895 feet, according to the magazine. Nationally, the average cost for the nearly 100 wells drilled below 15,000 feet was about $550,000 per well.

Six hundred and thirty-two exploratory wells with a total footage of almost three million feet were drilled in California during 1954, according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Visit the West Kern Oil Museum.



The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

United Cuban Oil

In July 1953, Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries first challenged the government of Fulgencio Batista with organized guerrilla resistance and revolution. Three years later, United Cuban Oil incorporated with Ted Jones as president and offices in Los Angeles. The investment banking firm of S.D. Fuller & Company underwrote the venture, investing $534,694 to control 66 percent of United Cuban Oil stock.

The new petroleum company’s objective was “to consolidate production, development and exploration of oil and gas on concession rights (38 leases) in Cuba.” Jones had existing but independent ventures working on the north coast of the island, including Companie de Fomento Petrolero.

United Cuban Oil filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to register 2,573,625 common stocks and an initial public offering of 2,000,000 shares at $1.25 a share. The company exchanged 573,625 shares of stock one-for-one to absorb Jones’ Companie de Fomento Petrolero and make it a subsidiary.

Jones’ holdings in Cuba also became subsidiaries: Empresas Petroleras Jones de Cuba and Compania Perforadora Jones de Cuba. A group headed by James J. McBride bought 1,200,000 shares to be held in escrow for three years.

On June 13, 1957, United Cuban Oil announced plans to drill in California. The selected site was on the 111 acre Muller ranch, about three miles west of La Honda. Drilling of the Muller No. 1 well began on June 29. Interviewed by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, company president Jones took the opportunity to promote United Cuban Oil’s prospects with its six producing wells in Cuba.

Six weeks later, Jones, “reportedly stated that oil was struck at 2,610 feet in 45 feet of oil sand. Officials would only say that it was producing a ‘couple of hundred barrels.’” Regardless of production, by the end of August 1957, United Cuban Oil had plugged and abandoned the Muller well after water intrusion and a failed re-drilling effort.

In Texas, United Cuban Oil completed its No. 1A Coker well in Coleman County, five miles northeast of Novice. But the wildcat well turned out to be just a brief producer. It too was abandoned. At the time, United Cuban Oil was selling for about 56 cents a share on the American Stock Exchange, but for any business operating in Cuba, everything changed on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro seized power, dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island, and the Cold War became more dangerous.

Back in the United States, United Cuban Oil was reorganized by three wealthy entrepreneurs from El Paso, Texas. In May 1959, they merged Balcones Corporation, Dell City Gas Company, and United Cuban Oil to form a new company while retaining the United Cuban Oil name and Ted Jones as president. The company planned to move its headquarters to El Paso.

Although United Cuban Oil’s underwriters, S.D. Fuller & Company, offered analysis of prospects to potential investors in the Commercial and Financial Chronicle, few were willing to gamble on Cuba’s uncertain future. By November 1959, the Law 635 of the Batista government effectively stripped United Cuban Oil of its Cuban operations.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.


In 1905, Kansas University professor Hamilton P. Cady, above, discovered significant amounts of helium in a natural gas sample from a Dexter, Kansas. well. He and D. F. McFarland found that the gas - previously believed to be rare on earth - could be extracted from natural gas.

In 1905, Kansas University professor Hamilton P. Cady, above, discovered significant amounts of helium in a natural gas sample from a Dexter, Kansas, well. He and D. F. McFarland found that the gas – previously believed to be rare on earth – could be extracted from natural gas.

A marker near Dexter, Kansas, notes that a nearby gas well led to a scientific discovery that “lighted the way to a multi-million dollar industry.”

A Dexter, Kansas, marker notes a nearby gas well led to a scientific discovery that “lighted the way to a multi-million dollar industry.”

A stock certificate from The Gas, Oil and Developing Company is noteworthy to collectors – but not for producing great wealth for its investors.

For this exploration company, which disappeared more than a century ago, more interesting is its connection to “The Gas That Wouldn’t Burn.”

In May 1903, The Gas, Oil and Developing Company drilled an exploratory well on William Greenwell’s farm near Dexter, Kansas, about 45 miles southeast of Wichita.

At a depth of just 560 feet, the company’s drill bit struck a formation that produced “a howling gasser” that flowed an estimated nine million cubic feet of natural gas a day. Read the rest of this entry »

Thousands have ventured into the petroleum exploration business…

Welcome to this updated collection of articles about obscure oil and natural gas company histories since the First American Oil Well of 1859. Importantly, the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s original research and accompanying forum need your financial support! Please help our on-going effort to help you with even a small contribution via PayPal

A petroleum stock certificate’s vignette often is an important part of its value for scripophily – the buying and selling of certificates as collectibles after they have no redeemable value as a security.
A petroleum stock certificate’s vignette often is an important part of its value for scripophily – the buying and selling of certificates as collectibles after they have no redeemable value as a security.

Note to visitors to this energy education website: The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) is not affiliated with any petroleum company, advocacy groups, or industry lobbying organizations; it depends on individual financial support.

AOGHS serves as a resource for petroleum history for researchers, teachers, students, historians and the public.

Although often controversial, the history of U.S. petroleum exploration, production, and transportation should be preserved. From kerosene for lamps, gasoline for cars, and plastic polymers for everyday products, the industry’s social, economic and technological history offers a context for understanding the modern energy needs.

Maintaining this educational website depends on volunteers — and your financial support. Further, even contributions help the society expand its energy education mission and promote the good work of community oil and natural gas museums.

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oil and gas company
In the rush to print stock certificates during oil booms, new companies often chose to print certificates using a vignette of derricks. A surprising number picked the same oilfield scene.

See this same vignette on shares of Centralized Oil & Gas Company; Double Standard Oil & Gas Company; Evangeline Oil Company; Texas Production Company; Tulsa Producing and Refining Company; Hecla-Wyoming Oil Company; Oil Prospectors Inc.; Craven Oil & Refining; Buck Run Oil and Refining; Home Oil & Gas; Hog Creek Carruth Company; Buffalo-Texas Oil Company; and the Champion Oil Company.


Can you tell me anything about this old petroleum company (for free)? I found its stock certificate in an attic. Am I rich? Probably not. As shown in the companies below, since the 1850s the U.S. petroleum industry’s boom and bust cycles have left many casualties.  For an example of one that actually made it to courts, see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock.

Read the rest of this entry »


The history of Con Edison includes stories of work crews from New York City’s many competing gas companies digging up lines of rivals – and literally battling for customers, giving rise to the term “gas house gangs.”

history of Con Edison

New York gas-light companies provided lighting for streets, businesses and residences beginning in 1823. They later merged to become the nation’s largest utility – Con Edison. This 1873 “bird’s eye view” illustrates New York and Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge, under construction from 1870 to 1883, is at right.

Today still among the nation’s largest gas utility companies, Consolidated Edison, Inc. – known as “Con Edison” or “Con Ed” – began on November 11,1884, when six New York City gas-light companies merged.

But Con Edison can trace its history more than six decades earlier to the New York Gas Light Company. All provided gas from their nearby plants distilling coal.

“Before the Brooklyn Bridge spanned the East River, before the Statue of Liberty first graced New York Harbor, and before skyscrapers rose above New York City’s streets, the utility companies that would eventually become Con Edison were already building the energy infrastructure needed to fuel and sustain the city’s growth,” notes one historian. Read the rest of this entry »


Elk Basin United Oil Company incorporated in 1917 seeking oil riches in Wyoming’s booming Elk Basin oilfield. Oilfields found in North Texas, including a 1911 gusher at Electra, already had resulted in a rush of new exploration ventures – and created boom towns like Burkburnett

october petroleum history

“Gusher coming in, south rim of the Elk Basin Field, 1917.” Photo courtesy American Heritage Center.

Wherever found, America’s newly discovered oilfields led to the founding of many exploration ventures that competed against more established companies. These young companies frequently struggled to survive as competition for financing, leases, and drilling equipment intensified.

Wyoming’s earliest oil wells produced easily refined oil as early as 1890.

In a remote, scenic valley on the border of Wyoming and Montana, a discovery well opened Wyoming’s Elk Basin oilfield on October 8, 1915. Drilled by the Midwest Refining Company, the wildcat well produced up to 150 barrels of oil a day of a high-grade, “light oil.” Credit for oil discovery is given to geologist George Ketchum, who first recognized the Elk Basin as a likely source of oil. Ketchum, a farmer from Cowly, Wyoming, in 1906 had explored the area with C.A. Fisher, who had been the first geologist to map a region within the Bighorn Basin southeast of Cody, Wyoming, where oil seeps were discovered in 1883.

The Elk Basin, which extends from Carbon County, Montana, into northeastern Park County, Wyoming, attracted further exploration after the 1915 well. More successful wells followed. Once again, oil discoveries in unproved territory attracted speculators, investors, and new companies – including the Elk Basin United Oil Company.

Established petroleum companies like Midwest Refining – and the Ohio Oil Company, which would become Marathon Oil – came to the Elk Basin. These oil companies had the financial resources to survive a run of dry holes or other exploration hazards. The many smaller and under-capitalized companies would prove especially vulnerable.

Elk Basin United OilIs My Old Oil Stock Worth Anything features several such small players in Wyoming’s petroleum history, including the notorious Dr. Frederick Albert Cook (Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter). Even Wyoming’s famous showman, Col. William F. Cody, got caught up in the state’s oil fever (Buffalo Bill Shoshone Oil Company).

Elk Basin United Oil Company

Elk Basin United Oil Company of Salt Lake City, Utah, incorporated on July 30, 1917, and acquired a lease of 120 acres in Wyoming’s Elk Basin oilfield. By February 1918, company stock sold for 12 cents a share.

Enthusiastic newspaper ads promoted its “6 properties in 3 different fields…A 6 to 1 shot!” Twenty producing wells were reputed to be within one mile of Elk Basin United Oil’s Wyoming well site.

Meanwhile, Elk Basin United Oil reported expansion plans underway in a growing Kansas Mid-Continent oilfield. The company secured leases near Garnett and completed four producing oil wells, yielding a total of about 500 barrels of oil a month. It added an additional 112 acres and planned a fifth well. Prairie Pipe Line Company (later Sinclair Consolidated) completed pipelines into the Garnett field through which several companies looked to transport their crude oil production.

However, growing competition from better funded exploration ventures and low crude oil prices ranging between $1.10 and $1.98 per barrel of oil in 1917 and 1918 drove many small companies into consolidations, mergers or bankruptcy.

Elk Basin United Oil, exploring back in Wyoming by March 1919, sought a lease on the property of the First Ward Pasture Company bordering the Utah line, “with a view of prospecting the property declare the surface showing to be very favorable for an oil deposit.” But financial issues continued to burden the company.

In December 1919, Elk Basin United Oil Company was reported by Oil Distribution News to be negotiating a merger of with the Anderson Oil Company, and the Kansas-United Oil Company, with a capitalization of $1 million. The results of this proposed merger have not been found. Elk Basin United Oil Company disappeared from financial records soon thereafter.



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2018 AOGHS.


Sunshine State Oil

A 1918 oil discovery near Wichita Falls joined earlier discoveries at Electra (1911) and Ranger (1917) to make Texas a worldwide leader in petroleum production.

At the start of the 20th century, a growing number of Mid-Continent oilfields began their long history of oil discoveries. With them came the drilling boom and bust cycles of the industry.

Although oil wealth helped build schools, community infrastructure, hotels, banks, churches, and civic pride, competition made drilling prospects harder to come by. Equipment costs rose as rapidly growing production lowered oil prices. Many companies would arrive too late and go bankrupt without drilling single well.

In North Texas, the oil boom began when the giant Ranger oilfield was discovered in October 1917 near Electra – where an April 1911 discovery already had brought a drilling frenzy. The “Roaring Ranger” well alone reached a daily production of 1,700 barrels of oil. Meanwhile, Conrad Hilton, who visited the region intending to buy a bank, saw the crowds of Ranger oilfield roughnecks and bought his first motel in nearby Cisco instead. Read more in Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel. Read the rest of this entry »


Mid-continent oilfield discoveries by a famed Oklahoma wildcatter inspired the founding of new exploration companies, many with little experience in the “oil patch.”  Most would fail, including the Cushing-Webb Oil Company.

In 1912, Thomas Baker Slick, formerly known as “Dry Hole Slick,” became Oklahoma’s King of the Wildcatters when his Wheeler No. 1 well led him to an oilfield that changed America’s future. Production from his Cushing-Drumright field peaked in May 1915 when 3,090 wells produced 310,000 barrels of oil every day. The field would help fuel the 1918 Allied victory in World War I.

The lure of petroleum wealth was irresistible and investors rushed to the area between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Newly formed exploration ventures included the Cushing-Webb Oil Company, chartered in Stillwater two months after Slick’s discovery. David R. Webb, Sam Meyers and Paul A. Wintersteen incorporated their company with capital stock of $25,000, according to a report in the Texas Trade Review and Industrial Record. The new company advertised for stock sales agents in the Wichita Daily Eagle:

 Cushing-Webb Oil

A 1917 oilfield discovery near Cushing, Oklahoma, by independent oil producer Thomas Slick led to creation of new exploration companies, some with dubious promises of oil riches.

SALESMEN WANTED – Is there a live-wire salesman who wants to clean up $1,500 or more in the next 90 days? Get in communication with us. We have the best oil lot and stock proposition on the market Cushing field and our literature and commission has every other company beat. We have the proposition to make you a chunk of money. Cushing-Webb Oil Co., Stillwater, Okla.

With elaborate promotions, Cushing-Webb Oil reached out for new investors. The company claimed ownership of a 40-acre tract amidst the vast production of the Cushing-Drumright oilfield. A purchase of one share offered a 400-square-foot lot, and a promise to drill. It would be three years before the company erected a drilling rig.

In his 1979 book Hurry Home Wednesday; Growing Up in a Small Missouri Town, 1905-1921, Loren Reid, recalled a visit from a Cushing-Webb Oil agent:

In the Spring of 1917, a nice-appearing soft-spoken man in his late 30s stepped off the train from Kansas City and checked in at the Harmon, no doubt delighting the innkeeper with the information that he planned to stay a few days. From there he fanned out into our Miracle Mile, starting with the professional men and moving on to the merchants, introducing himself as a representative of the Cushing-Webb Oil Company of Oklahoma.

The stranger told an exciting story of the millions to be made in oil, starting with the narrative of the millions that had already been made in oil. He had a map showing the location of the productive Cushing field with dots indicating the size of its many gushers. The choice acreage that he represented hovered above. As the company’s geologists confidently believed, a seven-thousand barrel a day vein.

Cushing-Webb Oil

Cushing-Webb Oil secured a lease on the Lon McGilbray farm in Creek County and built its first oil rig about five miles northwest of Oilton, across the Cimarron River.

Reid noted that his small town had been prospering and the local newspaper,  the Gilman City Guide, was running more and bigger ads than it had for quite a while. “Everybody had a little more money on hand than he was accustomed to. It was a heady feeling,” he explained, before continuing:

And here was Cushing-Webb, offering a chance to get in on the ground floor. To be sure there were risks, dry holes had been dug before and would be again, but then…

Within twenty-four hours the whole business district was aware of the stranger’s visit. Everybody was talking oil. Father and Mother were among those honored by a call. I heard part of the sales talk. Afterwards they conversed excitedly, their spirits exalted. “Just imagine,” Mother said, “if they did strike oil and we made some real money.” Even if they got only five-thousand barrels a day, added Father, “that would be pretty good.” And so on, into the night. What if …just suppose… imagine.

In another twenty-four hours rumors of a different sort flowed through the town like oil through a pipeline. This individual had bought shares, and so had this one, and that one. The rumors were readily confirmed by the proud possessors of the shares. Then at some point, another entirely different line of fantasizing took over: What if Jones bought shares and struck it rich, and we bought no shares and were left out? Here was a thought to make strong men and women shudder. No one with idle money could look such an outcome squarely in the face.

When the stranger returned, Father and Mother bought shares.

It took three years of energetic promotion, but by February 1919, Cushing-Webb Oil secured a lease on the Lon McGilbray farm in Creek County, and erected its first oil derrick northest of Cushing, near Oilton (S.W. corner of N.W. quarter of S.E. quarter of Section 19, Township 19 North, Range 7 East). Then nothing.

In April 1919, the trade magazine National Petroleum News was reporting about false advertising claims and other predations of oil stock hucksters. “Aroused to action by complaints of the many victims, local, federal and state authorities are tightening their grip on the stock jobbing charlatans who have mulcted their victims of millions in cash and Liberty Bonds in exchange for worthless stocks. Fake oil promotions schemes figure prominently.”

Cushing-Webb Oil

Despite many promotions over several years, Cushing-Webb Oil constructed only one derrick. No drilling was reported before the company failed.

Meanwhile, between February and July 1919, the Oil and Gas News noted in recurring reports that Cushing-Webb Oil Company’s McGilbray No. 1 well, “is still a rig” with no drilling undertaken and no progress made, but stock sales continued.

The Illinois Secretary of State published a list of 35 oil companies that since January 1919 had been “denied licenses to do business under the Illinois Blue Sky Law,” which regulated the offering and sale of securities to protect the public from fraud. Cushing Webb Oil was on the list, and the company folded along with many other failed oil speculations.

Back in Gilman City, Missouri, author Loren Reid concluded, “Little or no oil was found. Father and Mother were taken to the tune of two or three hundred dollars, which for them was a serious loss.”



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2018 AOGHS.


Although what was known of Alabama’s petroleum geology did not encourage exploration, independent oil companies tried and failed for decades before commercial production began in 1944. Albany-Decatur Oil & Gas Company drilled its first exploratory well in Alabama on March 23, 1921.

The independendent exploration company’s No. 1 English well was spudded in suburban Decatur (Section 6, Township 6 South, Range 4 West), near where today stands a Walmart Supercenter. The company did not limit its speculation to Alabama, but quickly expanded with plans for a second well near Mulberry, Tennessee.

Albany Decatur Oil

This May 5, 1921, photo shows members of the Alabama Press Association during a visit to the Albany-Decatur Oil & Gas Company well “drilling four miles south of Decatur.

National Petroleum News reported, “In spite of of more or less discouraging governmental geological reports and in the face of a financial depression which makes new financing difficult, the Albany-Decatur Oil & Gas Company with headquarters in Decatur, Alabama, is proceeding with a stock selling campaign and in the meantime drilling a test in the wildest of wildcat territory in middle Tennessee.”

The company’s distant gamble was on a site in Lincoln County near Mulberry, about 13 miles from a railroad in Fayetteville.

By September 1921, Albany-Decatur Oil & Gas Company’s rank wildcat well (far from any successful well), the Robert T. Moore No. 1, reached a depth of about 750 feet using a “grasshopper rig” – an inexpensive and rudimentary derrick apparatus, less capable than a standard cable-tool rig, but better than a springpole (see Making Hole – Drilling Technology).

“Persons in Fayetteville reasonably conversant with the company’s affairs state that the sale of stock is progressing, though slowly, and further state that the securities marketed are offered as shares in a speculative project which may or may not be profitable,” explained the National Petroleum News.

“To Lincoln county people they are selling ‘test for test’s sake’ inasmuch as the lease is 75 or 100 miles from production,” the publication added. “Besides, the shares sold carry an interest in the company’s other test being drilled with a standard rig near Decatur, Alabama. The literature circulated in Tennessee to promote stock sales is patently blatant, however.”

The terminology referred to highly exaggerated claims that lured unsuspecting investors – referred to as Blue Sky laws – which varied from state by state.

Meanwhile, back at the company’s other test well in Decatur, drilling on the No. 1 English well continued, but intermittently.

Albany-Decatur Oil & Gas Company’s Tennessee wildcat venture ended abruptly when the Robert T. Moore No. 1 encountered a common oil field hazard: “stuck tools.” All fishing efforts to clear the borehole of obstructions failed (learn more in Fishing in Petroleum Wells). The wildcat well was lost and abandoned.

Despite the failure, stock sales continued to fund drilling on the No. 1 English well, which had begun with an envisioned total depth of 1,500 feet. But finding no oil and financed by operating funds from stock sales, Albany-Decatur Oil & Gas continued drilling deeper. By December,1926, the No. 1 English well was the deepest oil well in North Alabama – reportedly reaching a depth of 4,130 feet.

And there the document trail ends. The Alabama Oil and Gas Board has no record of any oil or natural gas coming from the No. 1 English well: no permit Issued; no Information about plugging (Bulletin 50, P. 34-36 & Sr 15, P. 164-165 for Driller’s Log).

Alabama’s first oilfield would not be found until February 17, 1944, when independent producer H.L. Hunt, who had found great success in the earliest Arkansas oilfields of the 1920s and even greater success in the East Texas oilfield of 1930, discovered the Gilbertown oilfield. Prior to Hunt’s wildcat well, 350 dry holes had been drilled in the state.



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2018 AOGHS.


According to the man who first envisioned the amazing Spider-Man, the life of Harry S. Stonehill “would make a great movie by someone like Oliver Stone.”

american asiatic oil stock

World Way II veteran Harry Stonehill founded American-Asiatic Oil in 1957 – and offered 100 million shares to the public.

Stan Lee, creator of the famed comic book web-slinger in 1962, was an old Army buddy of Lt. Stonehill. They had served together in the Philippines during World War II.

Although Stonehill returned to the country after the war and became rich from business ventures, he eventually was forced to flee the Philippines – and several other countries.

In 2011, Lee told Forbes magazine:

After the war, he said to me, “Hey Stan Come to the Philippines with me.” I said, “Why?” And he said, “I found out that they don’t have Christmas cards there. I’m going to buy a batch of Christmas cards and start a business.” I said, “I love ya, Harry, but you’re a lunatic.” And I went back to my comics and he went off to the Philippines. 

By 1957, Stonehill was a multimillionaire when he organized American-Asiatic Oil Corporation. He had built a $50 million fortune in more than a dozen enterprises, including cotton, textiles and real-estate development. He also owned U.S. Tobacco, which held a virtual cigarette monopoly in the country; it would lead to his troubles. Read the rest of this entry »

Texas Production Company was incorporated on June 18, 1917, with $1 million in capital. It would find oil in booming North Texas oilfields – but not survive the competition.

By 1919, Texas Production completed the Renner No. 1 well at 475 barrels of oil a day from the Waggoner oilfield, near Electra and the recent extension of the Burkburnett field (Electra would someday be declared the Pump Jack Capital of Texas).

According to the Texas Historical Commission, exploration and production in this area was minimal until April 17, 1919, when the Bob Waggoner Well No. 1 blew in producing an astounding 4,800 barrels of oil per day. It was the first well in what became known as the Northwest Extension Oilfield, comprised of approximately 27 square miles.

Oil had been found in 1912 west of Burkburnett in Wichita County, followed by another oilfield in the town itself in 1918. The Wichita Falls region’s drilling booms inspired a 1940 Academy award-winning movie. Learn more Boom Town Burkburnett.

The company also appears to have drilled productive oil wells in the in the Humble oilfield of Harris County, bringing in the Bissonnet No. 1 well to a depth of over 4,000 feet, one of the deepest – and one of the most expensive – in the field at the time.

Although that well reportedly produced up to 2,000 barrels of oil a day in 1921, competition for leases and equipment intensified amid falling oil prices. In the same year, a Texas Production Company investor sought advice from a leading financial publication. The answer was not promising.

“So far as we can make out you bought into an oil production of little or no merit, which has simply gone the way of any number of such enterprises,” United States Investor noted.

“Shares of the Texas Production Company are now being offered at a few cents a share by unlisted brokers which would indicate that a sale of your stock would net you little,” the magazine added. “There is no way for you to get your money back.”

United States Investor encouraged its readers to avoid investing in any questionable petroleum-related bonds. “This may be a time for strong companies to invest in oil at a low figure,” Investor  proclaimed, “but a company which must bond itself to pull itself out of a hole can’t do much in the way of speculation on the future price of oil to get back for its stockholders what has been already taken by unscrupulous promoters.”

Texas Production Company’s stock certificate includes the same vignette of derricks seen on those of other companies quickly formed in booming oil regions, including Centralized Oil & Gas Company, the Double Standard Oil & Gas Company, the Evangeline Oil Company, and the Tulsa Producing and Refining Company.



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society welcomes sponsors to help preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membership information.  © 2019 AOGHS.


What began as a venture into Colorado’s risky petroleum exploration business ended even quicker than most. Boulder Petroleum Company had intended to repeat the success of a 1923 Union Oil Company discovery about 70 miles north of Boulder.

The Union Oil Company well revealed the prolific Wellington Dome field — and ignited a frenzy of Colorado oil and natural gas speculation. On a single day, five thousand spectators visited Union Oil’s well, a “gasser” that initially produced 1 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

“Great excitement prevails, and land and leases have gone soaring sky high,” reported the Craig Courier newspaper as Boulder businessmen Julius Williams, S.E. Collier, H.A. Gibson and others incorporated Boulder Petroleum Company; they secured a 600-acre lease along Lyons Road on the Spurgeon farm, near the town of Altona. The company’s acreage, about nine miles north of Boulder, was 60 miles south of the Union Oil discovery.

By May 1925, after delays caused by equipment delivery problems, the cable-tool derrick was ready to spud (start drilling) an exploratory well. A crowd of about 300 people joined Boulder Petroleum officials for the spudding. The well was named the Spurgeon No. 1 (or the Haystack Well after a nearby landmark). As with similar speculative petroleum ventures, securing capital to finance drilling was a challenge. A lot depended on a successful first well.

A bad omen for investors came in October when Julius Williams, secretary-treasurer of Boulder Petroleum, was apprehended in Denver for “a short check charge.” The company had insufficient funds to pay $50 owed to the driller. The matter apparently was resolved, however, as Williams was was back at work by the end of 1925. As Christmas approached, the company well reported good news at its well.

According to newspaper accounts, the company had an encouraging “showing of gas at 1,300 feet.” In February 1926, even better news came with a healthy showing of oil at 2,100 feet – believed to be in commercial quantities. Such signs were encouraging to potential investors and good news usually had a positive affect on stock prices. Plus, according to reports in the Niwot Tribune, the company was pursuing additional leasing opportunities.

To complete the well and begin production, the intermediate step of cementing the casing in place had to be completed (see Halliburton Cements Wells). But bad luck struck Boulder Petroleum when the cementing job failed to properly harden, the casing split, and work had to be suspended. By June, the company had survived a tool (reamer lug) stuck in the borehole for six weeks (learn more in Fishing in Petroleum Wells).

Meanwhile, company debt continued to accumulate. Then it got worse.

In 1925, McAllister Lumber & Supply Company had sold lumber and supplies to Boulder Petroleum for construction of the Spurgeon No. 1 well. Boulder still owed then more than $1,000 ($14,350 in 2018 dollars.) McAllister sued and won, but Boulder Petroleum was broke and their only well no longer producing commercial quantities of petroleum.

In an April 1927 “Sheriff’s Sale,” McAllister Lumber & Supply was awarded all Boulder Petroleum Company assets. The well continued operating for another few months, but was shut down and abandoned by March 1928, leaving shareholders with worthless stock certificates instead of royalties.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.



Three petroleum exploration companies will risk everything on one well trying to become successful Oregon wildcatters.

Oregon wildcatters

The Morrow No. 1 well, an ill-fated wildcat well first drilled in 1952 in Jefferson County, Oregon. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, “The Ore Bin,” Vol. 32, No.1, January 1970.

Searching for oil has always been an expensive and risky investment, but the lure of black gold has invited speculators since the First American Oil Well.

Under-capitalized operations are often funded with public sales of stock to enable continued drilling. It’s a high-risk investment. About nine out of ten wildcat wells have failed to find commercial amounts of oil since 1859.

Many small ventures must bet everything on drilling a first successful well to have a chance at a second. A gusher means wealth; a dry hole means bankruptcy. And so it was on a remote hillside in Jefferson County, Oregon.

Three companies searched for riches from the same well.

Northwestern Oils Inc.

The first of these three Oregon wildcatters, Northwestern Oils, incorporated in 1951 with $1 million capitalization in order to “carry on business of mining and drilling for oil.”

With offices in Reno, Nevada, in early 1952 Northwestern Oils began drilling a test well about eight miles southeast of Madras, Oregon. Using a cable-tool drilling rig (see Making Hole – Drilling Technology), drillers reached a depth of 3,300 feet on the Baycreek anticline before work was suspended because of “lost circulation troubles.”

Circulation troubles continued with the Morrow No. 1 well – also known as the Morrow Ranch well – in Jefferson County (Section 18, Township 12 South, range 15 East). By March 1956, with no money and no additional drilling possible, Northwestern Oils’ assets were “seized for non-payment of delinquent internal revenue taxes due from the corporation” and auctioned off at the Jefferson County courthouse.

Central Oils Inc.

Central Oils (Seattle) also was formed in 1956. With plans to join the other rare Oregon wildcatters, the Central Oils registered with the Security and Exchange Commission on July 30, 1958. It sought to sell one million shares of stock to the public at 10 cents a share. Proceeds would finance leasing and drilling, just like Northwestern Oils.

The company received a permit to deepen Northwestern Oils’ old Morrow Ranch well in 1966 and planned to continue drilling with a cable-tool rig. Nothing happened.

“Commencement of this venture has been delayed until the spring of 1967,” one newspaper reported. But Central Oils had run afoul of the SEC. Oregon regulators recorded the well abandoned as of September 12, 1967, and Central Oils “out of business; no assets.”

Robert F. Harrison

In May 1968, Robert F. Harrison and his associates took over the same well – this time with plans to deepen it to more than 5,000 feet. But two years later the drilling effort was still stuck at 3,300 feet. Desperate, Harrison tried to clear the borehole by applying technologies for Fishing in Petroleum Wells.

On February 2, 1971, an intra-office report noted that R.F. Harrison “will abandon as soon as weather permits,” never having exceeded the original Northwestern Oils total depth of 3,300 feet. It would be a dry hole.

Harrison finally plugged and abandoned the Morrow No. 1 well as of October 12, 1971. Today, Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries identifies this stubborn dry hole as well number 36-031-00003. There has never been a successful oil well drilled in Oregon.

America’s First Dry Hole was drilled in 1859 by John Grandin of Pennsylvania – near and just a few days after the first commercial discovery. In 2014, U.S. oil wells produced more than 8.7 million barrels of oil every day, according to the Energy Information Administration.



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2018 AOGHS.


Glenn McCarthy

Texas independent producer Glenn McCarthy appeared on the February 13, 1950, cover of TIME.

Just two years after being featured on the cover of TIME in 1950, Texas wildcatter “Diamond” Glenn McCarthy was in serious financial trouble with one of his many oil ventures.

On April 8, 1952, the Baytown (Texas) Sun reported, ”Glenn McCarthy stepped down today as chairman of the board of the firm which made him a multimillionaire – but couldn’t pay its bills.”

The McCarthy Oil & Gas Company mortgage debt was $34 million, including his beloved 18-story, 1,100-room Shamrock Hotel, which “introduced Houston as a dynamic city of the future to the rest of the nation,” the Houston Business Journal later proclaimed. McCarthy Oil & Gas was lost to the Equitable Assurance Society of the United States, prompting McCarthy’s ouster.

Undeterred, the Texas wildcatter who had discovered 11 oilfields by 1945 announced formation of a new company, Glenn McCarthy, Inc. He would seek new oil and natural gas fields in Bolivia. His plan was that the new firm would be a “poor man’s” company with 60 million shares to be sold at $2 each, encouraging “little investors” to gamble on his wildcatting reputation.

In October 1953, McCarthy offered the first 10 million shares of Glenn McCarthy, Inc. to the public. The company prospectus noted it was a speculative venture, with its principle assets being petroleum leases in Bolivia totaling 970,000 acres in the Andes foothills.

McCarthy intended to market the oil and natural in Bolivia, Argentina, and Uruguay, but not in the distant United States. Newspapers reported McCarthy had launched, “a new effort to climb from ‘rags to riches,’ a route over which he’s passed several times in both directions.”

A blitz of sales promotions and mail-in stock order forms reached newspapers all over Texas. Then came good news from South America: In September 1954, Glenn McCarthy, Inc., completed its first Bolivian oil well. The discovery was on the Los Monos concession and produced 100 barrels of oil a day in addition to some natural gas. The well’s depth was reported to be between 9.000 feet and 12,000 feet – the deepest well in Bolivia.

However, the lack of pipeline and rail infrastructure prohibited effective marketing of the crude oil to refineries (a frequent problem for wells drilled in remote areas, see Million Barrel Museum). Lack of infrastructure proved disastrous for Glenn McCarthy, Inc.

As described in The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, by Bryan Burrough, “McCarthy dragged himself back from Bolivia in 1957, bruised, battered, and, if not exactly penniless, no longer a rich man; unable to build a pipeline to transport the natural gas he had discovered, he sold his Bolivian interests to a group of American companies for $1.5 million, much of which he used to repay debts.“

Although McCarthy recovered somewhat financially, the Glenn McCarthy, Inc., passed into history, joining the legend of “Diamond Glenn” and leaving its collectible stock certificates. McCarthy and his wife Faustine lived a quiet life in a modest two-story house near La Porte, Texas. The once famous Texas wildcatter died the day after Christmas, 1988.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




buffalo oil companyWhen an geyser of oil erupted in 1901 on Spindletop Hill, near Beaumont, Texas, it launched the greatest oil boom in America – exceeding the nation’s first commercial oil well in 1859. Many new oil ventures were formed almost overnight, including Buffalo Oil Company.

The Spindletop field produced 43 million barrels of oil in its first four years – and helped launch the modern petroleum industry.

Among the 280 new oil wells at Spindletop in 1902, Buffalo Oil completed a producing well at a depth of 960 feet on a lease of only 1/32 of an acre.Buffalo Oil had quickly formed with $300,000 capitalization and stock listed with par value of 10 cents.

Buffalo Oil CompanyEncouraged by the first well’s success, speculators invested in the company’s second. but by May 1902 the second Buffalo Oil well was “dry and abandoned” after reaching 1,400 feet deep.

However, as at least one expert noted at the time, the average life of flowing wells was short, “frequently but a few weeks and rarely more than a few months, with constantly diminishing output.”

Meanwhile, competing companies drove up the cost of drilling equipment and leases. Spindletop Hill was crowded with wooden derricks, oil storage tanks, and roughnecks.

With signs of Spindletop production dropping, Buffalo Oil shifted operations to nearby Batson, but the exploration company’s luck did not improve.

Buffalo Oil Company

Fire engulfed the Batson oilfield in 1902, destroying the equipment and future of Buffalo Oil Company. Photo courtesy Traces of Texas.

As the Batson field reached its peak monthly production of 2,608,200 barrels of oil in early 1902, a fire swept through the crowded oilfield on March 16.

“The fire burned furiously for several hours and though there were no fire appliances on the field, it is doubtless if equipment could have been used owing to the intense heat generated by the flames,” noted the Petroleum Review and Mining News.

Buffalo Oil Company’s well, derrick and equipment were completely destroyed. Often caused by lightening strikes, oil tank fires were sometimes fought using cannons (learn more in Oilfield Artillery fights Fires). After the Batson fire, the annual Buffalo Oil Company stockholder’s meeting took place in April 1904.

“The company states that their recent investment at Batson so far has proved a serious loss to them, and the present outlook is very unfavorable,” reported the Petroleum Review and Mining News. But it got even worse.

Two weeks after the dire report to share owners, a second Batson fire destroyed another Buffalo Oil producing well and two 1,200-barrel storage tanks. Petroleum Review and Mining News concluded the fire “probably originated through an explosion in the pumping plant.”

The Batson oilfield would continue to produce for many years, but without Buffalo Oil Company. As late as 1993 the field yielded almost 200 barrels of oil a day, but Buffalo Oil was history without having paid a dividend.



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


As America fought the Korean War, the West Coast Pipeline Company received a government “certificate of necessity” in April 1952. Company President Lowell M. Glasco planned to build a 953-mile oil pipeline from Wink, Texas, to Norwalk, near Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »


Years of unsuccessful pursuit of oil in Michigan led Petroleum Magazine to give up on the state’s potential by 1920. “Oil Hunt In Michigan Is Hopeless – Oil projects in Michigan are but dreams which fail to materialize, in the opinion of those connected with the state geological survey, and that conclusion is base on its scientific research,” the trade magazine explained. Then, the 1928 discovery of the Mt. Pleasant oilfield suddenly enabled Michigan to become a significant oil producer – and attract new exploration companies. More oilfields would be discovered, including one in 1957 almost 30 miles long.

According to the Clarke Historical Library of Central Michigan University: Mt. Pleasant became a hub of Michigan petroleum activity, first as an accident of geology and later as a convenience of geography. The community lies close to the geographical center of the “mitten”, thus located equal distance from anywhere in the Lower Peninsula. Primary oil and gas explorationists, petroleum supply and service companies, geologists (and later geophysicists), drilling contractors all headquartered in Mt. Pleasant.

Similar to earlier oil booms in Texas, the 1928 Michigan oil well attracted new and often inexperienced companies. Among those seeking Michigan’s oil riches was Charles Van Keuren, who in 1933 established the Morris-Van Keuren Oil and Gas Syndicate. The 1902 graduate of Michigan University and former member of the Michigan House of Representatives had earlier been a partner in a Detroit securities investment firm.

Van Keuren’s syndicate spudded its first well on November 14, 1933, in Vernon Township of Isabella County on a 340-acre lease near the Ann Arbor Railroad. A cable-tool rig reached a total depth of 3,750 feet and the well was completed April 17, 1934, producing an “initial flow of 130 barrels per hour.” Three days later, the Clare Sentinel newspaper reported the Bowman Heirs No. 1 well was producing 3,000 barrels a day. Morris-Van Keuren Oil and Gas Syndicate planned three additional wells nearby to tap into the prospect.

oil in michigan

Michigan oil and natural gas fields.

However,  the syndicate’s Bowman Heirs No. 2 well proved to be a dry hole at 3,788 feet deep. When two additional wells left no indications of production, exploration efforts moved to the challenges of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Intermittently drilled since 1903, the “U.P” had never produced commercial quantities of oil.

“Recent rumors of a large ‘play’ to test the oil possibilities of the contact area of Michigan’s sedimentary and outcrop area in the upper peninsula took substantial form this week when it was announced that Charles Van Keuren, oil operator of this city, has leased lands of the Hiawatha Sportsmen’s club for oil prospecting,” noted the Republican-News and St. Ignace Enterprise on May 21, 1936.

The newspaper reported the syndicate had leased tracts comprising more than 26,000 acres covering most of Garfield township, Mackinac county, and extending into Pentland township in Luce county.

However, a 1937 lawsuit alleging “fraud in the sale of certain syndicate certificates” delayed drilling operations. The syndicate’s Hiawatha Club No. 1 well, drilled between August 15, 1936 and June 9, 1937, proved to be a dry hole at 1,500 feet. The well had reportedly “showed oil saturation in the Trenton and underlying formations, but did not develop into commercial production.”

Undeterred, the company soon began to drill a followup well. By August of 1938, the Detroit Free Press noted, “After a series of arduous labors, including the building of a road through virgin forest and swamp land and the clearing of a site in ‘cutover,’ Charles Van Keuren’s north land explorative campaign on the 12,000-acre Hiawatha Club tract in Mackinac County of the Upper Peninsula, is in the active drilling state.”

The new well was in Section 17, Township 44 North, Range 8 West. “The production possibilities are thought to be somewhat like those of the Texas Gulf Coast field, where similar geological conditions obtain,” one newspaper proclaimed. “The development of commercial production would substantially advance the expectancy of deep drilling to these stratas along the ‘highs’ now producing in the central part of the State.”

Two months later, the Escanaba Daily Press reported, “Oil Outlook Is Favorable – Trace Of Petroleum Is Found In Well In Mackinac County” and “Indications in Garfield township have proved so good that, in case the first Van Keuren well does not prove productive, others are likely to be drilled in the adjacent area.”

Despite the optimism, Morris-Van Keuren Oil and Gas Syndicate, like many to follow, did not find oil in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In 1939, the company undertook exchanges of Syndicate stock to support continued operations, but apparently to no avail. The Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities records Morris-Van Keuren Oil and Gas Syndicate No. 1 as dissolved on September 1, 1943. No commercial quantities of oil have ever been found on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The largest Michigan oil and natural gas field was discovered in January 1957 on the dairy farm of Ferne Houseknecht. Her first oil well revealed Michigan’s golden gulch of oil that proved to be 29 miles long.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




In 1917, the American Industrial Oil Company of Oklahoma City reportedly drilled several shallow “test wells” east of the Healdton oilfield, which had been discovered in August 1913 about 20 miles northwest of Ardmore.

The Healdton oilfield, which helped launch the career of service company giant Erle P. Halliburton, produced oil from shallow formations. It became known as the “poor man’s field” because of the low cost of drilling, and hundreds of small, independent oil companies would compete for leases and equipment.

Similar to an oil boom that made national headlines in 1911 in Electra, Texas, many new, inexperienced oil exploration companies rushed to region. Desperate for capital, a lot of them made extravagant claims to lure investors. Most would fail.

The 1917 well drilled by American Industrial Oil Company reportedly found small quantities of oil  at a depth of 685 feet about five miles west of Lone Grove, west of Ardmore, Oklahoma.

A year earlier (October 23, 1916), the Daily Ardmoreite newspaper, noting company officers as “J. B. French pres; J. C. Tinkle, vice-president; Reid Wallace; secretary and treasurer,” had reported other leasing activity in Harmon County.

On July 16, 1917, the trade publication Oil Paint and Drug Reporter also reported the company active “east of Enid, in Garfield County, (where) some important tests are under way. The American Industrial Oil Company has a rig up for a test if the Boyle farm in section 26-22-3 west.”

More reports followed, including a January 15, 1918, Texas Trade Review and Industrial Journal statement that “American Industrial Oil Co. purchased Kenthoma property and is completing plans for erection of oil refinery in Ardmore. Total cost including pipeline will be about $700,000.”

In February 1918, American Industrial Oil was reported to be committed to building a new refinery north of Ardmore on the Santa Fe railroad tracks. Work was predicted to start January 1919 with the objective to produce “lubricating oil, lampblack, axle grease and a number of other byproducts of petroleum.”

On May 15, 1918, the Industrial Record reported that American Industrial Oil Company was bidding for oil leases. But despite these and other reports of the company’s activity, little evidence can be found of American Industrial Oil building a pipeline, refinery or drilling a commercial successful oil well.

After several attempted mergers, American Industrial Oil went into receivership and disappeared by 1927.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Sound-Cities-Gas-and Oil Co-stock-aoghs

Washington had never experienced significant commercial oil production, but during the Great Depression, a wildcat well drilled by the Sound Cities Gas & Oil Company found just enough oil to excite interest about 40 miles south of Seattle.

Although West Coast oil seeps had led to major California oil discoveries, Washington (and Oregon) geology had frustrated exploration companies for decades. Sound Cities Gas & Oil, which had offices in Seattle and Tacoma, drilled near a flaming natural gas seep. Using a cable-tool drilling rig near the town of Enumclaw, the company drilled the Bobb No. 1 well seeking a hillside anticline. Geologists had long recognized anticlines – created by the up-folding of rocks, similar to an arch – as potential oil and natural gas traps. Read the rest of this entry »


Like many small oil exploration companies in the years before the Great Depression, Neilan Oil & Refining Company struggled to survive in highly competitive Texas oilfields. One of the company’s founders in 1922 was M.H. Gubbels of Houston, upon whose Fort Bend County land the new company’s first exploratory well would be drilled. Gubbels was joined by partners P.A. Neilan, J.J. Chadil, and C.H. Chernosky.

Capitalized with only $150,000, the company chose a drilling location south of Houston, two and one-half miles southeast of Thompson, and about a mile southeast of Smithers Lake. To protect Neilan Oil & Refining investment, drilling operations were conducted in virtual secrecy on the Marvel No. 1 well.

When the well reportedly “blew out at 3,833 feet” it had to be abandoned. Neilan Oil & Refining tried again less than yards 30 yards from the first site with the Marvel No. 2, “for the purpose of checking up on the lay of the cap rock.” Drilling reached 1,475 feet deep before being shut down.

In July 1922, Neilan Oil & Refining completed a well that produced natural gas. The Gubbels No. 1 well produced gas close to the two earlier test sites. “Until recently little was known relative to the identity of the company drilling these wells, and they were generally referred to as the ‘mystery wells,’ ” the Houston Post noted. It was even reported that “good gas sand was encountered at about forty feet.”

This unlikely shallow production “success” enabled further exploration; Neilan Oil & Refining extended operations 25 miles away to the area of Pliant Lake, Lockwood Mound, and Big Creek. But soon after another well, the Brown No. 1, began drilling, Neilan Oil & Refining virtualy disappeared from all accounts. The company reappeared two years later, brandishing a newly developing technology from Oklahoma that promised a great future.

“According to a current rumor, another salt dome has been found in the well of the Neilan Oil company,” reported the Houston Post reported in 1924. “It was located about three miles south of Orchard and about five miles west of Rosenberg.”

The newspaper account went on to describe a remarkable oil patch innovation (learn more in Exploring Seismic Waves). “Charges of dynamite were placed in the ground and exploded. The seismograph, which is an apparatus to register the shocks and undulatory motions of earthquakes, furnished data which indicated the presence of salt domes. After interpreting the data from the seismograph, the wells were drilled,” the article explained. It continued:

“In one case, the salt dome was found at a depth which varied only 30 feet from the instrument’s prediction. In both cases the lateral location of the domes, as given by the seismograph were correct Though the general principles Involved in the operation of the seismograph are known, the detailed mechanism of the instrument yet remains a mystery to all but a selected few in the oil industry. These few refuse to disclose the secret workings of a machine which has accurately pointed out the location of salt domes.

“Practically all oil found in coastal Texas has been found off the edge of salt domes. As used in the location of salt domes, the seismograph embodies the principles of the conventional instrument, but it also involves the use of a certain German patented improvement which makes the interpretation of impressions and sound waves more accurate…all interests using the seismograph in the United States and elsewhere have retained scientists trained in Germany to operate the instrument, it is understood. The two exception have trained men from their own geological departments for the work.”

But as with the latest innovations in oil field exploration technology, there are no guarantees in the high-risk, high-reward oil patch. What happened to Neilan Oil & Refining Company thereafter is hidden in U.S. petroleum history. Brief mention was last made in July 1929, just before the Great Depression.


The stories of exploration and production companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.





The future of Wyoming’s young petroleum industry must have looked promising to the Producers and Refiners Corporation (PARCO) in the early 1920s.

Although oil had been discovered earlier, Wyoming’s first real drilling boom began north of Casper in 1908. “Initial development of Salt Creek oil field commenced in 1889 with the majority of primary development occurring between 1915 and 1930,” notes the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“Early records indicate that oil was found at depths as shallow as 22 feet in 1911,” the agency adds.

Development of the Salt Creek oilfield began in 1889 continued through 1930. This is an Atlantic and Pacific Oil Company well circa 1903. Photo courtesy Wyoming State Archives.

The Salt Creek oil field boom began in 1889 continued through 1930. This is an Atlantic and Pacific Oil Company well circa 1903. Photo courtesy Wyoming State Archives.

By 1930, about one-fifth of all oil produced in the United States came from Salt Creek. Read more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.

PARCO built a refinery (and the town of Parco) in 1923 in south central Wyoming. It was near Rawlins and the continental divide, about 6,700 feet in elevation.

Meanwhile, Consolidated Oil Company (renamed Sinclair Oil Corporation in 1943) annexed the assets of the Prairie Pipeline and its producing companies. The deal was for stock valued at $136 million. Read the rest of this entry »


otter creek oil

A 1918 directory praised Otter Creek Oil & Gas Company executive W.M. Jamieson.

A Mid-Continent oil discovery in 1915 revealed the giant El Dorado field and launched a Kansas oil boom. A subsidiary of Cities Service Company completed the Stapleton No. 1 well on October 5, 1915, in Butler County.

The discovery attracted many new and established companies to El Dorado and nearby Wichita, including Otter Creek Oil & Gas Company. According to the Kansas Oil Museum, the El Dorado oilfield, which proved to be 34-square-miles, was the first ever found using the science of petroleum geology.

“Before 1915, geologists were seen in the same vein as witching and doodlebugs. They were just charlatans,” explains Warren Martin in a 2015 Butler County Times-Gazette article on the centennial of the Stapleton No. 1 well. “It fundamentally transformed it from that point going forward. Geology was established as one of the great science industries.”

The earliest geological map of North America had been made in 1809. Geologic mapping in California began as early as 1826. Petroleum geology in the United States first gained status as a profession in 1917, when the American Association of Petroleum Geologists was organized.

Kansas oil discoveries (including an 1892 well at Neodesha), and gushers in North Texas, demonstrated existence of a petroleum-producing geologic region in the central and southwestern United States. Production from the Mid-Continent today includes hundreds of oilfields reaching from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas into parts of Louisiana and Missouri.

Otter Creek Oil & Gas Company

Otter Creek Oil & Gas Company was formed in the summer of 1917 by three Wichita businessmen: A. Sautter, A.J. Engler and W.M. Jamieson. Sautter was associated with Piedmont Petroleum Company, which reportedly had drilled wells near Tussy, Oklahoma. Jamieson was among those featured in the Illustrated Directory of Kansas Oilmen in 1918:

otter creek oil“In writing up Mr. W.M. Jamieson, secretary of Otter Creek Oil and Gas Company, it is unnecessary to resort to flower epigrams and dig up camouflage sensations,” noted the booklet featuring selected leaders of Butler County exploration companies and refineries, “with their commercial interests and homes.”

Otter Creek Oil & Gas Company had incorporated with a declared a capital par value of $1 per share and offered 100,000 shares. The company recorded 43 stock holders and holdings of 580 acres in Greenwood County, Kansas, Otter Creek township. Greenwood County borders Butler County to the east.

Although the company’s establishment corresponded with a surge in demand for petroleum that had begun at the start of World War I, production from a series of oilfield discoveries, including the “Roaring Ranger” in Texas, brought the industry’s familiar boom and bust cycle in prices.

Contemporary periodicals intermittently reported on Otter Creek Oil & Gas drilling operations in Greenwood County. Some reports included section-township-range descriptions, but records about the company’s exploratory wells have been elusive; reporting errors at the time also were frequent. There were other similarly named exploration companies in the region, too.

In November 1918, when the trade publication Oil & Gas News reported an Otter Creek Oil & Gas well to be shut down, company President Sautter demanded a correction. “I do not know where you got your information, but whoever gave it to you was wrong,” he declared, adding that “we have never been shut down,” and “for the information of our stockholders and the general public, I ask you to rectify this statement.”

otter creek oilAn Otter Creek township map shows properties owned by the McMillen family, who leased their mineral rights to Otter Creek Oil & Gas for oil exploration.

The November 20, 1919, Oil Distribution News reported the company’s well on that property to be shut down at 1,300 feet deep (Section 5, Township 28 South, Range 9 East), Greenwood County. The company’s outlook improved by April 1920, when another well attempt, again on the McMillen lease, drilled to a depth of 2,500 feet and reportedly set casing, indicating some oil production.

However, oilfield fortunes could change suddenly, leaving little explanation as to what happened. Intense competition throughout the Mid-Continent fields made good prospects hard to come by and expensive. Contracted drilling costs typically skyrocketed during booms. Many companies arrived too late, and some went bankrupt without drilling a single well. On August 10, 1921, when the Wichita Beacon newspaper published a list of 37 companies that had failed, Otter Creek Oil & Gas was among them.

Promoting the Kansas Oil Industry

Although it did not resort to “flower epigrams” in its praise of W.M. Jamieson, secretary of Otter Creek Oil and Gas Company, the Illustrated Directory of Kansas Oilmen came close. The booklet, published in 1918 by the Muncipal Publicity Company, was intended to “truthfully depict the facts of the Oil Industry in our State.”

In 96 pages, the directory featured leaders of Wichita and El Dorado-based oil companies, Butler County refinery owners, and “their commercial interests and homes.” It also explained the significance of the giant oilfield’s production, noting it provided Buttler County with $130 million in 1917.

Mr. W.M. Jamieson, featured on page 25, was reported to have first arrived in Kansas in 1883, but left to mine coal in New Mexico. In 1903 Jamieson “served as superintendent of excavation and tracks in building the great filtration plant for the city of Washington, D.C.”

He also worked for a railroad construction company in Cuba and “the swamps of the Amazon” and other parts of South America, where he reportedly drilled oil wells in 1908, according to the directory’s biography. His page notes that returning to Kansas by 1916, he found “some of the choice acreage” in Greenwood County.

The booklet’s final description of Jamieson was the praise and prediction that “he always attempts such big things and, somehow, has a knack of putting them thru – all contribute to the conviction that his association with The Otter Creek Oil and Gas Co. is enough to ensure its success.”

otter oil



The stories of many exploration companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

AOGHS.org welcomes sponsors to help us preserve petroleum history. Please support this energy education website with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for information on levels and types of available sponsorships.  © 2017 AOGHS.


 Alaska Oil & Gas Development

Before switching to a rotary rig in 1954, the Alaska Oil & Gas Development Company drilled its Eureka No. 1 using this Walker-Neer Manufacturing Company cable-tool “spudder.” Photo courtesy the Anchorage Museum.

Years before Alaska became a state, petroleum exploration companies drilled expensive dry holes. The Alaska Oil & Gas Development Company was among them.

The Alaska territory’s first commercial oil well arrived in 1957, two years before statehood. The discovery well, drilled by the Richfield Oil Company – today known as ARCO – successfully drilled at Swanson River on the Kenai Peninsula. The first well, which produced 900 barrels of oil a day from 11,215 feet, revealed an oilfield.

Beginning in the 1950s, many Alaskans had tried their hand at wildcatting, notes one historian. Read the rest of this entry »


A Canadian, C.C. (Courtney Chauncey) Julian, formed the Julian Petroleum Company in May 1923 in Los Angeles.

After witnessing the excitement created by the state’s booming petroleum industry, Julian created a vast Ponzi scheme camouflaged as an investment opportunity. Julian bilked millions of dollars from eager investors through aggressive sales and a continuous newspaper advertising blitz.

In what became known as the “Julian Pete Scandal,” the con man by April 1927 had peddled almost four million worthless stock certificates. There are many newspaper and magazine articles – and at least one book – about the Julian Petroleum Company and the swindle “that rocked Los Angeles.”

As Julian’s fraud collapsed, a well-known Los Angeles lawyer, Joseph Scott, was appointed by the court to serve as receiver along with H.L. Carnahan, a former California Corporation Commissioner. Scott and Carnahan created Sunset Pacific Oil Company from the remains of Julian Petroleum Company.

Sunset Pacific failed with $12 million in debt to Associated Oil Company (see AOGHS stock list) and was ultimately reorganized into Sunset Oil Company in 1934. Shareholders of the former company received common stock shares in the new, with the former certificates cancelled. Learn more in the 1994 book The Great Los Angeles Swindle by Jules Tygiel.


The stories of exploration and production companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Irene Hathaway sold encyclopedias door to door before taking a chance in Texas with the Big Indian Oil & Development Company and becoming a woman wildcatter.

Big Indian Oil

Irene Hathaway stands with two unidentified men at the first oil well in Cooke County, Texas, in 1924. Photo courtesy F.W. Blagg, Morton Museum of Cooke County.

Drilling for petroleum in unexplored regions – wildcatting – began with the first American oil well in 1859.

Over the years and despite advances in drilling technologies and the science of geology, nine out of 10 wildcat wells would be dry holes.

Despite the risk, thousands of companies and investors took the expensive gamble and drilled exploratory wells. A few of these wildcatters became legendary, but most were soon forgotten. They almost always were men. Almost always.

Irene Hathaway decided to become a Texas wildcatter while visiting a small town in 1918. She was a single woman in her 50s from Kansas City, Missouri, who went to Texas to peddle encyclopedias. She came across the tiny hamlet of Callisburgpopulated by about 100 hardy farming souls. After hearing rumors of “huge untapped reservoirs of oil,” she began searching for anyone who would gamble on a lease.

“One of my favorite stories of Cooke County is that of wildcatter Ms. Irene Hathaway,” notes Jayleane Mays Smith, director of the Morton Museum in Gainesville, who researched the oil-patch business woman. She found that Hathaway had begun leasing land in 1919 near Callisburg in northeastern Cooke County.

In 1922 the encyclopedia saleswoman convinced representatives of the Big Indian Oil & Development Company to drill two miles east of CallisburgShe also convinced farmer Bud W. Davis to lease his land for drilling, “which at that time was sheer speculation,” Mays Smith notes in a 2014 article.

Drilling started at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 15, 1922, reported the Gainesville Daily Register. “The machinery and the bit began boring into the earth. The vibration could be felt over a wide area.”

Hathaway took up residence in Gainsville, just a few miles from the well. She visited often as drilling continued month after month – for two years.

“The company was ready to abandon the location, but Irene was convinced oil was there,” Mays Smith reports. “She strongly encouraged them to continue drilling just a little while longer, even making them an offer to pay the workers with money from her own pocket.”

On November 9, 1924, Big Indian Oil & Development brought in an oil gusher from 3,535 feet deep. Mays Smith says the Davis family reportedly was seated at the kitchen table, “leisurely enjoying a Sunday dinner when their 16-year-old son, Ray, looked out the window and shouted, ‘The well’s blowin’! Let’s run down and see it!'” 

Mays Smith further reports that Bud Davis calmly said, “‘Eat your dinner, son. They’ll take care of that well ‘til we get through eatin. ‘”

News of the wildcat discovery spread quickly. Within days more 5,000 spectators had come to watch the company tame its No. 1 Davis well. Lease prices skyrocketed for miles around as oil fever spread.

“I believe this story lives on because people were fascinated not only by the drilling process, but also by Ms. Hathaway and her vision,” concludes Mays Smith.

Irene Hathaway was 80 when she died in 1949 in Gainesville – without great wealth, but with a story that survives in the Bob Bullock Museum Texas Story Project, Ms. Irene Hathaway, Wildcatter. In 2012 Cooke County oil revenues reached more than $575 million.

Today, a Texas Historical Commission marker commemorates Cooke County’s first oil-producing well, noting a “carnival atmosphere prevailed while sightseers and reporters flocked to the lease. One enterprising man charged admission until questioned by a worker.”

Big Indian Oil & Development Company

Big Indian Oil

A 1976 Texas Historical Commission marker documented Cooke Country’s first oil well of 1924.

Big Indian Oil & Development had been formed in Kansas City, Kansas, on April 8, 1920, with C.A. Doudrick as president and Harry Doudrick as secretary-treasurer. Stock sales were key to financing the company and promising oil prospects like Hathaway’s were key to its success – and survival.

Although the Cooke County 1924 well settled into producing just 10 barrels of oil a day, production would last until 1970. Interviewed in 1979, land owner Bud Davis remembered the feverish investing caused the county’s first oil well:

“It caused a lot of money to be spent there because people come in there and bought acreage…some of them eight to ten miles away,” he said. “They didn’t know where that oil went to and they was just so anxious to get a little interest in some oil there they just buy whatever they could buy.”

Only a month after completing the No. 1 Davis well, Big Indian Oil & Development sold it and other suddenly valuable holdings near Callisburg. The company wanted to finance further drilling using more advanced rotary technology. 

Big Indian Oil

This January 1935 Big Indian Oil & Development Company newsletter to investors was among the last.

By June 16, 1926, a Sherman, Texas, newspaper noted Big Indian Oil & Development had signed two year extensions on several leases with Vacuum Oil Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil. It also was announced the company (now with offices in Gainsville) had received an offer to expand exploration efforts into Mexico.

However, the company struggled during the Great Depression and with production from the giant East Texas oilfield lowering oil prices. One of the last company newsletters advised shareholders in January 1935: “The industry thus approaches the new year with courage and with hope. It has experienced a year marred to some extent by hot oil and price wars…”

Big Indian Oil had completed its Cooke County well when Texas oil sold for $1.52 a barrel. The East Texas oilfield soon produced more than 216 million barrels of oil, driving prices even lower. When prices reached 94 cents per barrel in 1935, Big Indian Oil & Development did not survive.

Legendary Oilmen & Women

Oilmen like Thomas Slick became famous when they beat the odds and struck oil. Once known as Dry Hole Slick, in 1922 he discovered the giant Cushing oilfield and became known as Oklahoma’s King of the Wildcatters. By 1929 his net worth was between $35 million and $100 million.

But Slick was the exception in the high-risk U.S. oil patch, where far more exploration ventures struggled by or went bankrupt. With investors and speculators paying the bills in this male dominated industry, it took determined women like Irene Hathaway to succeed. Earlier there was Mrs. Byron Alford.

During the industry’s earliest days in Pennsylvania, Alford was the “Only Woman in the World who Owns and Operates a Dynamite Factory,” proclaimed a Bradford newspaper in 1899.  As owner of Mrs. Alford’s Nitro Factory, she was an astute businesswoman in the midst of America’s first billion dollar oilfield, which in 1881 supplied 77 percent of the world’s oil.

Another example is a former piano teacher who gained control of the Los Angeles oilfield – and for decades was known as the California Oil Queen. Emma Summers’ first Los Angeles well was drilled about a mile west of today’s Dodger Stadium.

“I saw a chance in the oil business and sunk a well, and that carried me on and on until I couldn’t stop,” she later explained. Her wells produced 50,000 barrels a month.

At first she sold her oil through local brokers, but eventually took on that challenge in addition to managing her supplies, 40 horses, 10 wagons and a blacksmith shop. “There are men in Los Angeles who do not like Emma A. Summers,” noted a 1911 issue of Sunset magazine as her petroleum interests grew.

Summers, who died in a Glendale nursing home in 1941 at age 83, had a “genius for affairs.” Her control of Los Angeles oilfields earned the former piano teacher her title.


The stories of other exploration attempts to join petroleum exploration booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © AOGHS.


Oil Prospectors

Although geologists, petroleum engineers and other earth scientists were far more helpful for finding “black gold,” Oil Prospectors Inc. preferred unscientific methods to sway unwary investors.

During the Great Depression, some fortune seekers were convinced a “divining rod, a doodlebug, a switch, or a twig” could find oilfields. In the 1950s, others invested in doodlebug technology they were told came from flying saucers. Then as now, any “miraculous machine “could help fleece the gullible.

Not long after December 1931 discovery of the Conroe, Texas, oilfield, a “doodlebug” device swindled Houston oil investors out of $20,000. It also sent Ralph Malone and Vivian Buie to jail in 1935. During their trial in district court, a prosecution witness told of receiving letters describing the doodlebugger as capable of finding oil and natural gas and a field in Polk County.

Malone and Buie claimed their device would find “another field like the Conroe field” worth millions of dollars. They described their doodlebug as “a wonderful instrument that could locate oil pools.” Learn about Conroe’s oilfield in Technology and the “Conroe Crater.”

Despite their defense attornies’ efforts, Malone and Buie (the alleged “brains” of the doodlebug scam), were convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to terms in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. Then their defense attorneys were indicted as well.

While their former clients headed off to prison, Arthur Heemann and C. Ray Smith hired their own legal council. The new defense team asserted the accused, “merely were attorneys for the swindlers and did not participate in the scheme.”

It did not help that attorney Heemann had been charged five years earlier with the same crime while promoting the similarly fraudulent Oil Investors Company.

Nonetheless, the lawyers got the lawyers off when the judge ruled them not guilty on April 15, 1938. Two months later, Ralph Malone was transported from Leavenworth to a Tucson, Arizona, prison to finish his three-year sentence.

Doodlebugs, Magnetic Loggers & Flying Saucers

Although Malone was absent from oil stock scams for several years, investors did not abandon their fascination with doodlebugs. The convicted con man resurfaced in the early 1950s when his penchant for mail fraud landed him in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“Often investigation is directed to highly objectionable sales literature which greatly over emphasize the possibilities of success from the proposed security purchase,” the SEC noted in its 17th annual report. “So it was in the case of Oil Prospectors, Inc. and Ralph Malone.”

A year later, the SEC again addressed the issue of doodlebugs, explaining the necessity to resorting to the courts to get compliance with the Securities Act.

“A substantial number of cases requiring injunctive action are those relating to oil and mining promotions,” noted the June 30, 1952, annual report. “The ‘gold brick’ aspect of many of these promotions has by now become quite stereotyped.” The SEC’s complaints seeking injunctions pointed out that, “sellers were omitting to disclose that these individuals had criminal records.”

The commission cited another example of “the almost perennial doodlebug” where the “defendants used in their operations a device called a ‘Magnetic Logger’ and the claims made for its efficacy in discovering oil were the usual ones and were false…There is reason to believe that the injunction obtained by the commission saved the investing public a substantial sum.”

An SEC injunction in 1951 finally brought an end to Oil Prospectors and Ralph Malone disappeared from the news. Doodlebug hoaxes continued.

Most notably, Silas Newton and Leo GeBauer, claimed their doodlebug machine “operated on the same magnetic principles as the flying saucers.” The $800,000 contraption had been developed secretly by the government.

They promoted the tale of a 1948 flying saucer crash site near Aztec, New Mexico, that had yielded 16 humanoid bodies (Roswell’s aliens had reportedly arrived a year earlier).

Newton and GeBauer claimed the Aztec crash site included revolutionary technology for finding oil.

oil prospectors

Silas Newton and Leo “Dr. Gee” GeBauer convinced author Frank Scully (above right) that the government was hiding UFO crash sites and humanoid corpses. Investors believed their claims that a secret alien device could locate vast petroleum reserves.

Although some still maintain an elaborate government cover-up has concealed the real Aztec UFO story, the petroleum exploration technology has received little mention. By 1952, the terrestrial luck of Newton and GeBauer ran out. The Denver Post’s October 14 headline proclaimed, “Saucer Scientist in $50,000 Fraud.”

In September 1952, True Magazine investigated Frank Scully, Silas Newton, and Leo GeBauer, the three principals involved in Scully's best-selling book, Behind the Flying Saucers.

In September 1952, True Magazine investigated Frank Scully, Silas Newton, and Leo GeBauer, the three principals involved in Scully’s best-selling book, Behind the Flying Saucers.

In 1950 Frank Scully had published Behind Flying Saucers, a book reporting crashed UFOs (powered on magnetic principles) and the discovery of dead extraterrestrial beings.

In 1952 and again in 1956, True magazine published articles that exposed doodlebug machine promoters Silas Newton and “Dr. Gee” (identified as Leo GeBauer) as “oil con artists who had hoaxed a gullible Scully,” according to the 1998 book, UFOs & Alien Contact: Two Centuries of Mystery.

It turned out the UFO inspired oil doodlebug was just a box covered in dials and switches made from $3.50 in surplus radio parts. The revelation brought little comfort to swindled investors.

Certificate Derrick Art

Speculating in oil stocks has been hazardous since the first company incorporated in 1854 in Pennsylvania (see First American Oil Well). As drilling booms moved westward, thousands of exploration companies competed to exploit “black gold.” Most failed after a few expensive dry holes – or without drilling a single well.

Especially during the major oilfield discoveries beginning after World War I and continuing through the Great Depression, the rush to form oil companies led to certificates that looked remarkably alike. Printing boiler-plate stock certificates was not uncommon in the scramble to find investors.

oil-stock-derricks-detail-AOGHSFor example, many short-lived companies’ stocks features the same artwork as Oil Prospectors Inc. Here are just a few:

Buck Run Oil and Refining
Buffalo-Texas Oil
Craven Oil and Refining
Evangeline Oil
Hog Creek Carruth Company
Texas Production Company

Modern Doodlebuggers

The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) published its first journal, Geophysics, in 1936. It included articles about the petroleum industry’s three major prospecting methods then used – seismic, gravity, and magnetic. All were based on the scientific method.

The journal’s lead article warned young geophysicists about employing “black magic” or “doodle-bug” methods based on unproven properties of oil, minerals or geological formations. “This is the first time that the term ‘doodle-bug’ was applied to scientific methods, particularly if they had no scientific validity, according to the 1982 book, Geophysics in the Affairs of Men.

“Twenty years later, it was a badge of honor to be known as a doodlebugger, i.e., the field personnel of geophysical crews,” noted the authors Charles C. Bates, T. F. Gaskell and R. B. Rice. “Still later, the term was applied to everyone who worked in exploration geophysics.”

A bronze statue, “The Doodlebugger,” welcomes visitors to the Society of Exploration Geophysicists headquarters in Tulsa. The name is a badge of honor for geophysical crews seeking oil.

A bronze statue, “The Doodlebugger,” welcomes visitors to the Society of Exploration Geophysicists headquarters in Tulsa. The name is a badge of honor for geophysical crews seeking oil.

Editor’s Note – The sculptor of the SEG statue, Jay O´Meilia of Tulsa, Oklahoma, also was the artist who created two “Oil Patch Warrior” statues – one in Ardmore and another across the Atlantic. See Roughnecks of Sherwood Forest.



Treasure State Oil & Gas Company (a.k.a. Treasure State Oil Company) had a brief but extensively advertised life as an oil exploration company. It was a venture headed by Frank Hoopes, a former Oklahoma City real estate developer and advertising manager for the Daily Oklahoman newspaper. Hoopes incorporated the company in Oklahoma in January 1917, and soon followed it up by incorporating the Wonder State Petroleum Company. The ad man also launched Proven Lease Oil Company.

Hoopes promoted his companies with expensive, full-page newspaper advertisements. Lots of them. They all urged investors to act quickly. He also happened to be president of the Oklahoma City Ad Club.

The ads – which targeted both unwary  investors and oil industry speculators – ran in newspapers like the Oklahoma City Times, Daily Ardmoreite, Muskogee Times-Democrat, Wichita Daily Eagle, El Paso Morning News, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They artfully proclaimed:

“Six Big Paying Producing Wells Now…Production Nearly 100 bbls. Per day now… Production should be 200 bbls. per day by January 1.” (Daily Ardmoreite, November 18, 1917);

“Practically every share of Treasure State stock has been sold through the United States mail, and not by the usual method of smooth-tongued salesmen.” (Oklahoma City Times, December 1, 1917);

“Here’s the Fairest, Squarest Oil Proposition You Ever Read – Practically no Risk – Immense Profits Almost Sure” (Wichita Daily Eagle, December 9, 1917);

“A safe investment with sure dividends” – “A chance for 10 to 1 in real genuine profits” — “Actual Cash Earning Now 2% a month” (El Paso Morning Times, May 5, 1918);

“Play the Oil Game On This Great 50-50 Plan – Half Cash and let your Dividends Pay Balance” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 5, 1918).

However, a prominent trade magazine scolded Hoopes and his sales pitches. “Another method of the promoter is to sell a form of pre-organization stock to prominent business men for about one-fifth the price at which it is to be offered to the public,” noted the September 18, 1918, National Petroleum News.

“The majority of the business men named by Frank Hoopes of Oklahoma City in his advertising of the Treasure State Oil Company, secured their stock at a special price,” the magzine added. “Hoopes then featured them in his advertising as stockholders, but without informing the public at the same time of the real terms under which they and secured their shares.”

Amidst these extensive stock selling campaigns, Treasure State Oil & Gas Company did drill a few wells, including a dry hole in Kay County, near Newkirk, and another in Grady County. One well did show for gas but apparently did not produce commercial quantities.

Frank Hoopes career continued, even if his oil exploration companies did not reach expectations. By May 1919, he was with Reliable Oil Investments in Oklahoma City, selling Pawnee-Osage Oil & Gas Company stock (it went into receivership on January 21, 1925).


The stories of exploration and production companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Charles Nathaniel Haskell, Oklahoma’s first governor, struggled in the oil and gas business.

Middle States OilAlready a successful lawyer, railroad promoter, and politician, Charles Haskell ventured into the Indian Territory in 1901 looking for business opportunities. He advocated statehood and when it came in 1907, Haskell became Oklahoma’s first governor. He is remembered by some as a progressive Democrat who introduced child labor statutes and graduated income tax; by others as a supporter of Jim Crow laws who took bribes from Standard Oil Company.

In 1911, after leaving the governor’s office in Oklahoma City – had moved the capitol from Guthrie one night in 1910 – Haskell went to work for Harry F. Sinclair “investigating and negotiating for properties in the oil fields of the state.” Five years later, Sinclair incorporated Sinclair Oil & Refining Company (also see Dinosaur Fever – Sinclair’s Icon).

A year later in 1917, Haskell incorporated Middle States Oil Corporation as a Delaware holding company. Meanwhile, the growing number of giant discoveries in Osage oilfields attracted Sinclair and other future oil barons to lease auctions beneath what became known as the Million Dollar Elm.

With Haskell chairman of the board, Middle States Oil initially authorized 1.6 million shares (par $10) to capitalize at $16 million. In November of 1919, he assumed the same role for the Dominion Oil Company, “already operating in Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana and Texas fields, in all of which it has producing properties.”

By April 1922, Middles States Oil had raised capitalization to three million shares and reported assets of $2,362,220 with liabilities of $185,000. Haskell incorporated Southern States Oil Company in Delaware as another holding company operating through subsidiaries such as Sure Oil Company and Southern States Drilling Company.

Middle States OilSouthern States Oil reportedly was operated by “the same interests which control and operate the Middle States Oil Corp.” It traded on the New York Curb Market with capitalization of $20 million.

Four months later, Moody’s Manual wrote that as of July 1922, Southern States Oil had 116 producing oil wells, two producing natural gas wells, “and 19 new wells drilling.” Daily production was 3,326 barrels at $1.85 to $2.45 per barrel with 3,100 acres leased nearby.

The Oil Trade Journal added, “The Southern States Oil Co., completed on July 12 two wells in the Hewitt field, Carter County, Okla., one doing 2,032 bbls. And the other 150 bbls., these wells more than doubling the production of this property. The company has six more wells nearing the top of the sand in this locality.”

In January 1923, Western States Oil Company joined Middle States and Southern States as part of a complex and growing network of holding companies and subsidiaries. “This corporation has been formed by the Haskell interests to bring under one management oil producing properties in Wyoming, California and Montana, with occasional interests in other Western States.”

However, by the end of 1923, Haskell’s business was in trouble with investors. Newspapers reported “Stock Trading Firm Hard Hit: Probe Opened; Southern States Oil Stock Sales Stop, Company Goes Under.”

Another article added that trading in C N. Haskell’s Southern States Oil company stock was suspended on the New York Curb market, explaining, “Suspension of Southern States transactions is due to the sensational fluctuations on this stock during the past two weeks. Financial circles, according to reports received in Muskogee have been informed that during the period of the wild scramble approximately seven million dollars profit was made in the trading.”

A cascade of lawsuits ensued. Haskell, who conducted the market operations of the stock, resigned as chairman of Middle States Oil after the company had acquired control of Southern States Oil.

“In less than one year the assets of the company have dwindled to the extent of over $77,000,000,” declared the presiding judge of U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. “Middle States Oil Corp. has already defaulted in the payment of principal and interest due on these notes on August 1, 1924.”

More litigation followed as shareholders alleged fraud and mishandling, demanding receivers be appointed to manage the failing companies.

“The receivership grew out of the collapse of the system of oil, railroad, and land companies, security and holding companies, controlled by C. N. Haskell, formerly governor of Oklahoma,” court documents reported. “The system had comprised some fifty-five corporations, of which Middle States Oil Corporation and thirty-eight others which were, in August 1924, wholly or partly owned by Middle States Oil directly or through sub-holding companies, eventually were placed in receivership in this District.”

The receivers were faced with about 90 lawsuits against the former governor’s corporations and $15 million in federal tax claims, “based upon the false-and-inflated earnings statements which Haskell had caused to be issued to aid in sales of securities of the companies.” Stockholders lost their investment and their stock certificates became worthless. It would be 1952 before a final U.S. District Court decision resolved the matter, but Charles Nathaniel Haskell had died in 1933 at the age of 73, still in the oil business, leaving the complications behind.


The stories of exploration and production companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Union Oil Company (Unocal, 1890-2005) drilled the “Chapman Gusher” in March of 1919 near Placentia, California. When completed, the well produced 8,000 barrels of oil a day, prompting a landslide of investors and speculators. The well was southeast of Los Angeles oilfields discovered in 1892.

Los Angeles businessmen organized the Richfield-Union Petroleum Company in October 1919 to join the fray. Extensively reported in the Los Angeles Herald, the Chapman Gusher opened the prolific Richfield-Placentia oilfield. The discovery well would continue producing for 70 years, but not all oil companies were so fortunate.

The July 1919 Mining and Oil Bulletin noted the “tremendous rush for oil lands, the paying of unheard of bonuses and royalties, and the tieing-up of all property for miles around.” Richfield-Union Petroleum managed to secure a 40-acre lease south of Placentia (Section 31, Township 3 South; Range 9 West) and began aggressive promoting stock sales to fund drilling.

Richfield-Union Petroleum CompanyThe company offered an initial block of 50,000 shares of its stock for 50 cents per share in November 1919. Richfield-Union Petroleum was capitalized at $850,000 and raised the derrick for its first well within six months. It inticed investors with free sight-seeing trips and proclaimed, “You Should Buy Richfield-Union for its great speculative chances.”

However, relying on investor capital to sustain drilling operations made slow progress. New advertising offered company stock for $1 per share (or $1.03 “on time payments”) through the Los Angeles Stock Exchange. “Take our advice while you can – Get down on Richfield-Union’s Dollar Stock.”

By December 1920, the company’s first exploratory well was down to 2,150 feet, but “held up by a fishing job, the drill pipe having twisted off at 1,700 feet.” With dwindling finances, it took six more months to drill another 650 feet and still there was no oil.

The Los Angeles Herald of July 20, 1921, reported Richfield-Union’s properties were being taken over by the Comanche Oil & Refining Company, another Los Angeles venture. Comanche Oil & Refining subsequently reorganized as Comanche Oil Company with plans to drill more wells in the Richfield-Placentia field, but the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has no record of this.

Today, Richfield-Union Petroleum Company stock certificates survive as collectible reminders of an oil venture that failed. The first California oil well that launched the state’s petroleum industry was an 1876 gusher north of Los Angeles.


The stories of exploration and production companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




A state historical marker near Saginaw commemorates the birth of Michigan’s petroleum industry in 1925. E. Brown Oil Development Company would drill nearby five years later. The marker notes the Mt. Pleasant field, “helped make Michigan one of the leading oil producers of the eastern United States” and that Mount Pleasant became known as the “Oil Capital of Michigan.”

E. Brown Oil Development of Midland in April 1930 reportedly secured a lease about six miles northeast of Saginaw and drilled a well. Another well, the Grubb No. 2, was drilled in Isabella County, Chippewa Township (NE¼ of the NW¼ of the SW¼ of Section 2, Township 15 North, Range 4 West), according to Public Land Survey System online maps.

As wells drilled into the prolific Mt. Pleasant field reached 162 in June, E. Brown Oil Development reported completing a producer at 3,594 feet deep with initial production of 300 barrels of oil in 12 hours. In September, the company’s Grubb No. 3 well produced 325 barrels of oil an hour.

Michigan oil history

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

By October 1931, E. Brown Oil Development’s earlier successes helped fund drilling of its No. 1 Homer Campbell well (in the center of the NE¼ of the NE¼ of Section 35, Township 14 North, Range 3 West). At depth of 1,360 feet, the well struck a 600,000 cubic foot initial flow of natural gas.

Two years later, E. Brown Oil Development expanded its search for 100 miles east to Sanilac County, at the base of a Michigan map’s “thumb.” It leased 160 acres from William Herdell in Sanilac County and began to drill on October 3, 1933. The well was sited in Argyle Township (SW¼ of the SW¼ of the SW¼ of Section 15, Township 13 North, Range 13 East).

But at a time when about 90 percent of U.S. exploratory wells ended as expensive failures, E. Brown Oil Development drilled a 2,353-foot-deep dry hole on November 4, 1933. The well was plugged and abandoned.

What happened to E. Brown Oil Development after that is a mystery, but in 1931 oil prices had dipped to a 13-year low of about $10 per barrel (in 2013 dollars) and Great Depression unemployment reached almost 25 percent.

Faced with low oil prices in a highly competitive industry, many oil companies failed and disappeared, leaving investors with stock certificates now only valued by collectors. E. Brown Oil Development appears to be among them. Today the state has several productive oil and natural gas fields, and Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant preserves Michigan Petroleum History.


The stories of exploration and production companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Oil from the giant El Dorado oilfield was often featured in petroleum industry news as America prepared to enter World War I in April 1917. The mid-continent field, discovered two years earlier east of Wichita, had made headlines and launched a Kansas oil boom.

More than 200 miles to the northwest, the Delhi Oil Company would soon bet its fortunes on a wildcat oil well in Osborne County – and lose. In a chronology not unlike many small, community-based oil speculations, Delhi Oil began by seeking investors to fund its exploratory drilling.

The venture was started by Isaac M. Mahin, a state senator, and F.W. Mahin, both lawyers who owned the North Kansas Land & Loan Company in Smith Center. In November 1917, the Topeka Daily Capital reported the two men and other businessmen had “proposed to enter the oil hunting industry” by incorporating the Delhi Oil Company “with a capital stock of $60,000, all of which will be expended in drilling.”

Delhi Oil secured leases in Smith and Osborne counties and by March 1918 had contracted for an 84-foot drilling rig. The company advertised in earnest for potential investors. “This is good news for the people of this county as it marks the beginning of actual oil development in Osborne County,” proclaimed one editorial ad in the Salina Evening Journal.

The newspaper also noted, “the Delhi Oil company which is composed of local men with headquarters in Osborne seeking to develop the resources of Osborne County, should have the support of every businessman and land owner in this community.”

Although the first Delhi Oil well had yet to be spudded by early 1919, efforts to secure funds and investors continued. “Salina stands to benefit greatly by the development of the field,” stated one promotion. “Should gas be found, Salina’s fuel bill would be cut in half. Should a good oil field develop, Salina will become a refining and distributing center. And further, you have the assurance that every dollar you invest in this venture will be used in development, and also that your interest applies to the entire 5,320 acres.”

The newspaper’s praise continued: “This is to certify that we have thoroughly investigated the organization and plans of the Delhi Oil Company, are interested in their success and believe their stock to be a good, clean investment, one well worth your careful consideration.”

Sufficient working capital was finally secured and by May 1919, Delhi Oil’s wildcat rig was erected in Osborne County on the Dorman lease (Section 20 of Township 10 South, Range 11 West). It took eight months of drilling for the Dorman No. 1 well to reach 1,510 feet, ostensibly having seen a “show of oil” at just 500. Enthusiastic testimonials appeared in January 1921 newspapers:

“This news, together with the rumors that the company nine miles east of the Delhi lease is building oil tanks, has caused no little excitement among the people who are interested in the projects. There are real indications that a big field is about to be opened and the men who have their money invested are beginning to take heart over the outlook.”

“At this time they are drilling at a little more than 2,000 feet, in limestone,” reported the Western Kansas World in WaKeeney. “Delhi oil prospects are getting brighter and brighter each day. Sunday a large number of stock holders and others interested in the well were out watching the drill go down.”

Echoing a popular theme, the newspaper said the well “may mean untold wealth to Osborne County,” and on June 30, 1921, noted “the Delhi Oil Co. well near Luray is down 2,800 feet and it is said you can smell gas when you get near it.” But within four months, drilling at the Dorman No. 1 well was shut down at 2,930 feet. Securing working capital from investors remained a problem.

On April 13, 1922, the Salina Evening Journal reported Delhi Oil was “organizing in every town and township in Osborne county in an attempt to raise the necessary funds to complete the well on their leases. It is estimated that $20,000 will be needed to complete the project and one-half of that amount has already been raised, so that the big drive will have for its object the raising of the final $10,000.”

The newspaper added that “the money must be raised in the next two weeks, and if it is not forthcoming the well will be abandoned, as the company can no longer finance the drilling, although within 300 feet of what is believed to be a paying pool of oil.” Four days later the paper announced, “The Delhi Oil Company is making a county-wide drive in an endeavor to raise funds to complete their project within the next ten days.”

delhi oilSomehow, Delhi Oil was able to drill its Dorman No. 1 well deeper, adding another 320 feet to a total depth (TD) of 3,250 feet, according to World Oil, Volume 33, 1924, or another 548 feet to a TD of 3,478 feet, according to the Kansas Geological Survey. At either depth, the hole was dry and shareholders lost their investment. Kansas Corporate Commission records show that Delhi Oil forfeited its charter to do business for failure to file required annual reports.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




The Ute Oil Company was America’s first petroleum company to attempt to extract oil from oil shale.

Ute oil shale

Gilsonite is a coal-like natural asphalt found in the Uintah Basin in northeastern Utah.

In 1861, a survey party reported the Uinta Basin in eastern Utah was “one vast contiguity of waste and measurably valueless, except for nomadic purposes, hunting grounds for Indians, and to hold the world together.”

After reading the report, Brigham Young, who had founded Salt Lake City in 1847, scrapped his plans to send Mormon settlers into the area.

According to the Utah Humanities Council, Young thought the arid region better suited for a Ute Indian reservation. President Abraham Lincoln soon created the Uintah Reservation by executive order.

Ute oil shale

In the 1920s, companies extracted oil shale and Gilsonite from narrow mines.

However, by the time Utah became the forty-fifth state in 1896, the sparsely populated region bordering Colorado had begun revealing its mineral wealth, including gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper.

Coal and a coal-like hydrocarbon – Gilsonite – brought mineral exploration companies to eastern Utah soon after the turn of the century. Gilsonite, also known North American Asphaltum, was unique to the region known for its oil shale resources.

Aspiring entrepreneurs arrived to exploit these new, elusive petroleum resources. The companies would be among the earliest anywhere seeking to make money by squeezing oil from shale.

Today, the Uinta Basin is one of the largest coalbed methane producing areas in the United States.It is estimated this remote desert plateau in Utah and Colorado contains between eight trillion cubic feet and 10 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

Ute oil shale

Although Ute Oil Company found Gilsonite and oil shales abundant in northeastern Utah, processing the hard shale proved too expensive as other conventional U.S. discoveries brought far lower oil prices. Color map courtesy Utah Geological Society.

The Gilsonite Maneuver

“The first attempt at oil shale exploitation took place in 1917 by the Ute Oil Company,” notes the Bureau of Land Management in a 2007 technical report about oil shale and tar sands areas in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Ute oil shale

An October 1918 article in “Petroleum Age” magazine described a planned shale oil plant at Watson, Utah, that would be the largest in United States. The author is the plant’s designer, St. Louis engineer George W. Wallace, who will become superintendent of Ute Oil Company.

Established in 1916, Ute Oil Company was created to refine petroleum from a dense shale mined north of Watson, Utah. Oil shales had proven abundant there. So had Gilsonite found in deep vertical veins. The coal-like natural asphalt had many industrial uses.

Gilsonite had been vigorously promoted since 1886 by Samuel H. Gilson, its principal investigator, marketer and namesake. He formed a company to mine and market Gilsonite on a commercial scale.

Gilson, a former rider for the Pony Express between California and Missouri, believed his Gilsonite (or Uintahite) practical for use in everything from a waterproof coating for wooden pilings, as an insulation for wire cable, and as paint or a varnish. He even promoted the natural, resinous hydrocarbon as an additive for chewing gum.

Utah’s Gilsonite was selling for more than $12 a ton when in 1888, despite Bureau of Indian Affairs protests, Congress opened a 7,040 acre oil shale and Gilsonite-laden strip on the Uinta Ouray Reservation for placer mine claims.

Placer claims could be filed for mining a fixed amount of acreage by a person or group. These claims on Indian Reservations often led to lengthy litigation. The law required production of resources in order for the claimant to be granted a legitimate right to the land. Read more about the Placer Act in First Wyoming Oil Well.

Ute Oil Company’s interest was in oil shale’s kerogen (naturally occurring organic matter) content. Oil shales like Gilsonite can yield petroleum when sufficiently “cooked.” The distillates boil off and are captured as in other refining operations.

In eastern Utah, Ute Oil Company made a 100 acre placer claim near Watson alongside the White River, about 100 feet up a hillside where promising oil shale deposits could be cheaply mined and then refined. Other companies had the same idea.

Oil Shale Boom Towns

The rough and tumble boom towns of Watson, Dragon Junction and Rainbow were spawned amidst new Gilsonite mines. A narrow gauge (and short-lived) Uintah Railroad was built specifically to link them to the Rio Grande Western Railway 63 miles away.

Ute oil shale

Oil shale production technologies of the 1920s were dangerous and expensive. Above is Ute Oil Company’s processing plant under construction.

By 1911, what was called the “crookedest railroad in the West” had overcome steep mountain grades and crossed 40 bridges to reach Watson and the Rainbow Gilsonite mine, above the White River.

Crane Shale Oil Corporation, Utah Shale & Oil Company, and the Western Shale Oil Company all planned major oil and gasoline reduction plants near Watson.

The Bureau of Land Management began tracking these early efforts to make money by extracting oil from shale. Ute Oil proved to be a pioneer in the petroleum industry long before the modern shale boom.

Although the company would never complete its ambitious construction of a retorting plant for processing shale, it explored new technologies to maximize production.

The 2007 BLM report explains how the company planned building its plant at Watson, today a Uintah County ghost town.

“Construction began on a tramway and processing plant located near Watson,” the report adds. “Processing was supposed to extract 90 percent of the oil contained in the pulverized oil shale to produce an average of 54 gallons of oil per ton of shale.”

Ute oil shale

It was difficult and dangerous to get the shale out of the isolated region.

By November of 1919, construction of Ute Oil’s new refinery was nearing completion near the old White River stagecoach station. The company predicted yields of 51.5 gallons of oil and 3.6 gallons of gasoline per ton of processed oil shale when the 18 retorts went on stream. The new plant had a projected capacity of 400 tons daily.

Even using modern technology, the U.S. Geological Survey has reported typical shale yields are between 15 gallons and 25 gallons of oil per ton.

In 1920, industry trade publications continued to praise oil shale developments in Utah and Colorado, but noted that high processing costs for limited production were proving hard to overcome with the day’s technology.

Hard Oil Shale Lessons

Oil shale possibilities intrigued investors and the “American Gas Engineering Journal” of January 3, 1920, crowed: “Twenty-Two Billion Barrels of Oil a Possibility of the Process – Estimates of Production Cost Show Possibility of Shale Oil Competing with Gasoline at Its Lowest Previous Level.”

A Geological Survey investigator proclaimed oil shales offered “more than eight times all of the oil available from the oilfields of the United States!”

Industry publications of the day nonetheless recognized that petroleum products extracted from Gilsonite and other oil shales might supplement production from America’s booming oilfields, but the business model was risky.

Much hung on a small margin – limited by technology and the price of crude oil on the open market.

“Crude shale oil, obtained by retorting oil shale, cannot find a general market until the price of well oil is above the cost of producing shale oil,” reported the October 1921 Mining and Oil Bulletin.

“This cost has been conservatively estimated at $1.85 a barrel, for mining and retorting,” the trade publication added. “When the price of well petroleum approaches or better – exceeds this figure – the production of crude shale oil will take on renewed activity.”

Ute oil shale

“A few crumbling buildings” are all that reman of Watson, Utah, where the Ute Oil Comany was the first company to attempt to profit from oil shale. Quote and 1998 photo courtesy Jeremy Carter, Ghosttowns.com.

Ute Oil Company had optimistically projected its cost at only $1.02 per barrel. In 1918, the year after the company formed, oil sold for about $1.98 per barrel, but in 1920, it dropped to $1.73 – and it would get much worse. By 1931, oil prices had dropped to only about 65 cents per barrel.

Ute Oil company’s profit margin depended a high price for oil – but surging oil supplies from traditional oil wells in Texas and other states drove down the price.

Ute oil shale

By the 1920s, many industry publications were following attempts to develop oil shales in Utah and Colorado. In addition to the “Oil and Gas News” prediction above, the “American Gas Engineering Journal” envisioned production of 22 billion barrels of oil from shale.

End of Ute Oil

In addition to the financial and technological risks that Ute Oil faced, regulatory issues added to its misery. In 1920, Congress passed the Mineral Leasing Act, updating the archaic 1872 law and requiring for the first time that the federal government receive royalty payments from successful placer claims. An ominous 1921 “Petroleum Times” article noted work had been delayed “by a controversy with the Government over title to the land.”

Ute oil shale

Ute Oil Company failed in 1923 before it could complete its uniquely designed retort for processing oil shale.

The litigation among private, state, federal and Indian tribal interests would last decades. The controversy came from renewed congressional interest in rectifying injustices that had historically deprived the Uinta Basin Indians since the reservation had been formed in 1861.

Although legal battles would continue, Ute Oil’s fate was sealed. Trade publications reported that the company undertook reorganization in 1923, but did not survive. The BLM would later note that “interest in oil shale production rebounded when oil prices peaked in the 1970s.”

During the 1920s Earl Douglas, a paleontologist who discovered Dinosaur National Monument, became an eloquent spokesman for Utah’s oil industry after several small oil discoveries. After drilling for oil in Utah for more than 25 years, J.L. “Mike” Dougan made the state’s first major oil strike in 1948. Read more in Utah Uinta Basin Oil Discovery.

In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Congress declared U.S. oil shale and tar sands strategically important domestic energy resources that should be developed to reduce the nation’s growing dependence on oil from foreign sources.

As of 2010, Utah produced more than 8.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas valued at more than $1.7 billion. Today’s market price of Gilsonite can range from $250 to $1,800 per ton, compared to $10 to $12 per ton in the late 1800s. It’s still used in paints, inks and in certain cements. The modern petroleum industry uses it in oil-based drilling muds.


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During World War I, the Winona Oil Corporation set up operations in Casper, Wyoming, with holdings of 1,200 acres of “selected land in the heart of Powder River.” The company reported having one rig ready to drill and another ready to be “rigged up” at another site. With capitalization of only $200,000, Winona Oil was considered a “poor boy” drilling venture dependent upon investors to fund continued drilling despite setbacks and risks. The company offered stock at 5 cents a share. Advertisements in the Ogden Standard enticed investors with “Winona Is Here to make Money, Money, Money.”

In February 1918, C. Kirchner, secretary of the Winona Oil, conducted a promotional demonstration of the reduction of shale oil to gas for about 50 onlookers. “This gas was lighted and burned during the entire experiment to such an extent that a couple of engineers in the party made the remark that the gas itself would furnish 90 per cent of the fuel necessary for the original reduction,” it was later proclaimed. This Winona Oil interest in shale oil did not develop, although other contemporary ventures did pursue it (see Ute Oil Company).

Winona Oil by 1919 had only been able to drill 700 feet in its first drilling effort somewhere “on the north side of the railroad.” In March it was reported that “the Powder River Syndicate has undertaken to finish the well commenced by the Winona Oil Corporation at Powder River, Natrona Co., according to reports current in Casper.” Another article in the Oil & Gas News noted, “In the Powder River field, the Winona Oil Corporation has announced the purchase of a drilling machine which will be used to complete the company’s first well, which has been underway for months. The Winona claims to have solved all its difficulties, and expects to go with its work without further delay.”

By the end of May 1919, Winona Oil was reported to have survived its financial difficulties and reentered the field. Plans were by then underway to drill a second well. Good news came the following month when the first well was described as “gassing heavily, and Casper people interested in the enterprise are very optimistic over the prospects. Should the well prove a good one, a large tract north of Powder River station would be added to the territory considered proven.”

But by August the good news had gone bad; the gasser well had to be was abandoned, “as the hole was started with a casing too small to see it thoroughly.” A second well was spudded by the Powder River Syndicate with Winona Oil a fifty-fifty partner. “The Winona Powder River Syndicate well No. 2., which was begun when the first hole pinched-out, is making 100 feet a day, according to reports from the field, and is down about 500 feet. This well is located north of Powder River, on Winona holdings,” noted the Oil & Gas News on September 4, 1919. The trade publication reported bad news several months later.

“The Winona well at Powder River is also shut down, but it is claimed that drilling will resume in the spring. This is the second well, the first having been lost on account of a bit wedged in the hole,” Oil & Gas News reported on January 29, 1920. Drilling did not resume in the spring or anytime thereafter. Despite the efforts of Winona Oil and the hopes of its stock investors, the company did not survive. Cities Service Company bought Winona Oil and moved the Winona division to St. Paul, Minnesota.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




In February 1920 in Farrell, Pennsylvania, lawyers, doctors, business men and farmers formed Yankee Oil & Gas Company as a Delaware corporation.

Then and today, Delaware’s general corporation laws make it the preferred legal host for many new companies. Among the provisions are simplified procedures, low corporate taxes, and broad powers granted to the corporation by the state. More than 50 percent of all publicly traded U.S. companies incorporated in Delaware.

Yankee Oil & Gas organized with $300,000 capitalization and leased 3,000 acres near the state line between Sharon, Pennsylvania and Brookfield, Ohio. The plan was to drill 15 exploratory wells in hopes of finding natural gas. The company advertised for “responsible drilling contractors.”

However, the Record-Argus of Greenville, Pennsylvania, on June 18, 1921, reported that “Yankee Run Oil and Gas Company abandons operations In Brookfield district. Will try Kentucky next.” Kentucky has no record of any drilling by Yankee Oil & Gas. Energy Information Administration records show that while oil sold for an average of $3.07 per barrel in 1920, it dropped by almost in half in 1921. Natural gas sold for only about 10 cents per thousand cubic feet at the wellhead. With such market pressures, it appears Yankee Oil & Gas Company did not survive.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




While resisting federal intervention in the marketplace, Kansas and other states in 1911 began legislating “Blue Sky” laws to protect investors from predatory and fraudulent stock sales schemes. But the problem continued to grow, especially in a post-World War I economic boom.

About 20 million people set out to make their fortunes in the stock market during the 1920s, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These investors, both large and small shareholders, were “tempted by promises of ‘rags to riches’ transformations and easy credit, most investors gave little thought to the systemic risk that arose from widespread abuse of margin financing and unreliable information about the securities in which they were investing.”

Of the $50 billion in new securities offered in the 1920s, about half evenually became worthless, notes the SEC, which was established in 1934. The federal commisssion’s enforcement soon deterred many – but not all – scurrilous efforts to fleece unwary investors.

The often outrageous claims made by earlier oil stock promoters such as Seymour “Alphabet Cox” and former Arctic explorer Frederick Cook were constrained after establishment of the SEC and incarceration of offenders. “Caveat Emptor” nonetheless remained a primary mandate in the stock speculation as it did in decades past.

Homestead Oil Company of Dallas, Texas, ran afoul of the SEC in 1983. The company was charged with violating “the registration and antifraud provisions of the securities laws in the offer and sale of approximately $1.2 million of investment contracts in five oil and gas drilling programs to at least 125 investors.”

The Internal Revenue Service also pursued Homestead Oil for unpaid taxes amounting to “$247,532.37, plus statutory additions as allowed by law.” The company declared bankruptcy.

Litigation followed as Homestead Oil’s president sought to appeal his conviction “for common law fraud and for violations of the federal and state securities laws, (and) the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. (RICO)”

But on appeal, the court noted, “Homestead had offered to investors interests in oil and gas properties in eastern Oklahoma without proper SEC registration. They had failed to disclose investment information to Homestead’s investors and had made misrepresentations.”

Surviving stock certificates from Homestead Oil Company leave only scripophily value and a cautionary tale for investors to contemplate.

The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




The Pennsylvania Oil & Development Company began during a banking crisis and had a brief life in the Montana oilfields. Established in 1922, the exploration company was capitalized at $1 million with its stock offered at 10 cents per share.

Principal operations were out of Forsythe, in south central Montana, with $200,000 of the capitalization subscribed by the incorporators and directors of the company, C.E. Morse, H.G. Young and Margaret Young. Holdings included leases in the “Porcupine Dome” in Rosebud County, Montana, as well as in Greybull, Wyoming.

Pennsylvania Oil & Development was one of several petroleum companies drilling “wildcat” wells in Carbon County, Montana. The county, established in 1895, was named after the abundant coal supplies in its 2,026 square mile area. It was also home to the state’s first oil well, drilled in 1901 at Kintla Lake, now part of Glacier National Park.

Trade publications followed Pennsylvania Oil & Development’s Carbon County drilling operations, including an apparently noncommercial oil well in 1922 (Northwest Quarter of the Northeast Quarter of Section 37, Township 7 South, Range 24 East, Public Land Survey System, PLSS). A year later, the company continued its wildcat drilling with another attempt, now joining with the Red River Oil Company for a test well in Section 35, Township 7 South, Range 24 East (PLSS).

By June 1922, Red River Oil had abandoned the project while retaining a one-eighth working interest. Two years later, Pennsylvania Oil & Development was still solvent and drilling on Black Butte in Carbon County. Its latest well reportedly reached a depth in excess of 2,000 feet with a producing zone anticipated in the “Madison Lime” formation.

Then news about Pennsylvania Oil & Development abruptly stopped. After 1924, drilling reports about the company’s wells disappeared from trade publications. A clue may be found in the 1920s banking crisis, described by Montana’s superintendent of banks as a “veritable nightmare.”

Between 1921 and 1926, no state had more bankruptcies than Montana – with 191 banks failing in the last few months of 1924 alone. It seems likely under these circumstances that both the founders of the petroleum exploration company and the shareholders were left with worthless stock certificates.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




About 1,000 miles west of Minneapolis, the town of Shoshoni, Wyoming, and the potential of oil wealth in the nearby Lower Muskrat oilfield inspired “a syndicate of Minnesota men” to form Minnesota-Western Oil Company in the summer of 1918.

Shoshoni, population 600, was about 90 miles west of Casper and on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Line. The Minnesota State Securities Commission licensed 50,000 shares of the new company with a sales price of $10 per share.

Stock purchases would underwrite the risky venture, so drilling progress would likely be slow and sometimes intermittent. Securing the necessary Minnesota licenses from the state securities commission was problematic and bureaucratic with multiple applications, denials, denial rescission, licenses, and license cancellations.

By September 1919 the company’s first well was about 1,000 feet deep. By January 1920, it was down another 200 feet. In March, Petroleum Magazine noted the well had an encouraging “showing of oil” before weather intervened.

“Heavy snows have hampered work in the Muskrat region the last few weeks,” reported the trade magazine. In May, water intrusion was a problem and drilling was “tied up with cementing operations for several weeks.” In September, the well “has been held up by a long fishing job, but is about ready to drill again.”

Months of slow progress were rewarded in April 1921 when the well found a “considerable showing of gas” at 2,000 feet in the geological “first sand.” Drilling continued toward the second sand, expected at 3,000 feet.

By November 1921, drilling reached a depth of 2,750 feet. An article in the December National Petroleum News reported “The Minnesota-Western Oil Co. is running 4.75 inch casing at 2,775 feet in a test in this county (Fremont). The second sand is expected within 100 feet.”

Minnesota-Western Oil Company’s progress had been covered by industry trade publications since its 1918 incorporation, but it abruptly disappeared after December 1921. The company struggled with debt and tried to reorganize into the Interior Oil Company with stockholders’ subscriptions. But litigation was immediate and extended.

The Minnesota State Securities Commission revoked the Minnesota-Western Oil Company’s license for the final time on July 25, 1923. Four years and multiple appeals later, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled against Minnesota-Western Oil’s appeal, saying that although out of business, the company “owes the debt and that it remains unpaid.”

To learn what attracted Minnesota speculators to the early oilfields of the Williston Basin, see First Wyoming Oil Wells and Buffalo Bill Shoshone Oil Company.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Meridian petroleum companyAn experienced independent oil producer, W.D. Richardson orchestrated the merger of his own company, Lake Park Refining (incorporated 1918), with Dunn Petroleum and Davenport Petroleum to form Meridian Petroleum Company in September 1920.

Merger terms dictated one share of Dunn Petroleum for two shares Meridian Petroleum; one share of Lake Park Refining for two shares Meridian Petroleum; and one share of Davenport Petroleum Co. for 20 shares Meridian Petroleum.

The combined organization held assets valued at about $13 million, including refineries in Oklahoma: Okmulgee (3,500 barrel), Ponca City (2,500 barrel), and Hominy (1,500 barrel). There also were producing wells in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, as well as “promising acreage” in Wyoming.

With offices in Kansas City, Missouri, Delaware-chartered Meridian Petroleum was capitalized at $25 million. By the end of 1920, the new company reported a net profit of $1,076,828. At the company’s annual meeting in April 1921, at least 3,000 Meridian Petroleum stockholders re-elected W.D. Richardson and the company’s officers.

“Rarely have stockholders made so plain their confidence in the management of an oil company,” noted the The Oil & Gas News reported. At the same meeting, stockholders approved the issue of $2.5 million dollars in “first mortgage bonds to be used in retiring present outstanding indebtedness and to give the company additional working capital.”

Trade publications carried advertisements for Meridian Petroleum products such as “No. 1100 Straight Run Auto Oil” and “No. 22-600 S. R. Cylinder Stock (Light Green).” These and other lubricants were promoted with the Meridian motto, “The Line that Circles the World.”

But all was not well. The Oklahoma refineries depend upon crude oil deliveries, which were decling. Throughout 1921, only one of Meridian’s Petroleum’s three refineries operated at all, and it at half capacity.

Oil production from Meridian Petroleum’s own leases proved insufficient, although in July 1921, Oildom reported a hopeful development.

“The company’s big well in the Hominy district of Osage county, Oklahoma, which came in at 10,000 barrels and ceased flowing after several days, due to a caved hole, was put in commission again and was reported making 3,000 barrels natural (flow),” the publication noted.

A report in the American Investor valued the company’s stock at about 13 cents a share on the New York Curb Market in December 1921, down from a high of 22 cents a share for the year and far less than the original offering at $2 per share.

On April 1, 1922, Meridian Petroleum defaulted on a $100,000 debt and in June, U.S. District Court appointed a receiver as the $2.5 million mortgage approved by stockholders a year earlier went into foreclosure. The company also carried unsecured debt of $600,000 and never paid a dividend.

Despite predictions of a reorganization, by 1927 Meridian Petroleum was gone for good. W.D. Richardson quickly went on to form the Richardson Refining Company, capitalized at $250,000 in November 1922.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Home Oil & Development Company left better tracks in legal documents than in the oil patch.

“For quickness of action in the formation of an oil company and the sale of stock the Home Oil and Development Company holds the record,” declared the The Lafayette Gazette on October 5, 1901. “This company was organized last Friday morning and by Saturday evening, the ground had been secured for drilling and a man sent to purchase the necessary machinery for drilling. Monday morning they were authorized to sell seventy thousand shares at 33 and 1/3 cents per share. This morning all the stock is sold. They will begin work next week.”

Despite being at the heart of Louisiana’s first oil boom, which between 1902 and 1908 produced virtually all of of the state’s oil, the company failed. Louisiana court records reveal Home Oil & Development ‘s demise in cases (no. 4374, no. 5021, no. 4733), and finally in the Louisiana Supreme Court (no. 15,468). A Louisiana company born to exploit the newly discovered Jennings oilfield, Home Oil & Development was insolvent within five years of its creation. Irate stockholders brought suit to recover some part of their lost investments.

Home Oil & Development Company

“Early Louisiana and Arkansas Oil: A Photographic History, 1901 – 1946” by Kenny Arthur Franks and Paul F. Lambert includes images of Home Oil & Development Company.

Among the complainants were the Heywood brothers, whose discovery of the first Louisiana oil well in September 1901 had spawned a boom in drilling – and speculation.

By 1902, Home Oil & Development litigation in the Louisiana Supreme Court revealed that at the time of the bankruptcy, “The only asset owned the corporation consists of the amounts owing to it by its stockholders on the unpaid portion of the purchase price of the stock held and owned by them.”

With this rationale, those stockholders whose subscriptions were fully paid, “seek to obtain a personal judgement for the amount…against some few of its individual stockholders, claiming that they have not paid to it the full amount of their subscription to stock.”

The court did not agree, noting “the proper result should not be for individual creditors to institute individual actions inuring to their separate benefit and advantage.” The court concluded that the affairs of the corporation “should be placed in liquidation in the hands of some officer or officers acting in the interest of and for the benefit of all parties concerned.”


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




The land around Bristow, Oklahoma, was once dismissed as “condemned territory” and deemed unproductive by geologists. Thirty-five dry holes had substantiated their judgement, despite the location between two of Oklahoma’s most productive oilfields, Cushing-Drumright and Glenn Pool.

The Cushing-Drumright field, about 30 miles northwest of Bristow, was discovered by Oklahoma’s “King of the Wildcatters,” Tom Slick, in 1912. Once known as “Dry Hole Slick,” his Wheeler No. 1 well revealed an oilfield that produced a lot of oil for the next 35 years, reaching 330,000 barrels of oil every day at its peak. With its pipelines and vast storage facilities, Cushing today is the trading hub for oil in North America.

Thirty miles east of Bristow, the Glenn Pool field was discovered on the Creek Indian Reservation south of Tulsa in 1905 – two years before Oklahoma statehood. Combined with the earlier “Red Fork Gusher,” Glenn Pool would help make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.”

Despite the Bristow area’s dry holes between the giant oilfields, Continental Petroleum Company attempted an exploratory well just east of the town. On October 17, 1921, its Ben Sharper No. 1 well was completed with oil production of 1,000 barrels a day. It was the discovery well for what became known as the Continental Pool. The success soon drew many competitors and Bristow’s population soared.

Continental Petroleum had been formed as a Delaware corporation in January 1919, with former Colorado banker A.A. Rollestone as president. Rollestone had also purchased and was president of Continental Refining Company, which operated a 2,500 barrel-a-day refinery in Bristow, where both companies were located.

One Rollestone company was in the oil exploration business and the other was refining crude oil piped in from the Cushing-Drumright field. Moody’s Analyses of Investments reported Continental Petroleum had about 6,000 acres under lease in Oklahoma and another 3,000 acres in Texas.

Continental Petroleum’s success with the Continental Pool brought suitors. In January 1922, stockholders approved purchase of the company by Michael L. Benedum’s Transcontinental Oil Company.

Benedum, a successful independent oilman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1924 formed the Big Lake Oil Company, which built the first oil company town in the Permian Basin in West Texas. A 1923 wildcat well there, the Santa Rita No. 1, had uncovered the 300-mile basin. He would also be known as “King of the Wildcatters.”

The Transcontinental Oil buyout of Continental Petroleum made A.A. Rollestone a wealthy man, according to the trade publication the Petroleum Age, which said the deal gave him an address “on a prominent Easy Street corner.”

In 1936, the Ohio Oil Company (later Marathon), acquired Transcontinental Oil Company. Although Continental Petroleum stock certificates, redeemed and canceled long ago, have no value as negotiable securities, the company’s Oklahoma oil patch history may help make them collectable.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




As early as September 24, 1917, the trade journal Oil, Paint, and Drug Reporter reported that Clark Producing & Refining Company would be drilling a well on the “Old Woman Creek dome, adjoining the Norbeck-Nicholson holdings,” about 35 miles north of Lusk,Wyoming.

The journal added the company held “acreage to the amount of 5,560 acres, and has two additional drilling outfits in transit for work as soon as they arrive on the property.”

The first Wyoming oil wells had arrived in 1890 near ancient “tar springs” north of Casper. Although Clark Producing & Refining’s leases were to east, near the border with Nebraska, the company was enthusiastically endorsed by newspapers, trade journals, and in advertisements soliciting investors.

In Lead, South Dakota, a quarter-page ad in the Lead Daily Call proclaimed in bold print “a harvest of profit awaits the investor in the Clark Producing & Refining Co.” and described holdings of more than 6,000 acres “in the heart of the Old Woman Creek Dome in the North Lusk Oil Field.”

The ad also promoted the company’s leases adjoining a 1916 local sensation, the Norbeck-Nicholson well at Cow Gulch. With one Clark Producing & Refining well about to be spudded (begin drilling) and a second rig planned, potential investors were advised to buy stock at only 26 cents per share to insure “Quick Profits.”

Drilling began on the company’s first well on Old Woman Creek in the southwest of the northwest quarter of Section 10, Township 36 North, Range 62 West. This lease location, described in Public Land Survey System terms, can be viewed in Google Earth and similar applications.

To fire the steam boilers to begin “making hole,” teamsters for Clark Producing & Refining’s hauled fuel oil from the Mule Creek field, about 15 miles to the northeast. By January 1918, a company rig had reached 1,200 feet deep.

When the Lusk Stock Exchange opened in February, Clark Producing & Refining was the first local petroleum stock to be placed on sale (see also the “Curb Market” described in Consolidated Petroleum Company). Drilling on the “Old Woman” well would continue into April 1922 as the company looked for more lease opportunities.

“COW GULCH STILL ALIVE,” proclaimed the Lusk Standard of November 26, 1920. The Oil Distribution News also reported events, noting, “The Clark Producing & Refining Co., composed mainly of Lusk citizens, is making headway with a test of the Young Woman dome, material has been assembled, and gas piped from the so called ‘Cow Gulch’ well completed some time ago by Norbeck and Nicholson.”

Powered by gas-fired boilers, drilling of the “Young Woman” well began. But at 1,472 foot depth, water intrusion into the well bore ruined the attempt. Meanwhile, the “Old Woman” well reached 1,900 feet deep and found a “considerable showing” of natural gas.

Managing multiple operations consumed Clark Producing & Refining Company’s the company’s rigging, equipment and casing supplies without yielding oil. In March 1922, National Petroleum News noted the company’s slow progress at the “Old Woman,” but predicted drilling would begin again “as soon as road conditions to the region are improved.”

A month later, Clark Producing & Refining was the only company still drilling in the eastern part of the Lusk oilfield, the other exploration companies having chased oil strikes further west into the Lance Creek field.

The company decided to use a down-hole explosive to “shoot” the “Old Woman” well at 2,100 feet deep to stimulate oil production, but fracturing did not succeed. The well “reached a depth of 2,160 feet when shut down for the winter. It is now waiting for the roads to become passable so as to move in fuel oil from the Mule Creek field.” No reports followed to indicate drilling ever began again. Like many of its contemporary high-risk petroleum ventures, Clark Producing & Refining likely just ran out of money.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Champion Oil Company

With hopeful prospects and properties in six petroleum-producing Oklahoma counties, Champion Oil Company began on October 25, 1919. The Muskogee-based company “engaged in the production of oil and the manufacture of casinghead gasoline.” Its balance sheet reflected more than $2.5 million in assets and the equivalent debt.

There were many exploration and production investment choices for investors seeking to cash in on the post-World War I Oklahoma oil booms. “For twenty-two years between 1900 and 1935 Oklahoma ranked first among the Mid-Continent states in oil production,” notes the Oklahoma Historical Society. “The state produced 906,012,375 barrels of oil worth approximately $5.28 billion.”

United States Investor proclaimed Champion Oil Company President Albert T. Woods as a highly regarded man of experience and ability. The magazine reported that Champion Oil had leased 2,000 acres of promising land in prolific Mid-Continent oilfields. The company’s stock sold for as much as $1.50 per share, with assurances that it would go to $2 a share.

Looking for investors to fund operations, the company peddled a prospectus promising 12 percent per year dividends. Sales were especially substantial in Cleveland and Syracuse, where salesmen earned a 15 percent commission.

Although the company apparently looked good to many investors, just two years later Poor’s Government & Municipal Supplement reported the company as “inactive at the present time.”

After stockholders had poured several hundred thousand dollars into the venture, Champion Oil Company was foreclosed upon and rendered bankrupt. U.S. Investor published a blistering indictment of Champion Oil and its president.

“Albert T Woods, the president and general manager, had shaken the dust of Muskogee and of Oklahoma from his feet, and had moved with his family to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he set himself up as an independent oil operator, under the name of the Albert T. Woods Company,” the magazine noted.

With Champion Oil stockholders left with worthless paper, Woods made a brief effort to exploit the loss. He pitched an idea to exchange obsolete Champion Oil stocks for shares of the Revere Oil Company. This Revere Oil scheme is described in Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter.

According to the Commercial & Financial Chronicle of July 10, 1926, Champion Oil’s final curtain came when company shares were offered in lots of 12,000 shares for $5 (common) and 7,000 shares of preferred for $15.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




“Oil Excitement at Rocky Ford Field Near Sundance,” proclaimed a front page of the Moorcroft (Wyoming) Democrat on September 14, 1917.

“Rocky Ford, the seat of the oil activities in Crook county is about the busiest place around,” the newspaper continued. “Cars come and go, people congregate and the steady churning of the two big rigs continues perpetually. Excitement has reached the zenith of tension, and with each gush of the precious fluid, oil stock climbs another notch. The big drill of the Wyoming-Dakota Co. has been pulled from their deep hole until spring. The drill reached 600 feet and was in oil.”

The Rapid City, South Dakota, company was capitalized $500,000 with a nominal par value of 25 cents per share and reported to have one producing well and three more drilling. All the leases were in Crook County and included 3,200 acres in Lime Butte field; 10,000 acres in Rocky Ford field; and 4,000 acres in Poison Creek field.

Since Wyoming would not pass its first “Blue Sky” to prevent fraudulent promotions until 1919, Wyoming-Dakota Oil’s newspaper ads often rivaled patent medicine exaggerations. For example, one ad noted “geologists claim this showing indicates alone 500,000 barrels to the acre.”

Wyoming-Dakota Oil further enticed investors with, “Your Chance Has Come if you want to make money in Oil.” In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the Sells Investment Company offered Wyoming-Dakota Oil Company stock reportedly after “a careful selection of conservative issues from among the thousand prospects, offering same to you before higher prices prevail or its present substantial position has been discounted by professional traders. A good clean cut speculation of this character may mean a fortune. Watch this company for sensational developments.”

The United States had entered World War I in April 1917; by November newspapers reported Francis Peabody, chairman of the Coal Committee of the Council of National Defense, was telling the U.S. Senate Public Lands Committee that the country was not producing enough oil to win the war.

“He said if nothing were done to develop new wells the reserve supply would he exhausted in twelve months and production would be 50,000,000 barrels less than requirements,” one newspaper noted. Wyoming-Dakota Oil Company executives took advantage of the opportunity.

“The (war) situation outlined leads us to suggest that you investigate Wyoming-Dakota Oil. ‘We are doing our bit’ by drilling night and day. Ours is an investment worth while. The allotment of Treasury stock at 25 cents is almost sold out and the Directors will advance the price of stock to 50 cents a share (100 per cent on your present investment) on December 15th, 1917.”

The Wyoming-Dakota Oil promotion continued: “By that time our newspaper announcement in the Eastern cities, pointing out the enormous acreage, present production and negotiations for additional valuable holdings will be made known to millions of seasoned investors in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and Pittsburgh. We feel confident this will result in a demand for this stock that will send the present market price skyward. We trust you will see the wisdom of prompt action before all available stock at 25 cents per share has been purchased by other investors.”

In early 1918, Wyoming-Dakota Oil Company’s had drilled wells in the Upton-Thornton oilfield and was “holding out high hope of bringing in a gusher in few days.” In July, the Laramie Daily Boomerang reported the company had “two rigs going steadily in Crook County’s Rocky Ford field” – but no oil gushers came in. Investor pessimism was reflected in Wyoming-Dakota Oil Company’s stock prices, which fell in over-the-counter markets from 75 cents bid in June 1919 to 50 cents bid at the end of September. By March 1920, brokers offered 5,000 shares or any part thereof at 5 cents a share.

A final blow to the company was reported in the Laramie Republican of July 25, 1921: “Wyoming-Dakota…has completed pulling the casing from the well which it has been drilling north of town, after having struck a formation said to be granite, at a depth of 715 feet. While this has a tendency to retard the activities of other interests, it is by no means stopping them entirely and it is to be hoped that another well will be started this summer.” It wasn’t.

Wyoming-Dakota Oil Company disappeared into history until a Summons was published 24 years later in the January 25, 1945, Sundance (Wyoming) Times. It advised that Wyoming-Dakota Oil – address or place of residence to plaintiff unknown – was being sued in the Sixth District Court of Wyoming. The company’s stock certificates today are valued only by scripophily collectors.

For the true story behind a Texas oilfield that did play a vital role in the “War to End All Wars,” read Roaring Ranger wins WWI.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Elbukan Oil Company

Prior to becoming an aspiring Kansas oilman, William Seyler wrote a book admonishing others about speculating in the petroleum industry. Then he started his own oil company.

Seyler was a self-proclaimed capitalist and investment expert who in 1919 published Danger Signals – A Key to Investing Money to Make Money.

His book (today available free online) offered several chapters about America’s rapidly expanding petroleum industry, including chapter 12, “Oil Land Get-Rich-Quick Schemes.”

Seyler advised potential investors to be wary. “The alluring possibilities of the oil business is, at this very writing, causing so many inexperienced men to engage in the promotion of wild-cat oil companies that haven’t the remotest chance to succeed,” he proclaimed. “Experience and constant practice alone make experts in judging the soundness of stocks and securities; of this there is no doubt.”

Within a year of publishing his book of investment advice, Seyler incorporated Elbukan Oil Company in Delaware (June 5, 1920). He began operations in El Dorado, Kansas, where the Stapleton No. 1 well of 1915 had launched a major Kansas Oil Boom.

His company was initially capitalized at $750,000 with par value assigned at $1 per share. But by March 1921 Elbukan Oil had increased its capital stock to $1.5 million to fund acquisition of more properties in the prolific Mid-Continent field.

The company successfully completed its Millheisler No. 5 well, which produced 100 barrels of oil northeast of El Dorado. Although production declined to 50 barrels a day, the success enabled the company to drill another well, the Millheisler No. 6, on the same 40-acre lease.

By December 31, 1921, Elbukan Oil Company had sold approximately $1.6 million of stock to investors nationwide, apparently including a large number from Wisconsin.

Seemingly prospering, the company owned a number of leases and pipelines in Kansas and Oklahoma. By 1923 it was producing and selling oil and natural gas. Then questions were raised about its accounting practices.

Elbukan Oil was prohibited from selling its stock in Wisconsin and Indiana, “as a result of continued delays by the Seyler company in presenting the semiannual audit of the financial conditions require by the state commission of all companies selling stock.”

The company’s difficulties compounded when it was alleged in court that Seyler had set up his company’s $120,000 purchase of a well valued at only $6,000. The deal included Elbukan Oil paying him personally $42,500 in cash and stock.

The U.S. District Court ultimately appointed receivers to manage Elbukan Oil assets as extended litigation followed. Undeterred, Seyler returned in 1930 – only to have the Milwaukee Journal report expose “William Seyler’s latest scheme.”

The Wisconsin newspaper illustrated Seyler’s intricate structure of company ownership, liens, properties, mortgages and stockholders. “Seyler’s Puzzle” appeared in a March 31, 1930, article.

Although Elbukan Oil Company stock was worthless by 1932, Seyler was not finished. He returned to Wisconsin investors one last time five years later, according to the Milwaukee Journal.

“Seyler, Oil Promoter, Again is Active Here,” the newspaper noted on April 15, 1937, adding that the investment adviser turned oilman was back “with a brand new scheme.” Editors again cautioned readers: “State authorities say Seyler and his many associates at one time took in $3,200,000 from about 9,000 Wisconsin residents.”

Elbukan Oil Company

The stories of other companies and attempts to join highly speculative petroleum exploration booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.


Ranger-Rock Island Oil and RefiningBy the beginning of the 20th century, Texas wildcatters had fruitlessly pursued oil between Abilene and Fort Worth. They drilled mostly dry holes until 1917 when a gusher brought thousands to the arid region of cattle, cotton and mesquite trees.

In October 1917, the McClesky No. 1 well in Eastland County revealed a massive oil-bearing sand 3,432 feet deep. The “Roaring Ranger” discovery made headlines worldwide just six months after America’s entry into World War I.

A find in nearby Desdemona soon added to North Texas oil discoveries. “The tiny peanut-farming hamlet of Desdemona in Eastland County was transformed when oil was struck in 1918,” noted one  Texas historian. “Tents and shacks sprang up all around the town to house speculators and workers who flocked to the area.”

Located along Hog Creek, Desdemona (once called Hogtown) and the Ranger oilfield attracted new companies, some with little or no oil-patch experience. Among many others, the Hog Creek Carruth Oil Company profited by enthusiastically advertising stock sales to unwary investors.

Ranger-Rock Island Oil and Refining

A detail from one of Ranger-Rock Island Oil and Refining’s circa 1920 newspaper ads (see below).

Ranger-Rock Island Oil and Refining

Eager to drill in the Ranger oilfield, E.R. Crosby, C.W. Brooks and A.H. Kirby formed the Ranger-Rock Island Oil & Refining Company in Fort Worth, Texas. With Crosby named president, the company was capitalized at $750,000.

By February 1919, half-page advertisements in the El Paso Herald solicited investors, noting the company’s leases were in close proximity to proven oil-producing wells.

“Every farmer, merchant, business and professional man, mechanic, and investor knows that this company is designed to produce oil and dividends and will be a success from the start,” declared the company’s newspaper ads.

A map illustrated proposed drill sites. “Note The Selected Acreage – This Company Cannot Miss Production,” the company crowed about its 40-acre lease northeast of Eastland. The ad included a convenient cut-out application to send with a check for purchasing stock at $1 per share.

Another map depicted Ranger-Rock Island Oil’ and Refining’s second lease south of Ranger – “in the Hog Creek country” – declaring that “drilling begins on this tract as soon as rig and tools can be moved in.”

Success came west of Fort Worth when Ranger-Rock Island Oil and Refining’s Wright No. 1 well reached 3,483 feet into the McClesky sand (by September 8, 1919, daily production was 3,000 barrels of oil). Then the Wright No. 2 well was completed for 2,700 barrels a day. Another oil strike soon followed.

“The headliner of the Ranger pool, the W.W. Wright No. 3 of the Ranger-Rock Island Oil [and Refining] Company came in with an initial flow 1,700 barrels of oil at around the 3,500 foot level,” noted the Oil & Gas News. “This is the third producing well brought in by that company.”

By April 1920, Ranger-Rock Island Oil  and Refining had drilled three successive producing wells, but total production had dropped from an initial 8,000 barrels a day to only 1,400 barrels a day. The Ranger oilfield was being depleted by overproduction and the company was feeling it. As drilling and production costs rose, oil prices fell from about $3 a barrel at the beginning of 1920 to less than $1.75 by the end of the year.

By 1921, Oil Distribution News reported that Ranger-Rock Island Oil and Refining shares, originally sold at one dollar each, were being bid at 50 cents per share by stock traders. After investor litigation in 1924, the company disappeared from financial records.

Among others also seeking riches in the Ranger oilfield was a young World War I veteran, Conrad Hilton. Witnessing roughnecks waiting in line at an Eastland County motel convinced him to purchase what became the first Hilton Hotel.

Read about another North Texas discovery, the 1911 April Fool’s day oil gusher near Electra, Texas, that would help earn that town the title of “Pump Jack Capital of Texas.”

Ranger-Rock Island Oil and Refining


The stories of other attempts to join petroleum exploration booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.


Southern Rose Oil & Gas Company incorporated on April 17, 1920, in Arkansas. By the end of June 1921, the company had secured a 25-acre site to build a refinery near El Dorado.

The company planned on using the “Edwards System of Refining Petroleum” reportedly perfected by Dr. E.A. Edwards, who had been termed the dean of refiners.

Southern Rose Oil & Gas then looked to Texas’ Mexia oilfield to drill its own oil wells to supply its refinery. The Mexia field in northwestern Limestone County, Texas, later introduced the concept of fault-line production in the Woodbine sands, notes the Handbook of Texas Online.

The Mexia field had begun producing oil moderately in 1920, but in August 1921, Western Oil Corporation’s Desenberg No. 1 well blew in at 18,000 barrels of oil a day, followed by the Adamson No. 1 well with 24,000 barrels of oil a day.

City historians later noted, “Little wonder that all roads led to Mexia and that they were jammed.”

The United States Investor of October 1, 1921, noted a variety of offers proposing Southern Rose Oil & Gas share owners exchange their stock for shares of Manhattan-Texas Petroleum Company, Manhattan Consolidated Petroleum Company, and/or Desdemona Oil & Refining Company.

Although such consolidations were not an uncommon effort to save under-capitalized ventures, investors had to be wary. “Neither the company itself or those companies, for the stock of which its stock is to be exchanged, have been receiving dividends,” noted U.S. Investor editors. “We are not favorably impressed with any of them as a medium of profit or investment either.”

On August 18, 1922, another company discovered oil in Mexia’s Kosse district (Jones No. 1 well). By November, Southern Rose Oil & Gas had a derrick of its own up with hopes to exploit the find.

The Jones No. 1 well however, “never fulfilled its initial promise and is still a text-book example of a one-well field,” according to the Handbook of Texas Online.

Southern Rose Oil & Gas Company’s well, the W.D. Allen No. 1, never progressed beyond construction of its derrick. To investors’ dismay, mounting debt ensured the demise of Southern Rose and loss of their investment. In May 1923, company assets were auctioned at an Eastland County, Texas, sheriff’s sale. Debt amounted to more than $24,500 ($342,000 in 2016 dollars) of which about half was recovered.

The first Arkansas oil gusher, the Busey-Armstrong No. 1 well, blew in on January 10, 1921, near El Dorado and launched the Arkansas petroleum industry. By 1925 the 68-square-mile field led U.S. oil output – with production reaching 70 million barrels.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Continental Oil and Refining Company incorporated in Delaware in February 1919; by May its stock was advertised in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, offering shares for $1.50 each with projected earnings of “approximately $1,000,000 annually on present production.”

With potential investors admonished to “buy before increase in price,” the company advertised in trade publications like Oil and Gas News, established in 1916 in Kansas City, Missouri, and published every Thursday (a 52-week subscription was $4). The first of several Continental Oil and Refining full-page advertisements appeared in the August 18, 1919, issue.

“This entire page has been purchased for one year by Houston, Haverbeck & Company, Inc., Securities Underwriters, New York City,” proclaimed the ad, which noted the underwriters “would advise those interested in the drilling and development program of the Continental Oil & Refining Co. to watch this space.”

By January 1920, the new company’s stock shares sold for as much as $2.50 each – but editors at another trade magazine expressed concern, declaring, “Although the company appears to have some experienced men in its management, there are two features which do not appeal strongly to us.”

United States Investor editors reported that Continental Oil and Refining was incorporated in February 1919, but “could not have started operations until some time later, yet on May 15 the company started to pay monthly dividends of 1.5 percent, and on November 15 this was increased to 2 per cent, or at the rate of 24 per cent per year.”

Further, the publication accused the company of “making no provision (for) any contingency , but is declaring dividends as fast as any profits are obtained.” The editors concluded, “We feel that you would find a more satisfactory speculation in oil stocks in the shares of companies that have a longer record of successful operation.”

According to the International Petroleum Register, Continental Oil & Refining owned eight producing wells and “is interested in lease acreages, thru stock ownership in the Borealis Oil Producing Company, Wichita, Kan., in the following fields: Butler County, Kan.; Chautauqua County, Kan., Osage County, Okla., and Homer, La.”

United States Investor also reported in August 1920 that “Continental Oil & Refining Company now has production of about 250 barrels daily. It is paying dividends at the rate of 24 percent yearly. The authorized capital stock of the company is $10,000,000 all common, par value $1. Recent quotations for the stock cover a very wide range from about 65 cents to $1.25. This indicates the speculative aspect of the shares and future developments must be awaited in order to determine whether or not the company is likely to become a steady earnings and producing oil company.”

The Directory of Obsolete Securities (originally published from 1927 to 1969) reported Continental Oil & Refining Company’s demise as “no longer in existence having become inoperative and void for non-payment of taxes March 22, 1922.” Share owners were left with worthless paper.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Back in the 1920s, assets of failed oil ventures were often auctioned from county court house steps. Pieces of defunct companies could be scavenged from abandoned leases, equipment and debts to start new companies with new investors. It was a convoluted business of extraordinary risk and many casualties. Read the rest of this entry »


The first Louisiana oil well revealed the Jennings oilfield in 1901 – just nine months after the historic “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop Hill in nearby Beaumont, Texas. The discovery launched the Pelican State’s petroleum industry. Read more in First Louisiana Oil Well.

Louisiana’s young petroleum businesses boomed in the early 1920s, energized by discoveries of the Monroe natural gas field in 1916, the Homer oilfield in 1919, and Haynesville gas field in 1921.

With abundant investment opportunities – thanks in part to the public’s fascination with “black gold” – oil companies drilled wells to meet growing demand for gasoline. But high exploration and production costs, transportation, refinery hazards and price fluctuations created an unforgiving business environment, then as now. Read the rest of this entry »


Although Nebraska would not produce any commercial amounts of oil until 1940, the Omaha Oil & Refining Company organized there two decades earlier – and built a refinery. Read the rest of this entry »


The Sooner State’s petroleum industry began a decade before statehood when the first Oklahoma oil well was completed at Bartlesville in 1897.

On April 16, 1917 – ten days after the United States entered World War I – the Murdock Oil & Gas Company was registered to do business by J.P. Wolverton, T.H. Williams, and B.W. Fesler, all of Chickasha, Oklahoma. They hoped to find oil with money from people willing to take the risk.

Their newly formed petroleum exploration venture, with capitalization of just $25,000, depended upon investors to fund wildcat drilling (away from proven production). Read the rest of this entry »



In the early 1900s, the Ohio-Kansas Oil & Gas Company financed drilling operations with capital raised from stock sales. It had wells 12 miles southeast of Burlington, Kansas, and secured a franchise to supply natural gas to the town.

The Burlington Republican newspaper in April 1905 reported that “a prospectus of the Ohio-Kansas Oil and Gas Co., advertising its stock for sale, is in circulation, and a copy has been received here. It is circulated by J.H. Andrews & Co, Broker, 40S Fidelity Trust Co. Building, Kansas City, Mo., who will give all necessary information concerning the matter.” Read the rest of this entry »


Ryan Petroleum Corporation

The Stutz Motor Car Company of Indianapolis, manufacturer of the famed “Stutz Bearcat” automobile, was briefly taken over by Allan Ryan, chairman of the Ryan Petroleum Corporation.

A 1920s Wall Street tycoon will lead Ryan Petroleum Corporation, hit a gusher in Texas, take over the Stutz Motor Car Company – and rip off his fellow tycoons.

When Ryan Petroleum Corporation was created in April 1919, its assets included 60 percent ownership of the Morton Petroleum Company whose president, A.D. Morton, became president of both companies.

Chairman of the Ryan Petroleum board of directors was a well-known Wall Street tycoon, Allan A. Ryan.

Ryan was the majority owner and on the boards of several companies, including Continental Candy, Republic Match, American Tobacco, and Stromberg Carburetor, among others. His tenure in the petroleum business would not be long.

The newly formed Ryan Petroleum leased about 41,000 acres in the Ranger, Texas, oil district as well as small leases near the Burkburnett oilfield close to the Red River border with Oklahoma.

The company brought in a 2,000-barrel-a-day gusher on the R.E. Waggoner ranch a few miles from Burkburnett. The wildcat well opened the “Northwest Extension” of the giant oilfield and launched yet another North Texas drilling boom.

By June 1919, there were more than 850 producing wells in “the world’s wonder oilfield.”

Discovered in 1918, the Burkburnett oilfield had joined earlier major discoveries in nearby Electra (1911) and Ranger (1917) that would make North Texas a worldwide leader in petroleum production. The drilling booms attracted the attention of Hollywood. See “Boom Town” Burkburnett.

But as contemporary reports noted, the North Texas oil booms had intensified competition for leases and equipment as growing oil production threatened to lower prices.

“The Ryan shares are a speculation, of course, and the company is so new that no earnings figures are available.” explained one observer. “The wild scramble for oil shares, which is a feature of the curb trading, should benefit Ryan still further, if nothing else.”

The company had drilling operations in Texas and Oklahoma and brought in several producers. Ryan Petroleum also had 40 wells in Kansas – but overproduction drove prices down as drilling costs went up.

In 1920, both Ryan Petroleum Corporation and Morton Petroleum stock certificates were replaced on the basis of a ten-for-one exchange with shares of Ryan Consolidated Petroleum, incorporated in Delaware.

The Magazine of Wall Street speculated about the company, noting, “Reasons Why a Well-Backed Oil Producer Has Not Made Good – Decline in Ryan’s Production – Was the Burkburnett Acreage Worth the Price Paid?”

Ryan Petroleum Corporation

When Allan Ryan declared personal bankruptcy in 1922, he was more than $32 million in debt.

Meanwhile, Ryan Petroleum Chairman Allan Ryan had become embroiled in an escalating Wall Street war with his business associates over a failed “short selling” stock scheme. He had fooled his fellow tycoons – presumably savvy New York Stock Exchange members – and cost them millions.

With lawsuits pending, Ryan was expelled from his seat on the Exchange.

His troubles, far from the Texas oil patch, involved a brief but scandalous “curb the market” takeover of the Stutz Motor Car Company that was subsequently adjudged, “conduct inconsistent with just and equitable principles of trade.”

One newspaper headline about the ousted broker noted, “Corner on Stutz Stock Leads to Downfall.”

The one-time Wall Street Wunderkind’s fortunes promptly deteriorated and he declared personal bankruptcy in 1922 with debts of more than $32 million. Charles Schwab was among investors who gained control of Stutz Motor Car the same year.

Ryan Consolidated Petroleum Corporation was sold by the Guaranty Trust Bank to a group of private investors (including A.D. Morton) and ultimately merged with Morton Petroleum Company in 1926. Company holdings were sold off by the Guaranty Trust Company of New York. Allan A. Ryan died October 13, 1981.


The stories of other attempts to join petroleum exploration booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation.



world oil companyWhen a shady publisher decided to become a wildcatter seeking oil riches, the end of his story might have been predicted.

Ft. Worth publisher Chester R. Bunker, head of the World Company, began by seeking to expand subscriptions to his trade journal, which ostensibly offered readers insights into the booming Texas oil business. The 1917 “Roaring Ranger” discovery well between Ft. Worth and Abilene had brought oilfield discoveries close to home.

Bunker’s Texas Oil World (formerly Western World) was in fact a tip sheet largely for promoting his own business interests. To increase circulation, beginning in 1922 Bunker successively added memberships in his “Texas Oil World Marathon Fold Club” or “Texas Oil World Marathon Fold Drilling Club” as premium inducements for potential subscribers.

These clubs entitled each subscriber to a miniscule interest in any profits that might be drawn from his company’s distant oil leases: “a 1/10,000th interest in all emoluments and profits accruing from certain oil and gas leases of 10,000 acres, more or less in Crockett County, State of Texas, and held in trust for all members by the undersigned trustee.”

Court documents later noted that with Bunker the trustee, “the interests given to the subscribers were simply for the purpose of promoting the circulation of the oil journal and its business, and that neither Bunker nor his corporation were to benefit or profit from the promotions.”

Accordingly, Bunker undertook an unlikely wildcat drilling venture on the company’s remote Crockett County lease in 1923, prompting the offer of another subscription inducement, the “Crockett County Lease Bonus.”

After two years of drilling and to the surprise of all, on June 8, 1925, Bunker’s L.P. Powell No. 1 discovery well was completed at 2,650 feet with daily production of 25 barrels of oil. The well opened the Powell Field and prompted a flood of investors and speculators.

Twelve days after the oil discovery, the World Company – now renamed Bunker Printing & Book Company – negotiated sale of its well and 2,500 acres of its leases in Crockett County to Humble Oil Company for almost $1.4 million. Within two weeks of the Powell No. 1 well, more than $5 million had been exchanged in lease and royalty trades. Humble Oil would later become Exxon thanks to other leases at the King Ranch in Kleberg County.

On June 29, 1925, Bunker chartered the World Oil Company using capital from “assets theretofore belonging to the three clubs.” Subscribers surrendered their membership certificates and became shareholders in World Oil on the basis of $10 for every unit of membership.

World Oil offered stock to the public through advertisements in Bunker’s publications. The stock’s price advanced from about 70 cents per share to $2.60 per share by September 1926.

World Oil Company searched for oil beyond Crockett County, reportedly drilling wells in Glasscock, Hockley, Pecos, Reeves, Shackelford, Taylor and Tom Green counties. But the company failed despite these exploration efforts.

According to Oil in Texas: The Gusher Age, 1845-1945 by Roger M. Olien and Diana Davids Hinton, the company was bankrupted by Bunker’s inability to manage the businesses he created; he “drowned them in red ink.” The authors add that he was convicted of mail fraud a few years later. His wildcatting did leave a mark, however.

Today, a Texas historical marker dedicated in 1975 near Ozona notes Crockett County’s first producing oil well. “Powell No. 1 was the beginning of a vital new industry for Crockett County, before 1925 primarily a ranching area. The next important strike occurred in the Crockett Field in 1938. There are currently over 2,000 producing oil and gas wells in the county.”


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Palmer Union Oil Company

Tony Marohn’s $5 Palmer Union Oil Company stock certificate from 1924.

Tony Marohn’s $5 Palmer Union Oil Company stock certificate did not make him a Coca-Cola millionaire. As with most obsolete securities, no ownership in the company or its successors remains.

For many like him, discovering an old stock certificate brings hopes of wealth. This seems especially true if the certificate is one of the thousands of petroleum companies incorporated since the first, the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company of New York, organized in 1855.

Unfortunately, as the research posted in Is My Oil Oil Stock worth Anything? shows, the highly competitive, boom-and-bust world of oil and natural gas exploration leaves many casualties. Read the rest of this entry »


Havana began as a general store in southeastern Kansas in 1870. The state’s first natural gas well was drilled nearby three years later. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached the town in 1886, but oil discoveries in 1892 were the most significant events in Havana and Montomery County – at least until the Dalton Gang’s last raid on Coffeyville banks two years later. Read the rest of this entry »


Oil fever reached southeastern Kansas by the early 1900s. In October 1904, Missouri investors saw an opportunity in a new oil company with wells near proven oilfields at the Kansas-Oklahoma border.

Cahege Oil & Gas Company, headquartered in Carrollton, Missouri, leased 15,000 acres near Caney, Kansas, a region that had produced oil since the early 1890s.

According to the Daily Traveler newspaper in Arkansas City, Kansas, the recently formed company was drilling exploratory wells near Caney – and had “shot two wells on the Broome and St. John leases.” Read the rest of this entry »


Alaska Dakota Development Company

Investors should be wary of shady promoters seeking to take advantage of the lure of “black gold.” Photo courtesy FBI.

The 1957 discovery of the giant Swanson River oilfield on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula excited interest from potential investors. As petroleum companies rushed to the new field, some shady promoters saw an opportunity.

By the end of the decade, New York Attorney General Carl Madonick noted that with securities fraud, the first big step was creation of a national market price via fictitious quotations and phony transactions.

Madonisk expained that such fictions helped to convince potential investors of a company’s legitimacy. He cited Alaska Dakota Development to illustrate such fraudulent schemes. Read the rest of this entry »


Black Hills Petroleum Company

A typical South Dakota drilling site in Custer County in 1929 – decades before the state’s first commercial oil production. Photo courtesy South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Black Hills Petroleum CompanyThe first true oil production in South Dakota came in 1954 in northwestern corner of the state. Harding County wells produced oil from the massive Williston Basin.

A year later, discoveries came from other formations to the south in Custer County. The Black Hills of the Powder River Basin brought new waves of exploration companies. Read the rest of this entry »


oil and gas companyHopeful of finding petroleum riches long before many others, George Tucker and Ralph Peterson incorporated Anchorage Gas & Oil Development Inc. in March 1954. They leased 86,000 acres and drilled about 40 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska.

To raise more capital, in 1955 (four years before Alaska became a state) Tucker and Peterson offered 450,000 “non-assessable” common voting shares of Anchorage Gas & Development Company Inc. at $1.50 a share. Records reveal little more about Tucker and Peterson’s oil exploration company.

A book about the history of Alaska’s petroleum industry, Crude Dreams: A personal History of Oil & Politics in Alaska, by Jack Roderick, has a few pages and pictures about these two independent oilmen and their tenacious efforts before “their money and luck had run out.” Read the rest of this entry »


The story of Nova Petroleum Corporation begins in the petroleum boom days of the early 1980s and ends decades later in the healthcare industry.

In October 1973, OPEC declared what it called “oil diplomacy,” prohibiting any nation that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War from buying oil.

The embargo marked the end of cheap gasoline. The price of oil, which had ranged between $22 per barrel and $25 per barrel since the 1950s, skyrocketed to $51 a barrel by February 1974. America’s energy crisis caused New York Stock Exchange share values to drop by $97 billion. A devastating recession followed. Read the rest of this entry »

Drilling in the crowded West Columbia south of Houston was a gamble.

Lucky Jim Oil Company.

Wind knocked down the first derrick of a Lucky Jim Oil Company well drilled in 1919. The well reached 3,340 feet before the company gave up – and reorganized as the Lucky Jim Junior Oil Company. Photo courtesy University of Texas Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

Lucky Jim Oil Company was created in March 1919 to pursue opportunities in the newly discovered West Columbia oilfield in Brazoria County, Texas. The oilfield, 50 miles southwest of Houston, “was the youngest of the first rank salt dome oil fields of the Texas-Louisiana coastal region, and at present is the most productive of these fields,” reported the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 1921.

Like many competing exploration companies formed during Texas drilling booms, Lucky Jim Oil Company did not survive its first dry hole. A Lucky Jim Junior Oil Company fared no better. Wildcatters had become interested in the West Columbia field after oil discoveries on a lease owned by a former Texas governor. Gov. J.S. “Big Jim” Hogg first thought oil might be there and leased the land in 1901 (learn more in Governor Hogg’s Texas Oil Wells.

When the Hogg No. 2 well was completed at 600 barrels of oil a day in January 1918, speculators rushed to lease nearby acreage.  The 20-square-mile oilfield yielded more than 119,000 barrels of oil in 1918.

The Hogg discovery wells led to a local boom that attracted inexperienced, even fraudulent, drilling companies that would not long survive. They planned to drill near property with proven oil production.

Advertisements appeared in Texas newspapers that included $10 per share stock promotions enticing investment in the West Columbia oilfield – with a promise to pay out 75 percent of any net earnings to shareholders. The ads assured investors of early dividends and admonished, “Buy Today, Tomorrow May Be Too Late.”

The Texas Company (later Texaco) was among companies that found success in the 20-square-mile oilfield in Brazoria County. The field yielded more than 119,000 barrels of oil in 1918 alone.

The Texas Company (later Texaco) was among companies that found success in the 20-square-mile oilfield in Brazoria County. The field yielded more than 119,000 barrels of oil in 1918 alone.

Hedging against a dry hole and gambling on higher oil prices, Lucky Jim Oil declared in 1919, “We have immense holdings that we should be able to sell out on the present rise of prices in West Columbia, and pay our stockholders three or four for one on their investment without drilling a well.”

With funding from stock sales, the company was able to begin drilling its first well, the Brown No. 1, proclaiming it to be “within 1,800-feet of the Texas Company’s 20,000 barrel gusher.”

Drilling progressed for a few months until the derrick reportedly collapsed in high winds during a September storm. After rebuilding the wooden structure and resuming drilling, the well reached 3,340 feet. It was an expensive dry hole.

Lucky Jim Junior Oil Company

A drilling boom resulted in the West Columbia oilfield reaching its annual peak production of 12.5 million barrels of oil just a few years after its discovery.

A drilling boom resulted in the West Columbia oilfield reaching its annual peak production of 12.5 million barrels of oil a few years after its discovery.

Within a month of the failed exploratory well, a reorganized Lucky Jim Junior Oil Company made its first appearance and tried again to secure funding to launch drilling operations in the crowded West Columbia oilfield.

The new company did not succeed in raising enough capital and soon disappeared, along with many other such “poor boy” operations in South Texas at the time. Only larger companies could absorb costs of a dry hole and continue drilling.

The Texas Company (later Texaco) – after drilling several dry holes in the West Columbia field – in July 1920 brought in the Abrams No. 1 well, which produced 26,500 barrels a day for six weeks. Also see Sour Lake produces Texaco.

By 1921, the West Columbia field reached its peak annual production of 12.5 million barrels of oil – but by then the Lucky Jim Oil Company and Lucky Jim Junior Oil Company were both history.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information: Article Title: “Lucky Jim Oil Company.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/stocks/lucky-jim-oil-company. Last Updated: September 8, 2015.




oil and gas company

The modern American petroleum industry truly began at the beginning of the 20th century. The Capitol Petroleum Company wanted to be part of it, but failed.

Although the first commercial U.S. oil discovery had taken place in 1859 in Pennsylvania (for making kerosene), demand for another refined product would create thousands of new companies. They searched for “black gold.”

In Texas, an 1894 discovery of the Corsicana oilfield launched the Lone Star State’s petroleum industry, including its first refinery. The town’s leaders had hired a contractor to drill a water well and found oil instead.

When the internal combustion engine arrived on the scene (the first U.S. auto show was in 1900) and electricity was replacing kerosene for illumination, new oilfield discoveries were providing oil for refining into gasoline. Read the rest of this entry »


Claiborne Parish made headlines on January 12, 1919, when Consolidated Progressive Oil Company completed the discovery well for northern Louisiana’s prolific Homer oilfield.

About 50 miles to the west, a 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines near Shreveport had first brought oil exploration to northern Louisiana. Caddo Lake drilling platforms – completed over water without a pier to shore – have been called America’s first true offshore oil wells. Exhibits at the state’s Oil City museum tell that story.

Like Caddo-Pines, the Homer field was crowded with new companies just a few months after the discovery well. Oil production soon reached an aggregate of about 10,000 barrels of oil a day. Far from Louisiana, the Pittsburgh Press declared on September 21, 1919, the “Homer Field is Sensation of Oil Industry.”

Paramount Petroleum

Detail from a bird’s eye view of the Homer oilfield circa 1920s. Photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Paramount Petroleum Company began when leadership of another company operating in the Homer oilfield decided to expand operations. Superior Oil Works officers, including President George A. Todd of Oklahoma City; Secretary and Purchasing Agent H.H. Todd of Vivian, Louisiana; and Treasurer D.C. Richardson of Shreveport organized the Paramount Petroleum Company.

Superior Oil Works had been formed to build and operate a refinery close to the Homer field. Capitalized at $300,000 with common stock issued, the company began construction in Superior, Louisiana, but its officers were by then contemplating the much expanded venture – formation of Paramount Petroleum to integrate exploration, production, transportation and refining under one organization.

The new company absorbed Superior Oil Works and looked for leasing potential near the Consolidated Progressive Oil Company’s successful discovery well. As construction of the Superior refinery progressed, Purchasing Agent H.H. Todd advertised that Paramount Petroleum was “in the market for oil refinery equipment, boilers, stills, pumps, and plant machinery, etc.”

Paramount Petroleum made a deal with Consolidated Progressive Oil in May 1919, securing one-half interest in more than 11,000 acres of both proven and unexplored territory in Claiborne Parish. The acreage was already producing about 40,000 barrels of oil, ensuring the refinery would be supplied.

“A giant refining company has been organized recently in Shreveport to be known as the Paramount Petroleum Company,” noted the Oil Distribution News. The venture was capitalized at $10 million with half of its stock subscribed.

“Stock in this company has been consumed by the largest business and banking men of Shreveport,” added the Oil and Gas News. But the best news for investors was the headline: “Paramount Petroleum Gets 10,000 Barrel Well And Will Build Big Refinery.”

In March 1920, the Petroleum Age reported Paramount Petroleum “recently took over the under-construction Superior Oil Works refinery at Vivian [Superior], Louisiana, 23 miles north of Shreveport, to service Pine Island production.”

The publication added that another refinery was to be completed in north Shreveport in November 1920 “with a four-inch pipeline from the Homer field where Paramount Petroleum holds 4,700 acres.”

Paramount Petroleum

The Paramount Petroleum’s new refinery will be struggling by May 1921.

Within a month Paramount Petroleum was drilling in Claiborne Parish and shipping 400,600 barrels of oil a day. The company secured a $1 million mortgage from the Commercial National Bank of Shreveport and advertised, “Paramount refineries are supplied through our own pipelines from our own production.”

Paramount Petroleum in July 1920 completed the No. 5 Shaw well, which produced 500 barrels of oil a day from 2,090 feet deep in the Homer field. In August the No. 9 Shaw well came in as another 500-barrels-of-oil-a-day producer from a depth of 2,100 feet. The company inked an agreement for 300 tank cars from Standard Tank Car Company of St. Louis, Missouri.

“Paramount has just closed a deal for one half interest in 24 producing wells in the old Caddo field with 1,200 acres of proven territory on which many wells can yet be drilled,” proclaimed the Petroleum Age in October 1920. “The production department of Paramount Petroleum is making splendid headway and with its large acreage, will no doubt greatly add to the earnings of the company.”

But the Petroleum Age reporter had got it wrong. By February 1921, Paramount Petroleum’s refinery at Superior was running at only about 50 percent capacity. A contemporary trade publication reported the company’s prospects as “not too bright.”

Shipments from the Paramount Petroleum’s Homer oilfield holdings dropped to just 168 barrels of oil a day. In May 1921 the struggling company leased its underused refinery and fleet of 390 tank cars to Lucky Six Oil Company for six months.

The Homer field attracted drillers from earlier discoveries at the nearby Caddo-Pines oilfields. Photo courtesy the Petroleum History Institute.

The Homer field attracted drillers from earlier discoveries at the nearby Caddo-Pines oilfields. Photo courtesy the Petroleum History Institute.

To the south, the Busey-Armstrong No. 1 oil gusher on January 10, 1921, had opened Arkansas’ El Dorado field and Lucky Six Oil Company had entered the scramble to exploit the new field’s huge production (578,000 barrels of oil in the month of May alone). The discovery 15 miles north of the Louisiana border was the first Arkansas oil well. It attracted even more exploration and production companies to the region.

As competition intensified, Paramount Petroleum struggled to pay debts. It was unable to make a required $200,000 mortgage payment to Commercial National Bank of Shreveport in July 1921. The deal Paramount had struck with Consolidated Progressive Oil back in 1919 had become toxic.

On September 7, 1921, National Petroleum News reported Consolidated Progressive Oil was seeking a court ordered receiver take over Paramount Petroleum based on “claims totaling $849,547 and averred acts jeopardizing the interests of creditors, and among the allegations is on to the effect that officials of the defendant concern have admitted in writing the company’s inability to meet present and maturing obligations.”

Paramount Petroleum’s epitaph was brief. “It is officially stated that this company is out of business,” reported Poor’s Cumulative Service in December 1921. “Its properties are to be sold by the sheriff December 24 and proceeds applied on the first Mortgage notes.”

The first Louisiana oil well had arrived in 1904 far to the south.


More stories about petroleum exploration and production companies trying to join drilling booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © AOGHS.


Sammies Oil Corporation (Choate Oil)

The Texas oil patch was making headlines as World War I raged in Europe. An earlier major discovery at Electra had launched a drilling boom that brought new exploration and production companies to nearby Wichita Falls. Read the rest of this entry »

AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, a small non-profit program that depends on donations, simply does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Warren Oil & Uranium Mining Company

Warren Oil and Uranium Mining Company sold for six cents per share in 1955. It subsequently became Westminister Corporation, which was sued by Neptune Uranium Corporation of Uravan, Colorado (once a uranium mining town, now abandoned). The dispute involved the purchase of leases.

The Colorado Supreme Court noted on October 17, 1960, that a $5,000 initial payment by Warren Oil and Uranium Mining to Neptune Uranium was presented for payment, but was rejected due to “insufficient funds.” Westminister Corporation was adjudged liable for the $5,000. Neither Warren Oil and Uranium Mining nor Westminister succeeded.

Washington-Montana Oil Company

According to the 1922 American Oil Directory, Washington-Montana Oil Company of Roundup, Montana, was capitalized at $3 million with a nominal par value of $1 per share. Officers were Frank Darnell, George Fair, M.С Roberts, H.L. Allen, H.S. Turner, Silas Archibald, and W.W. Feiger.

The U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey Circular 172 reports that Washington-Montana Oil Company drilled only one well in Montana. It was a wildcat sited in Musselshell County’s Devil’s Basin. The well reached a total depth of 900 feet in 1921.

Although Washington-Montana Oil exploratory well had a showing of oil at 650 feet deep, drilling was stopped at 900 feet and the well abandoned as a dry hole. Nor did the company find commercial quantities of oil in the state of Washington – nobody did until 1957. Montana’s first oil well was drilled by Butte Oil Co. in 1901 in the Kintla Lake area that’s now part of Glacier National Park, notes a 2011 article, “Montana’s first oil well was drilled at Kintla Lake in 1901.”

Wellington Oil Company

Wellmington Oil Corporation 

Wellmington Oil was first established as a Delaware corporation February 5, 1926, and appears to have drilled only one well, the Fee No. 1, in Wyoming’s Freemont County. The first Wyoming oil wells had launched the state’s petroleum industry in 1883.

Drilling of a Wellmington Oil exploratory well was intermittent in 1935, reaching a depth of 3,115 feet without finding oil. The company’s charter was revoked in 1955 for failure to pay taxes.

Western Giant Oil Company

Western Giant Oil Company of Deadwood, South Dakota, began drilling an oil well northwest of Edgemont in September 1956, but found uranium. It was only a limited amount of uranium ore and the well was plugged in October never having exceeded 50 feet deep. By July 1957 the Billings (Montana) Gazette reported Western Giant Oil Company was actively drilling for oil about two miles north of Greybull, Wyoming, in the Spence Dome field. The company drilled three wells; the first was completed with initial production of 60 barrels of oil a day. This well was first to find the Amsden Formation pay zone.

However, Western Giant Oil’s next two exploratory wells were dry holes, neither exceeding 600 feet deep. Although the Spence Dome field was nonetheless a prolific producer, it does not appear Western Giant Oil was able to do any more drilling after the two consecutive failures. According to the Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities, by 1967 all company assets had been sold and the $3 million stock issue “was not worth the paper it was printed on.”

Western Natural Gas Company

There are and have been a number of companies that share the name Western Natural Gas Company. For example, in 1982 a company of the same name emerged from the bankruptcy of the Dowdle Oil Company, Midland, Texas, and established operations in La Jolla, California. It moved to Dallas in 1986 but went bankrupt.

Another Western Natural Gas Company incorporated in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1913. By 1934, this company owned natural gas wells and acquired a franchise to provide the gas to Checotah, Eufaula and Cathay. Western Natural Gas secured its $90,000 debt with a lien on its gas plants, franchises and field lines serving these cities. In 1935, the newly incorporated company established headquarters in Houston and began expanding its holdings in Kansas, Arkansas and other states as an integrated oil company engaged exploration, production, transportation, refining and marketing of petroleum products.

Records show that by 1963 Western Natural Gas directors and two-thirds of common stock holders voted to liquidate the company. Warren Buffett bought 266,000 shares and Sinclair Oil bought Western’s gas properties – but by 1969 the shareholders’ investments were still unresolved. As Western Natural Gas sold its properties, including leases, and went out of business, several court cases followed involving distribution of the company’s assets to debt and contract holders, tax issues, etc.

A new Western Natural Gas incorporation in Delaware followed litigation and in 1994 the company changed its name from Western Natural Gas Company to North American Gaming and Entertainment Corporation doing all its business in Shanghai, China. By 2001 it was a shell company with no substantial assets and no recent operating history and was purchased by Shaanxi Chang Jiang Petroleum Energy Development Joint-stock Company, Ltd.

Western Nebraska Oil Company

With $300 cash and a second-hand truck, Maurice H. (Bud) Robineau of Sidney, Nebraska, began operations as the Western Nebraska Oil Company in 1925 to market gasoline and other petroleum products to consumers in accessible small towns, farms and ranches.  His company acquired a refinery in McPherson, Kansas, and built a refinery in Denver, Colorado.

By 1934 Robineau’s Western Nebraska had also purchased a small refinery in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Bay Petroleum Company absorbed Western Nebraska Oil in 1936, making Robineau a partner with financier Charles U. Bay of New York. In 1940 the men dissolved their partnership and formed Frontier Refining Company from its constituent parts, Bay Petroleum and Western Nebraska Oil.

In 1950 Ashland Oil & Refining Company purchased Frontier Refining.  After Bud Robineau’s death in 1967, Husky Oil Company of Cody, Wyoming, purchased the Frontier Refining Company. The first Nebraska oil well was completed in 1940.

Western States Oil Company – see Middle States Oil Corporation 

Western Wyoming Natural Gas Company

Notice of Western Wyoming Natural Gas Company’s incorporation appeared in Wyoming’s Big Piney Examiner of Sublette County in September 1958. The venture’s purpose was to “conduct the business of a public utility producing, buying, and supplying gas and to carry on all the business and related enterprises that may be necessary or that may be carried on by gas companies.”

President of the new company was a Blair Steele, an oil and gas entrepreneur with prior experience; he had drilled in New Mexico and been 30 percent owner of Tip Top Oil Company in 1952. While with Tip Top Oil, Steele drilled two wells in Ohio’s Logan County. He also applied to the Securities and Exchange Commission to register more than one million dollars worth of Tip Top Oil Company securities for sale. Steele also secured property in Allegheny County, New York, but by November 29, 1956, that parcel was sold by the county treasurer “for the non-payment of taxes assessed.” Tip Top Oil Company was gone.

Steele had nonetheless acquired a natural gas producing well in New Mexico, along with the State’s Certificate of Compliance and Authorization to Transport Oil and Natural Gas. In Wyoming, Steele awaited necessary approvals and certifications for Western Wyoming Natural Gas Company (also see Lincoln-Idaho Oil Company and First Wyoming Oil Wells).

Western Wyoming Natural Gas Company’s future collapsed when the state denied and dismissed its April 1961 application for a Certificate of Public Convenience. The reason was in part because, “the rate at which the Company proposes to purchase its supply of natural gas and its proposed schedule of retail rates which in a large measure are predicated thereon, are unjust, unreasonable and the same are not compatible with the public interest.” Obsolete Western Wyoming Natural Gas Company stock certificates might have some collectible value.

Winona Oil Corporation

Wolf Butte Oil & Gas Company

An oil company led exclusively by women, Woman’s Federal Oil Company of America named Mrs. H.H. Honore Jr. of Chicago president in 1915.

Wolf Butte Oil and Gas Company didn’t leave much of a petroleum exploration footprint after it incorporated in Great Falls, Montana, on July 8, 1929 with capital stock of $100,000. The company’s timing was terrible, given September 18, 1929, when prices on the New York Stock Exchange abruptly plummeted and continued to do so, beginning the Great Depression.  Thousands of companies failed and millions of stocks became worthless in the ensuing months. Wolf Butte Oil & Gas appears to be among the deceased.

Woman’s Federal Oil Company of America

Women’s National Oil & Development Company

Wyoming Chief Oil Refining Company

Researchers can track the creation and history of Wyoming Chief Oil Refining Company by way of contemporary newspaper accounts online at the Wyoming Newspaper Projectwhich includes more than 800,000 pages of content. Search “Wyoming Chief Oil” on the website to find an abundance of information that can assist in research. Learn more about Wyoming’s rich oil patch history in First Wyoming Oil Wells.

Wyoming Consolidated Oil Company

William Edmund Youle, former Superintendent of the American Oil Company in Oil City, Pennsylvania, came to California in 1877 as a successful oil man. He organized the Wyoming Consolidated Oil Company in Los Angeles on July 8, 1912, with capitalization of $3 million. Assistant U.S. Attorney General W.N. Mills endorsed Youle’s petroleum expertise. “I had rather have his opinion upon untested oil territory as a basis for investment than the opinion of any geologist of my acquaintance,” proclaimed Mills. Wyoming Consolidated Oil Company drilled six miles northwest of Fort Bridger in 1917, but by March 1918, the company’s charter had lapsed. This notwithstanding, in 1920 the company sold 58,000 shares of stock at between 35 cent and 40 cents per share. The company soon disappeared from financial records.

Wyoming Oil & Coal Company

The Wyoming Oil and Coal Company (capitalized at $500,000) filed articles of incorporation in September 1916 “for the purpose of engaging in the oil and coal development of Fremont County.” The new company secured rights to land southeast of Riverton, Wyoming.

By March 16, 1917, the Riverton Review reported the company “finding lots of encouragement in the way of capital, this company having large holdings near the Alkali Butte fields… opportunities come only once I a lifetime and you only have to strike it right once, after that the opportunities will come on their own accord.”

Wyoming Oil and Coal brought in Alfred Steele and W.F. Henning to manage its coal mining and delivery business, including seven coal delivery trucks. Steele became president of the Center Oil Company, which formed in March 1917.  In June 1918 Center Oil acquired controlling interests in Wyoming Oil & Coal Company, including “15 quarter sections and the Brown coal mine.”

By May 1920, however, the Cheno Oil Company had acquired all properties and interests of the former Wyoming Oil & Coal Company, including its 2,500 acres in the Alkali Butte. By April 1921 the Brown Oil Corporation had in turn taken over stock control of Cheno Oil Company. Other companies, including the Myrin Oil Company, were involved in the complex maze of lease assignments, joint drilling efforts, mergers and changing ownership that often accompanied petroleum booms. None of these companies survived the Great Depression.

Wyoming Peerless Oil Company

Wyoming Prairie Oil & Gas Company

Wyoming Second Standard Oil Company

wyoming-second-standard-oil-stock-aoghsWyoming Second Standard Oil Company organized as a Colorado corporation and by 1907 had leases on 3,685 acres in a number of producing oilfields, including Big Muddy, Denver Dome, and Lost Soldier in Wyoming, as well as sites in Kansas’ Montgomery, Franklin and Neosho counties.

The August 28, 1917, issue of The Mining American included promotions for Wyoming Second Standard Oil. The ads enticed investors to fund operations with purchases of stock offered at 10 cents per share. Some of the ads proclaimed the company was drilling near proven wells and already had eight oil and two gas wells producing.

“Owing to this showing the price of our stock will advance from 10 cents to 25 cents per share in August,” the company declared. The company continued into December with even more enthusiastic ads: “Announcement is made that Well No. 8 had come in with an estimated flow of 80 barrels. Well No. 9 is expected in at any time.”

Wyoming Second Standard stock fell from four cents per share in May, to two and one-half cents in August, to one cent in December 1917. The next year aparently was just as bad. The Chanute, Kansas Daily Tribune reported on the demise of Wyoming Second Standard Oil Company in a receiver’s sale notification of August 10, 1920, “at the hour of 10 o’clock a.m., of said day, at the west courthouse door, in Erie, in the county and state aforesaid, offer at public sale, and sell to the highest bidder.”

Learn about Wyoming petroleum history in First Wyoming Oil Wells.

The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.




AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress “V” will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, simply does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Ventura Oil Development Company

The Clampitt brothers’ Ventura Oil Development Company in 1910 offered to sell blocks of 1,000 shares of stock at between 10 cents and 15 cents per share. The brothers published a variety of “quick sales” opportunities in newspapers and periodicals. An oil discovery a decade earlier had led to a flurry of drilling near Piru, California, had led to wild predictions of the largest oilfield in the state. Read the rest of this entry »


AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress “U” will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Uncle Sam Oil Company

Henry Harrison Tucker Jr. (1878-1959) is a colorful and litigious character whose petroleum ventures included both the Texas American Syndicate and Uncle Sam Oil Company. He left reams of court transcripts and contemporary media reports either supporting or condemning his operations. In 1905 he was celebrated by some as an oilfield David taking on the Goliath of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. Read the rest of this entry »


AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here Old Oil Stocks – in progress “T” will not find lost riches (Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock). The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Tapo Oil Company

Tapo Oil Company was formed in April 27, 1900, with capital of $500,000. President was S.C. Graham and secretary was C.H. McKevett. The company was based in Santa Paula and drilled three shallow dry holes (about 700 feet deep) on Rancho Tapo north of Simi Valley, California, in 1901-1902. California records the wells as abandoned prior to 1913.

Graham was a Pennsylvania-born oilman and had several years of experience with the Hardesty & Steweart Oil Company, which would become Union Oil. Graham and McKevett had also founded the Graham-Loftus Oil Company in 1898 and found success in Orange County, California. One Graham-Loftus well reportedly produced 700 barrels a day. Union Oil was the principle buyer of all the oil.

Graham remained active in the oil business after the failure of Tapo Oil; he served as president of the Grador Oil Company, formed on August 16, 1908, and dissolved in 1922. Graham also served as president of Placentia Oil (formed in 1914) and Gilroy Oil of Los Angeles, which drilled six unsuccessful wells in Santa Clara County. Read about California oil history.

Texas-Bunger Oil and Refining Company

An upstate New York newspaper reported bad news to oil investors on January 21, 1923. “As the result of a rigid investigation by the local police department and a Pinkerton detective concerning the operation of a certain oil stock operator and salesman, William J. Harris, 31, of No. 927 State Street is under arrest at the City Hall awaiting the arrival of an officer from Defiance (Ohio),” the Watertown Standard noted. Read the rest of this entry »


oil and gas companies

Wellington Oil Company incorporated in Delaware on September 1, 1936, in order to merge the Wellington Oil Company (California) and Santa Clara Oil and Development Company (Texas).

The new company issued 850,000 shares of stock in exchange for the physical assets of the two previous petroleum exploration companies.

John T. O’Neil and C.W. Atkins were named president and vice president respectively; both were experienced and successful independent oil producers. The company’s main office was in San Antonio, Texas.

In 1942 Wellington Oil Company was sold to Seaboard Oil Company with one share of Seaboard exchanged for every four shares of Wellington. Seaboard Oil Company was in turn absorbed by the Texas Company (later Texaco) in 1958.

The Texas Company was most significant company started during the Spindletop oil boom according to one historian.

The company formed soon after the 1901 “Lucas Gusher” when Joseph “Buckskin Joe” Cullinan formed the Petroleum Iron Works, building oil storage tanks in the Beaumont area – where he was introduced to Arnold Schlaet.

Both men would later travel rom their offices in Beaumont to another major oilfield at Sour Lake. Cullinan and Schlaet formed the Texas Company on April 7, 1902, by absorbing the Texas Fuel Company and inheriting its office in Beaumont.

Texas Fuel had organized just one year earlier to purchase Spindletop oil, develop storage and transportation networks, and sell the oil to northern refineries.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here in Old Oil Stocks – in progress “R” will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Railroad Employees Oil Company

In  August 1951 the Stephens County district court clerk announced that among other absentee enterprises, Railroad Employees Oil Company was being sued (Case Number 14,886) and ordered to appear in court. “Defendants have been absent from Stephens County and the state of Texas for more than five years,” the suit alleged. “Defendants have not paid any taxes on the mineral interest.”

The many plaintiffs in the case, sought to have a receiver appointed, “for the purpose of selling, executing and delivering an oil and gas lease covering the undivided mineral interest of said Defendants.” The Texas Railroad Commission should have more information on the Railroad Employees Oil Company.

Railroaders’ Oil Company

Railroaders’ Oil Company, Railroaders’ Gas Company, and Railroaders’ Oil & Gas Company all appear to be variants of the same company. In 1920 Railroaders’ Oil was organized in Louisville, Kentucky, capitalized at $2 million. Officers were: T.J. Heaton, president and J.J. O’Malley, both of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Oil exploration operations were soon underway in along the Ohio River in Harrison County, Indiana, with more than 30,000 acres under lease.

By June 1921 Railroaders’ Oil had drilled five successful gas wells and was negotiating to provide natural gas from the Laconia field to New Albany, about 25 miles distant. National Petroleum News reported in 1926 the company – now called Railroaders’ Oil & Gas Company – “has about 50 gas wells in the southern part of the county and are drilling more.”

By 1928 Railroaders’ Oil & Gas had 40 wells in the Laconia field (Tobacco Landing and Dogwood areas) and the New Middleton field. But when Kentucky Pipe Line Company (an auxiliary of Louisville Gas & Electric) declined to buy its daily quota of natural gas for the city of Louisville, litigation ensued. Dry holes, pipeline costs and onset of the Great Depression then forced the company, by now known as Railroaders’ Gas Company, into bankruptcy and receivership.  It was absorbed by the Indiana Utility Corporation in 1929.

Ramsey Oil Company

Both Ramsey Oil Company and Pecos Natural Oil Company pursued oil in West Texas, circa 1917 to 1925. Wells were drilled in the vast Permian Basin, in sparsely populated Loving County, 120 miles west of Midland (and about 40 miles from today’s Million Barrel Museum in Monahans).  Loving County remains the least populous county in the United States.

Wildcatters James Jackson “J.J.” Wheat Sr. and Bladen F. Ramsey had earlier formed Toyah Bell Oil Company (1920), which became Ramsey Oil. The El Paso Herald reported Pecos Natural Oil’s interest in a Toyah Bell exploratory well in Pecos County. In 1921 Toyah Bell Oil spudded two wells in Loving County. With a showing of oil at their first well, the No. 1 L.B. Russell, and a second well (No. 2 Russell) underway, Toyah Bell Oil changed its name to Ramsey Oil.

Ramsey Oil contracted to sell oil to El Paso’s Rio Grande Oil & Refining Company for three dollars per barrel. The Oil Trade Journal called the Ramsey well, “one of the most promising wildcats anywhere in Texas” and noted that it had “stimulated wildcatting activities throughout the Pecos region.”

Despite its promising beginnings, the No. 1 L.B. Russell well’s casing collapsed in 1922 and the well could not be saved. It was shut down at 4,485 feet and never completed as a producing well. “Because of bad casing and improper drilling, it was abandoned in 1925,” noted the Bureau of Economic Geology.

Bad luck continued in 1923 when the Russell No. 2 well was capped at 705 feet deep without finding oil. Wheat and Ramsey sold out to Pecos Valley Oil Company and Ramsey Oil Company disappeared. In 1925, Pecos Valley Oil drilled a mile south of Ramsey Oil’s abandoned No. 1 L.B. Russell well – and completed Loving County’s first commercial producer, the No. 1 Wheat, opening the Wheat oilfield.

Pecos Valley Oil became part of Sinclair Prairie Oil Company. Production from the Permian Basin’s Wheat oilfield peaked in 1931 at more than 1.2 million barrels of oil. Although Ramsey Oil Company did not survive, the town it helped to create the town of Ramsey, named after oilman Bladen F. Ramsey. Now renamed Mentone, it remains the county seat of Loving County.

Ranger and Burkburnett Oil Company

Henry H. Hoffman was president of the Ranger and Burkburnett Oil Company, capitalized at $500,000. In 1921 he was sued by company stockholders. They soon objected to “the much discussed question of a promoter accepting blocks of stock in exchange for leases” in order to manipulate stock prices.

Shareowners alleged that leases, “costing Hoffman but little, were sold in the company for considerable blocks of stock.” Stockholders sought appointment of a receiver, a verdict of $250,000 in damages against Hoffman, and cancellation of documents that gave him 275,000 shares of Ranger & Burkburnett Oil.

Ranger-Vindicator Oil & Development Company

 As North Texas continued to experience a drilling boom, in 1922 the Ranger-Vindicator Oil and Development Company drilled its Thornton No. 1 well to a depth of 3,300 feet in Navarro County. Water intrusion ruined the well, about two miles west of Wortham. It apparently was not followed by any successful attempts. Two years later another company struck a gusher (the Roy Simmons No. 1) revealing an oilfield that produced three million barrels of oil by 1925.

Red Rock Oil & Gas Company

In 1917 Investment Weekly reported Red Rock Oil and Gas Company to be “an excellent purchase for early speculative profits.” The company had incorporated in Oklahoma and issued 150,000 shares of stock (par value $1) in order to develop leases acquired in Neosho County, Kansas (160 acres); the Bixby oilfield, Oklahoma (80 acres); and Tulsa County, Oklahoma (80 acres).

These Mid-Continent field leases were near areas of proven production. Many nearby wells yielded both oil and natural gas. With producing zones ranging from 800 feet deep to 900 feet deep, drilling costs were about $1.25 per foot, according to Investment Weekly. The trade publication predicted the value of Red Rock Oil & Gas stock would sharply advance when the company brought in its first well, noting, “The unusual features of low capitalization, and evident early production are undoubtedly attracting attention to this (stock) issue.”

The Investment Weekly prediction did not pan out. Red Rock Oil and Gas drilled in Colorado and Louisiana as well as Kansas and Oklahoma. It was still a viable company in 1921 – but by then its stock sold on the New York curb market for about 75 cents a share. Investment Weeklys enthusiasm waned.

“We do not believe that the prospects of Red Rock Oil & Gas Company, even as a speculation are particularly bright at this time,” the editors concluded. In 1922 the company had some modest success in Louisiana’s Webster Parish, but seems to disappear from financial records soon thereafter. A March 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines near Shreveport had brought wildcatters to northern Louisiana. A museum in Oil City today tells the story.

Richey Oil Company

Richey Oil Company, a Montana corporation, formed in January 1952. Its founders may have been inspired by a Shell Oil Company oil discovery six months earlier near Richey, in Dawson County. Shell Oil’s wildcat well produced 1,400 barrels of oil a day from about 7,250 feet deep.

The 1951 Shell Oil discovery well was the first commercial oil found in the Montana portion of the humongous Williston Basin (a portion that produced 868,595 barrels of oil per day in 2015). The petroleum-rich basin had been revealed earlier that year by North Dakota’s first oil well.

The Shell Oil discovery prompted a rush of exploration companies to the county, including Richey Oil, which secured a lease in adjacent Richland County. On May 5, 1952, Richey Oil spudded its Otis Waters No. 1 well. Mr. Waters was the mayor of Richey. On June 25 the Helena, Montana, Independent Record reported bad news.

“The Richey Oil company’s drill stem test at its wildcat well seven miles east of Shell’s original discovery in the Montana part of the Williston basin was ‘a fizzle,’ Secretary-Treasurer John Whiteman of Richey reports,” the newspaper noted. The well had reached a total depth of 7,565 feet before being given up as a dry hole. Plugged and abandoned in accordance with state regulations, the documents close with, “Welded Steel Plate Over Surface Pipe.”

Montana secretary of state records show that Richey Oil Company was “Involuntarily Dissolved,” which usually means a dissolution carried out through a court ruling. Creditors often seek a judicial resolution because of non-payments…or fraudulent activities by the directors.

Rockefeller Oil Company

On January 10, 1901, an oil gusher at Spindletop launched the modern petroleum industry and led to the founding of many new petroleum companies. Most did not survive long.

As newspapers everywhere published stories about the “black gold” found near Beaumont, Texas, Rockefeller Oil Company was chartered on April 23, 1901, capitalized with $200,000.

The Spindletop oilfield soon produced more oil in one day than all the rest of the world’s oilfields combined. In its first year alone, Spindletop produced 3.59 million barrels of oil – climbing to 17.4 million by its second year. Unfortunately for many companies and their investors, the unregulated oil production caused prices to drop from $2 per barrel to less than 25 cents per barrel.

Although Texaco, Gulf, Mobil and Sun oil companies can trace their roots to Spindletop and its nearby oilfields, hundreds lesser funded speculative ventures failed to survive. Oilfield service companies like Beaumont Confederated Oil & Pipeline Company also suffered. On November 30, 1901, United States Investor reported, “The Rockefeller Oil Co. is little known and as it owns no Spindle Top property, we do not think much of it.” On May 6, 1903, Rockefeller Oil Company’s charter do business was revoked by Texas “for nonpayment of franchise taxes.”

Rosson Oil Company

Along the Red River in North Texas, Wichita Falls grew explosively after the opening of the vast Burkburnett oilfield in June 1918. Within three weeks, 56 drilling rigs were at work as close as they could get to the discovery well. Entrepreneurs scrambled to get in on the opportunity.

The “World’s Wonder Oilfield” spawned many new oil companies as Wichita Falls bank deposits grew by 400 percent in 1919. There were nine refineries and 47 factories within the city limits by 1920. Oil companies cultivated investors to get money to drill a producing well before the inevitable exhaustion of the field.

Rosson Oil formed in early 1919 largely funded with investors’ money. By May 1919 its first well in the Burkburnett field (Van Cleave lease) reached 1,800 feet deep without striking oil – a dry hole, which often proved lethal to any undercapitalized business. Rosson Oil sold stock to fund drilling and went broke after failing to find oil.

Ruby Hill Oil & Gas Company

oil and gas companiesRuby Hill Oil & Gas Company stock was promoted at five cents per share in 1930 and the company drilled near Denver, in 1934. Its No. 1 Braden well in Jefferson County, stalled for a year – then resumed “making hole” in 1935. The company apparently failed, as its stock certificates are valued only by collectors for their artistic and historic value.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




Quick Development Syndicate

Quick Development Syndicate was incorporated in 1923 in Houston by C.C. Cannon, J.C. Gibson, and others.

Initially capitalized at $110,000, by March the company had issued more stock to increase funds to $170,000 for exploring for oil.

Quick Development Syndicate gambled on drilling a wildcat well in Brazoria County, just south of Houston. Although there was a brief show of oil from its exploration attempt, commercial production was uneconomical and the well abandoned.

In December 1924, the Texas district court in Seguin ruled on a Texas Railroad Commission suit against Quick Development Syndicate for violation of Rule 37, which “requires oil well drillers to secure permission from the commission before sinking a well within the prescribed 150 feet.”

The court issued a permanent injunction against Quick Development Syndicate and imposed a fine. The company disappears from financial records after the ruling.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress “S” will not find lost riches (Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock). The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Sable Oil & Gas Company

oil and gas companies

Sable Oil & Gas Company reportedly drilled three exploratory wells about one mile from Torrent, Kentucky. It was founded October 25, 1919, with 200,000 shares of stock issued.

The first, begun (spudded) on February 2, 1920, turned out to be a dry hole after reaching a total depth of 1,107 feet. The second well, begun on February 27, 1920, showed oil and proved productive at about 1,200 feet deep after it was “shot.” The third well of June 1, 1920, ended as another dry hole at 1,105 feet deep. The company failed to survive. Kentucky’s Wolfe County clerk’s office may be able to provide further information.

St. Elco Oil & Gas Company

“Development of oil wells within the city limits of St. Louis and in nearby Missouri (is) staked on the belief of oil men that the Dupo, Illinois, petroleum formation extends under the city and northwest into Missouri,” reported the Decatur (Illinois) Herald in October 1929. The Dupo field had proven prolific and led to further exploration efforts to the north of St. Louis. Here, in a bend of the Missouri River, St. Elco Oil & Gas drilled its only recorded well, which reportedly reached a depth 955 feet deep. The town of Florissant was the site of this long-abandoned well, just off of English Saddle Road, according to the United States Geological Survey.

St. Martins Oil & Gas Company

“The Maryland Geological Survey records that over the years, residents of that county had become increasingly confident that “large pools of oil or gas, or both” awaited discovery beneath their feet. They were wrong. In nearby Delaware, St. Martins Oil and Gas Company drilled two wells in Wicomico County in 1917. The first well near Parsonsburg ended in quicksand after reaching 500 feet deep; the second was abandoned at 1,186 feet, having found only marsh gas (methane) but no oil or natural gas.

By 1918, St. Martins Oil and Gas had issued 323,963 shares of stock, adding another 44,477 in 1919, presumably to raise capital for additional drilling. But the company never drilled another well and disappears from subsequent Baltimore city directories. It would be another 30 years before Maryland had a commercially successful natural gas well. Commercial quantities of oil have never been found in Maryland. The St. Martin Oil & Gas Inc. subsidiary of Sun Coast Resources, Inc. is not related to the failed St. Martins Oil & Gas Company (incorporated July 20, 1916).

Sammies Oil Corporation (Choate Oil)

San Jacinto River Oil Company

San Jacinto River Oil Company unsuccessfully drilled a well in Montgomery County, Texas, site of the giant Conroe oilfield and a 1933 disaster (read more in Technology and the “Conroe Crater”). The company’s lone well, the Madley No. 1, was capped after reaching a total depth of 1,370 feet.

San Mateo Oil and Refining Company

Ninety percent of San Mateo Oil and Refining Company stock was held by employees of the Santa Fe Railroad. The exploration company reportedly drilled only one well, and that only to a depth of 300 feet in 1927. The failed well was located a mile southeast of Half Moon Bay, California.

Sanger Oil & Refining Company

Santa Fe Dome Oil Company

Santa Fe Western Gas & Uranium Corporation

Santa Fe Western Gas and Uranium Corporation was actively engaged in uranium ore mining and processing south of Moab, Utah, in 1955.  Company president and University of New Mexico graduate and benefactor Caswell Silver was a noted geologist who worked in oil and gas exploration as well as mining. He will build the Sundance Oil Company into a major independent. However, Santa Fe Western Gas & Uranium did not fare so well.  Probably without assets and serving as a shell, the company changed its name to Beacon Steel Corporation in October 1958 – whose stock certificates in 2008 were marked for destruction as “Non-Transferrable Securities Certificates.”

Sawyer Petroleum Company

Sawyer-Adecor International

Scofield, Shurmer & Teagle

Founded in Cleveland, Ohio, by John Teagle, the independent oil company of Scofield, Shurmer & Teagle was a competitor to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company.  When in June 1901 Scofield, Shurmer & Teagle was absorbed by Indiana Standard, Ohio Standard, and Waters-Pierce Oil Company, the founder’s son, Walter C. Teagle, became vice-president of the newly formed Republic Oil Company.

About 1903 Republic Oil was using d 53 tank cars travelling on the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad. Republic disappeared around 1906, but as a subsidiary of Standard Oil, former Republic Oil officers were grilled during the U.S. Supreme Court hearings concerning Standard’s railroad rebates and restraint of trade practices.  The court compelled the breakup of Standard Oil Trust into separate companies in 1911.  Six years later, Walter Teagle became the youngest president of Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) and subsequently served as chairman.

Seaboard Oil & Gas Company

Seattle Toledo Oil Company

Seattle Toledo Oil Company stock was offered in 1958 at 20 cents a share by mail order as “An Interesting Oil Speculation” by A.S. Heilbron. Mail orders were to be sent to Aggie’s Motel, Port Angeles, Washington. Seattle Toledo Oil claimed to have leases on 300 acres in Elizabeth Canyon near Castaic, California (about 40 miles north of Los Angeles). The company reportedly had a showing of oil from about 2,000 feet deep – but the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has no record of such a well being drilled. Seattle Toledo Oil appraently did not survive, but Aggie’s Motel is still in business.

Security Oil Company

old oil stock

Security Oil Company was one of the 37 corporate defendants charged in the famous Standard Oil Company of New Jersey vs. The United States, which was decided in May 1911, and resulted in the breakup of Standard Oil due to violations of anti-trust legislation.

The court noted, “The combination of the defendants in this case is an unreasonable and undue restraint of trade in petroleum and its products moving in interstate commerce.” The court mandated breakup of Standard Oil subsidiaries led to the Magnolia Petroleum Company of Texas taking over Security Oil properties in 1911.

Security Oil Syndicate No. 2

The president of Security Oil Syndicate No. 2, W.W. Bush, was active in several California petroleum ventures, including the California Southern Crude Oil Company, but does not appear to have fared well with Security Oil Syndicate No. 2. The company drilled only one well in Los Angeles County. Cub Oil Company acquired this well on July 1, 1924, and Security Oil Syndicate No. 2 appears to have gone out of business. By 1927 Cub Oil was out of business too.

Sen-Burk Oil Company

Sen-Burk Oil Company operated briefly from Woodward, Oklahoma, before disappearing. Sporadic drilling beginning in 1903 had created some local excitement in the county, but it wasn’t until a 1956 natural gas discovery that the population and economy expanded. Collectors offer Sen-Burk Oil Company stock certificates via online Scripophily sites.

Seven States Oil Company

Seven States Oil Company was formed in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1919 during the Burkburnett oil boom. The company, with capitalization of $1 million presumably to be raised by the issue of stock drilled in other areas. A well reportedly was drilled near Amarillo in Potter County in August 1919. The company also made plans to construct a 2,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as a plant in Paducah, Kentucky, to provide petroleum products for the marine trade on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

Due to a stock exchange with Capital of the Petroleum Trust, by 1921 Capital of the Petroleum Trust was operating the former Seven States Oil Company refinery in Memphis at 600-barrels-a-day capacity, processing oil delivered from El Dorado, Arkansas, oilfields. Seven States Oil’s bankruptcy resulted in lawsuits extending through 1927.

Sherman Gasoline Company

“Risky Schemes for Unwary Dollars,” declared the title of an article in the August 20, 1921, issue of United States Investor that warned of “a disturbingly large proportion of stocks that by no means meet the requirements of sound investment.” The publication cited Sherman Gasoline Company, which had incorporated on February 28, of 1918, with capitalizaton of $1 million, as an example. “Sherman Gasoline Co. stock is also being offered in (Pennsylvania) both Scranton and Wilkes Barre and is regarded as a promotion of no merit.”

Shoshone Oil Company

Signal Oil and Gas Company

old oil stockSignal Oil and Gas Company originated in 1928. By 1968 Signal Oil and Gas had become a diverse conglomerate and was renamed The Signal.

In 1985 Allied Chemical & Dye and The Signal companies merged to form Allied-Signal Inc. A year later, Allied-Signal spun off about 35 of its diverse subsidiary operations into a new and separate company that was renamed AlliedSignal in 1993.

AlliedSignal bought Honeywell International in 1999 but dropped the AlliedSignal name, becoming today’s Honeywell International.

Solar Oil Corporation

According to American Federal Tax Reports, Solar Oil Corporation was “completely liquidated and dissolved” effective December 1, 1952.

Sound Cities Gas & Oil Company

Sour Lake Texas Oil Company

A series of oil discoveries at Sour Lake, Texas, near the world-famous “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop Hill in 1901 helped turn the Texas Company into Texaco (learn more in Sour Lake produces Texaco). This Sour Lake Texas Oil Company was not as fortunate.

By 1903 the Sour Lake oilfield about 20 miles northwest of Beaumont produced more than 100,000 barrels a day with 220 wells crowding the field. Sour Lake Texas Oil Company tried to entice potential investors with enthusiastic advertisements in 1917.

“Scenes such as few men are privileged ever to witness are being enacted in the Sour Lake Oilfields of Texas when swirling gushers of oil flow their liquid gold into the hands of land owners,” the company proclaimed in a Kansas publication.

“Small investments in this field frequently return twenty, fifty and even one hundred dollars for every dollar invested,” the ad predicted. “We own the Sour Lake Texas tract, and offer small investors a remarkable opportunity with protection to join us. $1 down, $1 monthly nine months buys lot with interest in cooperative well. May make you $10,000.”

However, the Financial World of March 9, 1918, warned potential investors to avoid getting on Sour Lake Texas Oil Company’s “sucker list” because, “it is not long before there will descend upon you from all points of the compass a golden shower of get-rich-quick chances.”

A year later, the magazine reported “Selling lots instead of stocks of oil companies is developing into quite a business in Kansas City and other western cities. But in connection with the offerings of such lots, the same extravagant claims are employed.”

Financial World noted Sour Lake Texas Oil of St. Louis, “is selling such lots on the basis of $20 each and anyone can buy as many lots as he wants. In this way the oil schemer can sell cheap lands at a very inflated price, netting a big profit for him. But the oil lot buyer in the end is stung, for he pays for a lot a price he can usually get an acre for.”

By 1923 United States Investor also was warning its readers. “The Sour Lake Texas Oil Company seems to be a lot selling proposition and we understand that when they have sold enough lots they drill a well,” noted the magazine. “This doesn’t look well on the face of it and looks even worse when we find that this land they are selling is about two miles from proven production.”

Despite the admonition, Sour Lake Texas Oil Company managed to secure sufficient funding in 1923 to drill one well in Hardin County, Texas, in the southeast portion of the Turnbow lease. The Turnbow No. 1 well found only salt water at 2,300 feet deep. The company disappears from financial records thereafter. Learn more about the “Lucus Gusher” of 1901 in Spindletop launches Modern Petroleum Industry.

Southern Montana Oil Company

Southern Montana Oil Company incorporated on October 30, 1916, and had established offices in Missoula, Montana, by 1917. All of its directors came from Anaconda, a region known for its copper deposits. The directors (I.W. Walker, A.F. Mavity, R.A. Cobban, F. Shannon, and T.P. Stewart) decided to pursue petroleum riches in southern Wyoming.

By April 1917, the new exploration company was drilling wells in the Elk Basin oilfield, which crosses the state line between Carbon County (Montana) and Park County (Wyoming). The giant Elk Basin field has a dramatic history of its own, as noted in First Wyoming Oil Wells. Southern Montana Oil successfully completed a well that produced 25 barrels of oil a day.

With 1,800 acres under lease about 20 miles north of Powell, Wyoming, Southern Montana Oil expanded exploration to Spring Creek, 40 miles southwest of Cody, in July 1917. Famed “Wild West” showman William F. Cody had also drilled wells in this area (see Buffalo Bill Shoshone Oil Company).

By November 1917, company manager George L. Means reported to Colorado’s Fairplay Flume newspaper that drilling operations were getting underway on eight, 40-acre tracts near Meeteetse, Wyoming (once a hideout for outlaw Butch Cassidy). Drilling commercially successful wells proved elusive however, and by 1921 Southern Montana Oil Company stock was offered at only two cents per share. After the company failed, its stock was described in subsequent inheritance litigation as valueless.

Southern Rose Oil & Gas Company

Southern States Drilling Company – see Middle States Oil Corporation

Southern States Oil Company – see Middle States Oil Corporation

Southeastern Limited Oil Company

The Coalinga field became California’s most productive by 1910. Although production peaked a few years later, Coalinga made a comeback in the 1970s thanks to recovery technologies such as steam injection.

The Coalinga field became California’s most productive by 1910. Coalinga made a comeback in the 1970s thanks to steam injection.

A 1,000-barrel-day oil gusher in 1898 at Coalinga, California, launched a drilling boom that attracted companies Southeastern Limited Oil Company and California Oil & Gas Company.

Southeastern Limited Oil was incorporated on September 30, 1908, with Louis Nathan as president and Charles Wilcox as secretary with $500,000 capitalization and offices in San Francisco. On December 31, 1909, the company began drilling – spudded – it first well and drilled intermittently (presumably based upon the availability of funds) about two miles north of today’s Coalinga Municipal Airport.

By November 9, 1910, the Los Angeles Herald reported there were 1,046 derricks in the Coalinga oilfield. The  Southeastern Limited Oil exploratory well reached a depth of 4,270 feet without finding oil.  The company drilled another well about a half-mile southeast, but it too was a dry hole and abandoned by 1922.

Each of Southeastern Limited Oil ’s failed wells were ultimately surrounded by successful producers of oil or natural gas. Today the company’s stock certificates have collectable value only.

Baker International was founded by Coalinga’s R. Carlton “Carl” Baker Sr., who among other inventions patented an innovative cable-tool percussion bit in 1903 after founding the Coalinga Oil Company. Learn more in History of Halliburton and Baker Hughes.

Southwest Oil Corporation

Southwest Oil Corporation was more in the music business than in oil exploration. The company drilled two dry holes near Portland in Sumner County, Kansas, between October 1955 and January 1956. No oil was found. By February the wells were abandoned.

It appears the company abandoned the oil business as well; on May 8, 1961, Southwest Oil became a wholly owned subsidiary of Melo-Sonics, which had been established as a Delaware corporation in 1953 and was involved in distribution of background music, tape repeaters and related items.

Southwest Oil Corporation was renamed Melo-Sonics and subsequently joined with Whippany Electronics in the manufacture of portable electronic organs popular with rock bands. Vintage Whippany and Melo-Sonic equipment can be seen online – but by 1996 the trademark had expired and the company dissolved. In 2003 about 32,000 obsolete Melo-Sonics Non-Transferable Securities Certificates were authorized for destruction by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation.

Southwestern Petroleum & Pipe Line Company

Ten miles north of the Mexican border, just off the highway between Ocotillo and El Centro, California, what remains of Southwestern Petroleum & Pipe Line company lies buried about 700 feet deep. The November 20, 1920, issue of the trade publication Oil Weekly reported formation of the company and plans for the first petroleum exploration attempt – a wildcat well in the Imperial Valley, southeast of San Diego. The well was spudded on January 15, 1921, but that would be the last the California Mining Bureau (today the Department of Conservation) ever heard from the South Western Petroleum & Pipe Line Company. The company lone well was later found to have been abandoned after reaching a depth of 700 feet. The company disappeared, leaving behind a steel rig and disappointed stockholders. The well’s official status is “buried,” according to California records.

Spear Oil Company

Square Deal Oil Company

Busseyville Oil & Gas Company organized in 1911 with capital of only $5,000 and about 600 acres leased in the Kentucky’s Bussyville oilfield. Company officers were W.D. O’Neal Jr., Webb Holt Jr., M. Turner, and H.W. Bussey. O’Neal and Holt also incorporated Cochran Oil and Reuben Fork Oil companies in 1911 with Webb Holt and H.W. Bussey incorporating Square Deal Oil Company in 1911 (capitalized at just $6,000).

These entrepreneurs sold sufficient stock to enable drilling and Busseyville Oil & Gas Company is credited by some with drilling the first producing well in Lawrence County on property leased from W.D. Owens. Company status as of May 1918 can be found in The Southwestern Reporter, Volume 203 (June 5 – July 10, 1918), page 515, “Hughes et. al. v. Busseyville Oil & Gas Co.” Litigation took the company into Kentucky courts.

Standard Consolidated Oil & Land Company

R.M. Smythe’s second volume of Obsolete American Securities and Corporations reported Standard Consolidated Oil & Land Company stock to have no value as of 1904. In July 1906, United States Investor reported the Standard Consolidated Oil & Land Company of San Francisco had been organized in 1901 by R.H. Vansant, but never held title to any oilfield leases despite claims of property in the Kern and Midway California oil districts. “Like a great many other mushroom concerns, (it) went out of existence, the promoters departing from that city without leaving any satisfactory explanation behind them to satisfy stockholders,” the publication reported.

Standard Exploration Company

There are not many records to be found about the Standard Exploration Company. An incidental 1920 reference to Albert E. Humphreys Jr., son of a successful – and later notorious – Denver, Colorado, oilfield entrepreneur who made and lost several fortunes.

In association with Thomas A. Merritt of Duluth, Minnesota, and R.B. Whiteside (also of Duluth), the senior Humphreys organized several successful petroleum exploration companies, including Humphreys Petroleum and Merritt Oil & Gas Company, which was formed to exploit the Billings oilfield north of prolific discoveries in Oklahoma City and the Boynton oilfield south of booming Tulsa.

“Colonel” Humphreys Sr. then moved on to the Big Muddy field in Converse County Wyoming 20 miles east of Casper and 40-miles south of the famous Salt Creek fields. In August 1915 the newly organized Humphreys-Whiteside Syndicate began drilling in the Big Muddy, using Standard Exploration Company (a drilling contractor) to pursue oil at depths greater than 3,000 feet. A.E. Humphreys Jr., was put in charge and the well came in November 11, 1916, producing about 300 barrels of oil a day. Success in Texas’ Mexia oilfield came later, but Standard Exploration Company didn’t leave much of a record beyond it. The life of the “Colonel” Humphreys Sr. ended badly; a suicide on May 8, 1927 in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal. Harry Sinclair, who was among those implicated in the scandal, served six months in prison for jury tampering.

Staveless Barrel & Tank Company

Sterling Oil Company of Oklahoma

Sterling Oil Company of Oklahoma (Delaware 1948 incorporation) was a successful independent oil producer operating out of Tulsa before engaging with Tidelands Development Corporation in 1956. Tidelands had been created by a group of investors for the express purpose of acquiring oil and gas leases on submerged lands off the Alabama coast and needed a means to do so without running afoul of anti-trust laws. Sterling Oil Company of Oklahoma became that means when it was arranged for Sterling to purchase Tidelands.

Lengthy and expensive litigation soon erupted. The courtroom battles were not settled until 1974 by the Supreme Court of Alabama, which described the case as “three separate lawsuits arising out of the purchase of May 1, 1959, of Gulf Oil Company’s and Gulf Refining Company’s interests in the Citronelle oilfield and gathering system in Mobile County, Alabama. Each of these three actions has a long, intertwined and convoluted history.”

Sterling Oil Company of Oklahoma was ultimately a financial casualty of the extended court fight. After far more than the statutory minimum of six years with no Sterling Oil Company of Oklahoma transfer agent or activity, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) in 2008 destroyed all the company’s vaulted certificates (CUSIP 859468100). Many certificates nonetheless survive.

In its “Saying Goodbye to Worthless Certificates,” DTCC notes that more than a million non-transferable stock certificates have been shredded since 2004. Sterling Oil Company of Oklahoma stock certificates have only collectible value.

Sterling Royalty Syndicate

Arkansas’ prolific Smackover Oilfield was discovered by Oil Operators Trust when the J.T. Murphy No. 1 well blew in on April 14, 1922, forming a crater 450 feet in diameter and 50 feet deep. Estimated daily production was up 75 million cubic feet of natural gas. The discovery launched a scramble to secure leases nearby as oil companies sought to get into the play before it was exhausted by overproduction (learn more in First Arkansas Oil Wells).

Sterling Royalty Syndicate of Fort Worth quickly formed and offered 300,000 shares of common stock at 50 cents per share within six months of the Smackover discovery. Sterling Royalty Syndicate was able to secure a lease in Union County within a couple of miles of the discovery well. The company, however, was identified by United States Investor the following month. “We would certainly not recommend Sterling Royalty for an investment for it has none of the features of an investment,” noted the publication. “It has been our consistent advice to inquirers that it seems to be an unwise course to speculate in such stocks.”

Nonetheless, the company raised enough capital to spud a well on June 11, 1923 (Section 9, Township 16 South, Range 15 West). The well hit natural gas at 2,050 feet deep with initial production quoted at 20 million cubic feet. Sustained production however was not possible and the well was abandoned not long after.

Sterling Royalty Syndicate No. 2 quickly formed in the wake of the first syndicate’s failure but does not appear to have drilled any wells. By 1936 both companies and their shareholders, as well as several other such “Trust Estate” organizations, were summoned to appear in Navarro County District Court.

Studebaker Oil & Refining Company

The World’s Work (Volume 36, March 1919) published “Pirates of Promotion” naming Studebaker Oil and Refining Company as a particularly flagrant “get-rich-quick” oil stock scheme. Promotions by company founder Clement W. Studebaker (characterized by Business Digest as “poor relations” to the Studebaker Automobile Company family) capitalized on the automotive giant’s name.

In Hammond and South Bend, Indiana, newspapers, more than one of the Studebaker Oil and Refining president’s “Open Letter to the Public” solicitations claimed the automotive Studebaker brothers’ support, listed impressive assets, and appealed to potential investors to “get behind the production and refining of more oil to help defeat the Huns.”

Business Digest later reported that Studebaker Oil & Refining Company had been “charged with making unfair use of name Studebaker.” Shareholder stock certificates were rendered worthless when the company failed. Studebaker Oil & Refining Company was sold through a court-appointed receiver and subsequently renamed the Efficiency Products Company.

Sulphur Oil Company

Sulphur Oil Company capitalized at $500,000 and owned 50,000 acres of land in Texas with more under lease. President was F.M. Green (Atlanta, Texas); vice-president was A.H. Snipes. Other company officers included L.W. Willis and W.L. Henning. Research resources include with the Atlanta Historical Museum or genealogy sources. The company secured a 20 year natural gas franchise to supply the town of Atlanta (Cass County), and began drilling a test well 10 miles to the northwest, on the H.A. O’Neal farm. By April 30, 1908, the well had reached 600 feet deep. Despite a newspaper report of “indications are good for oil and gas,” records are sparse thereafter.

Sunshine State Oil & Refining Company

Sure Oil Company – see Middle States Oil Corporation

Syndicate Oil Corporation of America

Syndicate Oil Corporation of America was formed in 1920, two years after another company of the name “Syndicate Oil Corporation” also incorporated in 1918. The latter company filed for bankruptcy in 1934, but Syndicate Oil Corporation of America left little trail of its existence. eBay occasionally features sales of old Syndicate Oil Corporation of America certificates for less than $10 due to their collectible value.

Further research would be necessary to determine if the two companies are related, but the 1918 Syndicate Oil Corporation was in the business of acquiring and dealing in oil and gas leases, oil and gas royalties, and the production and sale of oil and natural gas with principal assets and all of its physical properties located in Kansas, Texas and New Mexico. Kansas records show yet another Syndicate Oil Corporation, which incorporated in 1922, further complicating the history Syndicate Oil Corporation of America.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.



People seeking obscure financial information probably will not find any petroleum riches here – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock about a certificate that spawned lengthy litigation with the Coca-Cola Company.

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources for extensive research. But as AOGHS looks into forum queries as part of its energy education mission, investigations have revealed interesting stories like Mrs. Dysart’s Uraniu Well and Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; others have found questionable dealings during booms and “black gold” fever epidemics like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter.

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum for updates frequently added to the A-to-Z listing in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Pacific Land and Oil

One West Coast newspaper headline told the story. “EASTERN MEN ARE DUPES – Thousands Gained From Investors in a Worthless Oil Scheme in the State of Washington,” proclaimed the Sunday Oregonian on December 10, 1905.

Pacific Land & Oil Company reportedly was floating “vast quantities of oil mining stock upon a susceptible Eastern public” as part of a scheme manipulating federal placer mining laws. The company had been formed by converting fraudulently acquired Jefferson County territory into a “mammoth petroleum oil scheme” and “issuing thousands of shares of stock upon these worthless securities.”

Unsuspecting investors in Milwaukee and Chicago were allegedly fleeced by Stephen A. Douglas Puter, architect of this scam (and many others), who fled Oregon to avoid jail. Puter was captured and returned to serve a two-year sentence in the Multnomah County jail near Portland.

President Theodore Roosevelt pardoned Puter six months early to turn state’s evidence, which he did, implicating several prominent Oregon politicians and federal officials in a number of fraudulent transactions. The conman wrote Looters of the Public Domain – complete with incriminating documents and photographs of his co-conspirators. Puter was a free man by 1908.

Pacific States Oil Company

The Pacific States Oil Company was one of hundreds of petroleum companies that pursued oil unsuccessfully in the state of Washington. The company drilled south of Olympia in Thurston County in 1914. The attempt was widely promoted with ads in the Centralia Daily Chronicle Examiner.

“You can purchase Pacific Oil Company’s stock for 15 cents per share on easy payments. How high it will go, we will not attempt to say,” noted one ad, which added, “You know how oil stock went up in Calgary, from $12 to $200 in one week. There is no reason why ours should not go up proportionately when the well comes in.”

Pacific States Oil partnered with Morgan Oil Company to drill 750 feet deep with their first well, located southwest of Grand Mound, Washington. Despite enthusiastic newspaper advertising campaigns, the company could not raise sufficient drilling funds and folded.

Washington’s first and only commercial oil well didn’t arrive until 1957. The Sunshine Mining Company’s Medina No. 1 well flowed 223 barrels a day from a depth of 4,135 feet near Ocean City. “About 600 gas and oil wells have been drilled in Washington, but large-scale commercial production has never occurred,” reported the Commissioner of Public Lands in 2010.

Pacific States Petroleum Company

Two years after Pacific States Petroleum Company was founded, the Los Angeles Herald reported the company brought in a producing well in Coalinga – where an 1898 gusher flowed at 1,000 barrels a day and launched an early California drilling frenzy (see California Oil & Gas Company).

In Los Angeles, another of the company’s drilling sites was at the corner of today’s Florence Avenue and Pioneer Boulevard, although more details are elusive. California regulators identified one Pacific States Petroleum site in San Pedro as contaminated by industrial pollutants.

California regulators did substantial research in an effort to pursue Pacific States Petroleum – but results have not been found online. It is not unusual to find early companies whose name and origins have been adopted more than once by later ventures for example, another Pacific States Petroleum filed to do business in California in 2002.

Penn Bayless Oil & Gas Company

Penn Bayless Oil & Gas Company incorporated with a Delaware charter on May 26, 1952. Based in historic Titusville, Pennsylvania, home of America’s first commercial oil well, the new exploration company began by offering 10 million shares with a nominal par value of one cent per common share. An additional 2.25 million shares were offered as “proceeds for acquisition and additional work.”

On September 11, 1952, the Franklin (Pennsylvania) News-Herald reported “Penn-Bayless Oil and Gas Co. of Titusville announced yesterday the acquisition of 640 acres of oil leases in Williston Basin, North Dakota.” The newspaper added that a company spokesman said the leases were in Oliver County in the south-central part of the state near Bismarck. It also reported Penn-Bayless Oil & Gas “was formed this summer and has some 1,200 acres.”

North Dakota officials have no record of the company ever drilling a well. After six years of apparent inactivity, on April 1, 1959, Penn-Bayless Oil & Gas was reported to be “no longer in existence having become inoperative and void for non-payment of taxes.” Although the Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities in 1967 said the company’s charter was to be reinstated, there was no market for the stock and no subsequent operations evident.

Penn Royal Oil Company

The Penn Royal Oil Company drilled in West Virginia’s Doddridge (1921), Ritchie (1922), Wirt (1922) and Wood Counties (1927) with some limited success. Henry Hinds Peevey of Johnstown was president of the company, but few records survive.

Peoples Oil and Production Company

Contemporary advertisements soliciting investment in the Peoples Oil and Production Company are preserved in 1919 copies of the Fitchburg, Massachusetts, “Sentinel” (December 16, 18, and 20). Library access may be available in addition to online pay-as-you-go services. The ads proclaim operations in Texas’ prolific Burkburnett oilfield where new companies and speculators sought their fortune. Very few found it.

Petro-Lewis Oil Company

The fate of Petro-Lewis Oil Company is described in a United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit decision of September 15, 1987, (827 F.2d 718) which reads in part, “These are a few of the many cases arising out of the virtual collapse in 1984 of the Petro-Lewis oil and natural gas investment funds. From 1970 to 1984, about 180,000 people purchased more than $3 billion worth of Petro-Lewis securities and limited partnerships. When the price of oil and gas declined in 1981 and 1982, Petro-Lewis began borrowing funds to pay partnership distributions, to service its debt, and to promote the sale of additional programs. In February 1984, revealing for the first time that it was in dire financial straits, Petro-Lewis announced that it would implement a series of drastic economy measures, including cutting partnership distributions by as much as 50 per cent and selling between one quarter and one third of its reserves. Numerous lawsuits followed.” Investors lost their investments.

Petroleum Consolidation Company

Edwin L. Drake drilled the first American oil well near Titusville, Pennsylvania, in August 1859. His historic discovery prompted a frenzy of investment and speculation in what is still known as the “Oil Region.” In just five years,the region’s production rose from 4,450 barrels of oil to more than 2 million barrels of oil. Hundreds of new companies formed to capitalize on the drilling bonanza.

However, the petroleum marketplace was extremely volatile as increased production drove down prices. As small companies struggled to survive the fierce competition, seven combined in 1865 to form the Petroleum Consolidation Company (McKinley Oil Company, McKinley Oil Company No. 2, Clifton Petroleum Company, Fountain Petroleum Company, Loomis Oil Company, Barry Oil Company and Devon Oil Company).

The Titusville Herald newspaper, which began publishing in June 1865, made note of these small producers, “most of which were good dividend companies, and which at the time of organization were thought to have been made up on small capitals, representing excellent properties, have now consolidated themselves into one company, under the name of Petroleum Consolidation, reducing their capital to $700,000, or nearly two-thirds below their united original capital.”

The newly combined company’s stock sold for 38 cents per share – but fell to 10 cents in only a few months. Petroleum Consolidation lasted two years before losing its charter for failure to pay taxes. The Titusville Herald  still being published today – maintains an archive that could provide more information. Obsolete company stock certificates occasionally sell on Ebay for about $100.

Petroleum Production Company of America

Here’s an oil company that attracted a Chicago socialite and a U.S. chief geographer. It began with a February 25, 1918, announcement that Anna Thurstrup of Chicago and two other Illinois investors had applied to incorporate the Petroleum Production Company of America, capitalized with $500,000, for the purpose of acquiring and developing petroleum properties.

Joining Thurstrup in founding the company was Marion Luce, a Chicago socialite and investor in a number of companies of the era: 1916 – The United Battery Company (capital stock of $3 million); 1917 – Aristo Company of America (manufacturer of wall and interior decorations capitalized at $1 million); 1918 – The Ideal Laboratories Company (manufacturer of “Lura Toilet Preparations” capitalized at $2 million); and in 1921- Utility Battery Company of America, capitalized at $5 million.

Another of the Petroleum Company of America’s founders was Robert Bradford Marshall, who after graduating in 1888 from Columbian University in Washington, D.C. (now George Washington University) joined the United States Geological Survey. He became its chief geographer by 1918. His oil company soon disappeared – a common fate in the speculative and expensive business of finding petroleum.

Phenix Oil & Gas Company

oil and gas companiesThe Phenix Oil & Gas Company incorporated in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on January 29, 1902. The business operated from Cheyenne with nine directors: A. Entwistle; Nicholas Herival (president); George Williams; J.A. Teagarden; C.B. Frantz; J.A. Naylor; E.N. Cook; C.L. Stewart; and J.A. Gillfillan.

An earlier Phenix Oil Company was formed in Oklahoma by Edwin Foster – and the historic Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company – later the Cities Service Oil.

During the turbulent year of Phenix Oil & Gas Company’s incorporation, the New York Times reported Wyoming’s oil drilling excitement – and the entrepreneurs who secured leases anywhere near producing fields to improve their chances of drilling a successful well. Most wells ended up as dry holes. It does not appear that Phenix Oil & Gas Company survived.

Philippine Oil Development Company

As is often the case, stock certificates like the Philippine Oil Development Company, which have no value as securities, may have scripophily value to collectors. Andrés Soriano had long before established ANSCOR (A. Soriano Corporation) as a holding company for investments such as Philippine Oil Development Company. The Philippine Oil Development Company’s 1952 annual report reflected continuing losses. For the colorful story about another Phillipines enterprise of the 1950s, see American-Asiatic Oil Corporation.

Phoenix Oil Company

Phoenix Oil Company’s history is in part obscured by the many companies using the same or similar names, but it appears the company began in 1910 as the Omar Oil & Gas Company in West Virginia and then reorganized in Delaware in 1916. Omar Oil & Gas Company’s fortunes diminished over the next decade.

“Announcement is made that stockholders of Omar Oil & Gas Co. can now exchange their shares for shares in the new company the Phoenix Oil Co.,” noted the Pittsburgh Press on March 14, 1928. The newspaper added that Omar stockholders could “exercise the rights under the plan of exchange and subscription.” Such exchanges usually took place at companies in financial trouble; it was likely the result of an oil surplus driving prices and margins down, spelling disaster for under-capitalized ventures. Along with drilling expensive dry holes, price drops and bad luck, another common hazard for exploration companies was litigation.

Phoenix Oil began with the old debts incurred by its predecessor. As court documents later noted, “The slump of 1921 played havoc with the oil industry and prices in that region fell from $3.50 per barrel to $1.50 per barrel and even less.”

Omar Oil & Gas became Phoenix Oil, but was unable to clear a reduced obligation of $200,142.05. The company entered into lengthy but unsuccessful efforts in court to be excused from payment. After a number of appeals, the debt was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Delaware and Phoenix Oil Company disappeared.

Pine Valley Oil Company 

About 1920, investors in Burlington, Iowa, financed drilling of four exploratory wells by Pine Valley Oil Company in Webster Parrish, Louisiana, near the town of Cotton Valley. The company had 6,000 acres leased for oil exploration. See First Louisiana Oil Well for more detail on the first and subsequent oil booms that are part of the state’s petroleum history.

Pioneer Oil & Gas Company

Pioneer Oil and Gas Company organized in 1911 in Tulsa with $25,000 capitalization and David M. Hammatt as president. Pioneer Oil & Gas drilled three wells near Muskogee and Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission listed the company in its 1912 annual report, but not thereafter.

Pioneer State Oil Company

An April 1961, article by Michael L. Weissman in the Chicago-Kent Law Review notes that a Common Law Trust Estate (e.g.; Pioneer State Oil Company), ” is not dependent upon the laws of a state for its existence and validity. From this fact it is readily discerned that a business trust is subject to only a minimum amount of state regulation – a factor sharply differentiating it from a corporation. Business trusts gained prominence during the 1920’s as a result of their apparent immunity from the federal income tax on corporations.”

This lack of state oversight encouraged the creation of speculative stocks with very low capitalization, an often fatal flaw in the high-risk petroleum exploration and production business. Pioneer State Oil Company’s $60,000 was a thin basis to produce enough oil and therefore cash flow to permit operations and any additional debt or equity financing. In the Burkburnett oil field, rotary drilling cost was about $3 a foot and a barrel of oil sold for about $4.

The Pioneer State Oil Company roots were in Burkburnett, Texas and the “Roaring Ranger” oilfield boom which began in 1917 and enabled the allies to “float to victory on a wave of oil.” (Learn more in Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel and Roaring Ranger wins WWI.

According to a 2010 post by Susan Peterson on the website Long Lost Relatives, her great-grandfather, John Bellinger, was among those with problematic investments in the oil exploration business circa 1920s. She included an image of her great-grandfather’s Pioneer State Oil Company 1922 stock certificate for 25 shares (also signed by president Robert McIntyre.)

“In July 1980, Parade magazine (the one in the Sunday newspaper) ran an article called ‘Old Stocks Can Pay Off.’ Mom and I took the advice in the article and wrote to the offices of the Secretary of State in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. Oklahoma and Texas had no record of the oil companies and the one from Colorado was dissolved in 1929,” she noted about their research.

Pittsburgh-Youngstown Oil & Gas Company

The Pittsburgh-Youngstown Oil & Gas Company’s July 28, 1920, advertisement in the Lawrence (Kansas) Daily Journal-World proclaimed, “A FEW HUNDRED DOLLARS INVESTED MAY MAKE YOU WORTH THOUSANDS WITHIN THE NEXT FEW DAYS.”

The plan was to drill three wells on a 930 acre lease block, while offering to sell a one-fourth interest in the first well’s production for $50,000. Despite losing drilling equipment in the well that required “fishing” to retrieve, six days later the company found natural gas. The well hit a “4,000,000 cubic foot gasser” five miles northeast of Lawrence (near Six Corners) on the Hemphill farm.

The 1920 well had discovered natural gas at only 735 feet deep – eight feet into the “pay sand” – but the well could not be controlled. Burning natural gas flared from a 15-foot-tall, seven-inch-wide pipe while drillers awaited capping equipment from Independence. “At the present gas rate to consumers, the well is wasting $3,200 a day and will be until it is capped,” noted one observer.

After completing the well, Pittsburgh-Youngstown Oil & Gas filed to incorporate in Delaware on August 5, 1920. With a known natural gas producer, the likelihood of another successful well nearby was improved; the company planned to tie into the Kansas Natural Gas Company pipeline.

Pittsburgh-Youngstown Oil & Gas contracted to drill another well in late September 1921, about 1,200 feet northeast of their natural gas disccovery. But the well was a dry hole at 1,050 feet when “it was pretty definitely determined that the well was off the gas bearing structure. The casing was pulled and the hole was plugged up.”

The company was apparently unable to continue. Kansas state records indicate the Pittsburgh-Youngstown Oil and Gas Company charter was forfeited on December 31, 1924, for failure to file required annual reports.

Plateau Oil & Gas Company

Oil Trade Journal, November 1920, reported a wildcat well drilled by Plateau Oil and Gas Company – the No. 1 Friend well in Section 12 – shut down after drilling 350 feet 20 miles southeast of Ozona in Crockett County.

Plateau Petroleums Limited

In August 1956, Plateau Petroleums Limited was identified with about 150 other companies in a Changing Times Kiplinger Magazine article: “Don’t Be Fooled When You Invest: Here’s a money saver for anyone who likes to speculate in Canadian oil and mining stocks. Don’t buy any of the companies shown here without extra-special investigation. These stocks appear on the ‘Canadian Restricted List’ prepared and released by the SEC which is a list of stocks offered in the U.S. in violation of the Securities Act of 1933. In other words, the sellers have not provided the Securities and Exchange Commission or the public with certain basic information that a prudent investor would insist on having before he bought.”

Pongratz Petroleum Company

oil and gas companiesIf the stock certificate for the Pongratz Petroleum Company names Gus Pongratz as an officer of the company, it is likely the same individual previously associated with the failed California Independent Oil Organization.

On February 24, 1934, California Independent Oil Organization had leased 560 acres in Crow Indian tribal land in Big Horn County, Montana. Pongratz operated the lease until operations ceased in April 1936.

California Department of Conservation (Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources) maps show the Pongratz Petroleum as once having several wells in Los Angeles with Newmark No. 1, Newmark No. 2, Martin No. 1, Dutch No. 1, and the Schelnik No. 1 well marked as “plugged and abandoned.”

Postal Employees Oil & Gas Company

Short-lived 1921 newspaper stock solicitations in New York urged investors to “Get in on the Ground Floor” by purchasing Postal Employees Oil & Gas Company stock, declaring that company owned 135 acres with interests in another 5,200 acres of potentially valuable leases.

One advertisement included annotated maps of Texas to show Postal Employees Oil & Gas Company properties located near famous oilfields like Ranger and Burkburnett as well as the Caddo field in Louisiana. Further inducements to invest noted the Postal Employees Oil & Gas of Texarkana, Texas, was “the only oil company in the world operated and controlled by men in the employment of the U.S. Government. This fact alone is a guarantee of a square deal.”

It does not appear that Postal Employees Oil & Gas was able to raise sufficient funding to drill any wells, but the Texas Railroad Commission may have further research.

Power Petroleum Trust Estate

The Power Petroleum Trust Estate, a creation of Edward H. Power, was sold to the Railroad Employees’ Oil Company of Dallas after an “involuntary petition in bankruptcy” was filed against Power in 1921.

Power Petroleum bonds were exchanged for Railroad Employees’ Oil shares: A face value of $1,000 in Power Petroleum Trust bonds could be exchanged for $666 in Railroad Employees shares. Investment reports noted, “the main difficulty with the Power Petroleum Company was mismanagement. It appears that those connected with the enterprise had very little experience in the oil business.”

There was never any commercial production, but the company’s properties in Texas had value, apparently warranting the Railroad Employees Oil Company gamble that did not pay off.

Powers Manufacturing Company

With the Korean War ongoing in April 1952, the Defense Production Administration approved the newly incorporated (March 31, 1952) Powers Manufacturing Company plan to build a $4.8 million plant in Longview, Texas. The plant was to produce “powdered metal and pipe fitting for use by the petroleum industry.”

Thanks to the East Texas oil boom that began in the 1930s, Longview continued to grow as a hub for oilfield service companies. The industrial park site for the new plant was near the Texas Eastman Company facility and the LeTourneau heavy equipment plant on Highway 149. By 1955, Trailmobile (a subsidiary of Pullman), bought “the huge plant of the Powers Manufacturing Company in Longview…the bid covered all buildings and other real estate formerly owned by Powers Manufacturing Company.”

Prescott-Peoria Oil Company

On March 20, 1920, about 14 miles south of the town of Vernon in Wilbarger County, Texas, the Prescott-Peoria Oil Company’s wildcat oil well blew in with great fanfare. “It gushed for several days and thousands of people flocked to Vernon in a scramble to make investments,” the Wichita Daily Times later noted. “City property soared to almost unheard of values. Lumber yards and stores were opened up overnight. Lease on lands miles from the well brought fabulous prices.”

In anticipation of oil wealth to rival that of nearby Wichita County’s Burkburnett and Electra oilfields, derricks sprang up as quickly as investment capital could be secured. However, Prescott-Peoria Oil’s Sigler No. 1 well proved to be a good but lonely oil producer. As drilling spread, speculators found only one dry hole after another. Prescott-Peoria Oil was one of the casualties.

“The boom collapsed,” reported the Wichita Daily Times. “Oil men folded their maps and slipped away overnight. Investors in acreage and town property found themselves in possession of holdings that were worth but a fraction of their cost.”

Provident Oil & Refining Company

oil and gas companiesIn March 1921, a majority interest in the Provident Oil & Refining Company of Houston was acquired by the Chappell Oil Company of Wyoming. Provident Oil & Refining had been active with a test well in Eastland County, Texas – home of the “Roaring Ranger” well of 1917. The company planned further drilling operations in the Toyah Shallow field and Pecos Valley Territory.

Provident Oil had also searched for oil in central Montana (Cat Creek anticline) and Wyoming’s Salt Creek field. In 1922 the Mutual Oil Company of Denver, Colorado, acquired controlling interest in the Chappell Oil Company and its two wells in Salt Creek producing 6,300 barrels of oil daily.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.




AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress “O” will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Occident Oil Company

There have been several Occident Oil companies, beginning as early as 1899. More than 50 years later, a stockholder sought information about the company from a California newspaper, the Long Beach Independent. “When my mother died in 1942, she left me 60,000 Shares of stock for the Occident Oil Co. in Denver. The shares were bought in 1929 and 1930. Could ACTION LINE find out if this company is still active, or if it has perhaps merged with a larger company?”

No details have survived about this supposedly Denver-based Occident Oil of its fate. The office of the Colorado Secretary of State in Denver, where all corporations of that state are registered, has no record of Occident Oil Co. All publicly held corporations issuing stock must apply annually for a corporation license, and comply with all license requirements, including the issuance of an annual financial report. There are no financial reports from Occident Oil.

October Oil Company

October Oil Company began life in Colorado in 1975 as International Technical Instruments Inc. with authorized issue of 3 million shares of stock. The company was formed to “produce, manufacture, develop, sell, lease, exchange or otherwise deal with, or dispose of, communications systems.”

In 1979 International Technical Instruments changed its name to October Oil Company and  amended its articles of incorporation to include “the business of exploration and development of oil and gas” and “to manufacture, acquire, own, use, maintain and operate drilling rigs, derricks, drills, bits, casing pipe, explosives.”

Kansas records show October Oil was briefly the operator of four oil wells in Wilson County, all plugged and abandoned by April 1982. In October the company and Walton Oil Company merged into a newly formed Colorado entity, the Jeremiah Corporation. October Oil’s president became president of Jeremiah Corp. The same amended articles of incorporation specified that Jeremiah Corp. change its name to October Oil Company, “the corporation surviving the merger.”

The other merged companies are identified as “constituent corporations” whose certificates were to be exchanged for new October Oil Company certificates in varying ratios prior to the execution of an eight-for-one reverse stock split.  This restructuring having been effected, October Oil nonetheless became inactive and delinquent in its Colorado taxes.  Kansas records have no further oilfield activity for the company.

In 2006, with October Oil Company having neither transfer agent nor activity for a period of six years, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) destroyed the company’s vaulted certificates.

DTCC notes in “Saying Goodbye to Worthless Certificates” that more than a million non-transferable stock certificates have been shredded since 2004. October Oil Company stock certificates have only collectible value, but the company name survived for years in Over the Counter Markets, traded as OCOC. Read the rest of this entry »


Old Colony Oil Company began about the time the “Roaring Ranger” in Texas made national headlines in 1917 (see Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel). The new company explored near Duncan, Oklahoma.

Despite production from its first two wells – a 20,000,000-cubic-foot-a-day “gasser” and a well producing 2,000 barrels oil oil a day from the Duncan field – Old Colony Oil Company failed to survive.

The company’s success in the Mid-Continent oilfield helped attract investors for funding additional lease purchases and exploratory drilling. The Mid-Continent’s potential had been revealed as early as 1892 (see First Kansas Oil Discovery). Old Colony Oil soon had operations in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and Montana – but leasing and drilling costs coupled with a lack of consistent producers brought debt.

However, by 1922 the company’s fortunes had diminished to such a point it could only extract about 125 barrels a day from its nine remaining shallow wells in the diminishing Duncan oilfield.

With oil prices down, by May 1922 Old Colony Oil assets amounted to just $75,000 and the company was defaulting on $10,000 monthly payments due to the Wilkin-Hale Bank. Then the bank begin to fail (Wilkin and Hale of the Wilkin-Hale Bank were directors of the Old Colony Oil).

In the summer of 1922, Okahoma bank examiners investigated the interlocking directorates’ books. Hoping for the big oil strike to balance the ledgers, Wilkin-Hale Bank had used $200,000 worth of essentially worthless Old Colony Oil bonds in a transaction with the Consumers Bank of El Reno – and thereby sunk Wilkin-Hale, El Reno, and Old Colony Oil.

Obsolete Old Colony Oil stock certificates from the 1920s may have collectible value on eBay and “scripophily” websites. Such certificates sometimes are valued as artifacts from investors’ gambles on business ventures that failed.

Dry holes, market behavior, drilling costs, and a host of unpredictable hazards remain part of the high-risk, high-reward U.S. oil patch.

In 1947  experts from Halliburton and Stanolind companies applied a technology on a Duncan oilfield well – the the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing. Learn more in Shooters – A “Fracking” History.


The stories of other exploration attempts to join petroleum exploration booms (and avoid busts) can be found in an updated series of research at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?

Old Colony Oil

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. © AOGHS.


AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress “N” will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, simply does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Nanticoke Oil Company

Incorporated in 1901, Nanticoke Oil Company was harshly reviewed in June of that year by United States Investor as being overcapitalized ($500,000) while claiming to have 20 acres in California’s Sunset district. “But whether it owns it in fee simple or by lease, Holleman & Rippey (agents) refuse to state,” the financial publication noted. “In fact, they refused to give any information whatsoever about the company…We consider the stock a very poor gamble.” 

Nanticoke Oil Company was noted by the Los Angeles Herald to be “rigging a well” in the McKitterick-Sunset field, although the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has no record of a well actually drilled.

On April 29, 1905, United States Investor affirmed its earlier evaluation: “When both Bernalilio and Nanticoke oil companies were bought out, we reported adversely on them and intimated that it was very doubtful if anything would ever come of them. Nothing has been heard of these companies for some time, and the supposition is that they have found their just end – oblivion. The stocks have no market value, and intrinsically they are not believed to be worth more than the paper they are printed on.”

National Consolidated Oil Company

In its August 20, 1921, issue, United States Investor assessed the value of National Consolidated Oil stock, noting “There have been during recent months quotations in the neighborhood of five cents per share.”

The publication reported National Consolidated Oil was combining several companies, including Pleasant Grove Royalty Syndicate, Toyah-Bell Oil, Oklahoma Texas Petroleum Products, Garrison Coal & Oil, Progressive Lease Syndicate, and Manhattan Consolidated Petroleum.

The newly consolidated organization incorporated in Delaware on September 19, 1921, and operated out of Fort Worth, Texas. Capitalization was $10 million. According to Oil Weekly, by March 1922 the company had drilled one dry hole (No. 1 Nussbaum) and was down to 2,960 foot depth on its second well (No. 1 Coleman) near Streetman in Texas’ Freestone County.

Oil Weekly reported that by April 15, the No. 1 Coleman well had to be “fished” at about 3,400 feet deep (read about the technology in Fishing in Petroleum Wells). Afterwards, little drilling or financial records remain about National Consolidated Oil or its stock certificates.

National Energy Corporation

National Energy Corporation stock CUSIP (Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures) No. 635809106 was identified as a “Non-Transferable Securities Certificates” authorized for destruction by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004. 

The Depository Trust Company (DTC) destroyed certificates “representing positions in securities for which transfer agent services are no longer available, called ‘Non-Transferable Securities Certificates.’ The Destruction of Non-Transferable Securities Certificates Program was introduced to address the costs and risk relating to the increasing percentage of non-transferable physical certificates in the depository’s vault.

National Oil Company (Noco Petroleum Company, North American Oil Company)

National Oil Company of Oklahoma incorporated in Delaware on August 22, 1916, with capitalization of $15,000,000. News about the 1915 discovery of the Kansas Mid-Continent field helped attracted investors to the new venture, which soon had producing properties in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. The company prospered and paid dividends to investors. 

However, National Oil’s petroleum production eventually diminished to about 1,500 barrels of oil a day. A decline in oil prices forced the company to reorganize as Noco Petroleum in November 1919.

The trade journal Oil & Gas News reported the new Noco Petroleum Company would declare a 5 percent dividend to shareholders in May 1920, but one year later a review by United States Investor noted, “we do not consider it as having attained yet those characteristics which appeal to the investor.”

The United States Investor assessment proved prophetic, as on September 15, 1922, Noco Petroleum merged with nine other companies to form North American Oil Company.

For Noco Petroleum stockholders, the exchange basis was five preferred shares or two common shares for one share of the new North American Oil Company. North American Oil began trading on the New York Curb Market on November 23, 1923, but chaos ensued and the governing committee of the exchange intervened to suspend the company. North American Oil was “stricken from the stock list” on January 15, 1924, and litigation began. William A. Foster was soon charged with financial crimes.

Subsequent testimony before a New York court described fictitious transactions, “published upon the New York Stock Exchange as purchases and sales of stock of the North American Oil Co., a corporation, pretended purchases and sales whereby no actual ownership and interest of such stock was there.”

On April 30, 1924, “verdict of a jury convicting him (W.A. Foster) of feloniously causing to be reported fictitious transactions in securities.” Subsequent appeals failed. By 1924, Moody’s Industrial Manual had “no recent information” to report on National Oil Company, Noco Petroleum, or North American Oil Company. Some collectors value the obsolete stock certificates from these long-forgotten companies.

National Oil Company of New Jersey (New National Oil Company of Delaware)

National Oil Company of New Jersey originally formed in August 1910 as a holding company with multiple subsidiaries, including shipping as well as oil exploration drilling operations in Texas and Louisiana. The subsidiary National Oil Company of Mexico (formerly Cie Exploradora Del Petroleo) held title to about 36,000 acres of oil-producing land as well as a tidewater terminal and other facilities on the Panuco River near Tampico, Mexico.

The leases on La Herradura and Los Chijoles came under attack during Mexico’s turbulent revolutionary period. On April 17, 1914, Constitutionalist Army forces raided, appropriated livestock and equipment, and forced the company to abandon an uncapped well reportedly producing 30,000 barrels of oil a day. Company workers returned 30 days later, but negotiations with the Mexican government over damages would last for decades.

In the intervening years, National Oil Company of New Jersey continued to operate in Mexico and was reported still solvent in both 1919 and 1920. Moody’s Analyses of Investments gave the company’s New York Curb Market dividend-paying preferred stock a “Caa” rating: “Bought for possible appreciation, such a stock may in time become a satisfactory investment, but the purchaser should always realize that he is taking a considerable chance in buying issues of this class.” The company’s common stock did not pay dividends and earned the lesser and more speculative “C” rating.

By May 15, 1922, owing to default on debt and “the depressed condition of shipping and readjustment in the oil business,” National Oil Company of New Jersey was placed into receivership by a New Jersey Federal District Court. The bankruptcy included the Panuco River terminal and oil properties in Mexico. John F. Penrose, former president of the failed company, was appointed as an ancillary receiver, “in subordination to a foreign receiver for the purpose of collecting and taking charge of the assets of the insolvent corporation.”

The receivers took charge and incorporated a New National Oil Company of Delaware on April 20, 1923, in order to acquire the Mexican properties of the bankrupt National Oil Company of New Jersey. They created the new company and issued 600,000 shares (Preferred) and 1,000,000 (Common) as well bonds.

As executing the receivership ground, in September 1923, the United States and Mexico agreed to the creation of a Special Claims Commission to litigate “claims which arose during the revolutions and disturbed conditions in Mexico from November 20, 1910, to May 31, 1920, due to the acts of certain specified forces, including bandits, provided in any case it was established that the appropriate authorities omitted to take reasonable measure to suppress the bandits or treated them with lenity.”

Former receivers Penrose and Thomas D. Wickham presented their claim to the Commission as “a majority of the surviving directors and trustees” from the now defunct National Oil Company of New Jersey. Their initial claim was for $1,880,050 for the successor company, the New National Oil Company of Delaware for the loss of 900,000 barrels of oil as well as equipment and livestock during the Mexican Revolution.

During next ten years of negotiations between Mexico and the United States, the receivers reduced the the New National Oil Company of Delaware’s final claim to $573,854.59 on December 31, 1937.

The Special Claims Commission took small notice of New National Oil Company of Delaware: “The Commission does not find that it is incumbent upon it to determine the validity of the assignment and therefore considers the claim as one on behalf of the National Oil Company, a New Jersey corporation.”

After reviewing the evidence, the Commission dismissed all but $11,400 of the $573,854.59 claim. Five more years of litigation followed.

Negotiations between the United States and Mexico continued until a November 19, 1941, agreement to settle with an “en bloc” (lump sum) payment of $40,000,000 as described in the 769-page tome: General Claims Commission, Convention of September 8, 1923, (United Mexican States, United States of America) 4 February 1926 – 23 July 1927 VOLUME IV pp. 1-769

What became of National Oil Company of Delaware’s $11,400 remains obscured by history, but today, the company’s obsolete stock certificates are valued by some collectors and its history by others.

National Oil Refining and Manufacturing Company

oil and gas companiesCalifornia entrepreneur George Calhoun organized the National Oil Refining and Manufacturing Company in 1901 with capitalization of $1 million.

Calhoun’s company was to refine oil into gasoline, kerosene and a variety of lubricating oils, as well as “road oil” and asphalt. (All products of growing importance as Americans began buying automobiles, see Cantankerous Combustion and Asphalt Paves the Way.)

Newspaper ads promoted stock sales, proclaiming “Fortunes in Asphaltum” and that each 10-cent share of stock, “will positively advance to 15 cents per share.”

After building a refinery in Bakersfield in 1904, the company manufactured Black Eagle asphalt and lubricating oils branded as Golden State, Pioneer and Superior. The plant had the capacity to produce 1,200 tons of asphalt monthly, but securing enough oil to refine became problematic and led to extended contract litigation. George Calhoun died in August 1920. His company left few records.

National Petroleum Company

The National Petroleum Company was incorporated in 1917, capitalized at $500,000 with stock par value set at 10 cents by the company, whose officers included four gentlemen named Stablein, Wiswell, Ringle and Thomson. National Petroleum Company’s registration with Montana regulators expired in 1957.

National Petroleum Lease Corporation

In July 1961, Mark M. Weiss was president of National Petroleum Lease Corporation and published a promotional brochure entitled, “How to Lease Your Way to Wealth and Security; A Second Income From Oil Can End Your Toil!”

Weiss’ business model was built on recent oil discoveries and excitement in New Mexico. National Petroleum Lease Corporation aimed to acquire large New Mexico oil and natural gas leases at auction and then profit by subdividing and selling off 40 acre lots. As the discoveries extended, all the investors had to do was for oil companies to rush in. (See First New Mexico Oil Wells and other AOGHS articles describing similar venture capitalist efforts.)

But the Securities and Exchange Commission took notice when investor complaints began to accumulate. In March 1963, the company was reported to be in “violation of the Securities Act registration requirement in the offer and sale of investment contracts, consisting of assignments of oil and gas leases on tracts of land situated in certain counties in New Mexico, coupled with contemporaneous representations and undertakings concerning development of said tracts.”

The SEC enjoined the company to desist, which it promptly did, but Weiss was charged by the state of Ohio with fraud.

Weiss’ had acquired 82,000 acres of government-owned land for 22 cents an acre described as having “little chance of yielding oil.” He sold 40-acre packages for $10 an acre, allegedly netting $365,000 from the scheme. By September 1963, Weiss was fighting extradition to Ohio; his “oil can end your toil” company was effectively defunct.

New England Petroleum Company

By 2012, thanks to new drilling technologies and discoveries of “tight oil” shale in the Bakken Formation and the Williston Basin, North Dakota ranked second only to Texas in oil production. In 1916, it had none.

The New England Petroleum Company formed in Reading, Massachusetts, on August 8, 1916, with capitalization of only $10,000. The new venture was paid $520 by the town for “oiling streets.”

Records do not disclose what incentive brought New England Petroleum west to explore for oil in North Dakota, but by January 1919, the North Dakota “Blue Sky” Commission approved the company “to prospect, and bore” for oil (also see Wyoming-Dakota Oil Company).

New England Petroleum Company was one of the first to submit scientific samples for further study to the new North Dakota State Geological Survey. Many exploration ventures received such help from the survey as the state encouraged the search for petroleum resources.

However, New England Petroleum was either unable to obtain sufficient capital to begin operations or was convinced by geologists to look elsewhere. In either case, North Dakota would have to wait for its first commercially successful well until 1951, when the Clarence Iverson No. 1 well began producing about 240 barrels of oil a day.

New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate

Somerset, Texas, was a quiet farming community about 15 miles southwest of San Antonio on the Artesian Belt railroad line in 1913, when one of its founders, Carl Kurz, discovered oil while drilling for water (similar to a Corsicana well that in 1894 launched the first Texas oil boom).

The Somerset oilfield was found to extend Somerset south of Pleasanton and would become known as “the largest known shallow field in the world at that time.” The New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate was one of many ventures to seek oil in the Somerset field.

Springfield, Massachusetts, is almost 2,000 miles from Somerset. Records do not explain why a group of enterprising Springfield businessmen chose to form a company and pursue oil wealth in Texas. Part of their incentive may have been the Sarah Smith No. 1 well, owned by W.C. Steubing. 

Drilling began on the Sarah Smith No. 1 site two miles southeast of Somerset on Sept 30, 1918, but three months later, the rotary drilling rig had reached a total depth of 1,688 foot without finding oil.

New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate incorporated in Massachusetts with capitalization of $1 million and 200,000 shares of its stock with a nominal par value of $5. The April 18, 1921, issue of Oil Paint and Drug Reporter noted, “It is announced by Judge M. L. Barr, of Springfield, Mass., who recently arrived here to direct the oil operations of the New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate in the Somerset field, adjacent to San Antonio, that the company will proceed immediately to drill 100 wells on its leases.” 

The article noted company holdings of “330 acres from Glasscock Leasing Co., Clover Leaf Oil Co. and others.” The company was also reported to have 100 acres near Fort Stockton and 30,000 acres of unexplored leases in Llano and Mason counties.

In Northampton, Massachusetts, more than 75 percent of shareholders were present personally or by proxy to elect their board of trustees for the company: Frederick L. Haskins,Thomas Brooks, and James E. Ryan.

The Petroleum Age trade publication added that New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate trustee Frederick L. Haskins, “has taken over a considerable acreage in Somerset, and has announced that in addition to developing the shallow oil, a deep test will be started as soon as a contract can be made.”

The Somerset oilfield had nearly 300 shallow wells producing about 2,500 barrels of high-gravity crude oil daily. But in January 1922, the United States Investor reported trouble for New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate. “We have seen nothing lately on this company and believe that very little market exists for the stock, as is the case of so many companies which have arisen within a year or two.”

Although the syndicate prepared to drill a Sarah Smith No. 2 well near the original W. C. Steubing site, progress was slow. For several months, the newspaper “Oil Weekly” tracked the well’s status, but apparently nothing happened beyond erecting a derrick. Records at the Texas Railroad Commission and the Massachusetts Corporations Division might have more details about New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate and its fate.

New Jersey Oil & Gas Fields Inc. (W & K Oil Company)

New Jersey Oil & Gas Fields Inc. was organized under the laws of the state of Delaware in 1916, with an authorized capital stock of $2,000,000, divided into 2,000,000 shares of the par value of $1 each. By 1920, the company had drilled its first well South of Prospertown, N.J. The well was abandoned as a dry hole at about 1,700 feet deep, but the company persevered and moved on to another site near Jackson Mills.

Between 1920 and 1921, New Jersey Oil & Gas Fields stock sold for $1.17 to $1.74 per share as the company pursued oil where none had ever found it. New Jersey’s state geologist had warned, “All drilling for oil here is extremely speculative and should be undertaken only by those who fully understand the hazards of the game and can afford to lose their entire venture.”

New Jersey Oil & Gas Fields Company began their second attempt on October 21,1920. The company drilled for about a year on the Jackson Mills well before the bit jammed at 2,200 feet deep and the well had to be abandoned. And New Jersey Oil & Gas Fields Company was out of money (also see Fake New Jersey Oil Well).

W & K Oil Company took over the remains of New Jersey Oil & Gas Fields Company and, apparently still confident in the drill site, moved the rig about 75 feet and began drilling again. At a depth of 5,022 feet, this well also was lost to a common drilling hazard, tools stuck in the borehole (learn more in Fishing in Petroleum Wells). 

In 1930, the company abandoned its New Jersey oil exploration. Trade publications noted the departure: “For ten years W & K Oil Co., whose backers have never been disclosed, has been drilling for oil in New Jersey. Last week, after having spent $3,000,000 in this wild crude chase, W & K crated its equipment, shipped it to the richer fields of Texas.”

New York Oklahoma Oil Company (Morton Petroleum)

New York Oklahoma Oil Company was incorporated June 11, 1914, in Maine and owned leases on 700 acres near Muskogee, Oklahoma. By 1917, company holdings had reached 2,090 acres and it was paying dividends to investors. 

New York Oklahoma Oil Company operated out of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and continued to do so after its March 18, 1920, acquisition by Morton Petroleum. President of Morton Petroleum Company was A.D. Morton with Allan A. Ryan as vice-president and chairman of the board. Morton and Ryan were also associated through Ryan Petroleum Corp

Another New York Oklahoma Oil Company was incorporated in Delaware and heavily promoted by J.M. Devere & Company. This company earned criticism from The Financial World for its “great promises” and left little behind.

Newfield Gas & Oil Company

Newfield Gas and Oil Company originally organized under South Dakota law as the Empire State Gas & Petroleum Company in 1917, was renamed as the Rochester Oil Company in 1919, and then renamed again as the Newfield Gas & Oil Company in 1920. The company also went by Newfield Oil & Gas instead of Newfield Gas & Oil.

Licensed to do business in New York, the exploration company held leases on 4,699 acres and with $85,000 in stock sales, drilled six producing gas wells in Livingston County within two miles of Dansville. Newfield Oil & Gas built a two-mile pipeline to supply its natural gas to the Dansville Gas and Electric Company and other customers.

But by June 1922, the Company’s cash assets were down to $380 with debts of over $12,000. In February 1923 the company ran afoul of Rochester’s public service commissioner, who publicly chastised company president and principle stockholder J.J. Leighton.

“I don’t want any more references to the Public Service Commission used for the purpose of selling stock in this company,” the commissioner proclaimed. Defending his failing company, Leighton later replied, “That was the only way we had to do business; to get our money to develop the property with.”

Nordon Corporation

Nordon Corporation was a Canadian company formed in 1929 with five million shares of stock. Its purpose was to invest in oil leases and royalties rather than to drill for oil. Nordon offered 450,000 of shares to the public at $3 each. It also traded 1.5 million shares for leases on 24,000 acres of potential production, plus another 76,800 acres already generating royalty revenue.

On April 25, 1930, the company reincorporated as Nordon Oil Corporation with holdings in both the United States and Canada. The former stock was exchanged with the new “share for share” but sold for less that a dollar per share by the end of the year, according to an Ottawa Citizen article on December 3, 1930.

In the ensuing years, Nordon operations moved to Oklahoma City. George Platt became CEO in 1966, beginning a convoluted path for the company ultimately described in The First Junk Bond: A Story of Corporate Boom and Bust, published in 2002.

By 1967, Nordon had expanded into “acquiring and developing oil and gas properties and drilling for, producing, and selling crude oil and natural gas,” noted the Securities and Exchange Commission’s News Digest of September 18, 1967. The company acquired J.C. Trahan Inc. of Shreveport, Louisiana, for $17 million in Nordon stock, which added interests in 900 wells to Nordon’s original eight wells.

The company continued with an aggressive growth strategy and became an oil and natural gas producer. In 1970 Nordon changed its name to Texas International Petroleum Company. Complex debt management and financing led Texas International Petroleum as it responded to oil markets, prices and opportunities.

Securities and Exchange Commission documents record name changes as the original 1929 Canadian Nordon Corporation, Ltd. continued to evolve through mergers. In 1972, Texas International Petroleum became Texas International Company. After having lost money in 12 of 13 years, Texas International emerged from bankruptcy to become the Phoenix Resource Companies in 1990.

In 1996, Phoenix was acquired by Apache Corporation (Oklahoma’s third largest gas producer at the time) for $396 million. Shareholders received “three-quarters of an Apache share plus $4 in cash for each Phoenix share.”

North Coast Oil & Refining Company

North Coast Oil and Refining Company drilled its first well along the California coast, just north of Crescent City in 1921. At a depth of 832 feet, the borehole collapsed and the well was lost. The company notified the California oil and gas supervisor in San Francisco that it was “skidding” the cable-tool rig “58 feet east” and drilling a new hole.

The second well reached a depth of 1,240 feet before work was suspended and the well abandoned in December 1922. No further drilling was undertaken before the company went out of business circa 1926. Former President Richard Hansen advised the state supervisor that each stockholder, “received a few cents per share return on his stock at the time of the dissolution of the company, which dividend was obtained from the sale of the salvaged material.”

Northern Oil Company

Northern Oil Company was one of several failed oil exploration ventures of a woman wildcatter who would not give up. In 1938 Stella Dysart acquired 800,000 shares of the struggling company for $30,000 and hoped to change its luck.

But Dysart found no oil and ended up in court when sued by investors. Available online is a transcript from the United States Circuit Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) No. 9576 that determined her liability. See Mrs. Dysart’s Uranium Well for more on her adventures – and eventual success.

Northwest Petroleum

In 1933 Jonas Johnson and William LeSage operated gasoline filling stations in Hibbing and Virginia, Minnesota, before they pooled their interests and created the Northwest Petroleum Company. They leased their properties to Zenith Petroleum Company but soon became dissatisfied with the “upkeep, sales, and personnel.”

Zenith was a troubled company and went into receivership, precipitating lawsuits that embroiled Barnsdall Refining Corporation (provider of gasoline to the filling stations) as well as Northwest Petroleum Company. Johnson ultimately bought out his partner LeSage and changed the company’s name to Range Ice & Fuel Company. The filling stations in Minnesota became part of the new company and distributed ice and fuel.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.




AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress M will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Mahala Oil & Gas Company

Mahala Oil & Gas Company incorporated in Los Angeles, California, on November 19, 1919, capitalized at $500,000. Its first president was Arthur S. Westfall. John F. Strauhal was secretary. The company began drilling in September 1920 at a wildcat site on the eastern end of California’s Puente Hills. This San Bernardino County well east of Corona on the “Longway Around Trail” reached more than 3,700 feet deep in less than a year using a cable-tool rig instead of the more modern rotary drilling technology (see Making Hole article). It was a California record for its time

By October 1921 the well had reached 3,775 feet with a show of natural gas. The company is credited with discovery of the Mahala oilfield, which would one day yield about 150,000 barrels of oil and is cited by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists as representing “the only significant oil accumulation in San Bernardino County.”

San Bernardino County is the largest county in the United States by area. By January 1922 the company had begun drilling its second well which at one time tested at 12 barrels of oil an hour. On March 17, 1922, Mahala Oil & Gas increased its capitalization to $1 million with further stock sales to continue operations.

Unable to bring in commercial quantities of oil from its Well No. 1, the company began to fail. Gulf Pacific Oil Company also tried to make the well a producer, but was similarly unsuccessful and gave up the attempt in 1923. Mahala Oil & Gas Company’s wildcat gambles failed and so did the company.

Mary Owens Oil Company

Mary Owens Oil Company published enthusiastic newspaper ads to solicit investors, but left little else behind. The Texas Railroad Commission may have better records since the company was indeed active in the Humble Oilfield in Harris County on the Upper Gulf Coast of Texas.

The oilfield was largely depleted when Mary Owens Oil searched for both petroleum and investors after World War I. The company’s Texas newspaper advertisements included one in the July 18, 1918, Bridgeport Telegram that proclaimed:

“Small Investors Reap Rich Returns…Probably in no other business in the world have such staggering profits been made as in the Fascinating, Fast and Furious Business of Oil Producing… Big Special Offer on the Mary Owens Oil Company – A Going Producing Company Which Has Passed the Uncertain Initial States. $100 of Stock for $80 – Easy Terms.”

Another ad in the May 16, 1919, El Paso Herald extolled: “$30,000 PROFITS on each $100 an actual record; $5 or $10 monthly may bring you quick money in going company with 11 producing wells, refinery, and hundreds acres of rich holdings; thousands in profits divided last year; opportunity open to every man and woman for short time; free particulars tell you how; act today. Mary Owens Oil Company, Houston, Texas.”

McTon Oil Company

As early as 1917, the McTon Oil Company was drilling in the Healdton oilfield near Lawton, Oklahoma, and was still a viable company in 1919 when it began drilling a test well (Ridley No. 1) near Kingston in Hunt County, Texas.

The company also drilled at least six wells in the Creek-Okmulgee-Wagoner district but lost its charter to do business in Oklahoma July 2, 1920. In 1922 the company lost a “laborer’s and material man’s lien” in an extended court battle and left no further drilling records.

Merit Energy Corporation

Obsolete Merit Energy Corporation certificates held by the Depository Trust Company (DTC) were destroyed of May 1, 2015. On January 22, 2003, DTC had announced plans to implement a new service that allowed the depository to destroy certain certificates representing positions in securities for which transfer agent services were no longer available (Notice B#3834 for Non-Transferable Securities Certificates).

The Destruction of Non-Transferable Securities Certificates Program was introduced to address the costs and risk relating to the increasing percentage of non-transferable physical certificates in the depository’s vault. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the DTC filing on June 28, 2004, and DTC instituted the certificate destruction process – including those of Merit Energy.

Meteor Oil & Gas Company

oil company wells

Detail from a panorama photo in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, “McKeesport, Snake Hollow, Gas Belt.”

Meteor Oil & Gas Company was one of about 300 natural gas and oil companies that sprang up within six months of the August 30, 1919, discovery by S.J. Brendel and David Foster of the famed “Snake Hollow Gusher” southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The runaway natural gas well, which erupted near McKeesport in North Versailles township, produced more than 60 million cubic feet of natural gas every day. The well prompted a drilling frenzy that saw $35 million dollars invested during the boom’s brief lifespan.

“Like flowers sprouting from a magician’s hat, new derricks shot up about the fabulous well, known as the Snake Hollow Gusher,” noted the Pittsburgh Press in a July 15, 1935, retrospective article, A Seven-Month Wonder, gas gusher in 1919 started city’s boom era. “Twenty-two thousand drills, almost over-night, were pricking the hard clay over an area of less than nine square miles cradled on two sides by the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers.”

Speculative exploration ventures enticed investors with enthusiastic advertisements in January and February 1920, with West Virginia, newspapers like The West Virginian (Fairmont) and the Wheeling Intelligencer, which proclaimed, “Not Another Opportunity Like This in the Great McKeesport Gas Field. Just Think Of Five Wells and Hundreds of People Today Are Getting Rich Off One Well!”

Newly formed companies like McKeesport Gas Company and Meteor Oil & Gas Company ran ads seeking investors; some examples can be found by searching the online collection of the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers.

“Many residents signed leases for drilling on their land,” reported one observer. “They bought and sold gas company stock on street corners and in barbershops transformed into brokerage houses” in anticipation of fortunes to be made. But of the estimated $35 million sunk into the nine square mile area of the boom, only about $3 million came out.

The McKeesport gas field was reported as “the scene of the Pittsburgh district’s biggest boom and loudest crash.” Meteor Oil & Gas Company likely drilled some of the boom’s 441 dry holes and with funds exhausted, disappeared into history. The company’s stock certificates may have collectible value.

Mexican Oil & Coal Company

The Mexican Oil and Coal Company ceased paying taxes due to the state of Delaware in 1932 and on January 19, 1934, its charter to do business was forfeited.

Mid-Central Oil & Minerals Company

Mid-Central Oil and Minerals Company appears briefly in 1958, principally in newspapers advertising its common stock as a new offering for $1 per share and declaring, “The company is engaged in the exploration of its property located in Niobrara County, Wyoming, Kingman County, Kansas, and San Juan County, New Mexico, for oil, gas and uranium.”

From its Denver office the company filed with the Utah Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to drill a wildcat well in Emery County in anticipation of securing sufficient investment funding to proceed. But by October the proposed site had been abandoned and Utah’s efforts to contact Mid-Central Oil & Minerals Company were unsuccessful. It is probable that sales of the company’s stock did not generate sufficient money to continue, a common fate of many oil exploration ventures.

Mid-Texas Petroleum Company

In late 1921, Mid-Texas Petroleum Company drilled the E.L. Baldwin No. 1 well, which was reported to be “good for 1,000 barrels of oil and 8,000,000 feet of gas” south of Eliasville, Texas.

The company’s Graham No. 1 well was also a producer. In a declining quarter for the oilfield, two of the company’s wells in Young County nonetheless produced more than 6,000 barrels of oil. The company was successful enough with investors that on December 5, 1922, Mid-Texas Petroleum and its producing properties in Young County became part of the Seaboard Oil and Gas Company.

Milwaukee Electra Oil Development Company

oil and gas companiesIn Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 20, 1918, a group of investors with properties near booming Electra, Texas, met and formed the Milwaukee Electra Oil Development Company.

Wisconsin granted a charter and within a week a new exploration venture, the Electra Texas Oil Lands Company, was seeking investors.

“The regular sales meeting will be held at 8:15 Monday night at our office, at which the plan will be explained and the territory described by visitors from the field,” the new company advertised. “The price raise will also be announced. Better attend this meeting.”

Like many newly formed exploration companies that flocked to central Texas (especially following the 1917 “Roaring Ranger” well), Electra Milwaukee Electra Oil Development Company did not last.

Minnesota Victoria Oil Company

Minnesota Victoria Oil Company formed on November 16, 1926, as a “Consumers’ Cooperative” in Victoria, Minnesota, to supply of gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, liquified petroleum gas, and lubricants to member-customers. Participants in the cooperative shared annually in savings accrued from the increased buying power. The company prospered for many years. On June 11, 1998, it merged with another cooperative oil association, the Mid-County Coop of Cologne, about 10 miles southwest of Victoria. The Mid-County Coop had been founded in 1935 with 89 stockholders as a petroleum product supplier for Carver County, Minnesota.

Mississippi Oil Company

In November 1906, a Cincinnati, Ohio, investor asked editors of a popular financial journal about the fortunes of the Mississippi Oil Company of Beaumont, Texas, where a drilling boom had launched the modern petroleum industry a few years earlier. American Investor reported on Beaumont’s growth following the 1901 Spindletop Hill discovery as speculative oil companies formed to exploit the find. Regarding Mississippi Oil’s fortunes, the publication reported that “the Texas franchise tax and penalty remain unpaid in 1903…their stock is considered valueless.”

Monarch Vacuum Petroleum Company

A group of New York businessmen incorporated Monarch Vacuum Petroleum Company in Delaware on Novermber 1, 1917, with capitalization of $1 million and property in Lee County, Kentucky, near the Ashley farm and the Sign Board oilfield.

By June 1918, Monarch Vacuum Petroleum was offered on the Kentucky Oil Exchange for $1.75 per share while oil was selling for about $2 a barrel. The Sign Board field was the site of “mob violence” in 1918, when the Southwestern Petroleum Company and “adverse claimants” fought over mineral rights. Although Monarch Vacuum was not specifically cited in newspapers covering the dispute, “We would not advise a purchase of this company’s stock,” noted the American Investor.

Monarch Vacuum Petroleum brought in two small producers on the Hall-Burke tract near Zachariah in Lee County. Some 1919 records reflect another small producer on the Hall-Burke tract and a dry hole drilled in Wayne County. Another well in 1920 yielded only seven barrels a day.

Monroe Prospect Company

The Oklahoma Historical Society’s Gateway to Oklahoma History provides access to
the “Drumright Evening Derrick, Vol. 4, No. 200, Ed. 1, Wednesday, September 11, 1918” Sequence 6 is this contemporary newspaper promotion for Monroe Prospect Company.

Montana Belle Oil & Gas Company

Although successful oil wells had been drilled as early as 1901, oil fever arrived in Montana with the October 1915 discovery of the Elk Basin oilfield in Carbon County. More discoveries came at the Cat Creek oilfield in 1920 and in the Kevin-Sunburst oilfield of 1922, both of which motivated businessmen in Miles City to form the Montana Bell Oil & Gas Company. They filed to do business in the state on March 8, 1924, but their timing was terrible.

In the last few months of 1924 alone, a financial crisis described by Montana’s superintendent of banks as a “veritable nightmare” closed 191 banks. Between 1921 and 1926, no state had more bankruptcies than Montana. Newspapers reported in 1924 reported “the tremulous activity” of Montana Belle Oil that “may be expected in this country within the year, unless present plans halted.”

Nonetheless, Montana Belle Oil & Gas was able to secure a mineral lease from Adolph F. Loesch west of Miles City in April 1926. The company selected a drilling site for its first well in typically foreboding southeast Montana (see Public Land Survey System, Northeast Quarter of Section 28, Township 8 North, Range 45 East). Drilling the wildcat well during hard financial times and in a remote location slowed progress. Legal issues also troubled the company, according to the Billings Gazette.

“With the settlement of differences arising without recourse to the courts, the officers of the Montana Belle Oil & Gas company are preparing to proceed,” the newspaper reported in January 1928. “Drilling in the Montana Belle Oil and Gas company well, located about twelve miles west of this city is proceeding 24 hours a day.”

When a depth of 1,035 feet had been reached, the Gazette reported the company objective to be a depth of 1,750 feet, “in accordance with the report of the geologist who has made a survey and examination of the earth stratas, and at which it is expected that results will follow. Gas is also in evidence in the hole.”

Investors and stockholders were encouraged that the well was “showing some light oil though not in commercial quantities.” But on October 24, 1929 – “Black Thursday” – the U.S. stock market crashed, announcing the onset of the Great Depression. Five years after incorporating, Montana Belle Oil and Gas Company’s only oil well shut down for the winter that December. It reportedly had reach the impressive depth of 4,562 feet, but drilling never resumed.

Montana Belle Oil and Gas Company failed in 1930, as did Miles City’s oil refinery and many other Montana businesses. The first Montana first oil well had been drilled three decades earlier in the Kintla Lake area, now part of Glacier National Park. Learn more Montana petroleum history in Montana’s first oil well was drilled at Kintla Lake in 1901.

Montana-Canadian Oil Company

In 1917 Anaconda Copper Mining Company sought natural gas to fire its smelting operations in Great Falls, Butte and other northern Montana towns. The company acquired the Montana-Canadian Oil Company, which had incorporated on July 22, 1914, in Butte.

The oil company was successfully operating in the Sweet Grass field, about 70 miles north of Great Falls, near the border with Canada. The Anaconda Copper Mining deal required Montana-Canadian Oil Company stockholders to exchange their certificates for shares in Anaconda Copper Mining stock and equity.

If the stockholder named on the certificate failed to present it for exchange, the shares would have been canceled on the books and any remaining value turned over to the unclaimed property division of the owner’s state. Engineering & Mining Journal declared the deal to be “advantageous and satisfactory to the stockholders.”

Anaconda Copper Vice President C.F. Kelley had confidence in the new subsidiary, which had drilled two “gassers” in the Sweet Grass field prior to acquisition. Kelley’s plan was to create two new companies from Montana-Canadian’s extensive lease holdings and assets: one to develop and operate gas wells, another to construct required pipelines and market the product.

But as World War I continued, the plans were never carried out. Engineering and Mining Journal noted, “it is likely that the construction of the pipelines will be delayed until after the war, as it is practically impossible to secure pipe now at any price.”

Then the two natural gas wells’ impressive initial flows dwindled. The next well was a dry hole. Anaconda Copper Mining turned to the Big Horn area to search for natural gas to meet its smelting needs, abandoning Kelley’s plans to break up the new subsidiary Montana-Canadian Oil Company. In August 1924 Montana-Canadian Oil Company sued Gladys-Bell Oil Company (Tulsa) for $360,000 in a Sweet Grass field breach of contract case, but six years later the state of Montana reported Montana-Canadian Oil Company as a “voluntary dissolution.”

Motex Oil Company

By 1922, Motex Oil Company was bankrupt and in receivership when its stockholders were offered a deal by Revere Oil Company. For each share of Motex Oil, the stockholder could receive one share of Revere at no cost, but was required to purchase additional Revere shares at $1 each in an amount equal to 25 percent of their old Motex Oil holdings.

Revere Oil was the creation of famed and fraudulent Arctic explorer Dr. Frederick Cook – read about him in Arctic Explorer Turns Oil Promoter. Subsequent indictments of Cook noted: “In March 1921 the promoters, it is charged, entered upon a ‘so-called merger plan,’ each merger resulting in the acquisition of additional lists of stockholders who were advised in extravagantly phrased circulars and letters of the merger and promised safety from loss in their investment in the old company.”

“We should think it a very foolish step on your part to purchase stock of the Revere Oil Company under such basis that which is offered to the stockholders of the Motex Oil Company,” advised the United States Investor on June 17, 1922.

Multiple Dome Oil Company

Salt Lake City’s Deseret News responded to a query about Multiple Dome Oil Company in January 1983, explaining that the company had gone out of business 20 years earlier. The newspaper called the stock worthless, not having been traded since the demise of Multiple Dome Oil.

Muskogee Oil & Gas Company

Although Muskogee Oil & Gas Company’s 1904 incorporation documents are posted online, including details of its formation, organizers, stock and capitalization, the documents do not address the company’s ultimate history. Other pages on the AOGHS website can help, e.g.; Oklahoma Territory oil booms and companies that competed with Muskogee Oil in the risky “wildcatting” days of the early 20th century following the 1901 Spindletop oilfield discovery in Texas.

To view Muskogee Oil & Gas Company’s original incorporation documents, start with Oklahoma Historical Society’s main webpage – select “Research Center” then “Records” from the pull down tab. On the Records page, see “Territorial Records” and under that, “Territorial Incorporation Records 1890-1907.” Selecting the “search” option then allows input of an “Entry Number.” For Muskogee Oil & Gas, the entry number is 680 to view the company’s incorporation records. The 1904 incorporation date corresponds with an Oklahoma Geological Survey report of a surge in activity in the Muskogee oilfield’s Townsite Pool, where “between thirty and forty wells were drilled.”

However, the Townsite Pool was found to be small, and within a year production dwindled and drilling was suspended. This epitaph appeared in the Muskogee Daily Phoenix: MASTER’S SALE. In the United States Court for the Indian Territory, Western District, at Muskogee. (No. 5038) A.S. Houck Plaintiff, against The Muskogee Oil &, Gas Co., Defendants. Public notice is hereby given, that, in pursuance of a decree made and entered by said Court, in the above entitled cause, on the 3rd day of February, A. D. 1905, Thomas A. Sanson, Master In Chancery of said Court, will, on Saturday, the 28th day of October, A. D., 1905, at the hour of two o’clock in the afternoon, at the front door of the court house in Muskogee, in this district, sell at public auction, to the highest and best bidder, all and singular, the property in said decree mentioned, to wit: All of the right, title and interest of the defendant corporation.

Mutual Consolidated Petroleum Corporation

Mutual Consolidated Petroleum Corporation of Los Angeles formed on March 9, 1925, with capitalization of $500,000. The company experienced at least some success, completing a well in 1930. The No. 2 Langham well in Gray County, Texas, produced 200 barrels of oil a day.

However, on September 6, 1932, the district court in Potter County, Texas, ordered all Mutual Consolidated Petroleum assets sold to satisfy debts to creditors, including, “land, the oil and gas wells thereon and all buildings, appurtenances and other property and equipment situated thereon and used in connection with the operation of said oil and gas wells.” California’s Tax Commissioner suspended the company’s charter on November 1, 1932. Learn about southern California’s petroleum history in Discovering Los Angeles Oilfields.

Mutual Oil & Development Company

In the 1920s, Mutual Oil & Development Company drilled a well near Oil Creek in Fremont County, Colorado. It was an exploratory well on public land authorized under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Today, the stream is known as “Fourmile Creek,” but it was known then as Oil Creek, about 50 miles west of the Florence oilfield, discovered in 1881 and one the oldest commercial fields in the United States (another was an 1892 oil discovery in Neodesha, Kansas).

However, Mutual Oil & Development ran into legal trouble while seeking investors. The company was banned from selling stock in Kentucky while under investigation for violation of the state’s Blue Sky laws regulating the offering and sale of securities to protect the public from fraud. On December 9, 1925, Colorado’s Steamboat Pilot reported details about the company’s exploratory well.

“Mutual Oil & Development Company is running casing in its Oil Creek test, Fremont County, depth of hole 3,172 feet,” the newspaper noted. On January 20, 1926, it added, “Hole is now 42 feet in the formation and is bottomed at 3,216 feet,” where it intercepted “water under artesian pressure.” There was no oil or natural gas at the well, which become known as the Park Center Well, but there was litigation about the water. Ultimately, the courts granted to the federal government “a reserved water right to the entire flow of water from the well” in 1936.

Mutual Oil Union Company

“This is the railroad man’s Oil Company, proclaims an ad for the Mutual Oil Union Company. “It is owned and managed by them – that is why it is called ‘UNION.’” Mutual Oil Union’s stock was offered at $1.25 per share declaring, “The great fortunes of the world were made by investing in development companies, and not by day’s labor.”

R.M. Smythe’s Obsolete American Securities and Corporations reported Mutual Oil Union stock to have no value as of 1901.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.




Chieftain Royalties incorporated in Delaware in 1928 and conducted business in Oklahoma and Ohio.

Although it paid some dividends during a brief lifespan, the company lost its charters to do business in either state by 1931.

In Ohio, the Sandusky Star-Journal reported the arrest of a Chieftain Royalties salesman for violation of the state’s “Blue Sky Laws.” His offense was “making false statements about the earnings of the company he represented.”

The following day his 16-cylinder luxury automobile was seized by county authorities. Read the rest of this entry »


With World War I raging in Europe (America still on the sidelines), a series of discoveries in North Texas and Oklahoma brought oil fever to the East Coast. Despite allegations of fraud and ongoing litigation, an insurance company president took advantage of excited (if unwary) oil patch investors.

consolodated petroleum

Organized in 1911, “to eliminate the irresponsible brokers and valueless stocks from the outside market,” the New York Curb did not move indoors until 1921 – and later became the American Stock Exchange.

In New York City, “curbstone brokers” at Broad Street and Exchange Place attracted investors to newly formed petroleum exploration and production companies.

This was the New York Curb market, outdoor home to young and aggressive traders offering speculative investments, unlisted stocks, and securities just down the street from the prestigious New York Stock Exchange.

The New York Evening Post described the traders as “a motley, agitated mass of struggling, yelling, finger-wriggling humanity.” Read the rest of this entry »

AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – L will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donationsdoes not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

La Lomita Oil Syndicate

La Lomita Oil Syndicate began drilling near Mission, Texas, in 1920. The Hildalgo County well’s progress was tracked by a number of contemporary publications, including the Oil Trade Journal and Oil Weekly. By October 2, the Oblate Fathers No. 1 well reached 2,700 feet deep. A week later, the San Antonio Express newspaper reported the syndicate’s well had added another 45 feet, but was confronted with stuck tools, requiring “fishing” of equipment stuck downhole.

The recovery effort stalled drilling for more than a month. Nonetheless, by February 1921 the well was reported to have a “showing of gas” and La Lomita Oil Syndicate was setting the well’s cement casing. Records are scant thereafter, but the September 30, 1922, issue of The Oil Weekly reported another problem well for La Lomita Oil Syndicate.

“La Lomita oil Syndicate’s Hill 3, trying to sdtr [sidetrack] 3,185 feet.” Sidetracking often resulted from stuck tools and failed fishing attempts. The process required plugging of the lower well-bore and drilling around the obstruction. The drill pipe allowed some flexibility for deviation from the vertical in an effort to save the well. Whether or not La Lomita oil Syndicate was successful in this effort remains mysterious, because the company disappears from records soon thereafter.

Lewiston-Clarkston Oil & Gas Company

Lewiston-Clarkston Oil and Gas Company was one of many companies that searched for oil unsuccessfully in the state of Washington. Lewiston, Idaho, is on the east side of the Snake River; Clarkston is across the river in Washington.

Lewiston-Clarkston Oil & Gas drilled two consecutive dry holes in Asotin County, Washington, near Swallow Rock and then appears to have run out of money. The wells (Section 5, Township 10 North, Range 46 East) reached depths of only 800 feet and 1,600 feet, according to driller’s logs.

It was not until 1957 that Washington’s first and only commercial producer was discovered, The Sunshine Mining Company’s Medina No. 1, was coimpleted at 223 barrels of oil a day near Ocean City. It produced 12,500 barrels before being shut down in 1961.

Washington’s commissioner of public lands reported in 2010 about 600 wells had been drilled in the state, “but large-scale commercial production has never occurred. The most recent production, which was from the Ocean City Gas and Oil Field west of Hoquiam, ceased in 1962, and no oil or gas have been produced since that time.” Read about other historic wildcat wells in First Oil Discoveries.

Lexa Oil Company

Lexa Oil CompanyA fraudulent telephone campaign selling Lexa Oil Company stock resulted in two convictions. The pitchmen’s prevarications included:

•  The company had a well producing 250 barrels of oil a day;
•  revenue from stock sales would be used for working capital;
•  shares were being offered at a lower price than on the open market;
•  Lexa Oil would be listed on a stock exchange;
•  the investment was certain to produce high profits.

One offender received five years suspended and years’ probation. The other got two years probation. A total of 27,300 obsolete and valueless shares of Lexa Oil were destroyed by the Depository Trust Company in 2011.

Lincoln Oil Producing Company

oil and gas companiesKentuckians J.C. McCombs and H.A. Moore incorporated McCombs Oil Company in Delaware on September 7, 1917. It was soon renamed McCombs Producing & Refining Company and then Lincoln Oil Producing Company. Capitalization was five million shares at $1 par value.

By 1919, dissatisfied minority shareholders brought successful suit against the “corporation and those in control of it” to cancel more than 680,000 shares of stock “for fraud.”

By 1921 – after extensive litigation – Lincoln Oil Producing Company was in receivership. The company attempted to recover in court and brought suit in 1925 but did not succeed despite multiple appeals. In 1929, a court ruling noted, “of those primarily liable, if liability existed, some were dead, some were gone from Kentucky, and some insolvent.”

Liquid Gold Oil Company

The Texas Railroad Commission may have information about Houston-based Liquid Gold Oil Company circa 1920. The commission has microfilm records that reach that booming era of Texas oil drilling. There have been other like-named companies that left behind better records (e.g., Montana Liquid Gold Oil Company incorporated in 1930 and drilled at least one well in Toole County). Another “liquid gold” corporation was active in the 1970s, but was bankrupt by 1982.

Livingston Oil & Gas Company

Livingston Oil & Gas began drilling its first well in November 1955, on a 12,000-acre lease about one mile south of the village of Conesus, in New York’s western Finger Lakes. Six months and 3,411 feet deep later, the company’s wildcat well began producing 304,000 cubic feet of natural gas after using hydraulic fracturing, first used in 1949 to increase a well’s production (learn more in Shooters – A “Fracking” History). On May 29, 1956, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported about the company’s successful application of the technology.

“Instead of ‘shooting’ the well with a can of nitro-glygerine, as they generally do, a procedure known as hydro-fracture was followed Tuesday, but results have not yet been made public. In this process, a sand-liquid mixture is forced into the deep rock under terrific pressure in an effort to open up larger fissures for gas to escape through.”

With this initial success and additional capital, Livingston Oil & Gas began its second well nearby, the “H. Hunt No. 2” on July 1, 1956. Records show slow progress (likely occasioned by interruptions of investment capital and operational funds). After two years and drilling one thousand feet deeper than the first well, no oil or natural gas was found. The company tried a third and final time with a wildcat well on the Martuccio property, but by October 1959 the well was given up as a dry hole at 3,549 feet deep. State incorporation and taxation records may have further details.

Louisiana Consolidated Petroleum Company

Louisiana Consolidated Petroleum Company in 1920 declared its stock would pay a 100 percent dividend. For $1 a share, the company’s stock could be purchased by mailing in a coupon with payment. To see this advertisement, do an internet search with quotes for “Louisiana Consolidated Petroleum” and your search should bring you to the December 3, 1920, issue of the Mexia (Texas) Weekly Herald. The enthusiastic Louisiana Consolidated Petroleum advertisement is typical of the times.

Like many under-capitalized and speculative ventures, Louisiana Consolidated Petroleum exaggerated its financial potential. Extravagant and unsubstantiated stock promotions were as common as patent medicine advertisements. “Blue Sky” laws requiring more accurate disclosures later became part of the investment landscape. State laws targeted those “engaging in any practice or transaction or course of business relating to the purchase, exchange, investment advice, or sale of securities or commodities which is fraudulent, or in violation of law, or would operate as a fraud on the purchaser.”

Love Petroleum Company

Love Petroleum Company was founded by James Wesley Love and registered in Mississippi on July 1, 1930. It drilled successful oil and natural gas wells along with dry holes.  Love, who died in 1957, was noted for developing Louisiana’s Tullos-Urania oilfield.

The Mississippi Oil and Gas Board maintains records that can be seen online. By the 1990s Love Petroleum had been acquired by Southwest Royalties Inc. and had exited Mississippi to conduct business out of Midland, Texas. Southwest Royalties was acquired by Clayton Williams Energy Inc.

Loy Oil Company

Loy Oil Company was formed by the former mayor of Chanute, Kansas, and long-time independent drilling contractor Henry Wilbert “Bert” Loy in 1935, when he was 64 years old. Loy had helped pioneer the petroleum business in eastern Kansas after moving to Chanute in 1903 from Aurora, Missouri.

Loy drilled successful wells as early as 1909; these can be located in the Kansas Geological Survey oil and gas well database. The records do not indicate that Loy Oil Company survived; Henry Wilbert Loy died in 1953 at 81. The Chanute Historical Society maintains a website and contact information which may further assist in research. Learn Kansas oil history in Kansas Oil Boom.

Lucky Horse Shoe Four Leaf Mining & Oil Company

Incorporated Arizona 1906 and capitalized at $3 million, Lucky Horse Shoe Four Leaf Mining & Oil Company stock sales were promoted from an office in Elkhart, Indiana, for the ostensible purpose of developing properties in Crescent, Nevada, and Robinson, Illinois. The United States Investor reported in 1911 there was no market for the company’s stock, and Lucky Horse Shoe Four Leaf Mining & Oil Company disappeared.

Lucky Long Oil Company

The Lucky Long Oil Company organized on January 4, 1918, with capitalization of $50,000 divided into five million shares of stock at one cent par value.

Promoters received 1,250,000 shares with the balance held in the treasury while stock sales commissions of 25 percent were paid mostly to the company’s officers. As reported in Denver’s June 1918 Municipal Facts publication, Lucky Long Oil was specifically named in a “blue sky” investigation whose objective was to “Warn Investors Against Fake Stocks.”

The investigation revealed Lucky Long Oil had lured potential investors with spurious “guaranteed 24 percent dividends per year” and sold stock before acquiring any leases. Lucky Long Oil was assessed to have “not even a long chance speculative value” and blasted for using “clearly untruthful and misleading” advertising. President A.J. Long absconded to Wyoming and Lucky Long Oil Company disappeared.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.



AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress “K” will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Kantexo Oil & Gas Company

Kantexo Oil & Gas Company sprang from the 1916 discovery of Oklahoma’s Covington-Garber Oil Field, east of Enid. By 1919 the field had 760 producing wells and had spawned many competing oil ventures, including Kantexo. The oilfield produced about 20 million barrels of oil by 1925.

Kantexo Oil & Gas incorporated on September 4, 1917, and Emery-Knox Drilling Company formed the following month. Kantexo’s principal investors came from Enid, Oklahoma, today home to the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center.

In November 1917 the Wichita Eagle in Kansas reported Kantexo Oil & Gas had sold nearly $30,000 of capital stock within 60 days and “built a standard rig on their lease and had signed a drilling contract with the Emery Knox Drilling Company for their first well.”

Kantexo Oil & Gas drilled this wildcat well, the Bowers No. 1, east of Covington (Section 9, Township 21 North, Range 3 West). Despite difficulties in setting the 10-inch casing, by July 22, 1918, the exploratory well was below 1,575 feet. The Oil and Gas News reported on Februay 27, 1919, the company was “still having trouble with the casing at 2,230 feet” on the Bowers Farm well.

Some records indicate it was a natural gas well, but Kantexo Oil & Gas does not appear to have prospered. Emery-Knox Drilling Company was likewise out of business by 1923. The Oklahoma State Business Records Department has incorporation information on the Kantexo Oil & Gas Company that can be accessed for a fee.

Keck Oil Company

Keck Oil Company’s California charter was suspended for non-payment of franchise and license taxes on January 2, 1962.  The company was without assets, liabilities or ongoing business when purchased in 1970 as an inactive shell company into which Western International (a film distributor) could be merged.

Renamed Keck First Leisure, Forbes magazine later reported it to be one of several companies under “an intense fraud investigation” by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The first California oil well in 1876 launched many industries, including oilfield service companies, pipelines and refineries for producing kerosene.

Ken-Saw Petroleum Corporation

Ken-Saw Petroleum Corporation appears to have drilled only one well, the Fee No. 1, in La Fayette County, Arkansas. Trade publications reported on the wildcat well’s progress: “in gumbo” at 2,360 feet (April 19, 1922); “coring” at 2,765 (September 16, 1922); and maximum depth of 2,875 feet (November 4, 1922).

“In gumbo” referred to the soft, sticky, swelling clay formations that fouled drilling tools and plugged piping, both severe problems for drilling crews. “Coring” was the collecting of a cylindrical rock sample from the the bottom of a wellbore. After reaching 2,875 feet deep, no further progress was reported on the Fee No.1 well after November 4, 1922.

Under-capitalized petroleum ventures exploring unproven territory and reliant upon stock sales for operating funds, a single dry hole often meant bankruptcy. The Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities lists Ken-Saw Petroleum as having had its charter revoked on July 3, 1942. Revocations normally followed extended periods of failure to file required annual reports and pay taxes. Also see the First Arkansas Oil Wells.

King George Oil Company

King George Oil Company’s birth was reported in the Paint, Oil and Drug Review of July 1911. The company was one of several that Bakersfield citizen F. J. Burns organized; others included Bobby Burns Oil Company, Scottish Oilfields Limited, Carnegie Oilfields Limited and the Dominion Oil Company.

King George Oil, with authorized capital stock of $500,000, secured a lease near McKittrick, California (Section 30 of Township 28 South, Range 22 East). McKittrick had been known as Asphaltum because of local petroleum  seeps. The company, which began drilling its first and only well, the 1-A, likely depended on stock sales to generate sufficient revenue to continue drilling. Investors gambled the well would produce enough oil to pay healthy dividends and fund further operations.

Although Kern County oil booms would reach staggering production, the McKittrick field was not kind to King George Oil Company. The California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal has no details about the well, other than it was plugged at an undetermined date without significant production. The abandoned well site is in an orchard today with little else remaining of King George Oil Company.

King Oil Company

King Oil Company operated in Utah’s “Big Flat” field in Grand County, drilling three consecutive dry holes between 1951 and 1954, two near Moab and one near Thompson Springs. Sites of the failed wells can found using the American Petroleum Institute (API) numbers available through Utah’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining, API numbers: 43-019-11567 (King Oil Company No. 1), 43-019-11579 (Big Flat Unit No. 3), and 43-019-20409 (King Oil Company No. 1 Ruby). Other petroleum companies shared the name, and this Utah venture may have survived its dry holes, but further accounts of King Oil Company require more newspaper archive searching. Many exploration companies tried (and often failed) to find oil after the first Utah oil well was completed in 1948.

Kosciuszko Oil & Gas Company

Kosciuszko Oil & Gas Company was created to deceive Polish immigrants. The company, which never drilled a well, was featured in a 1921 editorial by Dziennik Chicagoski – One More “Polish Success” – in the Foreign Language Press Survey (December 9).

“Recently Mr. T.O. Nelson of New York was arrested on a charge of obtaining illegally $10,000,000 from the well-known Polish firm which was operating among the Poles, as the ‘Kosciuszko Oil and Gas Co.’ Nelson was accused by one of the stockholders of the firm and tried before the courts. He was found guilty and sent to prison.”

The editorial noted that although immigrants were “very thrifty nature,” they also were too unwary.  “Nelson and his cohorts” chose the company’s name to take advantage of Polish patriotism, choosing famed engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko, who in 1776 arrived in America to join the fight for independence (a statue of Gen. Kosciuszko was dedicated in 1910 in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.).

“Aware of this situation the professional swindlers planned the sale of their stock accordingly,” explained Chicagoski in the 1921 editorial. “T.O. Nelson availed himself of the name of our Polish hero, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, as a magnet to attract the people but primarily to draw their money into his purse.”

As thousands purchased stock and top positions went to well-known Poles, the oil company’s finances, “remained under Nelson’s thumb since he was the Secretary and Treasurer. He toured the country, sold shares and collected the money. However, Nelson’s ardent enthusiasm for sponsoring a Polish company was unmasked when a general inventory of the company’s books was taken. This check-up revealed that there was a shortage of ten million dollars. A charge was entered against Nelson. Arrest followed, and then imprisonment.”

Kutz Canon Oil & Gas Company

Kutz Canon Oil & Gas Company was formed in 1946 and was merged into King Oil Inc. in 1961. Kutz Canon Oil & Gas stock certificates in good condition are valued by scripophily collectors for up to $40.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.




 Wyoming Prairie Oil & Gas Company

Roughnecks after capping an oil well in Wyoming’s Salt Creek field, circa 1920s. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Petroleum exploration in Wyoming had gone on since reports of oil seeps in 1832 when Wyoming Prairie Oil & Gas Company joined the search in 1917.

Fur trappers in Wyoming Territory first reported finding oil seeps near Salt Creek. Tales of a “Great Tar Spring” had led to the earliest hand-dug oil wells there during the Civil War.

“The first recorded oil sale in Wyoming occurred along the Oregon Trail when, in 1863, enterprising entrepreneurs sold oil as a lubricant to wagon-train travelers” explains Wyohistory.org. “The oil came from Oil Mountain Springs some 20 miles west of present-day Casper.”

By 1884, six years before statehood, Mike Murphy, an oilman from Pennsylvania, used a steam-powered cable-tool rig to drill 300 feet deep and complete Wyoming’s first official oil well. Read more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.

With modest capitalization of $36,000 in 1917, Wyoming Prairie Oil & Gas Company incorporated in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The company soon had 640 acres under lease in the state’s Big Muddy oilfield. Read the rest of this entry »


Old Oil Stocks - in progress JChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks – in progress J will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Johnson Oil Company

Johnson Oil Company was one of many fraudulent ventures for which Gilbert S. Johnson was ultimately convicted and imprisoned (see Admiral Oil Company for one example). Court documents regarding Johnson Oil noted, “all money received from the persons intended to be defrauded for stock of the Johnson Oil Company was not used for drilling operations, but large sums were appropriated by the said defendant to his own use and benefit.”

Accusing Johnson of fraud throughout the years following World War I, the court documents condemned his latest oil venture, noting that “no honest or economical effort had been made by the defendant to develop new production; that the company did not continue to make progress, but at that time was on the verge of bankruptcy and did make a financial failure; that these statements were made by the defendant for the purpose of deception and of inducing the persons to be defrauded to part with their money and property without receiving anything of value therefore.”

Justheim Petroleum Company

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justheim Petroleum Company incorporated in Nevada in 1952 to acquire, hold and sell oil and natural gas leases while retaining overriding royalty rights.

On December 31, 1986, a company by the name of C.E.C. Management Corporation merged into Justheim Petroleum. C.E.C. Management was in the minerals processing business, including engineering consulting as well as designing and marketing custom systems and equipment. The newly merged companies were renamed as C.E.C. Industries Corporation with an OTC (over the counter) symbol of CECC.

In 2001, the SEC charged C.E.C. Industries Corporation with fraud, falsifying books and records and accounting violations in 1996 and 1997.

In 2004, C.E.C. Industries Corporation dismissed all its officers and the entire board of directors to reform itself as a business development company, changing its name to Advantage Capital Development. At that time there were more than 58.7 million shares outstanding and 1,500 shareholders.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.




AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks in progress I will not find lost riches (see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock). The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Imperial Drilling Company

More than 70 years ago a query about Imperial Drilling Company stock resulted in the Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities noting that the Texas secretary of state and the county clerk in Cisco, Texas, “informed us: ‘Unable to give you any information regarding above company, but don’t think it is active, as I have not heard of it.’ (October 10, 1939).”

Imperial Drilling Company was likely one of many ventures born of the “Roaring Ranger” a 1917 oilfield discovery well near Cisco that launched drilling booms at many Eastland County towns. A host of such companies and stock speculations had brief lifespans and left behind now obsolete stock certificates. Cisco was a tough town, its citizens hung Santa Clause…twice. See Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel.

Indian Oil & Gas Company

Indian Oil and Gas Company was incorporated on January 29, 1913, by J.D. Boxley, H.E. Brinson, and O.D. Smith. The Tradesman, a contemporary periodical also reported J.J. Jackson to have been an incorporator.

With only 400 shares of common stock were issued, this under-capitalized venture ($10,000) would have been known as a “poor boy” operation, likely using cable-tool equipment that limited drilling depths. Read more in “Making Hole” – Drilling Technology.

Within two months of incorporating, Indian Oil & Gas acquired an 80 acre lease in Hughes County and 40 acres in Creek County, Oklahoma. The Hughes County lease was about 12 miles southwest of Holdenville; the Creek County site about 60 miles away, near Bristow. Because these drilling sites were far from proven territory and producing wells, it would have been a very speculative gamble – wildcat drilling.

Oklahoma records do not show that Indian Oil & Gas Company was ever able to spud (begin drilling) any wells, likely because of an inability to secure sufficient backing to acquire equipment and rig workers. The company’s timing was terrible.

The Greater Seminole oil boom’s Holdenville oilfield was discovered just three years later (1916) and since yielded more than 200 million barrels of oil. When Indian Oil & Gas remained inactive, regulators suspended over-the-counter trading of company stock in 1919. The Grace M. Pickens Library in Holdenville may be able to assist with further research.

Industrial Oil & Refining Company

Industrial Oil and Refining Company incorporated on September 13, 1916, ostensibly “to produce and sell crude oil, petroleum and products thereof” with capitalization of $5 million (par value of $1). Two years later in June, expansive advertisements appeared in the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times and Pittsburgh Press. The ads declared the company had 22 producing wells and “large acreage in the famous Glenn Pool near Tulsa, Okla., and other valuable acreage in Kansas and Wyoming.”

Although state well records did not support the claims, Industrial Oil & Refining further declared, “Our Production of Oil Increased over 500% in 1917” and closed with, “That is why we now offer 100,000+ shares of Treasury stock, par value $1 per share, at the unusually attractive price of 80-cents per share.”

Industrial Oil & Refining was one of many stock promotions named in October 1919 congressional “Blue Sky” hearings held because of a post-war “deluge of mushroom, get-rich-quick corporations organized all over the country for the purposes principally of selling stock.”

Industrial Oil & Refining Company may have made its promoters some money, but common stock shareholders were left with worthless paper when the company folded.

Intercontinent Petroleum

Intercontinent Petroleum first incorporated as Mexican-Panuco Oil Company in 1916, but changed its name to Intercontinent Petroleum in January 1927.

Incorporated in Delaware, the company operated from New York City as the Great Depression loomed. It issued stock at a nominal par value of $5 – increasing from an initial five million to eight million.

The company owned Turkish American Oil Company and all the stock of English Oil Company (a Mexico corporation) as well as 80 percent of Chachavi Company and leases in Columbia, Mexico, and Turkey. Despite these assets, it appears the Great Depression and lack of investment capital led to the demise of Intercontinent Petroleum. The authoritative Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities declared the stock to be worthless as of 1933.

Interstate Oil Company

Henry Hoffman was president of the Interstate Oil Company, which was sold to the Turnbow Oil Corporation for $450,000. In 1922 the Schenectady Gazette had warning for New York investors.

“Henry H. Hoffman is said to have made years ago a substantial amount of money in a Texas oil venture, and ever since then has been trading on his good fortune inducing innocent people to believe that they would make all kinds of money by following him into new ventures which he has flung to the public and none of which has made good from an investor’s standpoint,” the newspaper reported.

Hoffman’s initial success had been in 1915, when he reportedly completed a well producing 2,000 barrels of oil a day in the Humble oilfield, one of the early salt dome fields along the Texas Gulf Coast. Headline-making 1901 discoveries there included the “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop and Sour Lake, which launched Texaco.

Iowa and California Oil & Gas Company

Despite its Arizona incorporation, Iowa and California Oil & Gas Company’s first drilling venture apparently was planned for the northern part of the Christian County oil field in Kentucky. A weekly publication, the Kentucky New Era, reported the newly formed company planned to drill two wells, but more research is need to see if this transpired.

The company offered 500,000 shares of stock that at one time traded for about 10 cents a share but had been removed from the market by 1902. In January 1903 United States Investor reported the Iowa and California Oil & Gas Company had leased over 100 acres in Kansas and claimed to have brought in a well yielding six million cubic feet of natural gas. Company President Dr. Edward G. Snodgrass, a prominent Keokuk, Iowa, dentist, reportedly planned to drill another well.

Investor’s assessment concluded, “In some quarters it is thought that the parties who are managing the company have had little or no experience in the oil and gas business, and that their management may not be successful. This, however, remains to be determined.”



The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.


trans-world oil

One Nevada independent oil company made headlines just one month after it was formed in 1960. It would not bode well for Henderson and Las Vegas investors.

“Geologist Claims There’s Oil At Foot Of Black Mt.,” the Henderson Home News proclaimed in its February 4, 1960, edition. “Starts Drilling Operations Tomorrow,” the headline continued.

The newspaper quoted Trans-World Oil’s on-site petroleum expert, A.J. (Arthur James) Bandy, a consulting geologist who owned the Petroleum Engineering Company of Bakersfield, California.

trans-world oil“The oil found here is a gift of the sea, formed by deposits of marine mollusks and mammals, and still later by the hulks of enormous Saurians which stomped the earth in the Permian era,” an enthusiastic Bandy explained to readers as drilling began. He was misinformed.

Company officers J.K. Houssels, Leonard Wilson and Bill Boyd had leased 5,000 acres southeast of Las Vegas. They chose a drilling site in what is today’s O’Callaghan Park in Henderson.

With the Houssels-Wilson-Milka No. 1 well spudded on February 4, 1960, the Henderson Home News periodically printed updates for its readership, which included potential investors.

After a month of drilling with an obsolete cable-tool rig to reach 300 feet, the consulting geologist urged going deeper.

“I know that between seven hundred and eight hundred feet we will have a commercial showing – maybe even a gusher,” Bandy declared of the Clark County wildcat well. By March there indeed were intermittent showings of oil and natural gas.

“We’ve struck oil!” Bandy proclaimed on April 4, telling the Henderson Home News that he had drilled into commercial quality oil strata at 1,312 feet.

“Henderson will have oil wells all over the place – there’s oil under the whole town,” the front page exulted. Bandy explained that drilling had been stopped so an electric log could be run the next day.

“If you don’t believe it, go cut yourself a slice of sand up there which has been taken from the hole,” Bandy said. “Put the sand in a bottle and put ether in it. Then shake it. Oil will come out of it.”

However, at least one local oilman was skeptical. “I’ll drink every gallon of oil that’s found here,” said Mark Leff, who reportedly “laughed off any possibility of such a find.”


Despite Leff’s doubts, “several Las Vegas people” invested in geologist Bandy and Trans-World Oil, which continued to drill until July 1960. There were no more showings of oil or natural gas, no Henderson oilfield.

When the total depth reached 2,155 feet, the company suspended drilling.

The well remained idle for two years as Trans-World Oil’s fate became increasingly obscure – and “consulting geologist” Bandy discovered problems of his own. On August 9, 1961, a California court convicted Bandy of check fraud.

Court documents report that Petroleum Engineering Company was “a fictitious firm name adopted by defendant Bandy” and that the company’s address “was a telephone answering service.”

Bandy’s deceptive business checks were “a specially printed form containing a picture of a gushing oil well.”

Bandy’s final appeal was denied on May 21, 1963. People vs. Bandy documents note the defendant’s credibility was impeached by three prior convictions dating back to 1942, including one for federal criminal conspiracy. He ended up in San Quentin.

Former Trans-World Oil company officer Leonard Wilson in March 1962 returned to reopen the old Houssels-Wilson-Milka No. 1 well. He drilled another 145 feet over the next five months, but still found no commercial quantities of petroleum. He plugged and abandoned the once headlined well on August 6, 1962.

The last business days and fate of Trans-World Oil Company have been lost. The Henderson Home News has long since quit reporting on the Nevada oil patch venture.


A map of Henderson, Nevada, today a Las Vegas suburb. The blue dot is the 1960 drilling site of the ill-fated Houssels-Wilson-Milka No. 1 well north of O’Callaghan Park. Map courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

After decades of noncommercial wells (the first drilled 1,890 feet deep near Reno in 1907), Nevada became an oil producing state on February 12, 1954. Shell Oil Company’s second test of its Eagle Springs No. 1 well found oil in Railroad Valley, Nye County.

The well, 260 miles north of Trans-World Oil’s attempt, revealed Nevada’s first oilfield, according to the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. The discovery well produced oil from a productive interval between 6,450 and 6,730 feet deep. A dozen wells in the Eagle Springs oilfield produce 3.8 million barrels by 1987.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society and this website with a donation. 

AOGHS-LogoChances are people seeking financial information here at Old Oil Stocks in progress H will not find lost riches – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock.

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on your contribution, simply does not have resources to provide free research of corporate histories.

However, AOGHS continues to look into forum queries as part of its energy education mission. Some investigations have revealed  little-known stories like Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; many others have found questionable dealings during booms and epidemics of “black gold” fever like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum and view company updates regularly added to the A-to-Z listing at Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Hale Petroleum Company

old petroleum stocksThe Hale Petroleum Company from 1917 is not related to today’s Hale Petroleum Company of Columbus, Kansas. It also has no relation to the Standard Oil-affiliated Frank Hale Oil Company in Louisiana. In a 1918 text published by the Kansas City Testing Laboratory, Hale Petroleum is identified as having a refinery in Wichita, Kansas, and pipelines to Wichita from nearby El Dorado – site of Butler Country’s Kansas Oil Museum.

A Hale Petroleum is identified as part of Sterling Oil & Refining Company. Sterling Oil was created by Ross Shaw Sterling, the founder and president of the Humble Oil and Refining Company, which eventually became the Exxon, now ExxonMobil. In the 1920s, he sold his interests in Humble, although he served as president of Sterling Oil & Refining Company until 1946. Read the rest of this entry »


Old Oil Stocks in progress GPeople seeking obscure financial information probably will not find any petroleum riches here at Old Oil Stocks in progress G – see Not a Millionaire from Old Oil Stock about a certificate that spawned lengthy litigation with the Coca-Cola Company.

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, which depends on donations, does not have resources for extensive research. As AOGHS looks into forum queries as part of its energy education mission, investigations have revealed interesting stories like Mrs. Dysart’s Uraniu Well and Buffalo Bill’s Shoshone Oil Company; others have found questionable dealings during booms and “black gold” fever epidemics like Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter.

Visit the Stock Certificate Q & A Forum for updates frequently added to the A-to-Z listing in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? AOGHS will continue to look into forum queries, including these “in progress.”

Garfield Oil & Refining Company

The Oklahoma business records department can provide incorporation information on the Garfield Oil & Refining Company, which had properties near Nowata but does not appear to have prospered.

Gate City-Wyoming Oil & Gas Company

The Gate City-Wyoming Oil and Gas Company incorporated in Idaho July 10, 1917, with Pocatello, Idaho, physician Dr. O.B. Steeley as president. The company acquired leases in Wyoming’s Lost Soldier Dome (640 acres); Rattlesnake Dome (640 acres); Laramie Dome (160 acres); and Rock Springs Dome (640 acres). Curiously, the company’s officers and property were also recorded as the Gate City Oil & Gas Company.  Dr. Steeley died suddenly in June 1920. The Idaho secretary of state may have further information, but the company’s last filing was in September 1923. Its charter was forfeited on December 1, 1924. Read about other Wyoming wildcatters in First Wyoming Oil Wells and Buffalo Bill’s Shone Oil Company.

Gatex Oil Company

Gatex Oil Company incorporated in Delaware March 1, 1920. The company undertook exploratory “wildcat” drilling in northeast Texas’ Hopkins and Bowie counties with plans to drill in Hunt County. But in Hopkins County, its Davis No. 1 well was abandoned after reaching 2,020 feet deep without finding oil. Similarly in Bowie County, its Perkins No. 1 well was shut down at 1,570 feet deep with no success. Wildcat drilling on unproven land has always been risky; early failures have often exhausted under-capitalized ventures. This seems to have been the case with Gatex Oil Company, which was dissolved on June 4, 1936.

General Oil Company

In 1912 General Oil Company was organized by an infamous promoter Seymor E.J. “Alphabet” Cox.  Ten years later, 28 creditors were awarded $175,000 in concluding General Oil Company’s bankruptcy. The Oil Trade Journal of July 1922 noted “stockholders in this $21,000,000 corporation will have little coming when the affairs of the company are settled.”

A successor, the General Petroleum Company, was created from the sold off properties. Conman “Alphabet” Cox was also involved with fraudulently promoting Spear Oil Company and shares if a company of a supposed visitor to the North Pole – see Arctic Explorer turns Oil Promoter.

General Resources Corporation

General Resources Corporation was not a petroleum stock. Known earlier as General Plywood Corporation, the company filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Act in October 1979. A company attorney said it was unlikely there would be enough assets to pay off shareholders.

Gin Site Oil Company

“Huge Consolidation Expected to Stabilize Conditions in Burkburnett,” reported one North Texas newspaper (learn more in “Boom Town” Burkburnett). One of many companies seeking riches in the region was the Gin Site Oil Company. Details are elusive, but reported the company’s production for the first three months of 1920 was more than 1,900 barrels. Meanwhile, oil prices were about $2 a barrel. The Texas Railroad Commission maintains records that may provide further information.

Globe Natural Gas Company

In 1977 the Securities and Exchange Commission filed multiple civil suits against Globe Natural Gas Company and began litigation that would go on for several years.

Both the FBI and New Scotland Yard were involved in the investigation, which noted the conspiracy included an effort to swindle Elvis Presley and several banks. The SEC suits also accused the company of perpetrating “various lies to investors, including a claim that actor Sammy Davis Jr. had invested heavily in Globe.”

It was alleged that between 1971 and 1974 Globe bilked 172 investors out of $192,000 by making untrue statements and omission of material facts. Investors were told their money would be used for acquisition of oil and natural gas wells when, in fact, the funds were used to purchase speculative bank securities and for the personal use of the company’s officers.

The SEC complaint further stated: “Globe Natural Gas has had during the past six months a steady stream of private investors lodging complaints regarding investments, dividends and no returns, that (the company president) has been in and out of bankruptcy for the past 14 or 15 years, and that (he) was sentenced to two years in the Federal Penitentiary for stock and security fraud.”

Gold Medal Oil Company

Gold Medal Oil Company incorporated in Lusk, Wyoming, in 1919 with capitalization of $250,000. The company formed in response to oil discoveries near Lance Creek that had quickly driven the population of Lusk to more than 10,000. A number of company camps were also set up to support the many drilling operations.

The Wyoming State Historical Society Weston County chapter may have more information, but in 1920 Gold Medal Oil did drill in the Orange oilfield in a remote section of Weston County (Section 17, Township 46 N, Range 63 W), near today’s Niobrara shale formation. Success of Gold Medal’s well is not reported and the company appears to have failed. Similarly, the Clark Producing and Refining Company drilled further south, in Niobrara County (Section 15, Township 36 N, Range 62 W) but seems to have disappeared from records as well.

Golden Gate Oil Company

There were been many Golden Gate Oil companies prior to the 1921 iteration founded by John Flynn, Robert Tarrants and others, capitalized at $250,000.  A 1902 Golden Gate Oil and Refining Company that incorporated in South Dakota soon disappeared, as did a Golden Gate Oil Company incorporated in San Francisco in 1900 capitalized at $500,000.

Probably attracted by the Seminole Oil Boom, yet another Golden Gate Oil operated in Oklahoma’s Healdton oilfield in 1916 and brought in at least one dry hole and three 25-barrels-of-oil-a-day producers.

The 1921 Golden Gate Oil Company founded by Flynn and Tarrants completed three producing wells in the Los Angeles oilfield between 1922 and 1923. The California Department of Conservation Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources offers a map showing where these wells were drilled, provides limited details about the wells, but does not include the fate of the company.

Good Luck Oil Company

The first Louisiana oil well was drilled in 1901. Good Luck Oil Company incorporated on May 5, 1916, with a Louisiana charter and $50,000 capitalization. The company’s board of directors included Mack Wellman; J.T. Tanner; D.P. Batchelor; S.R. Elliot; M.R.  Souter; J.T. Souter; and J.G. Brown. The company, managed by John P.  Hynds, drilled 14 wells that became small oil producers in Allen County, Kentucky, on the Martha Keen Bud Frost farms.

A 1905 discovery at Caddo-Pines near Shreveport had brought wildcatters to northern Louisiana, notes the Louisiana Oil City Museum. Good Luck Oil drilled a well producing five barrels of oil a day in Caddo Parrish, Louisiana.  Since oil prices averaged just $1.10 in 1916, such low production from the expensive-to-drill wells likely spelled the ruin of Good Luck Oil.

Goshen Oil & Gas Company

Researchers can track the creation and history of Goshen Oil & Gas Company by way of contemporary newspaper accounts maintained online by the Wyoming Newspaper Project. Search for “Goshen oil” on that website to find information.

Grand County Oil & Refining Company

Grand County Oil and Refining Company incorporated with $500,000 in capital stock on March 19, 1903, in Sulphur Springs, Colorado – the county seat. The company planned operations in Grand and Routt counties. The Grand County Historical Association may be able to provide more information. According to the Colorado secretary of state, Grand County Oil & Refining had an office in Sulphur Springs and paid its taxes in 1903.

Great Basin Oil Company

Great Basin Oil Company is noted in the book by William S. Greever Arid Domain, The Santa Fe Railway, and Its Western Land Grant (Stanford University Press, 1954):

“A few of the companies were more intent upon making stock sales and then calling for additional support from the shareholders than in undertaking bona fide development. Such a company was the Great Basin Oil Company, which leased 60,016.43 acres around Holbrook from the railroad, 147,783.66 acres from the Aztec Land and Cattle Company, and additional land from others. It sold about $750,000 worth of stock in five years, largely through churches, until its improper methods caused the state of New York to secure a permanent injunction preventing further sales.”

The injunction was reported May 4, 1926, in the New York Times. The company drilled one exploratory well in Navaho County, Arizona, named the Taylor-Fuller No. 1, which reached 4, 675 feet deep but found only helium and was plugged and abandoned in 1927.

Great Oil Basin Securities

In the late 1960s Great Oil Basin Securities borrowed $500,000 from the Union National Bank of Little Rock, Arkansas, securing the loan with title to a shopping mall in Odessa, Texas. As the company’s fortunes waned, it was unable to repay the debt and its shareholders sued Union National in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment invalidating the promissory note and claiming that Great Basin’s officers had no authority to bind the corporation for such a loan. After years of litigation and appeals, in 1979 a Texas court dismissed the shareholders case, decreeing that the note was a valid obligation and that the shopping mall lien was “enforceable by foreclosure in Texas.”

Great Southern Oil & Refining Association

Great Southern Oil & Refining Association was the 1918 creation of entrepreneurs A.E. Shahan and R.D. Lindley. They became directors and stockholders in the new business, which soon proposed construction of a 1,200-barrel-a-day refinery in Eastland,Texas, and drilling wells in the prolific Eastland oilfield (the 1917 “Roaring Ranger” well had launching a drilling boom).

Exuberant advertisements, published in several Texas newspapers to entice investors, included the Seguin Zeitung, printed in German. Great Southern Oil & Refining paid for half-page ads in The San Antonio Express.

“A Conservative Investment That Will Appeal to Thinking Men,” proclaimed one ad, which included a membership application, offered subscriptions at $10 a share, and sought sales help: “We Need the Services of Fifty High-Grade Stock Salesmen – If You Are One It will Pay You Big to Investigate.”

Within three years however, Texas Court of Appeals documents record that “Shahan and Lindley were the moving spirits in the whole organization; that the association was becoming involved in financial difficulties; that Shahan and Lindley were exerting themselves to secure a former governor of this state [Texas Gov. Oscar B. Colquitt, 1911- 1915] as its president and head, upon the theory that, with his prestige and financial ability, a wreck of the organization in which they were financially interested might be avoided.”

The court further accused the company’s founders: “Evidently their leading object was not to guarantee or secure for the benefit of plaintiff the debt he held against the association, but it was to subserve their own purposes and promote their financial interests or gain.”

Shahan and Lindley soon faced more litigation. Another court concluded they had misused Great Southern Oil & Refining Association letter heads, contracts, notes, etc., “for the purpose of misleading.” After 1923, Shahan, Lindley and their company vanish into history.

Great Southwestern Petroleum Company

Great Southwestern Petroleum Company of Oklahoma City was incorporated in August 1917 by Samuel Gordon, Harry Gorden and Mark Miller with capital of $250,000. James Butler was president. In Carter County, home to the Hewitt oilfield (second largest in Oklahoma at the time), the company drilled in the field’s southeast extension. This 1921 well was named the Great Southwestern Miller-Jones No. 1 and was on the Gooding farm, but results are unknown.

The Hewitt field developed rapidly during the early 1920s and was east of Oklahoma’s giant Healdton field (visit the Oklahoma Oil Museum there). By 1927 the Hewitt oilfield covered 3,050 acres, with more than 800 wells that had produced in excess of 60 million barrels of oil. Nonetheless, Great Southwestern Petroleum does not appear to have succeeded as it disappears from references thereafter.

Great Sweet Grass Oils 

Some of the shady dealings of  Great Sweet Grass Oils and its stock scam misadventures can be found in an online preview of a book from Canada by Chris Armstrong, Moose Pastures and Mergers: The Ontario Securities Commission and the Regulation of Share Markets in Canada, 1940-1980.

Great Western Oil & Gas Company

Great Western Oil and Gas Company was solvent in 1959 with owners listed as James C. Meade (later of Meade Energy), Firth C. Owens, and R.P. Ross. The company held geologically “promising” leases at that time, but heavy expenditures in the unsuccessful development of these leases led to financial difficulties beginning in 1961. By February 1962 Great Western properties were worth only $60,000 and the bankruptcy presumably followed in 1964. A number of similarly named but unrelated oil companies have come and gone over the years, beginning in 1864.

A now defunct namesake was established in 1864 as the Great Western Oil Company. That company’s zenith was a 1902 oil gusher, discovered at a depth of 683 feet, which opened the Sour Lake oilfield 20 miles northwest of Beaumont, Texas. The discovery transformed the resort town of Sour Lake into a boom town until the oil was depleted after 1914. Read more in Sour Lake produces Texaco.

Greater Great Falls Oil Company

Montana’s Greater Great Falls Oil Company had a showing of oil at 1,368 foot depth on its Roos No. 1 wildcat well in Cascade County (north of Great Falls), but the well proved to be a dry hole.

Green River Oil & Uranium Company

The Utah Department of Administrative Services should be helpful for learning more about Green River Oil & Uranium Company. The department’s Research Center maintains microfilmed information on inactive corporations. Green River Oil and Uranium is on reel 13 of Series 16658. Another uranium-related oil patch story can be found in Mrs. Dysart’s Uranium Well.

Gypsy-Burke Oil Company

In 1919 California Commissioner of Corporations E.C. Bellows warned potential investors in the Gypsy-Burke Oil Company stock that “The buyer of such stocks more than likely is purchasing securities not worth the cost of the prettily decorated certificate which he gets in return for his hard-earned dollars.”

The commissioner noted Gypsy-Burke was one of several Texas companies in violation of the Corporate Securities Act. North Texas was booming at the time, see Pump Jack Capital of Texas.


The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.