This Week in Petroleum History, August 8 to August 14

August 9, 1921 – Reflection Seismography reveals Geological Structure – 

A team led by University of Oklahoma geophysicist John C. Karcher conducted the world’s first reflection seismograph measurement of a geologic formation, pioneering the use of reflection seismic technology in petroleum exploration. Prof. Karcher’s seismography method would lead to discovery of many of the world’s largest oil and natural gas fields. His geological section measurement followed limited tests in June and July in Oklahoma City.

Roadside marker with geologic map of Arbuckle Anticline in Oklahoma.

A roadside sign on I-35 north of Oklahoma City includes a geologic illustration of the Arbuckle Anticline, A nearby marker describes how using reflection seismograph for oil exploration began here. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The new geophysical method recorded reflected seismic waves as they traveled through the earth, helping to define oil-bearing formations. “The Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma were selected for a pilot survey of the technique and equipment, because an entire geologic section from the basal Permian to the basement mass of granite is exposed here,” explains a roadside marker at the site north of Oklahoma City on I-35.

Learn more in Exploring Seismic Waves

August 9, 1922 – Major Oilfield found in Luling, Texas 

After drilling six dry holes near Luling, Texas, the United North & South Oil Company completed its Rafael Rios No. 1 well. Company President Edgar B. Davis had been determined to find oil in the Austin chalk formation. His discovery revealed an oilfield 12 miles long and two miles wide. By 1924, the Luling field was annually producing 11 million barrels of oil. 

Luling Oil Museum in historic Texas building.

In central Texas, the Luling Oil Museum is a restored 1885 mercantile store near an oilfield a renowned psychic supposedly helped locate in 1922.

Davis later sold his Luling leases to the Magnolia Petroleum Company for $12 million – the biggest oil deal in Texas at the time. Success also produced tales of Davis finding the giant oilfield only after consulting a psychic. The bogus oil patch reading came from self-proclaimed clairvoyant Edgar Cayce.

The once famous psychic claimed to have helped Davis and other wildcatters, but abandoned searching for Texas oilfields after forming his own company…and drilling expensive dry holes.

Learn more by visiting the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum in Luling. 

On August 9, 1949 – Oil discovered in Western Nebraska

An oilfield discovery in western Nebraska ended decades of unsuccessful searching and helped start the state’s modern petroleum industry. Marathon Oil Company’s Mary Egging No. 1 well five miles southeast of the town of Gurley produced 225 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 4,429 feet. According to a nearby historical marker, the first exploratory well drilled in the area near Harrisburg failed in 1917. The success in western Nebraska came nine years after the first Nebraska oil well was completed in 1940 in the southeastern corner of the state.

August 10, 1909 – Hughes patents Dual-Cone Roller Bit 

“Fishtail” drill bits became obsolete after Howard Hughes Sr. of Houston, Texas, patented the dual-cone roller bit consisting of two rotating cones. By pulverizing hard rock, his bit led to faster and deeper rotary drilling. Historians note that several men were trying to improve bit technologies at the time, but it was Hughes and business associate Walter Sharp who made it happen. Just months before receiving the 1909 patent, they established the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company to manufacture the new bit.

Patent drawing of Hughes 1909 drill bit.

Howard Hughes Sr. of Houston, Texas, received a 1909 patent for “roller drills such as are used for drilling holes in earth and rock.”

“Instead of scraping the rock, as does the fishtail bit, the Hughes bit, with its two conical cutters, took a different engineering approach,” reported the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which in 2009 designated the invention as an Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

“By chipping, crushing, and powdering hard rock formations, the Hughes Two-Cone Drill Bit could reach vast amounts of oil in reservoirs thousands of feet below the surface,” ASME explained. “This new drilling technology would revolutionize the industry.” Hughes engineers would invent the modern tri-cone bit in 1933.

Frank and George Christensen developed the earliest diamond bit in 1941. The tungsten carbide tooth came into use in the early 1950s.

Learn more in Making Hole – Drilling Technology. 

August 11, 1891 – Oil Well brings prosperity to Sistersville, West Virginia 

The discovery well of the Sistersville oilfield was drilled at the small West Virginian town on the Ohio River just north of Parkersburg. “The bringing in of the ‘Pole Cat’ well, which pumped water for a year before it pumped oil, brought in a sudden influx of oil men, drillers, leasers, speculators, followers, floaters, wildcatters, and hangers-on,” a local historian noted.

Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler 1896 bird's-eye  lithograph map of f Sistersville, West Virginia,courtesy Library of Congress.

Bird’s-eye-view artist Thaddeus M. Fowler created maps of prospering towns and cities during the industrial revolution, including many oil boom towns like his 1896 lithograph of Sistersville, West Virginia. Map courtesy Library of Congress.

The petroleum wealth changed Sistersville from a rural village of 300 people, “to a rip-roaring” metropolis of 15,000 people almost overnight. At the height of its oil prosperity, Sistersville was featured among the popular maps created by artist Thaddeus M. Fowler of Massachusetts (see Oil Town “Aero Views”).

Today with a population of about 1,300, the Tyler County town proudly hosts an annual, three-day celebration of the 1891 Pole Cat well (later renamed the Sistersville well). According to its Facebook page, the 54th annual Sistersville Oil and Gas Festival will take place for September 15-17, 2022. 

August 11, 1998 – Amoco announces BP merger

Amoco announced plans to merge with British Petroleum in a stock swap valued at about $48 billion — then the world’s largest industrial merger. Amoco began in 1889 as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company of Indiana. By 1985, the company had changed its name from Standard to Amoco.

BP closed all of its Amoco stations in 2001.

Finalized on December 31, the combined company, BP Amoco PLC, became 60 percent owned by BP shareholders, marking the transaction as the largest foreign takeover of an American company. In 2001, BP announced Amoco stations would be closed or renamed to the BP brand.

August 12, 1888 – Bertha Benz makes World’s First Auto Road Trip

Thirty-nine-year-old Bertha Benz made history when she became the first person to make a long-distance trip by automobile. Her trip also included, “the first road repairs, the first automotive marketing stunt, the first case of a wife borrowing her husband’s car without asking, and the first violation of intercity highway laws in a motor vehicle,” noted a 2012 article in Wired

Bertha Benz, female automotive pioneer, driving in 1888.

Bertha Benz became the world’s first female automotive pioneer in 1888. Image courtesy Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Bertha drove away in the “Patent Motorwagen” (after leaving a note to her husband) and took their two young sons to visit her mother in Pforzheim. Their route from Mannheim was about 56 miles. The drive, which took about 15 hours, helped popularize Karl Benz’s latest invention.

By the end of the century, Mercedes-Benz was the largest car company in the world. The first road trip can today be retraced by following signs of the Bertha Benz Memorial Route. She was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2016 as the first female automotive pioneer.

Learn more in First Car, First Road Trip

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August 12, 1930 – Kentucky Oil and Gas Producers unite 

Eastern Kentucky independent producers joined the Western Kentucky Oil Men’s Association to create a state-wide organization in Frankfort — today’s Kentucky Oil and Gas Association (KOGA). A 1919 oil discovery in Hancock County had launched the petroleum industry in western Kentucky, where commercial amounts of oil had been found as early as 1829 near Burkesville (while drilling for brine with a spring-pole (also see Kentucky’s Great American Well).

August 13, 1962 – Norman Rockwell illustrates Oil and Gas Journal 

The Oil and Gas Journal promoted itself with an illustration from artist Norman Rockwell in an ad captioned, “Where Oil Men Invest Their Valuable Reading Time.” Rockwell’s renditions of American life brought him popularity through magazines like the Saturday Evening PostBoy’s Life, and Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.

Norman Rockwell illustration in Oil and Gas Journal.

A Norman Rockwell illustration advertised a leading industry trade magazine.

In addition to the illustrations for the Oil and Gas Journal, in 1959 Rockwell provided artwork to the American Petroleum Institute (API), which sponsored a U.S. Postal Service “first day of issue” commemorating the 1959 centennial of the birth of the U.S. oil industry (see Centennial Oil Stamp Issue). The illustration included the slogan “Oil’s First Century 1859-1959, Born in Freedom Working for Progress.”

Norman Rockwell art on 1959 centennial of the birth of U.S. oil industry.

Norman Rockwell’s art commemorated the 1959 centennial of the birth of the nation’s oil industry.

Rockwell’s drawing depicted “the men of science, the rugged extraction of the crude oil, and ending with your friendly service station attendant,” according to a collector. Learn about another petroleum-related illustrator in Seuss I am, an Oilman

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Recommended Reading:  Oil And Gas In Oklahoma: Petroleum Geology In Oklahoma (2013); Texas Art and a Wildcatter’s Dream: Edgar B. Davis and the San Antonio Art League (1998); Drilling Technology in Nontechnical Language (2012); Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World (2017). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an annual AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

This Week in Petroleum History, August 1 to August 7

August 1, 1872 – Iron Pipeline delivers Pennsylvania Natural Gas – 

The first recorded large-scale delivery of natural gas by pipeline began when gas was sent to more than 250 residential and commercial customers in Titusville, Pennsylvania, home of America’s first oil well, drilled in 1859. The two-inch iron pipeline carried the natural gas five miles from a well producing four million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

The mayor of Titusville and other investors had formed the Keystone Gas & Water Company to construct the pipeline for delivering “the most powerful and voluminous gas well on record.” The historic gas well produced into the 1880s, according to the Drake Well Museum and Park in Titusville.

August 2, 1956 – Missouri builds First U.S. Interstate Highway

Missouri became the first state to award a contract with interstate construction funding authorized two months earlier by the Federal-Aid Highway Act. The Missouri highway commission agreed to begin work on part of Route 66 – now Interstate 44.

Missouri officials stand at the first interstate, I-44.

Missouri launched the U.S. interstate system after “inking a deal for work on U.S. Route 66.” Today, I-44 stretches across south central Missouri and is a major corridor linking the Midwest and the West Coast.

“There is no question that the creation of the interstate highway system has been the most significant development in the history of  transportation in the United States,” proclaimed the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Learn more transportation and oil history in America on the Move.

August 3, 1769 – La Brea Asphalt Pits discovered

The La Brea, “the tar,” pits were discovered during a 1769 Spanish expedition on the West Coast. “We debated whether this substance, which flows melted from underneath the earth, could occasion so many earthquakes,” noted the expedition’s Franciscan friar in his diary.

Outside the Page Museum of Los Angeles

Outside the Page Museum of Los Angeles, life-size replicas of several extinct mammals are featured at the Rancho La Brea in Hancock Park. Although called the “tar pits,” the pools are actually asphalt.

The friar, Juan Crespi, was the first person to use the term “bitumen” in describing these sticky pools in southern California — where crude oil has been seeping from the ground through fissures in the coastal plain sediments for more than 40,000 years. Native Americans used the substance for centuries to waterproof baskets and caulk canoes.

Illustration of crude oil seeps.

Pools form when crude oil seeps to the surface through fissures in the earth’s crust.

Although popularly called the tar pits, the pools at Rancho La Brea are actually asphalt — not tar, which is a by-product made by the distillation of woody materials, such as peat. Asphalt is a naturally formed substance comprised of hydrocarbon molecules — petroleum (see Asphalt Paves the Way).

Learn more in Discovering the Le Brea Tar Pits.

August 3, 1942 – War brings “Big Inch” and “Little Big Inch” Pipelines

War Emergency Pipelines Inc. began construction on the “Big Inch” line — the longest petroleum pipeline project ever undertaken in the United States. Conceived to supply wartime fuel demands — and in response to U-boat attacks on oil tankers along the eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico, the “Big Inch” and “Little Big Inch” lines were extolled as “The most amazing government-industry cooperation ever achieved.”

Map of Big and Little Big Inch 24-inch pipelines

The longest petroleum pipeline project ever undertaken led to construction of a 24-inch pipeline from East Texas to Illinois, and a 20-inch line as far as New York City.

With a goal of transporting 300,000 barrels of oil per day, the $95 million project called for construction of a 24-inch pipeline (Big Inch) from East Texas to Illinois, and a 20-inch line (Little Big Inch) as far as New York and Philadelphia — more than 1,200 miles (the Trans-Alaska pipeline system is 800 miles long).

Learn more in Big Inch Pipelines of WWII.

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August 4, 1913 – Discovery of Oklahoma’s “Poor Man’s Field”

The Crystal Oil Company completed its Wirt Franklin No. 1 well 20 miles northwest of Ardmore, Oklahoma. The well revealed the giant Healdton field, which became known as the “poor man’s field,” because of its shallow depth and low cost of drilling. The area attracted many independent producers with limited financial backing.

 Healdton Oil Museum includes IPAA founder Wirt Franklin's Pierce-Arrow

The Healdton Oil Museum includes IPAA founder Wirt Franklin’s Pierce-Arrow. The museum hosts annual oil history events.

Another major oil discovery in 1919 revealed the Hewitt field, which extended oil production in a 22 mile swath across Carter County. The Greater Healdton-Hewitt oilfield produced, “an astounding 320,753,000 barrels of crude by the close of the first half of the 20th century,” noted historian Kenny Franks.

In 1929, Wirt Franklin became the first president of the then Tulsa-based Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). Erle Halliburton perfected his method of cementing oil wells in the Healdton field (see Halliburton and the Healdton Oilfield).

Learn more about Oklahoma’s historic “poor man’s field” by visiting the Healdton Oil Museum.

August 4, 1977 – U.S. Department of Energy established

President Jimmy Carter signed the Department of Energy Organization Act, which established the twelfth cabinet-level department by consolidating a dozen agencies and energy-related programs of the federal government. The new department combined the Federal Energy Administration and Energy Research and Development Administration; DOE also became responsible for nuclear weapon programs and national labs.  James Schlesinger was sworn in as first Secretary of Energy.

August 7, 1933 – Permian Basin inspires “Alley Oop” Comic Strip

Although the comic strip “Alley Oop” first appeared in August 1933, the cartoon caveman began with 1920s oilfield discoveries in the Permian Basin. A small West Texas oil town would later proclaim itself as the inspiration for cartoonist Victor Hamlin.

1995 stamp commemorating “Alley Oop” comics character.

A 1995 stamp commemorated “Alley Oop” by Victor Hamlin, who once worked in oilfields at Yates, Texas.

Iraan (pronounced eye-rah-ann) first appeared as a company town following the October 1926 discovery of the prolific Yates oilfield. The town’s name combined names of the town-site owners, Ira and Ann Yates. As drilling in the Permian Basin boomed, Hamlin worked as an oil company cartographer there. He developed a life-long interest in geology and paleontology that would lead to his popular comic strip.

Learn more in Alley Oop’s Oil Roots.

August 7, 1953 – Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act generates Revenue

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gave the Secretary of the Interior responsibility for the administration of mineral exploration and development of the outer continental shelf.  Forty-four Gulf of Mexico wells were operating in 11 oilfields in 1949, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. As the offshore industry evolved in the 1950s, oil production became the second-largest revenue generator for the country, after income taxes.

August 7, 2004 – Death of a Famed “Hellfighter”

Famed oilfield well control expert and firefighter Paul “Red” Adair died at age 89 in Houston. The son of a blacksmith, Adair was born in 1915 in Houston. He served with a U.S. Army bomb disposal unit during World War II.

Firefighter Paul “Red” Adair in 1964.

Famed oilfield firefighter Paul “Red” Adair of Houston, Texas, in 1964. 

Firefighter Paul “Red” Adair began his career working for Myron Macy Kinley, who patented a technology for using charges of high explosives to snuff out well fires. Kinley, whose father had been an oil well shooter in California in the early 1900s, mentored many successful firefighters, including Asger “Boots” Hansen and Edward “Coots” Mathews (Boots & Coots International Well Control).

After founding the Red Adair Company in 1959, Adair developed new techniques as his company put out more than 2,000 well fires worldwide — onshore and offshore. The oilfield firefighter’s skills, dramatized in the 1968 film “Hellfighters,” were tested in 1991 when Adair’s company extinguished 117 well fires set in Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s retreating Iraqi army.

Learn more oil history and fighting tank fires in Oilfield Firefighting Technologies.

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Recommended Reading:  The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways (2012); Monsters Of Old Los Angeles – The Prehistoric Animals Of The La Brea Tar Pits (2008); Ragtown: A History of the Greater Healdton-Hewitt Oil Field (1989); Yates: A family, A Company, and Some Cornfield Geology (2000); An American Hero: The Red Adair Story (1990). Amazon purchases benefit the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

This Week in Petroleum History, July 25 to July 31

July 25, 1543 – Oil reported in New World – 

The first documented report of oil in the New World resulted when a storm forced Spanish explorer Don Luis de Moscoso to land two of his brigantines at the mouth of the Sabine River. He had succeeded expedition leader Hernando de Soto and built seven of the small vessels to sail down the newly discovered Mississippi River and westward along the Gulf Coast.

Sailing vessel known as a brig.

Spanish explorers used brigantines to travel along the Gulf Coast in 1543.

According an account of the expedition, Indians knew of the future Texas’ natural seeps. “There was found a skumme, which they call Copee, which the Sea casteth up, and it is like Pitch, wherewith in some places, where Pitch is wanting, they pitch their ships; there they pitched their Brigandines.”

Learn more about the first reports of oil worldwide in Earliest Signs of Oil.

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This Week in Petroleum History, July 18 to July 24

July 19, 1915 – Petroleum powers Washing Machines and Lawn Mowers – 

Howard Snyder applied to patent his internal combustion-powered washing machine, assigning the rights to the Maytag Company. Snyder’s machine — for “the ordinary farmer” who often lacked access to electricity — used a one-cylinder, two-cycle engine that could run on gasoline, kerosene or alcohol.

Magazine ads for early gas-powered washing machines and lawn mowers.

Advertisements featured two popular products powered by air cooled internal combustion engines.

Four years after Snyder’s innovation, Edwin George of Detroit removed the the engine from his wife’s Maytag washing machine and added it to a common, reel-type lawn mower. George’s invention launched the Moto-Mower Company, which sold America’s first commercially successful gasoline-powered lawn mower.

July 19, 1957 – Major Oil Discovery in Alaska Territory 

Although some oil production had occurred earlier in the territory, Alaska’s first commercial oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil Company, which completed its Swanson River Unit No. 1 in Cook Inlet Basin. The well yielded 900 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 11,215 feet.

Anchorage Daily Times headline "Richfield Hits Oil"

Even the Anchorage Daily Times could not predict oil production would account for more than 90 percent of Alaska’s revenue.

Alaska’s first governor, William Egan, proclaimed the oilfield discovery provided “the economic justification for statehood for Alaska” two years later. Richfield leased more than 71,000 acres of the Kenai National Moose Range, now part of the 1.92 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. More Alaska discoveries followed.

By June 1962, about 50 wells were producing more than 20,000 barrels of oil a day. Richfield Oil Company merged with Atlantic Refining Company in 1966, becoming Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), which with Exxon discovered the giant Prudhoe Bay field in 1968.

Learn about the earliest exploration wells in the 49th state in First Alaska Oil Wells.

July 20, 1920 – Discovery Well of the Permian Basin

The Permian Basin made headlines in 1920 when a wildcat well erupted oil from a depth of 2,750 feet on land owned by Texas Pacific Land Trust agent William H. Abrams, who just weeks earlier had discovered the West Columbia oilfield in Brazoria County south of Houston.

The latest W.H. Abrams No. 1 well — “shot” with nitroglycerin by the Texas Company (later Texaco) — proved to be part of the Permian Basin, encompassing 75,000 square miles in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Map of Permian Basin in West Texas.

The Permian Basin would become the leading source of U.S. oil. Image courtesy Rigzone.

According to a Mitchell County historical marker, “land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values…the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions.”

A 1923 Permian Basin well near Big Lake brought yet another Texas drilling boom — and helped establish the University of Texas (see Santa Rita taps Permian Basin)

July 21, 1935 – “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy strikes Oil

Glenn H. McCarthy struck oil 50 miles east of Houston in 1935, extending the already prolific Anahuac field. The well was the first of many for the Texas independent producer who would discover 11 Texas oilfields by 1945.

McCarthy would become known as another “King of the Wildcatters” and “Diamond Glenn” by 1950, when his estimated worth reached $200 million ($2 billion today).

 petroleum history july 20

Glenn McCarthy appeared on TIME magazine in 1950.

In addition to his McCarthy Oil and Gas Company, McCarthy eventually owned a gas company, a chemical company, a radio station, 14 newspapers, a magazine, two banks, and the Shell Building in Houston. In the late 1940s, he invested $21 million to build the 18-story, 1,100-room Shamrock Hotel on the edge of Houston. He reportedly spent  $1 million on 1949 St. Patrick’s Day opening gala, which newspapers dubbed, “Houston’s biggest party.”

Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.

July 22, 1933 – Phillips Petroleum sponsors Solo Flight around the World

Before 50,000 cheering New York City onlookers, Wiley Post made aviation history when he landed his Lockheed Vega “Winnie Mae.” The former Oklahoma roughneck was the first person to fly solo around the world. Post had worked in oilfields near Walters, Oklahoma, when he took his first airplane ride with a barnstormer in 1919.

Wiley Post, former oil worker, set flying records with this plane Winnie Mae.

Thanks to a friendship with Frank Phillips, Wiley Post set altitude records — and was the first man to fly solo around the world.

In 1926, he had returned to working in an oilfield, where he was injured his first day, losing the sight in his left eye. Post’s injury happened while working at a well site near Seminole, when a metal splinter damaged his eye. He used the $1,700 in compensation to buy his first airplane.

Post became friends with Frank Phillips, who sponsored Post’s high-altitude experimental flights. Phillips Petroleum Company, which produced aviation fuel before it produced gasoline for cars, also sponsored another historic plane — the “Woolaroc” — in a 1927 air race across the Pacific.

July 22, 1959 – Historical Marker erected to Second U.S. Oil Well

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicated a state marker to commemorate the man who drilled for oil just a few days after Edwin Drake completed the first U.S. commercial well on August 27, 1859. “After Drake’s discovery of oil in Titusville, some area residents attempted to sink their own well,” noted historians at Explore Pennsylvania. “The vast majority of such efforts failed.”

PA Marker for second oil wellUsing a simple spring-pole, 22-year-old John Grandin and a local blacksmith began to “kick down” a well that would reach almost twice as deep as Drake’s cable-tool depth of 69.5 feet. Despite not finding the oil-producing formation (the Venango Sands), Grandin’s well produced several “firsts” for the young U.S. petroleum industry.

Learn more in First Dry Hole.

July 23, 1872 – “Real McCoy” drips Oil into Steam Engines

Using petroleum for improving the performance of locomotives became widespread when Elijah McCoy patented an automatic lubricator for steam engines. McCoy, an African-American inventor, designed a device that applied oil through a drip cup to locomotive and ship steam engines.

Patent for the Real McCoy of 1872

Locomotive steam engines depended on large quantities of lubricating oil.

Born in Canada in 1843, McCoy was the son of slaves who had escaped from Kentucky and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he graduated from high school. By the time of his death in 1929, McCoy had been awarded 60 patents (including a folding ironing table), according to a 1994 Michigan historical marker.

Some industry sources maintain that McCoy left another legacy: “The term ‘the real McCoy’ is believed to have come about because railroad engineers did not want low-quality copycat versions of this device.” Before a purchase, buyers would ask if it was “the real McCoy.”

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July 23, 1951 – Desk & Derrick Clubs organize

The Association of Desk & Derrick Clubs of North America was formed with articles of association signed by presidents of clubs in Jackson,  Mississippi, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Houston. A few years earlier, a secretary at Humble Oil and Refining Company had organized the first club in New Orleans.

Learn more in Desk and Derrick Educators.

July 24, 2000 – BP unveils New Green and Yellow Logo

BP the official name of a group of companies that included Amoco, ARCO and Castrol, unveiled a new corporate identity brand, replacing the “Green Shield” logo with a green and yellow sunflower pattern.

The company also introduced a new corporate slogan: “Beyond Petroleum.” When BP — then British Petroleum — merged with Amoco in 1998, the company’s name briefly changed to BP Amoco before all stations converted to the BP brand.

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Recommended Reading:  From the Rio Grande to the Arctic: The Story of the Richfield Oil Corporation (1972); Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska (2012); Texon: Legacy of an Oil Town, Images of America (2011); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982); The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes (2009). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

This Week in Petroleum History, July 11 to July 17

July 11, 2008 – World Oil Price hits Historic High – 

The price of oil reached a record high of $147.27 a barrel before dropping back to $145.08. Prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange had peaked at $145.29 a barrel eight days earlier. As supply fears subsided, oil prices fell below $37 a barrel by early  2009. A decade later, U.S. petroleum consumption ranked number one worldwide, exceeding 20.5 million barrels per day.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, oil prices rose above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014. By the end of June, the price of West Texas Intermediate oil reached $113.66 per barrel before declining to $101.55 on July 5, 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

July 11, 2013 – Drop of Pitch drips After 69 Years

Physicists at Trinity College Dublin photographed a falling drip of pitch — “one of the most anticipated drips in science,” according to the journal Nature.

petroleum history july 13

Pitch (bitumen) is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon that flows very, very slowly.

Set up in 1944, the pitch-drop experiment demonstrated the high viscosity (low fluidity) of pitch, a natural hydrocarbon also known as bitumen or asphalt that appears solid at room temperature, but is flowing extremely slowly.

“The Trinity College team has estimated the viscosity of the pitch by monitoring the evolution of this one drop, and puts it in the region of two million times more viscous than honey, or 20 billion times the viscosity of water, ” the magazine noted. Another “Pitch Drop Experiment” that began 1927 continues at an Australian university.

Learn more in see Asphalt paves the Way.

July 12, 1934 – Emory Clark launches “Clark Super 100” Stations

Two years after paying $14 for a closed, one-pump gas station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Emory Clark incorporated what would become the Clark Oil & Refining Corporation. He set out to create a network of simplified filling stations that focused on selling premium gasoline only, “Super 100 Premium.”

Models of Clark gas stations selling Supper 100 gas.

Founded in 1934, Clark operated about 1,500 gas stations by 1970.

Clark’s marketing strategy eliminated common services like maintenance, engine repair, and tire changing. Sales reached $21.1 million in 1949, and by 1953 the company operated more than 150 service stations in the Midwest under the brand name “Clark Super 100.”

After purchasing a large refinery at Wood River, Illinois, in 1967, three years later Clark was selling high-octane gas from 1,500 gas stations. In 1981, the Clark family sold their company holdings, which began with  Emory T. Clark’s $14 purchase, to Missouri-based Apex Oil for $483 million.

July 14, 1863 – Patent issued for “Tool for Boring Rock” 

French tunnel engineer Rodolphe Leschot received a U.S. patent for a “Tool for Boring Rock.” His concept included a ring of industrial-grade diamonds on the end of a tubular drill rod designed to cut a cylindrical core. Water pumped through the drill rod washed away cuttings and cooled the bit. Leschot’s system proved successful in drilling blast holes for tunneling Mount Cenis on the France-Italy border.

Rodolphe Leschot's cutting-edge 1863 drilling technology.

French engineer Rodolphe Leschot’s cutting-edge 1863 drilling technology.

The use of diamond bits in oil well drilling was being examined in the petroleum regions of western Pennsylvania after the Civil War. “It is not known if there is any connection between the 1865 experimental diamond core drilling in the Pennsylvania oil region and the Leschot blast hole drilling in France in 1863,” oil historian Sam Pees noted in 2004.

Learn more about Making Hole – Drilling Technology.

July 14, 1891 – Rockefeller expands Oil Tank Car Empire 

John D. Rockefeller incorporated Union Tank Line Company in New Jersey and transferred his fleet of several thousand oil tank cars to the Standard Oil Trust. He then systematically acquired control of all but 200 of America’s 3,200 existing oil tank cars. By 1904, his rolling fleet of tank cars had grown to 10,000.

Oil tanks cars of Standard Oil

By 1904, Standard Oil’s railroad tank car fleet had grown to 10,000.

Union Tank Line Company shipped only Standard Oil products until 1911, when the U.S. Supreme Court mandated dissolution of his trust. The newly independent company changed its name to Union Tank Car Company (its official rolling stock reporting mark retained Standard’s UTL or UTLX). In 1963, the company introduced a 50,000-gallon tank car, the largest in rail service.

Learn more about the early days of transporting petroleum in Densmore Oil Tank Car.

July 16, 1907 – Carl Baker’s Casing Shoe advances Oilfield Technology

After drilling and completing wells in booming Kern River oilfields, R. Carlton “Carl” Baker of Coalinga, California, patented what would become the Baker casing shoe, a device that helped ensure oil flowed uninterrupted through a well. Baker, who founded the Coalinga Oil Company in 1903, by 1913 had established the Baker Casing Shoe Company (renamed Baker Tools two years later).

Baker opened his first manufacturing plant in Coalinga before moving his headquarters to Los Angeles in the 1930s. Baker Tools became Baker International in 1976 and Baker Hughes after a 1987 merger with the Hughes Tool Company. Purchased by General Electric in 2017, the Baker Hughes Company divested from GE in 2019.

Learn more in Carl Baker and Howard Hughes.

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July 16, 1926 – Oil Discovery launches Greater Seminole Area Boom

Three years after an oil well was completed near Bowlegs, Oklahoma, a gusher south of Seminole revealed the true oil potential of Seminole County. The Fixico No. 1 well penetrated the prolific Wilcox Sands formation at 4,073 feet deep. Drilled by R.F. Garland and his Independent Oil Company, the well was among more than 50 Greater Seminole Area oil reservoirs discovered; six were giants that produced more than one million barrels of oil each.

With the addition of the giant Oklahoma City oilfield, discovered in 1928, Oklahoma would become the largest supplier of oil in the world by 1935.

Learn more in Seminole Oil Boom.

July 16, 1935 – Oklahoma Publisher produces First Parking Meter 

As the booming Oklahoma City oilfield added to the congestion of cars downtown, the world’s first parking meter was installed at the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue. Carl C. Magee, publisher of the Oklahoma News, designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1.

Carl Magee, designer of the Park-O-Meter

Oklahoma college students helped Carl Magee design the Park-O-Meter No. 1. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

Magee designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1, today preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society. “The meter charged five cents for one hour of parking, and naturally citizens hated it, viewing it as a tax for owning a car,” noted historian Josh Miller in 2012. “But retailers loved the meter, as it encouraged a quick turnover of customers.”

Park-O-Meters were manufactured by MacNick Company of Tulsa, a maker of timing devices used to explode nitroglycerin in oil wells (also see Zebco Reel Oilfield History).

July 16, 1969 – Kerosene fuels launch of Saturn V Moon Rocket 

A 19th century petroleum product made America’s 1969 moon landing possible. Kerosene powered the first-stage rocket engines of the Saturn V when it launched the Apollo 11 mission on July 16. Four days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Saturn V launches burning "rocket grade" kerosene.

Powered by five first-stage engines fueled by “rocket grade” kerosene, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built. Photos courtesy Nasa.

During launch, five engines of the massive Saturn V’s first stage burned “Rocket Grade Kerosene Propellant” at 2,230 gallons per second – generating almost eight million pounds of thrust. The fuel was a highly refined kerosene RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1) that could trace its roots to the 1840s and “coal oil” for lamps.

Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner began refining the fuel from coal in 1846. He coined the term kerosene from the Greek word keros (wax). RP-1 today fuels first-stage boosters for the Atlas, SpaceX, and other rockets.

Learn more in Kerosene Rocket Fuel.

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Recommended Reading: Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City (1994); Pump and Circumstance: Glory Days of the Gas Station (1993); A History of the Greater Seminole Oil Field (1981); The United States of Awesome: Fun, Fascinating and Bizarre Trivia about the Greatest Country in the Universe (2012); Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles (2003). As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

This Week in Petroleum History, July 4 to July 10

July 5, 1900 – Edison films Standard Oil Refinery Fire in New Jersey – 

An early morning lightning strike at the Standard Oil Company refinery at Bayonne, New Jersey, set off explosions in three storage tanks, each with a capacity of 40,000 barrels of oil. Within minutes after the fire began, the company’s own fire department and tugboats rushed to fight the blaze. 

Thomas Edison film of New Jersey refinery fire of 1900.

Screenshots from Thomas Edison’s film of destruction of Standard Oil Company’s refinery at Bayonne, New Jersey, on July 5, 1900, courtesy Library of Congress.

“The tugboats moved the company ships and oil-filled barges away from its burning docks to safe waters,” noted the Jersey Journal. in a 2017 article about the fire, which was featured in one of the first newsreels by the Thomas A. Edison Company (view it here). As bad as the Standard Oil refinery conflagration was, there were no fatalities. (more…)

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