This Week in Petroleum History, October 23 to October 29

October 23, 1908 – Salt Creek Well launches Wyoming Boom – 

Wyoming’s first oil boom began when the Dutch company Petroleum Maatschappij Salt Creek completed its “Big Dutch” well about 40 miles north of Casper. Salt Creek’s potential had been known since the 1880s, but the area’s central geological salt dome received little attention until Italian geologist Cesare Porro recommended drilling there in 1906.

Five years earlier, a salt dome formation had revealed the giant Spindletop oilfield in Texas.

“Big Dutch” No. 1 discovery well gushing oil in Wyoming in 1908.

The “Big Dutch” No. 1 well, above, launched a Wyoming drilling boom in 1908. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

The Oil Wells Drilling Syndicate, a British company, drilled the “Big Dutch” well, which produced 600 barrels of oil a day from 1,050 feet deep. By 1930, about one-fifth of all U.S. oil production came from the Salt Creek oilfield. Production continued with water-flooding technologies in the 1960s and the use of carbon dioxide injection beginning in 2004.

Learn more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.

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October 23, 1948 – “Smart Pig” advances Pipeline Inspection

Northern Natural Gas Company recorded the first use of an X-ray machine for internal testing of petroleum pipeline welds. The company examined a 20-inch diameter pipe north of its Clifton, Kansas, compressor station. The device — today known as a “smart pig” — traveled up to 1,800 feet inside the pipe, imaging each weld.

A pipeline inspector examines a "smart Pig."

A pipeline worker inspects a “smart pig.” Photo courtesy Pacific L.A. Marine Terminal.

As early as 1926, U.S. Navy researchers had investigated the use of gamma-ray radiation to detect flaws in welded steel. In 1944, Cormack Boucher patented a “radiographic apparatus” suitable for large pipelines. Modern inspection tools employ magnetic particle, ultrasonic, eddy current, and other methods to verify pipeline and weld integrity.

October 23, 1970 – LNG powers World Land Speed Record

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered the Blue Flame to a new world land speed record of 630.388 miles per hour. A rocket motor combining LNG and hydrogen peroxide fueled the 38-foot, 4,950-pound Blue Flame, which set the record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The rocket motor could produce up to 22,000 pounds of thrust — about 58,000 horsepower.

Front view of Blue Flame rocket car in 1970.

In 1970, the Blue Flame achieved, “the greenest world land speed record set in the 20th century.”

Sponsored by the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Institute of Gas Technology, the Blue Flame design came from three Milwaukee, Wisconsin, automotive engineers: Dick Keller, Ray Dausman, and Pete Farnsworth. After building a record-setting rocket dragster in 1967 that got the attention of AGA executives, the men began designing a more ambitious vehicle.

Speedquest Blue Flame vdeo produced by American Oil and Gas Historical Society and engineer Dick Keller.

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society interviewed Dick Keller in 2013 to produce a YouTube video using his 8mm home movies.

Interviewed for a 2013 video featuring his home movies, Keller explained how the growing environmental movement of the late 1960s, encouraged AGA “suits” to see value in educating consumers about natural gas as a fuel. In 2020. he published Speedquest: Inside the Blue Flam, his account of the last U.S. team to set the world land speed record. The Blue Flame, fueled by natural gas, remains “the greenest world land speed record set in the 20th century,” according to Keller,

Learn more in Blue Flame Natural Gas Rocket Car.

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October 25, 1929 – Cabinet Member guilty in Teapot Dome Scandal 

Albert B. Fall, appointed Interior Secretary in 1921 by President Warren G. Harding, was found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office, becoming the first cabinet official in U.S. history to be convicted of a felony. An executive order from President Harding had given Fall full control of the Naval Petroleum Reserves.

Teapot Rock in Wyoming before "spout" collapsed.

Wyoming’s Teapot Dome oilfield was named after Teapot Rock, seen here circa 1922 (the “spout” later fell off). Photo courtesy Casper College Western History Center.

Fall was found guilty of secretly leasing the Navy’s oil reserve lands to Harry Sinclair of Sinclair Oil Company and to Edward Doheny, discoverer of the Los Angeles oilfield.

The noncompetitive leases were awarded to Doheny’s Pan American Petroleum Company (reserves at Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills, California), and Sinclair’s Mammoth Oil Company (reserve at Teapot Dome, Wyoming). Fall received more than $400,000 from the two oil companies.

It emerged during In Senate hearings that cash was delivered to Secretary Fall in a Washington, D.C., hotel.  He was convicted of taking a bribe, fined $100,000, and sentenced to one year in prison. Sinclair and Doheny were acquitted, but Sinclair spent six-and-a-half months in prison for contempt of court and the U.S. Senate.

October 26, 1970 – Joe Roughneck Statue dedicated in Texas 

Texas Governor Preston Smith dedicated a “Joe Roughneck” memorial in Boonsville to mark the 20th anniversary of a giant natural gas field discovery there. In 1950, the Lone Star Gas Company Vaught No. 1 well had discovered the Boonsville field, which produced 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas over the next 20 years.

By 2001 the Boonsville field in East Texas reached production of 3.1 trillion cubic feet of gas from more than 3,500 wells.

Joe Roughneck plaque and statue on oil pipe in Boonsville, Texas.

“Joe Roughneck” in Boonsville, Texas. Photo, courtesy Mike Price.

“Joe Roughneck” began as a character in Lone Star Steel Company advertising in the 1950s. A bronze bust was awarded each year (until 2020) at the Chief Roughneck Award ceremony of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). In addition to the Boonsville monument, Joe’s bust sits atop three different Texas oilfield monuments:  Joinerville (1957), Conroe (1957) and Kilgore (1986).

Learn more in Meet Joe Roughneck.

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October 27, 1763 – Birth of Pioneer American Geologist

William Maclure, who would become a renowned American geologist and “stratigrapher,” was born in Ayr, Scotland. He created the earliest geological maps of North America in 1809 and later earned the title, “Father of American Geology.”

After settling in the United States in 1797, Maclure explored the eastern part of North America to prepare the first geological map of the United States. His travels from Maine to Georgia in 1808 resulted in the first geological map of the new United States.

A rare 1818 geologic map of the United States by William Maclure.

“Map of the United States of America, Designed to Illustrate the Geological Memoir of Wm. Maclure, Esqr.” This 1818 version is more detailed than the first geological map he published in 1809. Image courtesy the Historic Maps Collection, Princeton Library.

“Here, in broad strokes, he identifies six different geological classes,” a Princeton geologist reported. “Note that the chain of the Appalachian Mountains is correctly labeled as containing the most primitive, or oldest, rock.”

In the 1850s, a chemist at Yale analyzed samples of  Pennsylvania “rock oil” for refining into kerosene; his report led to the drilling of the first U.S. oil well in 1859 (also see Rocky Beginnings of Petroleum Geology).

October 27, 1923 – Refining Company founded in Arkansas

Lion Oil Company was founded as a refining Company in El Dorado, Arkansas, by Texan Thomas Harry Barton. He earlier had organized the El Dorado Natural Gas Company and acquired a 2,000-barrel-a-day refinery in 1922.

Lion Oil Company gas pump and truck, El Dorado, Arkansas.

Founded in 1923 in El Dorado, Arkansas, Lion Oil will operate about 2,000 service stations in the south in the 1950s. Photo courtesy Lion Oil.

Production from the nearby Smackover oilfield helped the Lion Oil Refining Company’s refining capacity grow to 10,000 barrels a day. By 1925, the company acquired oil wells producing 1.4 million barrels of oil.

A merger with Monsanto Chemical in 1955 brought the gradual disappearance of the once familiar “Beauregard Lion” logo. The company has continued to sell a variety of petroleum products, including gasoline, low-sulfur diesel fuel, solvents, propane and asphalt.

Learn more Arkansas history in Arkansas Oil and Gas Boom Towns.

October 28, 1926 – Yates Field discovered West of the Pecos in Texas

The 26,400-acre Yates oilfield was discovered in a remote area of Pecos County, Texas, in the Permian Basin. Drilled in 1926 with a $15,000 cable-tool rig, the Ira Yates 1-A produced 450 barrels of oil a day from almost 1,000 feet deep. Prior to the giant oilfield discovery, Ira Yates had struggled to keep his ranch on the northern border of the Chihuahua Desert.

“Drought and predators nearly did him in” noted one historian, until Yates convinced a San Angelo company to explore for oil west of the Pecos River. With the Pecos County well 30 miles from the nearest oil pipeline and a storage tank under construction, four more Yates wells yielded another 12,000 barrels of oil a day.

Ira Yates would receive an $18 million oil royalty check on his 67th birthday. Also see Santa Rita taps Permian Basin.

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October 27, 1938 – DuPont names Petroleum Product “Nylon”

DuPont chemical company announced that “Nylon” would be the name of its newly invented synthetic fiber yarn made from petroleum. Discovered in 1935 by Wallace Carothers at a DuPont research facility, nylon is considered the first commercially successful synthetic polymer.

Nylon found widespread applications in consumer products, including toothbrushes, fishing lines, luggage and lingerie, or in special uses like surgical thread, parachutes, and pipes. Carothers would become known as the father of the science of man-made polymers (see Nylon, a Petroleum Polymer).

October 28, 1868 – Newspaper praises Explosive Technology

In Pennsylvania, the Titusville Morning Herald praised results of an explosive oilfield production technology, Civil War veteran Colonel E.A.L. Roberts’ patented nitroglycerin torpedo. “It would be superfluous, at this late day, to speak of the merits of the Roberts Torpedo,” the 1868 newspaper article explained.

“For the past three years, it has been a most successful operation, and has increased the production of oil in hundreds upon hundreds of oil wells to an extent which could hardly be overestimated” (see Shooters – a “Fracking” History).


Recommended Reading: The Salt Creek Oil Field: Natrona County, Wyoming, 1912 (2017); Oil and Gas Pipeline Fundamentals (1993); The Reluctant Rocketman: A Curious Journey in World Record Breaking (2013); Speedquest: Inside the Blue Flame (2020); The Bradford Oil Refinery, Pennsylvania, Images of America (2006); Early Louisiana and Arkansas Oil: A Photographic History, 1901-1946 (1982); Du Pont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain (1984); 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.


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.

This Week in Petroleum History, October 16 to October 22

October 16, 1931 – Natural Gas Pipeline sets Record – 

The first long-distance, high-pressure U.S. natural gas pipeline went into service during the Great Depression, linking prolific Texas Panhandle gas fields to consumers in Chicago.

A map of a 1931 natural gas pipeline from North Texas to Illinois.

A 1931 natural gas pipeline extended 980 miles from North Texas to Illinois.

A.O. Smith Corporation developed the technology for a thin-walled pipe, and Continental Construction Corporation built the 980-mile bolted flange pipeline for the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America (NGPL).

The $75 million high-tech pipeline project consumed 209,000 tons of specially fabricated 24-inch wide steel pipe, which filled 6,500 freight cars. The project required 2,600 separate right-of-way leases (also see Big Inch Pipelines of WWII).

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October 17, 1890 – Union Oil of California founded

Lyman Stewart, Thomas Bard and Wallace Hardison founded the Union Oil Company of California by merging their petroleum properties to compete with Standard Oil of California (founded 20 years earlier).  Union Oil made strategic alliances with small oil producers to build pipelines from Kern County oilfields to the Pacific coast.

“This gave the independent producers an alternative to what they perceived as the low prices paid by Standard Oil and the high freight rates charged by the railroads to move crude oil,” noted the American Institute of Mining in 1914. Union Oil moved the company headquarters from Santa Paula to Los Angeles in 1901.

Exterior of California Oil Museum in Santa Paula, a California Historical Landmark.

After becoming the Union Oil Museum in 1950, the company’s Santa Paula headquarters building in 1990 was restored to its original appearance and reopened as the California Oil Museum.

In 1910, Union Oil lost control of its Midway-Sunset field’s Lakeview No. 1 well, which would take 18 months to control. The purchase of Pennsylvania-based Pure Oil in 1965 made the Unocal Union 76 brand a nationwide company.

In 2005, Unocal became a subsidiary of Chevron. The Santa Paula company headquarters building, a California Historical Landmark, in 1990 became home to the California Oil Museum.

October 17, 1917 – “Roaring Ranger” launches Major Texas Drilling Boom 

A wildcat well between Abilene and Dallas launched a Texas drilling boom that helped fuel the Allied victory in World War I. The J.H. McCleskey No. 1 well erupted oil about two miles south of the small town of Ranger, which had been founded in the 1870s near a Texas Ranger camp in Eastland County.

The 1917 McCleskey No. 1 oil gusher in Texas, soon known as "Roaring Ranger."

The 1917 McCleskey No. 1 oil gusher in Texas made headlines as the “Roaring Ranger” that helped win World War I.

Texas and Pacific Coal Company’s William Knox Gordon completed the discovery well at a depth of 3,432 feet. It initially produced 1,600 barrels a day of quality, high gravity oil. Within 20 months the exploration company’s stock value jumped from $30 a share to $1,250 a share.

“Roaring Ranger” launched a drilling boom that extended to nearby towns. More gushers followed, some producing up to 10,000 barrels of oil every day, and Ranger’s population grew from 1,000 to 30,000.

Crowd posing in front of oil wells near Cisco, Texas, circa 1920.

Eastland County discoveries included oil wells near Cisco, where Conrad Hilton bought his first hotel.

The petroleum proved essential in World War I. After the armistice was signed in 1918, a member of the British War Cabinet declared, “The Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”

After the war, a veteran named Conrad Hilton visited Eastland County intending to buy a bank. When his deal fell through, Hilton — at the Cisco train station ready to leave — noticed a small hotel with a line of roughnecks waiting for a room (see Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel).

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October 17, 1973 – Embargo bring Gas Lines, Recession

Fifty years ago, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) implemented what it called “oil diplomacy,” prohibiting any nation that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War from buying the cartel’s oil. The embargo brought an end to years of cheap gasoline and caused the New York Stock Exchange to drop by almost $100 billion. It also created one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. The United States became the world’s top petroleum producer in 2017, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

October 18, 2008 – Derrick dedicated in Discovery 1 Park 

A re-enactment of the dramatic moment that changed Oklahoma history highlighted the 2008 dedication of a 84-foot replica derrick at Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Events included roughneck reenactors and a water gusher from an 84-foot derrick that replaced one dedicated in 1948.

Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville, OK, map.

Discovery 1 Park in Bartlesville includes a replica derrick on the original site of Oklahoma’s first oil well.

In 1897, a cable-tool drilling rig at the site of Oklahoma’s first commercial oil well had thrilled another group of spectators when Jenny Cass, stepdaughter of Bartlesville founder George W. Keeler, was given the honor of “shooting” the well.

Today, the Bartlesville Community Foundation plans on adding a visitors center to Discovery 1 Park.

October 19, 1990 – First Emergency Use of Strategic Petroleum Reserve 

As world oil prices spiked after the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi troops, the first presidentially mandated emergency use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was authorized by George H. W. Bush, who ordered sale of five million barrels of SPR oil as a test to “demonstrate the readiness of the system under real life conditions,” according to the Department of Energy.

Map of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve sites in 2018.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s four oil storage facilities are grouped into three geographical pipeline distribution systems
in Texas and Louisiana. Map courtesy U.S. Department of Energy, Report to Congress, December 2018.

President Ford established the SPR in 1975 as a protection against severe supply interruptions. By 2020, four underground salt dome sites along the Gulf Coast stored 735 million barrels of oil — the largest stockpile of government-owned emergency oil in the world.

October 20, 1944 – Liquefied Natural Gas Tank explosion in Ohio

An explosion and fire from liquefied natural gas tanks in Cleveland, Ohio, killed 131 people and caused more than $10 million in damage. Temperatures inside of one of the East Ohio Gas Company’s tanks reportedly had been allowed to fall below minus 250 degrees, which caused the steel plates to contract and rupture. Investigators never discovered a cause for the explosion, but witnesses reported a leak in one of the tanks, according to Ohio History Central. “Some spark must have then ignited the gas, although, with World War II currently raging, some residents initially suspected a German saboteur.”

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October 20, 1949 –  Maryland produces Some Natural Gas

The first commercially successful natural gas well in Maryland was drilled by the Cumberland Allegheny Gas Company in the town of Mountain Lake Park, Garrett County — the westernmost county in the state. The Elmer Beachy well produced about 500 thousand cubic feet of natural gas a day.

Maryland map of first natural gas well, Garrett County.

No oil has been produced in Maryland.

The discovery well prompted a rush of competing companies and high-density drilling (an average of nine wells per acre), which depleted the field. Twenty of 29 wells drilled within the town produced natural gas, but overall production from the field was low. No oil has been found in Maryland.

October 21, 1921 – First Natural Gas Well in New Mexico

New Mexico’s natural gas industry began when the newly formed Aztec Oil Syndicate’s State No. 1 well found gas reserves about 15 miles northeast of Farmington in San Juan County.

Map of northern New Mexico oil and gas wells.

New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service began after a 1921 discovery near Aztec. Oil discoveries followed in the southeast.

The drilling crew used a trimmed tree trunk with a two-inch pipe and shut-off valve to control the well until a wellhead was shipped in from Colorado. The well produced 10 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

By the end of December 1921, a pipeline reached two miles into the town of Aztec, where citizens enjoyed New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service. In 1922, natural gas could be purchased in Aztec at a flat rate of $2 a month (for a gas heater) and $2.25 (for a gas stove).

Learn more about the state’s petroleum history in New First Mexico Oil Wells.


Recommended Reading: Oil and Gas Pipeline Fundamentals (1993); The 76 bonanza: The fabulous life and times of the Union Oil Company of California (1966); Ranger, Images of America (2010); Desert Kingdoms to Global Powers: The Rise of the Arab Gulf (2016); Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Postcard History Series (2000); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982). 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.

This Week in Petroleum History, October 9 to October 15

October 9, 1999 – Converted Offshore Platform launches Rocket – 

Sea Launch, a Boeing-led consortium of companies from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and Norway, launched its first commercial rocket using the Ocean Odyssey, a modified semi-submersible drilling platform. After a demonstration flight in March, a Russian Zenit-3SL rocket carried a DirecTV satellite to geostationary orbit.

In 1988, the former drilling platform had been used by Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) for North Sea explorations. The Ocean Odyssey made 36 more rocket launches until 2014, when the consortium ended after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Learn more in Offshore Rocket Launcher. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, October 2 to October 8

October 2, 1919 – Future “Mr. Tulsa” incorporates Skelly Oil – 

Skelly Oil Company incorporated in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with founder William Grove Skelly as president. He had been born in 1878 in Erie, Pennsylvania, where his father hauled oilfield equipment in a horse-drawn wagon.

Truck and logo of Skelly Oil Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma, William Grove Skelly, president.

Born near Pennsylvania’s early oilfields, independent oilman William Skelly’s company helped make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.”

Skelly’s success in the El Dorado oilfield east of Wichita, Kansas, helped him launch Skelly Oil and other ventures, including Midland Refining Company, which he founded in 1917. As Tulsa promoted itself as “Oil Capital of the World,” Skelly became known as “Mr. Tulsa.”

Skelly served as president of Tulsa’s famous International Petroleum Exposition for 32 years until his death in 1957.

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October 3, 1930 – East Texas Oilfield discovered on Widow’s Farm

With a crowd of more than 4,000 landowners, leaseholders, creditors, and spectators watching, the Daisy Bradford No. 3 remote wildcat well was successfully shot with nitroglycerin near Kilgore, Texas.

East Texas 1930 oilfield discovery well photo courtesy Jack Elder, The Glory Days.

Spectators gathered on the widow Daisy Bradford’s farm near Kilgore, Texas, to watch the October 3, 1930, “shooting” of the discovery well of what proved to be the largest oilfield in the lower-48 states. Photo courtesy Jack Elder, The Glory Days.

“All of East Texas waited expectantly while Columbus ‘Dad’ Joiner inched his way toward oil,” explained historian Jack Elder in 1986. “Thousands crowded their way to the site of Daisy Bradford No. 3, hoping to be there when and if oil gushed from the well to wash away the misery of the Great Depression.” (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, September 18 to September 24

September 18, 1855 – First U.S. Oil Company reorganizes – 

In need of more capital, George Bissell and partner Jonathan Eveleth reorganized their New York-based Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company — America’s first oil exploration company — into the Seneca Oil Company of New Haven, Connecticut. They continued to seek investors for drilling a well to produce oil that could be refined into kerosene.

september petroleum history

America’s first oil company, Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, reorganized as Seneca Oil Company of New Haven Connecticut in 1858, one year before drilling the first U.S. Well.

The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company had been established in 1854 to drill a well near Titusville (see George Bissell’s Oil Seeps). The re-incorporated business replaced New York City’s capital markets, which had shown little interest in drilling for oil, seen as too speculative.

Seneca Oil hired former railroad conductor Edwin L. Drake, who overcame financial and technical obstacles to complete the first U.S. oil well in August 1859.

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September 18, 1948 – Oil discovered in Utah

J.L. “Mike” Dougan, president of the Equity Oil Company, completed Utah’s first significant oil well. Dougan’s small company outcompeted larger and better financed exploration companies, including Standard Oil of California (Socal), Pure Oil, Continental, and Union Oil. His Uinta Basin oilfield discovery launched a deep-drilling boom in Utah.

petroleum history september

Begun in 1948 in the giant Uinta Basin, Utah’s petroleum industry continues today thanks to reserves of coalbed methane gas.

Unlike earlier attempts, Dougan drilled beyond the typical depth of up to 2,000 feet. His Ashley Valley No. 1 well, 10 miles southeast of Vernal, produced 300 barrels of oil a day from about 4,000 feet.

Uinta Basin production soon averaged almost one million barrels of oil a year from 30 wells. As drilling technologies advanced, companies began drilling to 8,000 feet and deeper.

Learn more in First Utah Oil Wells.

September 21, 1901 – First Louisiana Oil Well

Nine months after the headline-making January 1901 “Lucas Gusher” in Texas, another giant oilfield was revealed 90 miles east in Louisiana. W. Scott Heywood — already successful thanks to wells drilled at Spindletop Hill — completed a wildcat well that produced 7,000 barrels of oil a day well on the farm of Jules Clement.

Drilled six miles northeast of Jennings, the Clement No. 1 found oil at a depth of 1,700 feet. “The well flowed sand and oil for seven hours and covered Clement’s rice field with a lake of oil and sand, ruining several acres of rice,” noted the Jennings Daily News.

Dedication of Scott Heywood first Louisiana oil well historical marker from1951.

Mrs. Scott Heywood unveiled a marker as part of the Louisiana Golden Oil Jubilee in 1951. Times Picayune (New Orleans) image courtesy Calcasieu Parish Public Library.

The discovery led to the state’s first commercial oil production by opening the prolific Jennings field, which Haywood further developed by building pipelines and storage tanks. As the oilfield reached peak production of more than nine million barrels of oil in 1906, more discoveries arrived in northern Louisiana.

Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Wells.

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September 22, 1955 – End of Signal Oil’s “The Whistler” Radio Program

Sponsored since 1942 by the largest independent oil company on the West Coast, the last episode of the radio drama “The Whistler” aired on CBS Radio. Signal Oil Company had been established in 1921 by Samuel Mosher as Signal Gasoline Company during California’s Signal Hill oil boom

Signal Hill Oil radio show The Whistler ad details.

Signal Oil Company sponsored a CBS Radio mystery program beginning in 1942.

The company’s 1931 partnership with Standard Oil of California (Socal) led to sponsorship of many radio programs, according to Media Heritage. The 692 episodes of Signal Oil’s weekly radio mystery began with echoing footsteps and an eerie whistle, followed by “That Whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program.”

September 23, 1918 – Giant Wood River Refinery goes Online

Roxana Petroleum Company’s Wood River (Illinois) facility began refining crude oil. It processed more than two million barrels of oil from Oklahoma oilfields in its first year of operation.

 Wood River Refinery History Museum is in front of the Phillips 66 Refinery.

The Wood River Refinery History Museum is in front of the Phillips 66 Refinery southeast of Roxana, Illinois.

Roxana Petroleum Company was the 1912 creation of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which founded the American Gasoline Company in Seattle to distribute the fuel on the West Coast.

Roxana Petroleum was established in Oklahoma to produce high-quality oil to be refined at the Wood River plant. In West Texas, the company in 1928 built an experimental oil storage reservoir (see Million Barrel Museum). 

Today, the Wood River 2,200-acre refinery at Roxana northeast of St. Louis is the largest owned by Phillips 66.

Visit the Wood River Refinery History Museum.

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September 23, 1933 – Standard Oil of California Geologists visit Saudi Arabia

Invited by Saudi Arabian King Abdel Aziz, geologists from Standard Oil Company of California arrived at the Port of Jubail in the Persian Gulf. Searching the desert for petroleum and “kindred bituminous matter,” they discovered a giant oilfield. The Saudi Arabia and Standard Oil partnership would become the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), later joined by other major U.S. companies.

September 23, 1947 – New Patent for “Hortonspheres”

Horace E. Horton’s Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I) received a patent for improvements to a spherical storage vessel he had invented in the 1920s. Designed to efficiently store natural gas, butane, propane and other volatile petroleum products, the large spheres were among the most important storage innovations to come to the U.S. oil and natural gas industry.

Hortonsphere patent drawing by Horace E. Horton.

Horace Ebenezer Horton (1843-1912) founded the company that would build the world’s first “field-erected spherical pressure vessel.”

CB&I named its “Hortonspheres” after the engineer who had started the company in 1889 to build bridges across the Mississippi River. In 1892, CB&I erected its first elevated water tank in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

“The elevated steel plate tank was the first built with a full hemispherical bottom, one of the company’s first technical innovations,” CB&I noted, adding that company built, “the world’s first field-erected spherical pressure vessel” in 1923 at Port Arthur, Texas.

Learn more in Horace Horton’s Spheres.

September 24, 1951 – Perforating Wells with Bazooka Technology

When World War II veteran Henry Mohaupt applied to patent his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun,” he brought anti-tank technology to the petroleum industry — a  downhole bazooka.

Mohaupt, a Swiss-born chemical engineer, during the war had conducted a secret U.S. Army program to develop an anti-tank weapon. His idea of using a conically hollowed out explosive charge to focus detonation energy led to the rocket grenade used in bazookas. 

Henry Mohaupt "Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun" patent drawing,

The patented “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun” of Henry Mohaupt brought to the oil patch his highly successful anti-tank “bazooka” technology of World War II.

After the war, the potential of these downhole rocket grenades to facilitate flow from oil-bearing strata was recognized by the Well Explosives Company of Fort Worth, Texas. The company employed Mohaupt to develop new technologies for safely perforating cement casing and pipe.

Learn more in Downhole Bazooka.

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Recommended Reading: Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Laurentine Drake and the Early Oil Industry (2009); Utah Oil Shale: Science, Technology, and Policy Perspectives (2016); Louisiana’s Oil Heritage, Images of America (2012); Signal Hill, California – Images of America (2006); Handbook of Petroleum Refining Processes (2016); The Bazooka (2012). 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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