This Week in Petroleum History, May 11 – 17

May 12, 2007 – New Petroleum Museums open in Oklahoma

ConocoPhillips opened two oil and natural gas museums on the same day in Ponca City and Bartlesville, Oklahoma, as part of the state’s 2007 statehood centennial celebrations.

The Conoco Museum In Ponca City today educates visitors about the exploration and production history of the company, which began in Utah as a small distributor of coal, grease, and kerosene. Conoco merged with Oklahoma’s Marland Oil Company in 1929. Phillips Petroleum incorporated in 1917 and merged with Conoco in 2002.

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Conoco, founded in 1875 as the Continental Oil and Transportation Company, delivered kerosene to retail stores in Ogden, Utah. A circa 1880s horse-drawn tank wagon today welcomes visitors to the Conoco Museum. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville includes exhibits describing the development of high-octane gasoline and revolutionary plastic products like Marlex (learn more in Petroleum Product Hoopla). The museum tells the story of brothers Frank and L.E. Phillips. Beginning in 1905, they drilled 81 wells without a single “dry hole.” Frank Phillips served as president of the company until 1938. Learn more in ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums.

May 14, 1953 – Golden Driller Statue debuts at Petroleum Exposition

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The original Golden Driller of 1953, left, proved so popular that a more permanent version (supported with steel rods) returned for the 1966 Petroleum Expo. Photos courtesy the Tulsa Historical Society.

The “Golden Driller” first appeared at the International Petroleum Exposition in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sponsored by the Mid-Continent Supply Company of Fort Worth, Texas, the giant was temporarily erected again for the 1959 petroleum expo. The statue attracted so much attention the company refurbished and donated it to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds Trust Authority. The giant roughneck was rebuilt in 1966 and fully refurbished in the late 1970s.

The current mustard shaded Golden Driller (76-feet tall and weighing 43,500 pounds) is a popular Tulsa tourist attraction and among the largest freestanding statues in the world, according to city officials. Learn more in Golden Driller of Tulsa.

May 14, 2004 – Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum Opens in Oil City

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Chevron donated the drilling rig at the Louisiana State Oil Museum in Oil City.

Louisiana’s first publicly funded museum dedicated to the petroleum industry opened 20 miles north of Shreveport. The Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum, originally the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, includes the historic depot of the Kansas City Southern Railroad.

The museum preserves the Caddo Parish discoveries, which began in 1905, and the economic prosperity brought by the North Louisiana petroleum boom. Exhibits reveal the technologies behind a 1911 well – the Ferry No. 1 – one of the nation’s earliest “offshore” oil wells completed on nearby Caddo Lake, where production continues today. Learn more in Louisiana Oil City Museum.

May 15, 1911 – Supreme Court orders Standard Oil Breakup

After reviewing 12,000 pages of court documents, Chief Justice Edward White issued the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion that mandated dissolution of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. The ruling, which broke Standard Oil into 34 separate companies, upheld an earlier Circuit Court decision that the John D. Rockefeller company’s practices violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. Five years earlier, President Theodore Roosevelt’s Justice Department had launched 44 anti-trust suits against railroad, beef, tobacco, and other trusts.

May 16, 1961 – Kansas Museum opens Above Giant Natural Gas Field 

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Stevens County’s natural gas museum in Hugoton, Kansas.

In southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened in 1961 above a giant natural gas producing area that extended 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

The small museum in Hugoton today educates visitors about one of the largest natural gas fields in North America – the Hugoton field. A natural gas well drilled in 1945 is still producing at the museum. Learn more in Natural Gas Museum.

May 17, 1882 – Mystery Well shocks Pennsylvania Oil Prices

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In 2007, a group of Cherry Grove volunteers rebuilt a derrick for their 646 Mystery Well, notes historian Walt Atwood.

A small Pennsylvania township discovered an oilfield in 1882. When word spread about the discovery well’s true daily production, U.S. oil prices collapsed (the industry was less than 25 years old).

The “Mystery Well” flowed at 1,000 barrels of oil a day. Once a closely guarded secret, news of  the Jamestown Oil Company’s well sent shock waves through early oil trading markets.

Certificates for more than 4.5 million barrels of oil were sold in one day at Pennsylvania’s three oil exchanges.

“The hilltop settlement of Cherry Grove saw national history in the spring and summer of 1882 when the 646 Mystery Well ushered in a great oil boom,” explained local historian Walt Atwood. The town annually celebrates its Cherry Grove Mystery Well.

May 17, 1901 – Future Gulf Oil Company founded

J.M. Guffey organized Guffey Petroleum Company to buy the “Lucas Gusher” well drilled the previous January at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas. Guffey purchased about half of the well’s high-volume oil production. The Mellon family of Pittsburgh owned the remainder. Guffey created Gulf Refining Company to refine and market the oil produced by Guffey Petroleum. Andrew Mellon bought out Guffey in 1907 and reorganized the ventures as Gulf Oil Company.

May 17, 1973 – Last Nuclear fracking of Natural Gas Well

Atomic Energy Commission scientists completed the last experiment of the Plowshare Program with a nearly simultaneous detonation of three 33-kiloton devices in a Colorado natural gas well. Project Rio Blanco was the third (and final) underground nuclear detonation to test fracturing of wells. The first had been Project Gasbuggy in 1967, a 29-kiloton nuclear device lowered into a gas well in New Mexico. The second, Project Rulison, detonated a 40-kiloton device in a Garfield County, Colorado, well in 1969.



Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. 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. Contact © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

This Week in Petroleum History, May 4 – May 10

May 4, 1869 – Offshore Drilling Platform Design patented

The first U.S. patent for an offshore oil drilling rig was issued to Thomas Rowland, owner of Continental Iron Works in Greenpoint, New York, for his “submarine drilling apparatus.”

May 1869 offshore rig patent drawing

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

Many experts believe this remarkable 1869 patent helped inspire some offshore exploration technologies used today. Rowland designed a fixed, working platform for drilling offshore to a depth of 50 feet.

Although his rig was designed to operate in shallow water, the anchored, four-legged tower resembles modern offshore fixed platforms. Rowland and his Continental Iron Works also became a leader in petroleum storage tank design and construction.

The first offshore wells drilled completely out of sight from land began in the Gulf of Mexico as technologies advanced after Rowland’s patent. (see Offshore Rig Patent). 

The American Society of Civil Engineers in 1882 began awarding its prestigious Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, April 27 – May 3

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.

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

“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,” explains the Ariel website. “This room becomes the first Ariel machine shop, with an adjoining room functioning as Ariel’s first official engineering department.”

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,

Buchwald named his company after his beloved 1948 Ariel motorcycle. Today, the company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of reciprocating gas compressors,

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

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Conoco used this logo until 1970.

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.

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.

May 1, 1860 – First West Virginia Oil Well

oil history 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. Photo courtesy West Virginia Humanities Council.

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 John Valleau ”Val” Rathbone as the area experienced a drilling boom – the first to take place outside the Pennsylvania oil region. By the end of 1860, more than 600 oil leases were 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 lead to 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

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Sinclair’s first “Brontosaurus” trademark made its debut in Chicago during the 1933 “Century of Progress” World’s Fair.

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.

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, 2001 – Oklahoma Plaza honors Oil Pioneers

The Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza – an outdoor educational exhibit area – 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 then 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. Slick, a self-taught geologist and former landman, discovered the giant Cushing-Drumright oilfield in 1912.

May 2 1921 – Oil discovered in Texas Panhandle

Following a series of natural gas discoveries revealing the extent of the giant Hugoton 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, which initially produced 175 barrels of oil a day, attracted major oil companies to the region around Amarillio, launching a leasing and drilling frenzy. Five years later, an oilfield would be discovered in Hutchinson County, where independent producer “Ace Borger” laid out the boom town of Borger. Visit the Hutchinson County Historical Museum.

May 3, 1870 – “Yellow Dog” Safety Lantern with Two Spouts patented

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An 1870 derrick lamp” will become the “yellow dog.”

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

Dillen’s lamp was designed “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.”

How the once popular 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.



Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member today. For more information, contact © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

This Week in Petroleum History, April 20 – 26

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.”

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

The new technology used a system of linked and balanced walking beams to pump oil 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.

The innovative system was the forerunner of rod-line (or jerk line) 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 finds Los Angeles Oilfield

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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.

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.

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 alone supplied half of the world’s oil.

Learn more in Discovering Los Angeles Oilfields.

April 20, 2010 – Deepwater Horizon Disaster

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

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 people and injuring 17. An estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico after the platform’s 400-ton blowout preventer failed.

At another site six months earlier, the semi-submersible rig had set a record for drilling the deepest offshore well (35,050 feet vertical depth in 4,130 feet of water). The Macondo Prospect well, finally capped in mid-July, was investigated by the Minerals Management Service and U.S. Coast Guard.

A final report issued in January 201 by National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

April 22, 1926 – Oil Lease Auctioneer Statue dedicated

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

A statue commemorating the friendship between Colonel E.E. Walters and Osage Indian Chief Bacon Rind (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 from mineral lease sales. Auctions took place beneath an elm tree at the Tribal Council House in nearby Pawhuska – with crowds gathering to witness bidding from men like Frank Phillips, E.W. Marland and William Skelly.

The Skedee unveiling revealed “painted bronze” statues of Walters and the chief of the Osage Nation shaking hands on a sandstone base. Their close personal friendship was rare at the time. learn more in Million Dollar Auctioneer

April 23, 1878 – Oil Exchange Building opened in Pennsylvania

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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.

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

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

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

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.

After Magnolia Petroleum established service stations in southwestern states (including stations today preserved on Route 66), Standard Oil Company of New York began acquiring the company in 1925 (Socony). When the company merged with the Vacuum Oil Company in 1931 to form Socony-Vacuum Oil, Magnolia became the leading affiliate of the new, nationwide company.

Headquartered in its iconic Dallas skyscraper by the early 1930s, Magnolia operated in 20 states. The company adopted the Socony-Vacuum Oil (the future Mobil) red Pegasus logo, which began rotating atop the Magnolia Building in 1934. Learn more in Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.

April 24, 1917 – Petroleum Product “Lash-Brow-Ine” trademarked

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A 1937 Maybelline magazine ad.

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.

The 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” (an apparent concession to the Vaseline content). In honor of his sister, who worked with him in his Chicago office, Williams renamed the mascara “Maybelline.”

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

April 25, 1865 – Civil War Veteran patented Well Torpedo

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

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts of New York City received the first of his many U.S. 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.”

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 produced only small amounts of oil.

The invention was among the major technological achievements of the U.S. petroleum industry. 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, leading to the term “moonlighter.” Learn more in Shooters – A “Fracking” History.

April 26, 1947 – Oil Industry promoted on Radio

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

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 Billboard magazine. “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.”

API, representing the largest U.S. petroleum companies, today issues recommended practices “to promote the use of safe equipment and proven engineering.”



Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. 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 © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

This Week in Petroleum History, April 6 to April 12

April 7, 1902 – Texas Company founded during Spindletop Boom

Of the hundreds of oil companies founded during the Spindletop drilling boom at the beginning of the 20th century, the Texas Company would grow into a petroleum industry giant.

petroleum history April 7, a Texaco gas station in Elk City OK museum

Founded in 1902 as the Texas Company, Texaco would become the first oil company to market in all states. Above, an exhibit at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. Photo by Bruce Wells.

On April 7, 1902, Joseph “Buckskin Joe” Cullinan and Arnold Schlaet formed the company in Beaumont to transport and refine oil from the booming oilfield. They constructed a kerosene refinery in Port Arthur. A January 1903 oil discovery – the Fee No. 3 well at nearby Sour Lake Springs – would erupt and begin producing 5,000 barrels of oil a day, launching the company’s success in exploration and production operations.

The telegraph address of the Texas Company’s New York office was “Texaco” – a name soon applied to its products. In 1909 the company registered its first trademark, a red star with a green capital letter “T” superimposed on it. By 1928 the company had more than 4,000 gasoline stations in 48 states. The Texas Company officially renamed itself Texaco Inc. in 1959. Learn more in Sour Lake produces Texaco.

April 7, 1966 – Cold War Accident boosts Offshore Technology

April 7, 1966 offshore remote control vehicle finds A-bomb

The offshore petroleum industry would becoming a leading user of remotely operated vehicles.

A robotic technology soon adopted by the offshore petroleum industry was first used to retrieve an atomic bomb. America’s first cable-controlled underwater research vehicle (CURV) attached cables to recover the weapon lost in the Mediterranean Sea.

The 70-kiloton hydrogen bomb, which had been lost when a B-52 crashed off the coast of Spain in January, was safely hoisted from a depth of 2,850 feet. “It was located and fished up by the most fabulous array of underwater machines ever assembled,” proclaimed a Popular Science magazine article. During the Cold War, the Navy developed deep-sea technologies that the offshore petroleum industry would adopt and continue to advance. Learn more in ROV – Swimming Socket Wrench.

April 9, 1914 – Ohio Cities Gas Company founded

Pure Oil company logo. Company began in 1917

Ohio Cities Gas Company became Pure Oil in 1917.

Beman Gates Dawes and Fletcher Heath founded the Ohio Cities Gas Company in Columbus, Ohio. Three years later, they acquired Pennsylvania-based Pure Oil Company and adopted that name in 1920. Pure Oil had been founded in Pittsburgh in 1895 by independent oil and natural gas producers, refiners, and pipeline operators to counter the market dominance of Standard Oil Company.

Pure Oil sold kerosene to customers in Philadelphia and New York City, becoming just the second vertically integrated oil company after Standard Oil. Headquartered in a Chicago skyscraper the company built in 1926, Pure Oil became one of the 100 largest industrial corporations in the United States. The company in 1965 was acquired by Union Oil Company of California, now a division of Chevron.

April 10, 1866 – Densmore Brotherss patent Railroad Oil Tank Car

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The Densmore Tank Car briefly revolutionized the bulk transportation of oil to market. Hundreds of the tank cars were in use by 1866.

James and Amos Densmore of Meadville, Pennsylvania, received a patent for their “Improved Car for Transporting Petroleum,” which they developed a year earlier in the booming northwestern Pennsylvania oil region.

Their patent illustrated a simple but sturdy design for securing two re-enforced containers on a typical railroad car. Although these early oil-tank cars were an improvement, they soon would be replaced by the more practical single horizontal types seen today

After leaving the oil tank car business, Amos Densmore in 1875 came up with a radically new way for arranging “type writing machine” keyboards so that commonly used letters would no longer collide and stick. His “Q-W-E-R-T-Y” arrangement improved the original 1868 invention of Christopher Sholes. James Densmore’s success in the oilfields helped finance the Densmore Typewriter Company. Learn more in Densmore Oil Tank Cars.

April 11, 1957 – Oklahoma Independent William Skelly dies

William Grove Skelly (1878 -1957), died in Tulsa after a long career as an independent producer that began as 15-year-old tool dresser in early Pennsylvania oilfields. Prior to World War I, Skelly found great success in the El Dorado field outside Wichita, Kansas. He incorporated Skelly Oil Company in Tulsa in 1919 – helping to make the town the “Oil Capital of the World.” He established the International Petroleum Exposition there in 1923 while serving as president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. An aviation enthusiast, Skelly launched the fundraising effort to build the Tulsa Municipal Airport in 1928. He helped fund KWGS, the first FM radio station in Oklahoma, in 1947.


Recommended Reading: Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank (2008); The Greatest Gamblers: The Epic of American Oil Exploration (1979); Early Days of Oil: A Pictorial History of the Beginnings of the Industry in Pennsylvania (2000); Oil in Oklahoma (1976).



Listen online to “Remember When Wednesdays” on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. 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. Contact © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.