This Week in Petroleum History, December 4 to December 10

December 4, 1928 – First Oil Discovery using Reflection Seismography – 

Following tests in the early 1920s, reflection seismic technology was first used to find oil in Oklahoma when Amerada Petroleum Corporation drilled a well into the Viola limestone formation near Seminole.

Illustration of oil search using seismic reflection method.

Seismic reflections help identify geologic formations.

The Amerada Petroleum well was the world’s first oil discovery in a geological structure that had been identified by reflection survey. Others soon followed as the technology revealed dozens of mid-continent oilfields. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, November 27 to December 3

November 27, 1940 – Art Museum features Painting of Mobilgas Station –

With petroleum company service stations already part of America’s popular culture, Edward Hopper’s painting “Gas” was first exhibited by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Art critics praised the work, suggesting the painting with the Pegasus sign anticipated the modern Pop Art movement by more than a decade. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, November 20 to November 26

November 20, 1866 – Improved Well Torpedo patented – 

Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City patented improvements to his Roberts Torpedo, an oilfield technology for increasing production by fracturing oil-bearing formations.

“Our attention has been called to a series of experiments that have been made in the wells of various localities by Col. Roberts, with his newly patented torpedo,” noted the Titusville Morning Herald newspaper in 1865. “The results have in many cases been astonishing.”

Portrait of Roberts, inventor of the oil well torpedo.

Portrait of Edward Roberts, a Civil War veteran who patented well “torpedo” technologies that improved oilfield production.

The Civil War Union Army veteran would receive many patents for his “Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells” method to increase petroleum production (see Shooters – A “Fracking” History).

November 20, 1930 – Oil Booms help Hilton expand in Texas

After buying his first hotel in the booming oil town of Cisco, Texas, Conrad Hilton opened a high-rise in El Paso. While visiting Cisco in 1919, Hilton had witnessed roughnecks from the Ranger oilfield waiting for rooms. Hilton’s first hotel, the Mobley, offered 40 rooms for eight-hour periods to coincide with workers’ shifts.

Thanks to booming oilfields, Hilton was firmly established in the Texas hotel business. His El Paso Hilton (now the Plaza Hotel) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

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November 20, 1980 – Texaco Well drains Louisiana Lake

Minutes after its drilling crew evacuated, a Texaco drilling platform overturned and disappeared into a whirlpool that drained Lake Peigneur, Louisiana, over the next three hours. The crew had accidently penetrated a salt dome containing the mining operations of Diamond Crystal Salt Company.

All 50 miners working as deep as 1,500 feet below the surface escaped with no serious injuries as a maelstrom swallowed the $5 million Texaco platform — and 11 barges holding drilling supplies.

Jefferson Island Mine Inundation report photo of rig sinking in lake.

Photo from a 1981 government report on Texaco’s accidental “Jefferson Island Mine Inundation” of one year earlier.

“Texaco, who had ordered the oil probe, was aware of the salt mine’s presence and had planned accordingly; but somewhere a miscalculation had been made, which placed the drill site directly above one of the salt mine’s 80-foot-high, 50-foot-wide upper shafts,” noted a 2005 article.

According to a 1981 government report, “Jefferson Island Mine Inundation, evidence for identifying the exact cause was washed away, but Texaco and Wilson Drilling paid $32 million to Diamond Crystal Salt Company and another $12.8 million to a nearby botanical garden. Changed from freshwater to saltwater with a depth reaching 200 feet, Lake Peigneur became the deepest lake in Louisiana.

November 21, 1925 – Magnolia Petroleum incorporates – 

Formerly an unincorporated joint-stock association with roots dating to an 1889 refinery in Corsicana, Texas, Magnolia Petroleum Company incorporated. The original association had sold many grades of refined petroleum products through more than 500 service stations in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Magnolene Motor Oils logo for Magnolia Petroleum Company gas stations

Magnolia Petroleum operated gas stations throughout the Southeast.

Within a month of the new company’s founding, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New York (Socony) purchased most Magnolia Petroleum assets and operated it as a subsidiary. Magnolia merged with the Socony Mobile Oil Company in 1959 and adopted the red Pegasus logo, replacing the magnolia logo at gas stations (see Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark). Magnolia Petroleum assets were part of 1999 merger that created today’s ExxonMobil.

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November 21, 1980 – Millions watch “Dallas” Episode Who shot J.R

The cliffhanger episode “Who shot J.R.?” on the prime-time soap opera “Dallas” was watched by 83 million people in the United States and 350 million worldwide, according to The CBS show, which debuted in 1978, revolved around two Texas oil families and featured Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, “the character fans loved to hate.” His portrayal of a “greedy, conniving, womanizing scoundrel” and the business dealings of Ewing Oil Company would stereotype the Texas petroleum industry for 14 seasons.

November 22, 1878 –  Tidewater Pipe Company established

Byron Benson organized the Tidewater Pipe Company in Pennsylvania. In 1879 his company would build the first oil pipeline to cross the Alleghenies from Coryville to the Philadelphia Reading Railroad 109 miles away in Williamsport. This technological achievement was considered by many as the first true oil pipeline in America, if not the world.

Illustration of workers and pipes for the 109-mile Tidewater oil pipeline in 1898.

Despite protests from teamsters, a 109-mile oil pipeline revolutionized oil transportation. Photo courtesy

The difficult work — much of it done in winter using sleds to move pipe sections — bypassed Standard Oil Company’s dominance in transporting petroleum. Tidewater made an arrangement with Reading Railroad to haul the oil in tank cars to Philadelphia and New York. In 1879, about 250 barrels of oil from the Bradford field was pumped across the mountains and into Williamsport.

More than 80 percent of America’s oil soon would come from Pennsylvania oilfields, according to Floyd Hartman Jr. in a 2009 article, “Birth of Coryville’s Tidewater Pipe Line.”

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November 22, 1905 – Glenn Pool Field discovered in Indian Territory

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

Oil derrick monument in Glenpool, Oklahoma.

An oilfield pioneers monument was dedicated in April 2008 at Glenpool, Oklahoma. Photo by Bruce Wells.

With production exceeding 120,000 barrels of oil a day, Glenn Pool exceeded Tulsa County’s earlier Red Fork GusherThe giant oilfield even exceeded production from Spindletop Hill in Texas four years earlier. The Ida Glenn No. 1 well, drilled to about 1,500 feet deep, led to more prolific wells in the 12-square-mile Glenn Pool.

By the time of statehood in 1907, Tulsa area oilfields made Oklahoma the biggest U.S. oil producing state. Advances in enhanced recovery technologies later added to the region’s productivity. Glenpool residents celebrate their “Black Gold Days,” and the 46th annual festival took place September 26-29, 2023, in Black Gold Park.

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

November 22, 2003 – Smithsonian Museum opens Transportation Hall

A permanent exhibit about U.S. transportation history opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. “Get your kicks on 40 feet of Route 66,” the Smithsonian exhibit noted on opening day of the $22 million renovation of the museum’s Hall of Transportation.

Route 66 exhibit in Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Photo by Bruce Wells.

Opened in 2003 after a $22 million renovation, the Transportation Hall of the National Museum of American History exhibits 340 historic objects in 26,000 square feet. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The hall was designed to let visitors “travel back in time and experience transportation as it changed America.” Opening day exhibits included 340 objects and 19 historic settings in chronological order. At the same museum in 1967, the Smithsonian’s “Hall of Petroleum” devoted an entire wing to drilling rigs, pipelines, and pump jacks.

Learn more in America on the Move.

November 23, 1951 – Superman and the World’s Deepest Oil Well 

Public fear of the risk of drilling wells too deep highlighted the theatrical release of Superman’s first feature length movie, “Superman and the Mole Men.” The 1951 plot unfolded in the fictional town of Silsbey, “Home of the World’s Deepest Oil Well,” after an experimental well’s drill bit had “broken into clear air” at a depth of 32,742 feet.

Superman and the Mole Men poster with oil well.

Mole men emerge from an experimental oil well drilled more than six miles deep.

“Good heavens, that’s practically to the center of the earth!” exclaimed Lois Lane (in fact, the deepest U.S. well in 1951 reached 20,521 feet). When mole-men emerged from the well, townspeople feared an invasion. In the end, Superman calmed an angry mob and the well ignited in flames, forever closing the connection between the two worlds.

Learn about a real six-mile-deep well in Anadarko Basin in Depth.

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November 23, 1947 – World’s First LPG Ship

The first U.S. seagoing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) ship went into service as Warren Petroleum Corporation of Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent the Natalie O. Warren from the Houston Ship Channel to Newark, New Jersey. The vessel had an LPG capacity of 38,053 barrels in 68 vertical pressure tanks.

first U.S. seagoing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) ship.

The first vessel had an LPG capacity of 38,053 barrels in 68 vertical pressure tanks.

The one-of-a-kind ship was the former Cape Diamond dry-cargo freighter, converted by the Bethlehem Steelyard in Beaumont, Texas. The experimental design would lead to new maritime construction standards for such vessels. Warren Petroleum was the largest producer and marketer of natural gasoline and propane in the world by the early 1950s, according to an exhibit at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. LPG tankers today carry 20 times the capacity of the early vessels.

November 25, 1875 – Continental Oil brings Kerosene to the West

Convinced that he could profit by purchasing bulk kerosene in cheaper eastern markets, Isaac Blake formed the Continental Oil and Transportation Company. He soon transported Ohio kerosene to Ogden, Utah, for distribution.

petroleum history november

Conoco began in 1875 as Continental Oil, delivering kerosene to retail stores in Ogden, Utah.

Continental purchased two railroad tank cars — the first to be used west of the Mississippi River — and began shipping kerosene from a Cleveland refinery. The company grew, expanding into Colorado in 1876 and California in 1877. Standard Oil Company absorbed Continental Oil in 1885.

Following the 1911 breakup of Standard, Continental Oil reemerged as Conoco, becoming ConocoPhillips in 2002 (see  ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums).


Recommended Reading: History Of Oil Well Drilling (2007); Be My Guest (1957); Magnolia Oil News Magazine (January 1930); Oil and Gas Pipeline Fundamentals (1993); Glenn Pool…and a little oil town of yesteryear (1978); The American Highway: The History and Culture of Roads in the United States (2000); CONOCO: The First One Hundred Years Building on the Past for the Future (1975). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


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

This Week in Petroleum History, November 13 to November 19

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

The modern offshore oil and natural gas industry began in the Gulf of Mexico with the first oil well successfully completed out of sight of land. Brown & Root Company built the experimental freestanding platform 10 miles offshore for Kerr-McGee and partners Phillips Petroleum and Stanolind.  The platform, Kermac 16, was designed to withstand winds as high as 125 miles per hour. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, October 30-November 5

October 30, 1894 – “Golden Rule” Jones invents a Better Sucker Rod – 

Samuel M. Jones patented a sucker rod design for his Acme Sucker Rod Company, which he had founded in 1892 in Toledo, Ohio. With his “Coupling for Pipes or Rods,” Jones applied his oilfield experience in mechanics to solve the frequent and time-consuming problem of broken sucker rods. His innovation would soon make him a millionaire.

Samuel Jones oilfield sucker rod patent of 1894.

Samuel Jones had worked as a potboiler, pumper, tool dresser, blacksmith, and pipe layer.

Jones had worked in Pennsylvania’s oil region as a potboiler, pumper, tool dresser, blacksmith, and pipe layer. He became known as “Golden Rule” Jones by establishing a better workplace for employees at his factory, where he shortened the work day and started a revenue-sharing program.

Jones ran for Toledo mayor as a progressive Republican in  1887 and was elected. He was reelected three times and served until dying on the job in 1904.

Learn more in “Golden Rule” Jones of Ohio.

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October 31, 1871 – Modern Refinery Method patented

Petroleum refining would become more efficient thanks to an invention by Henry Rogers of Brooklyn, New York, who patented an “apparatus for separating volatile hydrocarbons by repeated vaporization and condensation.”

Henry Rogers patent drawing for refinery process to produce kerosene.

Henry Rogers improved the refining of kerosene.

Rogers introduced many elements of modern refineries, including “fractionating” towers that improved earlier processes of extracting kerosene by simple distillation in kettle stills.

“The apparatus which I use is, in many respects, similar to what is known as the column-still for distilling alcoholic spirits, but modified in all the details, so as to make it available for distilling oils,” Rogers noted in his 1871 patent application. More technological advancements would lead to giant refining operations like the Standard Oil of Indiana Whiting Refinery, which opened in 1889.

October 31, 1903 – Salt-Dome Oilfield discovered in Texas

One mile north of Batson, Texas, a discovery well drilled by W.L. Douglas’ Paraffine Oil Company produced 600 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 790 feet. A second well drilled two months later in the Batson field produced 4,000 barrels of oil a day from 1,000 feet deep. Many new ventures joined the drilling boom (see Buffalo Oil Company).

When combined with other newly discovered prolific salt-dome fields, Spindletop (1901), Sour Lake (1901), and at Humble (1905), “Batson helped to establish the basis of the Texas oil industry when these shallow fields gave up the first Texas Gulf Coast oil,” noted the Texas State Historical Association in 2010

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October 31, 1913 – First Paved U.S. Highway dedicated

Towns and cities nationwide celebrated the opening of the Lincoln Highway, the 3,389-mile-long “Main Street Across America” connecting Times Square in New York City to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. The Lincoln Highway was the first national memorial dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln. In 1919, the Army Motor Transport Corps organized a transcontinental convoy to test vehicles and highlight the need for more paved roads.

October 31, 1924 – Former Olinda Oil Wells Pitcher plays Exhibition Game 

Former oilfield worker Walter “Big Train” Johnson returned to his California oil patch roots for an exhibition game with Babe Ruth in Brea, California. Ruth swatted two home runs off the future Hall of Fame pitcher. Three decades earlier, Johnson had started his baseball career as a 16-year-old pitcher for the Olinda Oil Wells.

Poster for Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson 1924 baseball exhibition game.

The former star player for the Olinda Oil Wells pitched against Babe Ruth in a 1924 exhibition game in nearby Brea.

Playing for the Washington Senators, the former roustabout became major league baseball’s all-time career leader in shutouts with 110. Many oilfield towns once fielded teams with names proudly reflecting their communities’ livelihood.

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

October 31, 1930 – Properties of Columbus “Dad” Joiner placed into Receivership

After it was learned 70-year-old wildcatter Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner had oversold his East Texas oilfield leases in Rusk County, District Judge R.T. Brown placed the properties into receivership.

Post card of  Baker Hotel in Dallas, circa 1930.

The Baker Hotel in Dallas was where Columbus “Dad” Joiner, discoverer of the East Texas oilfield, met with H.L. Hunt and sold Hunt 5,580 acres for $1.34 million. Built in 1925, the hotel was torn down in 1980.

With the field’s Daisy Bradford No. 3 and other wells tied up in conflicting claims, Joiner took refuge from creditors in the Baker Hotel in Dallas, where Haroldson Lafayette (H.L.) Hunt negotiated a $1.34 million deal with him for the discovery well and 5,580 acres of leases. In the 300 lawsuits and 10 years of litigation that followed, Hunt sustained every title.

November 1, 1865 – First Railroad Oil Tank Car arrives

The first of James and Amos Densmore’s innovative railroad oil tank cars arrived at the Miller Farm, four miles south of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The inventors would be awarded a U.S. patent on April 10, 1866, for their dual tank design.

A railroad car with two wooden oil tanks patented by Amos and James Densmore in the 1860s.

Brothers Amos and James Densmore designed and built the first successful railroad tank cars used in the Pennsylvania oilfields in 1865. Photo courtesy Drake Well Museum.

The crude oil for the iron-banded wooden tanks on a flatcar was delivered by Samuel Van Syckle’s two-inch iron pipeline (another oil industry first) from the oilfield boom town at Pithole Creek. Oil from large storage tanks on the farm filled the Densmore tanks for the Oil Creek Railroad, which connected to lines reaching Pittsburgh, New York City, and other markets.

Learn more in Densmore Brothers Oil Tank Car.

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November 2, 1902 – First Gas-Powered Locomobile delivered 

Known for building luxury steam-powered automobiles, the Locomobile Company of America delivered its first gasoline-powered auto to a buyer in New York City. The company had hired Andrew Riker, a self-taught engineer and racecar driver, to create the four-cylinder, 12-horsepower vehicle, which sold for $4,000.

1906 Locomobile "Old 16" gasoline-powered racing car.

The four-cylinder gasoline engine of Locomobile “Old 16” racing car on display in the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan.

In 1908, a Locomobile “Old 16,” a four-cylinder, 16-liter, two-seater, won America’s first international racing victory — the Vanderbilt Cup at the Long Island Motor Parkway, one of the first paved parkways. The Locomobile Company would “reign supreme in the niche category of luxury American cars for decades,” according to Today in Connecticut History.

November 3, 1878 – Haymaker Natural Gas Well lights Pittsburgh

While drilling for oil in 1878, a well drilled by Michael and Obediah Haymaker erupted with natural gas from a depth of almost 1,400 feet. “Every piece of rigging went sky high, whirling around like so much paper caught in a gust of wind. But instead of oil, we had struck gas,” Michael Haymaker recalled.

Eighteen miles east of Pittsburgh, the out-of-control well in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, produced an estimated 34 million cubic feet of natural gas daily. It was considered the largest natural gas well ever drilled up to that time.

Harper’s Weekly 1885 illustration of burning natural gas well tourist attration,

“A sight that can be seen in no other city in the world,” noted Harper’s Weekly in 1885.

Given oilfield technologies of the late 1880s, there was no way to cap the well and no pipeline to exploit commercial possibilities. The Haymaker well drew thousands of curious onlookers to a flaming torch that burned for 18 months and was visible miles away.

“Outlet of a natural gas well near Pittsburgh — a sight that can be seen in no other city in the world,” noted Harper’s Weekly. When finally brought under control, the Haymaker well provided inexpensive gas light to Pittsburgh for many years.

Learn more in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

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November 3, 1900 – New York City hosts First U.S. Auto Show

America’s first gathering of the latest automotive technologies attracted thousands to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Manufacturers presented 160 different vehicles and conducted driving and maneuverability demonstrations on a 20-foot-wide wooden track that encircled the exhibits.

First U.S. auto ad, the Winton Motor Carriage of 1898.

The Winton Motor Carriage of 1898 was the first American automobile advertisement.

Almost 50,000 visitors paid 50 cents each to witness autos driving up a 200-foot ramp to test hill-climbing power. The most popular models proved to be electric, steam, and gasoline…in that order. New Yorkers welcomed the new models as a way to reduce the 450,000 tons of manure and 15,000 horse carcasses that had to be removed from city streets every year.

Of the 4,200 automobiles sold in 1900, less than a thousand were powered by gasoline. But within five years, consumer preference established the dominance of gasoline-powered autos.

Learn more in Cantankerous Combustion — 1st U.S. Auto Show and First Gas Pump and Service Station.


Recommended Reading: Holy Toledo: Religion and Politics in the Life of “Golden Rule” Jones (1998); The Bradford Oil Refinery, Pennsylvania, Images of America (2006); Early Texas Oil: A Photographic History, 1866-1936 (2000); The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate (2011); Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank (2008); The Extraction State, A History of Natural Gas in America(2021); A History of the New York International Auto Show: 1900-2000 (2000). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


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


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