May 26, 1891 – Patent will lead to Crayola Crayons –

Today’s Crayola crayons began when Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith received a patent for their “Apparatus for the Manufacture of Carbon Black.”

The refining process used petroleum to produce a fine, intensely black soot-like substance – a pigment far better than any other at the time.

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Petroleum products like carbon-black and paraffin will lead to Crayola crayons in 1903.

The thriving Pennsylvania oil industry supplied the feedstock for the Easton-based Binney & Smith Company’s carbon black, which won an award for its quality at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

More innovations followed as the company mixed carbon black with oilfield paraffin to introduce a black crayon marker. The useful marker was promoted as being able to “stay on all” and accordingly named “Staonal,” which is still sold.

In 1903, Binney & Smith’s more colorful petroleum product got its name from the French word for chalk, craie, combined with an English adjective meaning oily, oleaginous.

The first Crayola crayons were manufactured in small batches of hand-mixed pigments and paraffin. Paper labels were rolled by hand and pasted onto each crayon. The box included eight colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown and black.

Learn more in Carbon Black and Oilfield Crayons.

May 26, 1934 – Diesel-Electric Power sets Speed Record

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Chicago World’s Fair visitors admire the stainless steel Burlington Zephyr, which helped save America’s railroad passenger industry. Two-stroke diesel-electric engines provided a four-fold power to weight gain. Photo from a Burlington Route Railroad 1934 postcard.

A new diesel-electric “streamliner,” the Burlington Zephyr, pulled into Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition after a nonstop 13 hour “dawn to dusk” run from Denver. The trip cut traditional steam locomotive times by half.

newspaper headline of record setting Zephyr train

Zephyr’s engine used only $16.72 in diesel fuel.

Powered by a single, eight-cylinder diesel engine, the passenger train traveled 1,015 miles on its record-breaking run. The Zephyr burned just $16.72 worth of diesel fuel. The same distance for a coal-burning train would have cost $255.

It had been just 60 years since steam locomotives and the transcontinental railroad linked America’s coasts. With the threat of war on the horizon, the U.S. Navy needed a lighter weight, more powerful diesel engine for its submarine fleet.

Learn more in Adding Wings to the Iron Horse.

May 27, 1893 – Oklahoma Historical Society founded

Fourteen years before Oklahoma became a state, the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) was organized during the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Territorial Press Association in Kingfisher. It was founded to collect and distribute newspapers published in the territory. Today, the society administers historic homes, military sites, and community museums, including the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

May 28, 1923 – “Oil Well of the Century” taps Permian Basin in West Texas

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The University of Texas moved the Santa Rita No. 1 well’s walking beam and other equipment to the Austin campus in 1958. Photo by Bruce Wells.

It took 646 days of difficult cable-tool drilling before a well near Big Lake, Texas, proved there was oil on University of Texas land in the Permian Basin. The arid region in Reagan County was once thought to be worthless, but the Santa Rita No. 1 well discovered an oilfield that helped reveal the Permian Basin’s vast petroleum potential.

Named for the patron saint of the impossible, the Santa Rita well produced oil for the next seven decades, and the University of Texas received $4 million in royalties within three years of the discovery by Texon Oil and Land Company. The student newspaper described the well “as one that made the difference between pine-shack classrooms and modern buildings.” The Santa Rita No. 1 well was named “Oil Well of the Century” in 1999 by Texas Monthly.

Learn more in Santa Rita taps Permian Basin.

May 29, 1940 – Nebraska’s First Oil Well

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Nebraska oil production began in 1940 in Richardson County in the southeastern corner of the state.

After more than a half century of dry holes, Nebraska’s first commercial oil well was completed near Falls City in the far southeastern corner of the state. Eager to join other states benefiting from revenue gained from petroleum production, Nebraska lawmakers had offered a $15,000 bonus for the first well to produce 50 barrels of oil daily for two months.

Pawnee Royalty Company completed the Bucholz No. 1 discovery well with production of about 170 barrels of oil a day in its first 60 days. The well was about five miles east of a “vein of petroleum” first reported by geologists in 1883.

May 30, 1911 – First Indianapolis 500 takes Seven Hours

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All of the cars except the winner had a mechanic to manually pump oil. More than 60,000 watched the first race.

The first Indianapolis 500 began with 40 cars; only 12 finished the 1911 test of endurance and automotive technology. The winner averaged almost 75 mph after about about seven hours of racing.

All the cars – except the winning No. 32 Marmon Wasp – had two seats. Most drivers traveled with “riding mechanics,” who manually pumped oil. Ray Harroun, driver of the winning Wasp, would also develop a kerosene carburetor. “Let the fuel people fight it out amongst themselves, I’ll have a car soon that will burn anything they send,” he declared.

Created to showcase the new sport of automobile racing, early races emphasized engine endurance. Gasoline powered fewer than 1,000 of the 4,200 U.S. cars sold just a decade before the first Indy 500. Learn more in Cantankerous Combustion – 1st U.S. Auto Show – and see how natural gas fueled the 1970’s Blue Flame Natural Gas Rocket Car.

May 30, 1987 – Million Barrel Museum opens in Monahans, Texas

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The Million Barrel Museum’s 525 foot by 422 foot main attraction, originally built to store Permian Basin oil in 1928, became a water park for just one day in 1958.

The Million Barrel Museum opened on a 14.5-acre site in Monahans, Texas. The museum’s main attraction is a large elliptical oil storage tank built in 1928 to store Permian Basin oil.

The experimental concrete tank – 525 feet by 422 feet – was designed to hold more than a million barrels of oil. The highly productive West Texas region lacked oil pipelines. The tank’s 30 foot earthen walls sloped at a 45-degree angle and were covered in concrete. It included a roof made of California redwood. But repeated efforts could not stop oil from leaking at seams. Shell eventually abandoned the giant structure, which would be patched to briefly become a water park in the 1950s – until it leaked again.


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 © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

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