This Week in Petroleum History, May 3 to May 9

May 3, 1870 – Lantern with Two Spouts patented – 

Jonathan Dillen of Petroleum Centre, Pennsylvania, received a patent for his “safety derrick lamp” — a two-wicked lantern that would become known as the “yellow dog” in America’s early oilfields.

Dillen designed his device “for illuminating places out of doors, especially in and about derricks, and machinery in the oil regions, whereby explosions are more dangerous and destructive to life and property than in most other places.”

1870 patent drawing of two-wicked oil derrick safety lantern.

Patented in 1870, a two-wicked oil derrick lamp would become known as the “yellow dog.”

“My improved lamp is intended to burn crude petroleum as it comes from the wells fresh and gassy,” he added. How the once widely used lamp got its name has remained a mystery, but some say the two burning wicks resembled a dog’s glowing eyes at night.

Learn more in Yellow Dog – Oilfield Lantern.

May 4, 1869 – Offshore Drilling Platform Design patented

The first U.S. patent for an offshore drilling rig was issued to Thomas Rowland, owner of Continental Iron Works in Greenpoint, New York, for his “submarine drilling apparatus.” His remarkably advanced platform included a fixed, working platform for drilling offshore well in a water depth up to 50 feet.

May 1869 offshore drilling rig patent drawing by Thomas Rowland.

Although never constructed, Thomas Rowland’s 1869 offshore drilling platform with telescoping legs was ahead of its time.

Rowland’s anchored, four-legged tower concept would be adapted for modern platforms. His Continental Iron Works also became a world leader in gas fittings, welding, and oil tank design and construction. The American Society of Civil Engineers in 1882 issued its first Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize. which is still annually awarded.

Learn more in Offshore Rig Patent. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, April 26 to May 2

April 26, 1947 – Oil Industry promoted on Radio – 

For the first time since its establishment in 1919, the American Petroleum Institute launched a national advertising campaign. “The theme of the drive is that the petroleum industry is a modern and progressive one, and is now turning out the best products in its history,” noted The Billboard

The Billboard magazine 1919 story about oil advertising of API.

Founded in 1919 in New York City, API moved its headquarters to the nation’s capital in 1929.

“Radio this week struck real pay dirt as a ‘Gusher’ will come mainly from expansion of current air time on spot local or regional levels by the thousands of petroleum and related corporations,” explained the weekly publication. API today is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization representing the largest U.S. petroleum companies. It issues industrywide recommended practices, “to promote the use of safe equipment and proven engineering.”

April 27, 1966 – Ariel Corporation founded

After receiving a degree in mechanical engineering in 1954, former eighth-grade teacher Jim Buchwald founded Ariel Corporation in Mount Vernon, Ohio. “With little money to pay for a facility to house the tools, a room in the basement of the Buchwald family home is cleaned up,” according to the Ariel website. “This room becomes the first Ariel machine shop, with an adjoining room functioning as Ariel’s first official engineering department.”

Jim Buchwald with his Ariel Company prototype compressor.

Jim Buchwald with Ariel’s prototype compressor after it has completed a 10-hour run test. Photo courtesy Ariel.

Buchwald bought a lathe, a small hand-cranked rotary table and a vertical drill for manufacturing valves. By 1968, he built a prototype gas compressor that ran at the unprecedented speed of 1,800 RPM. His Ohio machine shop soon transitioned into a manufacturing facility, and Buchwald named his company after a beloved 1948 Ariel motorcycle. Today, the company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of reciprocating gas compressors.

April 29, 2004 – Last Oldsmobile rolls off Assembly Line

The last Oldsmobile ever built (Alero GLS model) left the company’s production line in Lansing, Michigan. Founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897 as “Olds Motor Vehicle Company,” Olds sold America’s first mass-produced car, the Model R “Curved Dash,” from 1902 to 1907, according to Robert Domm’s Michigan Yesterday & Today. In 1908, Oldsmobile joined Buick to become part of the newly established General Motors (GM).

April 30, 1929 – Marland Oil and Continental Oil become Conoco

After discovering several prolific Oklahoma oilfields, Marland Oil Company acquired Continental Oil Company to create a network of service stations in 30 states. Future Oklahoma Governor Ernest W. Marland had founded Marland Oil in 1921; Continental Oil Company was founded in 1875 in Utah.

Conco logo red triangle

After Continental Oil and Marland Oil combined in 1929, the new company used this logo until 1970.

Headquartered in Ponca City, the new company retained the name of Continental Oil, but adopted the well-known Marland red triangle trademark, replacing the “Marland Oils” text with “Conoco.” In 2002, the company merged with Phillips Petroleum, which had incorporated in 1917, to become today’s ConocoPhillips. Learn more by visiting the ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums.

April 30, 1955 – “Landmen” form Trade Association

Today’s American Association of Professional Landmen with about 15,000 members nationwide was organized as a petroleum landmen trade association in Fort Worth, Texas. Landmen research records to determine ownership, locate mineral and land owners and negotiate oil and natural gas leases, trades and contracts. They also help ensure compliance with governmental regulations, according to AAPL.

AOGHS membership ad for 2020

May 1, 1860 – First West Virginia Oil Well

Virginia’s petroleum industry began about one year before the Civil War when John Castelli ”Cass” Rathbone found oil after drilling near Burning Springs Run in what today is West Virginia. The well reached 300 feet and began producing 100 barrels of oil a day. Rathbone partnered with his brother to drill more wells in valley of the Little Kanawha River southwest of Parkersburg. It was the first petroleum boom to take place outside the Pennsylvania oil regions.

Oil Country Scene, an 1869 post card of West Virginia oil derricks.

Following the 1860 oil discovery at Burning Springs, Appalachian drillers applied cable-tool technologies to drill deeper. Circa 1870 photo courtesy West Virginia Humanities Council.

By the end of 1860, the “Burning Springs Oil Rush” resulted in more than 600 oil leases registered in the Wirt County court-house. Warehouses were built along the Little Kanawha River, which reached the Ohio River at Parkersburg.

“These events truly mark the beginnings of the oil and gas industry in the United States,” noted West Virginia historian David McKain in 1994, adding that the region’s sudden oil wealth helped bring about statehood in June 1863. Many of the new state’s early politicians were “oil men — governor, senator and congressman — who had made their fortunes at Burning Springs.” Visit the West Virginia oil and gas museum in downtown Parkersburg.

May 1, 1916 – Harry Sinclair founds Sinclair Oil & Refining

Harry Ford Sinclair brought together a collection of several depressed oil properties, five small refineries and many untested leases – all acquired at bargain prices. He began with $50 million in assets and borrowed another $20 million to form Sinclair Oil & Refining Corporation.

In its first 14 months, Sinclair’s New York-based company produced six million barrels of oil for a net income of almost $9 million. The company’s petroleum refining capacity grew to 150,000 barrels of oil a day in 1932.

sinclair dinosaur

An updated 70-foot Sinclair “Dino” traveled more 10,000 miles through 25 states following the New York World’s Fair in 1965.

Destined to become one of the oldest continuous names in the U.S. petroleum industry, in 1930 the company began using an Apatosaurus (then called a Brontosaurus) in its advertising, sales promotions and product labels. Millions of visitors marveled at the green Jurassic giant in Sinclair’s “Dinoland” New York World’s Fair pavilion in 1934 – and again in 1964.

Learn more in Dinosaur Fever – Sinclair’s Icon.

May 1, 1931 – Railroad Commission limits East Texas Oil Production

The first proration order from the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) for the giant East Texas oilfield took effect after excessive production following the Daisy Bradford No. 3 well one year earlier caused an oil price collapse. With  hundreds of wells producing almost one million barrels per day, oil prices had fallen to as low as 10 cents a barrel. The commission’s order — unpopular with independent producers but enforced by Texas Rangers — limited production and stabilized prices. 

May 1, 2001 – Oklahoma Plaza honors Oil Pioneers

Thomas B. Slick is among those honored at the Conoco Oil Pioneers outdoor plaza at the Sam Noble Museum, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Thomas B. Slick relief at Conoco Oil Pioneers outdoor plaza at the Sam Noble Museum, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

The Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza was dedicated at the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. “The history of the state of Oklahoma is inextricably linked with the remarkable history of the oil industry,” proclaimed Conoco Chairman Archie Dunham. “The individuals identified here are true Oklahoma oil pioneers in that their endeavors were most significant in the development of the oil and gas industry in this very young state.” Tom Slick, Oklahoma’s King of the Wildcatters, is among those honored in the Conoco Plaza.

May 2 1921 – Oil discovered in Texas Panhandle

Following a series of natural gas discoveries revealing the extent of the giant Hugoton natural gas field in the Texas Panhandle, a well near Borger found oil. Gulf Oil Company completed the Carson County well on the 6666 (the “Four Sixes”) Ranch of S.B. Burnett several miles east of the gas wells.  The discovery well attracted major oil companies to the area around Amarillo. A large oilfield would be discovered in 1926 by independent producer “Ace Borger,” who laid out the boom town of Borger. Visit the Hutchinson County Historical Museum.

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Recommended Reading:  Life and Death of an Oilman: The Career of E. W. Marland (1974); Michigan Yesterday & Today (2009; Where it All Began: The story of the people and places where the oil & gas industry began: West Virginia and southeastern Ohio (1994). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

 

This Week in Petroleum History, April 19 to April 25

April 19, 1892 – First U.S. Gasoline Powered Automobile – 

Brothers Charles and Frank Duryea test drove a gasoline powered automobile they had built in their Springfield, Massachusetts, workshop. Considered the first automobile model to be regularly manufactured for sale in the United States, 12 were produced by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. Other manufacturers soon followed the brothers’ example.

april petroleum history

The Duryea brothers (above) built their cars in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In March 1896, the Duryea brothers sold their first Duryea motor wagon. It was reported two months later that in New York City a motorist driving a Duryea hit a bicyclist – reportedly the nation’s first recorded automobile traffic accident. By the time of the first U.S. automobile show in November 1900 at Madison Square Garden, of the 4,200 automobiles sold in the United States, gasoline powers less than 1,000.

April 20, 1875 – Improved Well Pumping Technology

Pumping multiple wells with a single steam engine boosted efficiency in early oilfields when Albert Nickerson and Levi Streeter of Venango County, Pennsylvania, patented their “Improvement In Means For Pumping Wells.” The new technology used a system of linked and balanced walking beams to pump oil wells.

petroleum history april 18

U.S. oilfield technologies advanced in 1875 with an “Improvement In Means For Pumping Wells.”

“By an examination of the drawing it will be seen that the walking-beam to well No. l is lifting or raising fluid from the well. Well No. 3 is also lifting, while at the same time wells 2 and 4 are moving in an opposite direction, or plunging, and vice versa,” the inventors explained. Their system was the forerunner of rod-line (or jerk line) eccentric wheel systems that operated into the 20th century using iron rods instead of rope and pulleys.

Learn more in All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology.

April 20, 1892 – Prospector discovers Los Angeles City Oilfield

The giant Los Angeles oilfield was discovered when a struggling prospector, Edward Doheny, and his mining partner Charles Canfield drilled into the tar seeps between Beverly Boulevard and Colton Avenue. Their well produced about 45 barrels of oil a day.

petroleum history april 18

Oil production continues today in downtown Los Angeles. Edward Doheny discovered the oilfield in 1892. Photo courtesy the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Culver City, California.

Although the first California oil well had been drilled after the Civil War, Doheny’s 1892 discovery (near present-day Dodger Stadium) launched California’s petroleum industry. In 1897, about 500 Los Angeles City wells pumped more than half of the state’s annual production of 1.2 million barrels of oil. By 1925, California supplied half of the world’s oil.

Learn more in Discovering Los Angeles Oilfields.

April 20, 2010 – Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Disaster

At 10 a.m., while completing a well in the Macondo Prospect, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, killing 11 and injuring another 17 workers. An estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico after the platform’s 400-ton blowout preventer failed, resulting in the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history.

petroleum history april 18

The April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire killed 11 and injured 17 workers. USGS Photo.

Six months earlier at another site, the advanced, semi-submersible drilling rig had set a world record for the deepest offshore well (35,050 feet vertical depth in 4,130 feet of water). When the Macondo Prospect well was capped in mid-July, a National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling launched an eight-month investigation. The commission released its final report on January 11, 2011.

April 22, 1926 – Osage Oil Lease Auctioneer Statue dedicated

A statue commemorating the friendship between Colonel E.E. Walters and Osage Indian Chief Baconrind (phonetically, Wah-she-hah) was dedicated in Walters’ hometown of Skedee, Oklahoma. Beginning in 1912, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth Walters (his real name) and the popular Chief of the Osage Nation raised millions of dollars for the tribe from mineral lease sales.

petroleum history april 18

Skedee, Oklahoma, has declined significantly since 1926, but its statue remains. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The auctions took place beneath an elm tree at the Tribal Council House in Pawhuska, where crowds gathering to witness bidding from Frank Phillips, E.W. Marland and William Skelly. The Skedee unveiling revealed “painted bronze” statues of Walters and the Chief Baconrind shaking hands on a sandstone base. Their close friendship was rare at the time.

Learn more in Million Dollar Auctioneer

April 23, 1878 – Oil Exchange Building opened in Pennsylvania

The Oil Exchange of Oil City, Pennsylvania, opened a new, $100,000 brick building on Seneca Street. Independent producers began meeting there to trade oil and pipeline certificates. They had earlier gathered at local hotels or along Oil City’s Centre Street, then known as the “Curbside Exchange.”

petroleum history april

By 1877, Pennsylvania oil companies had created the third largest financial exchange of any kind in America, behind only New York and San Francisco. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Before the 1870s, most Pennsylvania oil buyers had taken on-site delivery of oil in wooden barrels they provided themselves. A rapidly growing oil pipeline infrastructure created the need for a place to trade certificates as oil commerce expanded. The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey would bring an end to Pennsylvania’s highly speculative oil-trading markets.

Learn more in End of Oil Exchanges.

April 24, 1911 – Magnolia Petroleum founded

The Magnolia Petroleum Company was founded as an unincorporated joint-stock association — a consolidation of several companies, the first of which began as a small refinery in Corsicana, Texas, in 1898.

petroleum history april 18

Magnolia adopted a “Pegasus” logo in the 1930s.

After Magnolia Petroleum established service stations in southwestern states, Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) began acquiring the company in 1925 before merging with the Vacuum Oil Company in 1931. The new company, Socony-Vacuum Oil (the future Mobil Oil), included stations in 20 states operated by Magnolia Petroleum, headquartered in a Dallas skyscraper that was the tallest building west of the Mississippi when built in 1922. By the early 1930s, Magnolia had adopted the Socony-Vacuum Oil Pegasus logo, which began rotating atop the Magnolia Building in 1934.

Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.

April 24, 1917 – Petroleum Product for Eyelashes trademarked

Tom Lyle Williams, doing business in Chicago as Maybell Laboratories, trademarked the name “lash-brow-ine” as a mascara and “preparation for stimulating the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes.” Two years earlier, Williams had watched his sister Mabel perform what she called “a secret of the harem,” mixing petroleum jelly with coal dust and applying it to her eyelashes.

April petroleum history

A 1937 Maybelline magazine ad.

The mascara’s key ingredient, Vaseline, had been patented in 1872 by Robert Chesebrough, a young chemist in Brooklyn, New York. Williams began selling tins of Mabel’s mixture by mail-order catalog, calling it “lash-brow-ine.”  In honor of his sister, who worked with him in his Chicago office, Williams renamed the mascara “Maybelline.”

Learn more in The Crude Story of Mabel’s Eyelashes.

April 25, 1865 – Civil War Veteran patents Well Torpedo

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City received the first of his many patents for an “Improvement in Exploding Torpedoes in Artesian Wells.” The invention used controlled down-hole explosions “to fracture oil-bearing formations and increase oil production.” It was a major technological achievement for the young U.S. petroleum industry.

April petroleum history

A marker notes the 1865 first demonstration of the invention of Union Col. E.A.L. Roberts.

Roberts torpedoes were filled with gunpowder, lowered into wells, and ignited by a weight dropped along a suspension wire to percussion caps. In later models, nitroglycerin replaced gunpowder. Before the well torpedo’s invention, many early wells in the new oil regions of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia often produced limited amounts of oil.

With its exclusive patent licenses, the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company charged up to $200 per torpedo “shoot” and a one-fifteenth royalty. Seeking to avoid the expense, unlicensed practitioners operated at night with their own explosive devices, reportedly leading to the term “moonlighter.”

Learn more in Shooters – A “Fracking” History.

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Recommended Reading:  The First Cars – Famous Firsts (2014); Dark Side of Fortune: Triumph and Scandal in the Life of Oil Tycoon Edward L. Doheny (2001);  The Osage Oil Boom (1989); The Maybelline Story: And the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It (2010); The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World (2015). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

 

This Week in Petroleum History, April 12 to April 18

April 13, 1974 – Depth Record set in Oklahoma Anadarko Basin – 

After drilling for 504 days and costing about $7 million, the Bertha Rogers No. 1 well reached a total depth of 31,441 feet (5.95 miles) before being stopped by liquid sulfur. Drilled in the heart of Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin, it was the deepest well in world for several years and the deepest U.S. well until exceeded in 2004.

Robert Hefner III’s GHK Company and partner Lone Star Producing Company believed natural gas reserves resided deep in the basin, which extends across West-Central Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Their first attempt began in 1967 and took two years to reach what at the time was a record depth, 24,473 feet. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, March 29 to April 4

March 29, 1819 – Birthday of Father of the Petroleum Industry – 

Edwin Laurentine Drake was born in Greenville, New York. Forty years later, he used a steam-powered cable-tool rig to drill the first commercial U.S. oil well at Titusville, Pennsylvania. The former railroad conductor overcame many financial and technical obstacles to make “Drake’s Folly” a milestone in energy history.

Drake pioneered new drilling technologies, including using iron casing to isolate his well from nearby Oil Creek. “In order to overcome the hurdles before him, he invented a ‘drive pipe’ or ‘conductor,’ an invention he unfortunately did not patent,” noted historian Urja Davé in 2008. “Mr. Drake conceived the idea of driving a pipe down to the rock through which to start the drill.” (more…)

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