July 20, 1920 – Texas Company discovers Permian Basin Oilfield –

The Permian Basin made headlines in 1920 when a West Texas wildcat well found oil at a depth of 2,750 feet on land owned by William Abrams, an official of the Texas & Pacific Railway.

Drilled and “shot” with nitroglycerin by the Texas Company (later Texaco), the W.H. Abrams No. 1 well revealed the West Columbia field, which proved to be part of the Permian Basin, which covers 75,000 square miles in 43 counties of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico).

Map of Permian Basin in West Texas.

The Permian Basin would become the leading source of U.S. oil. Image courtesy Rigzone.

“As a crowd of 2,000 people looked on, a great eruption of oil, gas, water and smoke shot from the mouth of the well almost to the top of the derrick,” notes a Texas State Historical Marker.

“Locally, land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values…the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions.”

Another West Texas discovery well in 1923 near Big Lake brought an even greater drilling boom that helped establish the University of Texas (see Santa Rita taps Permian Basin)

July 21, 1935 – “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy strikes Oil

 petroleum history july 20

Glenn McCarthy appeared on TIME magazine in 1950.

Glenn H. McCarthy struck oil 50 miles east of Houston in 1935, extending the already prolific Anahuac field. The well was the first of many for the Texas independent producer who would build Houston’s famed Shamrock Hotel a decade later. By 1945, McCarthy had discovered 11 Texas oilfields. He became known as another “King of the Wildcatters” and “Diamond Glenn” by 1950, when his estimated worth reached $200 million ($2 billion today).

In addition to his McCarthy Oil and Gas Company, McCarthy eventually would own a gas company, a chemical company, a radio station, 14 newspapers, a magazine, two banks, and the Shell Building in Houston.

In 1946 McCarthy invested $21 million to build the Shamrock Hotel on the edge of Houston. He reportedly spent  $1 million on the hotel’s 1949 opening-day gala, which newspapers dubbed, “Houston’s biggest party.”

Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.

July 22, 1933 – Phillips Petroleum sponsors Solo Flight around the World

Before 50,000 cheering New York City onlookers, Wiley Post made aviation history when he landed his Lockheed Vega “Winnie Mae.” The former Oklahoma roughneck was the first person to fly solo around the world. Post had worked in oilfields near Walters, Oklahoma, when he took his first airplane ride with a barnstormer in 1919. Taking a break from oilfield work in the 1920s, he joined “Burrell Tibbs Flying Circus” as a parachute jumper before learning to fly.

Wiley Post, former oil worker, set flying records with this plane

Thanks to a friendship with Frank Phillips, Wiley Post set altitude records — and was the first man to fly solo around the world.

In 1926, Post returned to work in the oilfields, “where he was injured the first day on the job, losing the sight in his left eye,” noted a biographer, adding that Post’s injury happened while working at a well site near Seminole.

When a metal splinter damaged his eye, Post used the $1,700 in compensation to buy his first airplane. He became friends with Frank Phillips, who sponsored Post’s high-altitude experimental flights. Phillips Petroleum Company, which produced aviation fuel before it produced gasoline for cars, also sponsored another historic plane – the “Woolaroc” – in an air race across the Pacific.

Learn more in Flight of the Woolaroc.

July 22, 1959 – Historical Marker erected to Second U.S. Oil Well

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicated a state marker to commemorate a well drilled shortly after Edwin Drake completed first U.S. commercial well on August 27, 1859.

PA Marker for second oil well

On August 31, 22-year-old John Grandin and a local blacksmith began drilling a well that would reach almost twice as deep as Drake’s cable-tool depth of 69.5 feet. But the Warren County well was a dry hole. “After Drake’s discovery of oil in Titusville some area residents attempted to sink their own well,” notes Explore Pennsylvania. “The vast majority of such efforts failed.”

Learn how Grandin’s well achieved other historic industry milestones in First Dry Hole.

July 23, 1872 – “Real McCoy” Device drips Oil into Steam Engines

Patent for the Real McCoy of 1872Using petroleum for improving the performance of locomotives became widespread when Elijah McCoy patented an automatic lubricator for steam engines. McCoy, an African-American inventor, designed a device that applied oil through a drip cup to locomotive and ship steam engines.

Born in Canada in 1843, McCoy was the son of slaves who had escaped from Kentucky and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he graduated from high school. By the time of his death in 1929, McCoy had been awarded 60 patents, notes a Michigan historical marker dedicated in 1994.

Some industry sources maintain that McCoy’s 1872 invention left an additional legacy: “The term ‘the real McCoy’ is believed to have come about because railroad engineers did not want low-quality copycat versions of this device.” Before purchasing, buyers would ask if it was “the real McCoy.”

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July 23, 1951 – Desk & Derrick Clubs organize

The Association of Desk & Derrick Clubs of North America was formed with articles of association signed by presidents of the clubs of New Orleans, Jackson, Los Angeles, and Houston. There now are 42 clubs throughout the United States and Canada. Learn more in Desk and Derrick Educators.

July 24, 2000 – BP unveils New Green and Yellow Logo

BP the official name of a group of companies that included Amoco, ARCO and Castrol, unveiled a new corporate identity brand – replacing the “Green Shield” logo with a green and yellow sunflower pattern.

The company also introduced a new corporate slogan: “Beyond Petroleum.” In 1998, when BP – then British Petroleum – merged with Amoco, the company’s name had briefly changed to BP Amoco as Amoco stations converted to the BP brand.

July 25, 1543 – Oil reported in New World

Sailing vessel known as a brigThe first documented report of oil in the New World resulted when a storm forced Spanish explorer Don Luis de Moscoso to land two of his brigantines at the mouth of the Sabine River. He had succeeded expedition leader Hernando de Soto and built seven of the small vessels to sail down the newly discovered Mississippi River and westward along the Gulf Coast.

According an account of the expedition, Indians knew of the future Texas’ natural seeps. “There was found a skumme, which they call Copee, which the Sea casteth up, and it is like Pitch, wherewith in some places, where Pitch is wanting, they pitch their ships; there they pitched their Brigandines.”


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. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

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