October 14, 1929 – Oilfield Discovery East of Dallas
The discovery of oil in Van, Texas, by the Pure Oil Company created an oil boom town 60 miles east of Dallas. The Jarman No. 1 well initially produced 3,500 barrels of oil a day from the Woodbine sandstone at a depth of 2,700 feet. Three more wells were completed as construction began on a camp for oilfield workers.
By April 1930, the Van oilfield was producing 20,000 barrels of oil a day, and oil companies attracted to the Van oilfield adopted advanced production techniques. “The field is significant because it was the first completely unitized field in Texas and the Mid-Continent,” explains the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA).
Two new pipelines connected the prolific field to the Pure refinery in Beaumont and Standard Oil’s refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Among the oilfield’s “Cook Camp” buildings was a sheet metal warehouse, which today houses a community oil museum. Van area residents annually host an oil pageant and festival celebrating their petroleum heritage. The 90th Annual Oil Celebration began on October 12, 2019, with a parade and events at Van City Park.
October 15, 1966 – Johnson signs National Historic Preservation Act
Recognizing the “spirit and direction of the nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage,” Lyndon Johnson signed into law the National Historic Preservation Act to protect historical and archaeological sites. The Act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to maintain a National Register of Historic Places. “The historical and cultural foundations of the nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people,” the Act proclaimed.
October 15, 1997 – Kerosene fuels World Land Speed Record
The current world land speed record was set at 763.035 miles per hour by the Thrust SSC (supersonic car) using a 19th century petroleum product: kerosene. Its twin jet engines burned JP-4, a kerosene-naptha jet propellant. A British team achieved the record in a Nevada desert. Highly refined kerosene JP-4 was first used in jet aircraft in 1951. Also see the Blue Flame Natural Gas Rocket Car.
October 16, 1931 – Natural Gas Pipeline sets Record
America’s first long-distance, high-pressure natural gas pipeline went into service during the Great Depression; it linked the prolific Texas Panhandle gas fields to consumers in Chicago.
A.O. Smith Corporation had developed the technology of thin-walled pipe and Continental Construction Corporation built the 980-mile bolted flange pipeline for the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America (NGPL).
The $75 million high-tech project consumed 209,000 tons of A.O. Smith’s specially fabricated 24-inch wide steel pipe (the pipe filled 6,500 freight cars) and required 2,600 separate right-of-way leases. Learn more pipeline history in Big Inch Pipelines of WWII.
October 17, 1890 – Union Oil of California founded
The Union Oil Company of California was founded by Lyman Stewart, Thomas Bard, and Wallace Hardison, who merged their petroleum properties to compete with Standard Oil of California, founded 20 years earlier.
Union Oil made a strategic alliance with small oil producers to build pipelines from the Kern County oilfields to the Pacific coast, according to the American Institute of Mining Engineers. “This gave the independent producers an alternative to what they perceived as the low prices paid by Standard Oil and the high freight rates charged by the railroads to move crude oil,” noted the 1914 bulletin article.
Union Oil, which moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1901, in March 1910 lost control of the Lakeview No. 1 well in the Midway-Sunset field, which could not be controlled for 18 months. The purchase of Pennsylvania-based Pure Oil in 1965 made the Unocal Union 76 brand a nationwide company. In 2005, Unocal become a wholly owned subsidiary of Chevron. The original company headquarters in Santa Paula, a California Historical Landmark, houses the California Oil Museum.
October 17, 1917 – “Roaring Ranger” launches Major Texas Drilling Boom
A wildcat well between Abilene and Dallas launched a Texas drilling boom that helped fuel the Allied victory in World War I.
The J.H. McCleskey No. 1 well erupted oil about two miles south of the small town of Ranger, which had been founded in the 1870s near a Texas Ranger camp in northeastern Eastland County. Petroleum companies had searched the region with limited success since 1904.
Texas and Pacific Coal Company’s William Knox Gordon completed the discovery well at a depth of 3,432 feet. It initially produced 1,600 barrels a day of quality, high gravity oil. Within 20 months the exploration company’s stock value jumped from $30 a share to $1,250 a share.
“Roaring Ranger” launched a drilling boom that extended to nearby towns. More gushers followed, some producing up to 10,000 barrels of oil every day. Ranger’s population quickly grew from 1,000 to 30,000.
The petroleum proved essential in World War I. When the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, a member of the British War Cabinet declared, “The Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”
After the war, a young veteran – Conrad Hilton – visited Eastland County intending to buy a Texas bank. When his bank deal fell through, Hilton (at the Cisco train station ready to leave), noticed a small hotel with a line of roughnecks waiting for a room. Hilton decided to buy his first hotel. Learn more in Oil Boom Brings First Hilton Hotel.
October 17, 1973 – Opec Embargo bring Gas Lines, Recession
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries implemented what it called “oil diplomacy,” prohibiting any nation that had supported Israel in the “Yom Kippur War” from buying the cartel’s oil. The embargo brought an end to years of cheap gasoline and caused the New York Stock Exchange to drop by almost $100 billion. It also created one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. The United States became the world’s top petroleum producer in 2017, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.
October 18, 2008 – Derrick dedicated in Discovery 1 Park
Discovery One Park in Bartlesville – site of a renovated Nellie Johnstone No. 1, Oklahoma’s first commercial oil well – was dedicated with a reenactment of the dramatic moment that changed Oklahoma history. Events included local roughneck reenactors and a water gusher form the 84-foot derrick. A similar cable-tool drilling rig thrilled spectators in 1897, when Jenny Cass, stepdaughter of Bartlesville founder George W. Keeler, was given the honor of “shooting” the oil well.
October 20, 1944 – Liquefied Natural Gas Tank explosion in Ohio
An explosion and fire from liquefied natural gas tanks in Cleveland, Ohio, killed 131 people and caused more than $10 million in damage. Temperatures inside of one of the East Ohio Gas Company’s tanks reportedly had been allowed to fall below minus 250 degrees, which caused the steel plates to contract and rupture. “Although investigators never discovered a cause for the explosion, witnesses stated that a leak in one of the tanks occurred,” notes Ohio History Central. “Some spark must have then ignited the gas, although, with World War II currently raging, some residents initially suspected a German saboteur.”
October 20, 1949 – Rare Natural Gas Well in Maryland
The first commercially successful natural gas well in Maryland was drilled by the Cumberland Allegheny Gas Company in the town of Mountain Lake Park, Garrett County – the westernmost county in the state. The Elmer Beachy well produced almost 500 Mcf of natural gas a day.
The wildcat discovery prompted a rush of competing companies and high-density drilling (an average of nine wells per acre), which depleted the field. Twenty of 29 wells drilled within the town produced natural gas, but overall production from the field was low. No oil has been found in Maryland.
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