June 23, 1921 – Signal Hill Discovery brings California Oil Boom –

A discovery at Signal Hill, California, one of the world’s most famous oil strikes, launched another southern California drilling boom.

When the Alamitos No. 1 well erupted oil, the discovery revealed of one of California’s most prolific oilfields. The natural gas pressure was so great that a gusher rose 114 feet. The well produced about 600 barrels of oil a day when it was completed two days later.

petroleum history June 20

Following the 1921 oil discovery, Signal Hill had so many derricks people called it Porcupine Hill.

Soon known as “Porcupine Hill,” the town’s oilfield 20 miles south of Los Angeles was producing almost 260,000 barrels of oil every day by 1923. Combined with the historic 1892 Los Angeles Oilfield discovery and the 1920 oilfield at Huntington Beach, southern California produced one-fourth of the world’s oil.

Today, Signal Hill’s Discovery Well Park hosts a community center with historic photos and descriptions. A monument dedicated in 1952 serves “as a tribute to the petroleum pioneers for their success here.” Learn more in Signal Hill Oil Boom.

June 23, 1947 – Supreme Court limits State Rights to Continental Shelf –

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California could not claim rights to the continental shelf beyond three nautical miles. Litigation had resulted from President Harry Truman’s 1945 Continental Shelf Proclamation, which placed control with the federal government. The Supreme Court ruling affirmed federal jurisdiction “with respect to the natural resources of the subsoil and seabed of the continental shelf.” Similar rulings affecting Louisiana and Texas would be made in 1950.

AOGHS Support ad

June 24, 1937 – Trace of Oil found in Minnesota –

count map of Minnesota

Traverse County, Minnesota.

Oil was discovered in Minnesota by a wildcat well drilled in Traverse County in the western part of the state. The well produced three barrels of oil a day from 864 feet deep.

Although the discovery prompted more leasing, no commercial quantities of oil were found. This reaffirmed geologists’ conclusions since 1889 that the conditions for significant oil deposits did not exist in Minnesota.

“Not much oil and gas is obtained from Precambrian rocks, with which Minnesota is very amply blessed,” noted Richard Ojakangas in his 1984 book, Minnesota’s Geology. Although Minnesota today ranks fourth in the nation in ethanol production, its oil production peaked that summer of 1937.

June 25, 1889 – First Oil Tanker catches Fire at California Wharf – 

 petroleum history june 22

Rare photographs of the oil doomed tanker W.L. Hardison and Ventura pier courtesy the Museum of Ventura County.

The first oil tanker specifically built for that purpose, burned at its wharf in Ventura, California. The Hardison & Stewart Oil Company (later Union Oil Company), had commissioned the experimental schooner W.L. Hardison.

The vessel offered an alternative to paying for railroad tank cars charging one dollar per oil barrel to reach markets in San Francisco. With oil-fired steam boilers and supplemental sail, the wooden-hulled W.L. Hardison was capable of shipping 6,500 barrels of oil below decks in specially constructed steel tanks.

After the fire, the vessel’s steel tanks were recovered and used at the company’s Santa Paula refinery. The Ventura Pier remained a working wharf until 1936, when it became recreational. Today’s refurbished structure is almost 2,000 feet long – one of the longest in California.

The Museum of Ventura County library collection houses more than 150,000 resources on the history of Ventura County and outlying regions. More oil history can be found at the California Oil Museum in nearby Santa Paula; the museum’s main building is the original 1890 Union Oil Company headquarters. Also see America exports Oil.

June 25, 1901 – Red Fork Discovery boosts Tulsa –

The future state of Oklahoma witnessed a second oil discovery (some would say the third) in 1901. Four years earlier, the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well had brought a drilling boom to Bartlesville in Indian Territory. Now, still six years before statehood, two drillers from Pennsylvania made a new discovery in the Creek Indian Nation.

Drillers John Wick and Jesse Heydrick drilled their Sue A. Bland No. 1 well  near the village of Red Fork, across the Arkansas River from Tulsa. Sue Bland, a Creek citizen, was the wife of the homestead owner Dr. John C. W. Bland.

Although the Red Fork Gusher produced just 10 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 550 feet, it created a drilling boom that helped lead to Tulsa becoming “Oil Capital of the World.”

June 28, 1967 – Hall of Petroleum opens at Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. – 

petroleum history june

“Panorama of Petroleum” by Delbert Jackson, once greeted visitors to a Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. Today, the 13-foot by 56-foot mural is exhibited at Tulsa International Airport.

The Hall of Petroleum opened at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C. The exhibits included cable-tool and rotary drilling rigs and pumping units,  and featured the industry’s technologies up to 1967. None are on display today.

Visitors to what is now the National Museum of American History (since 1980) were once greeted by a 13-foot by 56-foot mural painted by Delbert Jackson, a Tulsa artist and illustrator. Jackson spent two years creating the painting with detailed scenes of oil exploration, production, refining, and transportation.

AOGHS ad for supportJackson’s “Panorama of Petroleum” featured industry pioneers and served as a visual map to the hall’s many oilfield technology exhibits.

“If the hall can increase the public’s knowledge of and respect for the technical skill and know-how of those who make this energy available, it will have served its purpose,” noted Curator Philip Bishop in the exhibit’s 1967 catalog.

When the “Hall of Petroleum” exhibit closed, the mural was put into storage for three decades until being placed on display at Tulsa International Airport. Learn more in Smithsonian’s “Hall of Petroleum.


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. 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This