May 12, 2007 – New Petroleum Museums open in Oklahoma

ConocoPhillips opened two oil and natural gas museums on the same day in Ponca City and Bartlesville, Oklahoma, as part of the state’s 2007 statehood centennial celebrations.

The Conoco Museum In Ponca City today educates visitors about the exploration and production history of the company, which began in Utah as a small distributor of coal, grease, and kerosene. Conoco merged with Oklahoma’s Marland Oil Company in 1929. Phillips Petroleum incorporated in 1917 and merged with Conoco in 2002.

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Conoco, founded in 1875 as the Continental Oil and Transportation Company, delivered kerosene to retail stores in Ogden, Utah. A circa 1880s horse-drawn tank wagon today welcomes visitors to the Conoco Museum. Photo by Bruce Wells.

The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville includes exhibits describing the development of high-octane gasoline and revolutionary plastic products like Marlex (learn more in Petroleum Product Hoopla). The museum tells the story of brothers Frank and L.E. Phillips. Beginning in 1905, they drilled 81 wells without a single “dry hole.” Frank Phillips served as president of the company until 1938. Learn more in ConocoPhillips Petroleum Museums.

May 14, 1953 – Golden Driller Statue debuts at Petroleum Exposition

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The original Golden Driller of 1953, left, proved so popular that a more permanent version (supported with steel rods) returned for the 1966 Petroleum Expo. Photos courtesy the Tulsa Historical Society.

The “Golden Driller” first appeared at the International Petroleum Exposition in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sponsored by the Mid-Continent Supply Company of Fort Worth, Texas, the giant was temporarily erected again for the 1959 petroleum expo. The statue attracted so much attention the company refurbished and donated it to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds Trust Authority. The giant roughneck was rebuilt in 1966 and fully refurbished in the late 1970s.

The current mustard shaded Golden Driller (76-feet tall and weighing 43,500 pounds) is a popular Tulsa tourist attraction and among the largest freestanding statues in the world, according to city officials. Learn more in Golden Driller of Tulsa.

May 14, 2004 – Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum Opens in Oil City

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Chevron donated the drilling rig at the Louisiana State Oil Museum in Oil City.

Louisiana’s first publicly funded museum dedicated to the petroleum industry opened 20 miles north of Shreveport. The Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum, originally the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, includes the historic depot of the Kansas City Southern Railroad.

The museum preserves the Caddo Parish discoveries, which began in 1905, and the economic prosperity brought by the North Louisiana petroleum boom. Exhibits reveal the technologies behind a 1911 well – the Ferry No. 1 – one of the nation’s earliest “offshore” oil wells completed on nearby Caddo Lake, where production continues today. Learn more in Louisiana Oil City Museum.

May 15, 1911 – Supreme Court orders Standard Oil Breakup

After reviewing 12,000 pages of court documents, Chief Justice Edward White issued the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion that mandated dissolution of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. The ruling, which broke Standard Oil into 34 separate companies, upheld an earlier Circuit Court decision that the John D. Rockefeller company’s practices violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. Five years earlier, President Theodore Roosevelt’s Justice Department had launched 44 anti-trust suits against railroad, beef, tobacco, and other trusts.

May 16, 1934 – National Stripper Well Association established

The National Stripper Well Association (NSWA) organized in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to represent operators of stripper wells — marginal wells that produce less than 15 barrels of oil a day or less than 90 thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas a day. According to NSWA, 72.4 percent of all operating wells in the U.S. in 2016 were marginal producers; the estimated 777,000 marginally producing wells (396,000 oil and 381,000 natural gas wells) contributed almost 19 percent to U.S. oil and natural gas production.

May 16, 1961 – Kansas Museum opens Above Giant Natural Gas Field 

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Stevens County’s natural gas museum in Hugoton, Kansas.

In southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened in 1961 above a giant natural gas producing area that extended 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

The small museum in Hugoton today educates visitors about one of the largest natural gas fields in North America – the Hugoton field. A natural gas well drilled in 1945 is still producing at the museum. Learn more in Natural Gas Museum.

May 17, 1882 – Mystery Well shocks Pennsylvania Oil Prices

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In 2007, a group of Cherry Grove volunteers rebuilt a derrick for their 646 Mystery Well, notes historian Walt Atwood.

A small Pennsylvania township discovered an oilfield in 1882. When word spread about the discovery well’s true daily production, U.S. oil prices collapsed (the industry was less than 25 years old).

The “Mystery Well” flowed at 1,000 barrels of oil a day. Once a closely guarded secret, news of  the Jamestown Oil Company’s well sent shock waves through early oil trading markets.

Certificates for more than 4.5 million barrels of oil were sold in one day at Pennsylvania’s three oil exchanges.

“The hilltop settlement of Cherry Grove saw national history in the spring and summer of 1882 when the 646 Mystery Well ushered in a great oil boom,” explained local historian Walt Atwood. The town annually celebrates its Cherry Grove Mystery Well.

May 17, 1901 – Future Gulf Oil Company founded

J.M. Guffey organized Guffey Petroleum Company to buy the “Lucas Gusher” well drilled the previous January at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas. Guffey purchased about half of the well’s high-volume oil production. The Mellon family of Pittsburgh owned the remainder. Guffey created Gulf Refining Company to refine and market the oil produced by Guffey Petroleum. Andrew Mellon bought out Guffey in 1907 and reorganized the ventures as Gulf Oil Company.

May 17, 1973 – Last Nuclear fracking of Natural Gas Well

Atomic Energy Commission scientists completed the last experiment of the Plowshare Program with a nearly simultaneous detonation of three 33-kiloton devices in a Colorado natural gas well. Project Rio Blanco was the third (and final) underground nuclear detonation to test fracturing of wells. The first had been Project Gasbuggy in 1967, a 29-kiloton nuclear device lowered into a gas well in New Mexico. The second, Project Rulison, detonated a 40-kiloton device in a Garfield County, Colorado, well in 1969.

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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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