January 11, 1926 – “Ace” Borger discovers Oil in North Texas – 

Thousands rushed to the Texas Panhandle seeking “black gold” after the Dixon Creek Oil and Refining Company completed its Smith No. 1 well, which flowed at 10,000 barrels a day in southern Hutchinson County. A.P. “Ace” Borger of Tulsa, Oklahoma, had leased a 240-acre tract and by September his Borger oilfield had more than 800 producing wells, yielding 165,000 barrels of oil a day.

petroleum history january

A downtown museum exhibits Borger’s oil heritage. Photo by Bruce Wells.

After establishing the Borger Townsite Company, he laid out new streets and sold lots for the town, which grew to 15,000 residents in 90 days. When the oilfield later produced significant amounts of natural gas, the town named its minor league baseball team the Borger Gassers. The team left the league in 1955 (owners blamed television and air-conditioning for reducing attendance).

Dedicated in 1977, the Hutchinson County Boom Town Museum in Borger today celebrates “Oil Boom Heritage” every March. Special exhibits, events and school tours occur throughout the Borger celebration, about 40 miles northeast of Amarillo.

January 12, 1904 – Henry Ford sets Speed Record

Seeking to prove his cars were built better than most, Henry Ford set a world land speed record on a frozen Michigan lake in 1904. At the time his Ford Motor Company was struggling to get financial backing for its first car, the Model T. It was just four years after America’s first auto auto show.

petroleum history january Ford race car No. 999

The Ford No. 999 used an 18.8 liter inline four-cylinder engine to produce up to 100 hp. Image courtesy Henry Ford Museum.

Ford drove his No. 999 Ford Arrow across the Lake St. Clair, which separates Michigan and Ontario, Canada, at a top speed of 91.37 mph. The frozen lake “played an important role in automobile testing in the early part of the century,” notes Racing on Lake St. Clair. “Roads were atrocious and there were no speedways.”

To learn about a 1973 natural gas-powered world speed record, see Blue Flame Natural Gas Rocket Car.

January 12, 1926 – Texans patent Ram-Type Blowout Preventer

Seeking to end dangerous and wasteful oil gushers, James Abercrombie and Harry Cameron received a patent for a hydraulic ram-type blowout preventer. Petroleum companies embraced the new technology, which the inventors improved in the 1930s. Their concept used rams — hydrostatic pistons — to close on the drill stem and form a seal against the well pressure. Abercrombie had taken his idea for the ram-type preventer to Cameron’s machine shop in Humble, Texas, where the two men sketched out details on the sawdust floor.

Learn more in Ending Oil Gushers – BOP.

January 14, 1928 – Illustrating Ads for Standard Oil launches Career of Future Dr. Seuss

New York City’s Judge magazine included its first cartoon drawn by Theodor Seuss Geisel – who would develop his skills as “Dr. Seuss” while working for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.

January petroleum history Dr. Seuss first ad for Flit bug spray

Standard Oil’s “Flit” was a popular bug spray.

In the 1928 cartoon that launched his professional career as an advertising illustrator, Geisel drew a peculiar dragon trying to dodge Flit, a popular bug spray of the day. “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” soon became a common catchphrase nationwide. Flit was one of Standard Oil of New Jersey’s many consumer products derived from petroleum.

Standard Oil ad for Esso lubricants drawn by future Dr. Seuss

During the Great Depression, Theodor S. Geisel – Dr. Seuss – created popular advertising campaigns for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.

Throughout the Great Depression hundreds of Geisel’s fanciful critters populated Standard Oil advertisements, providing him much-need income. Ad campaigns included cartoon creatures for Esso gasolines, lubricating oils, and Essomarine Oil and Greases. He later acknowledged that this experience, “taught me conciseness and how to marry pictures with words.”

Learn more in Seuss I am, an Oilman.

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January 14, 1954 – Oil discovery in South Dakota

A Shell Oil Company wildcat well in Harding County, South Dakota, began producing oil from about 9,300 feet deep, revealing South Dakota’s first oilfield. This single well drilled in what proved to be the Buffalo field produced more than 341,000 barrels of oil for the next five decades.

january petroleum history wooden oil derrick and cars circa 1929

A wooden cable-tool rig drilled a Custer County dry hole in 1929. Photo courtesy South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Although South Dakota had a long history of petroleum exploration (natural gas production began in 1899), drilling in Harding and Custer counties had resulted in dry holes, according to Gerald McGillivray of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

By 2010, Harding County’s cumulative production was 44.4 million barrels of oil, almost 89 percent of the state’s total production, McGillivray noted in South Dakota Oil & Gas Development, Past, Present and Future. Harding County still produces the bulk of the state’s oil. Despite the prolific Bakken shale of North Dakota not extending into South Dakota, exploration companies have found other oil-producing formations there. Also see First North Dakota Oil Well.

January 17, 1911 – North Texas Discovery hints of Booms to Come

The Electra oilfield was discovered in Texas by the Producers Oil Company’s Waggoner No. 5 well completed with production of 50 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 1,825 feet. The discovery would attract more exploration companies to the small North Texas community. Three months later, the April 1 Clayco gusher would send Electra’s fortunes skyward (see Pump Jack Capital of Texas).

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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 bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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