December 23, 1943 – Major Oilfield found in Mississippi
The Gulf Oil Company discovered a new Mississippi oilfield at Heidelberg in Jasper County. As early as 1929, company surveyors had recognized the geological potential of the area southeast of Jackson. For the next decade Gulf Oil used the latest seismographic and core drilling technologies to look for what was believed to be a potentially huge oil formation. After selecting a drilling site in October 1943, the discovery well revealed one of the state’s largest oilfields since the first Mississippi oil well was completed in 1939.
December 24, 2007 – Top Holiday Film includes Novelty Oil Product
The 1983 comedy “A Christmas Story” began airing in an annual 24-hour marathon on the TNT network. In addition to its infamous plastic leg-lamp, the popular holiday movie has featured another petroleum product, a novelty candy.
Paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum distillation used in candles and waxes, makes its brief appearance when Ralphie Parker and his fourth-grade classmates smuggle Wax Fangs into class, only to dejectedly hand them over to their teacher.
An older generation may recall the peculiar disintegrating flavor of Wax Fangs, Wax Lips, Wax Moustaches, and Wax Bottles (officially Nik-L-Nips) from bygone Halloweens and birthday parties. Few realize the candy cultural icons started in oilfields.
December 28, 1898 – Mary Alford inherits Pennsylvania Nitroglycerin Factory
Byron S. Alford died, leaving his nitroglycerin factory to his wife, Mary Alford, who would make the business thrive, becoming in the process “the only known woman to own a dynamite and nitroglycerin factory,” explained a 2017 Smithsonian.com article, which credited the American Oil & Gas Historical Society’s Mrs. Alford’s Nitro Factory. She and her husband had built the dynamite factory in Bradford, Pennsylvania, in 1883. When technology for “shooting wells” was developed, nitroglycerin became an important part of oil production. Mrs. Alford became “an astute businesswoman in the midst of America’s first billion-dollar oilfield.”
December 26, 1905 – Nellie Bly’s Ironclad Patent of the 55-Gallon Metal Barrel
Henry Wehrhahn of Brooklyn, New York, received two 1905 patents that would lead to the modern 55-gallon steel drum. He assigned them to his employer, the world-famous journalist Nellie Bly, who was then president of the Ironclad Manufacturing Company.
“My invention has for its object to provide a metal barrel which shall be simple and strong in construction and effective and durable in operation,” Wehrhahn noted in his patent for a flanged metal barrel with encircling hoops for better control when rolling. A second patent issued at the same time provided a means for detaching and securing a lid. A superintendent at Ironclad Manufacturing, Wehrhahn assigned his inventions to Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman (Nellie Bly). She was the recent widow of the company’s founder. In 1895, at age 30, she had married the wealthy 70-year-old industrialist Robert Seaman.
December 28, 1930 – Lou Della Crim’s Well reveals Size of East Texas Oilfield
Three days after Christmas, a major oil discovery on the farm of the widow Lou Della Crim of Kilgore revealed the extent of the giant East Texas oilfield. Her son, J. Malcolm Crim, had ignored advice from most geologists and drilled the well about 10 miles north of the field’s discovery well, drilled in October by Columbus “Dad” Joiner on the farm of another widow, Daisy Bradford.
The Lou Della Crim No. 1 well erupted oil on a Sunday morning while “Mamma” Crim was attending church. The well initially produced 20,000 barrels of oil a day. A month later, 15 miles farther north, a third wildcat well, the Lathrop No. 1 well, (drilled by Fort Worth wildcatter W.A. “Monty” Moncrief), confirmed the size of what proved to be a massive oilfield extending more than 480 square miles.
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