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

petroleum history april 4

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 bawells@aoghs.org. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

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