September 7, 1917 – Oilfield Legacy of Texas Governor Hogg –

After drilling 20 dry holes, the Tyndall-Wyoming Oil Company completed the No. 1 Hogg well  50 miles south of Houston. Four months later, a second well produced about 600 barrels a day. The discoveries ended a succession of dry holes dating back to 1901 — when former Texas Governor James “Big Jim” Hogg paid $30,000 for the lease (he also help launch the Texas Company, predecessor to Texaco). Hogg died 11 years before the Tyndall-Wyoming Oil Company wells found oil, but fortunately for his family, he stipulated in his will that the mineral rights should not be sold for at least 15 years after his death. Learn more in Governor Hogg’s Texas Oil Wells.

September 7, 1923 – California Oilfield discovered at Dominguez Hills

Maj. Frederick Russell Burnham discovered oil in Dominguez Hills, an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, California, in 1923. His well produced about 1,200 barrels of oil a day from about a depth of about 4,000 feet. Maj. Burnham, a decorated soldier in both the U.S. and British armies, was once known as “King of the Scouts.” His Burnham Exploration Company and partner Union Oil Company of California opened the Dominguez Hills oilfield, “a two-square mile, two-mile deep stack of eight producing zones.”

Portrait of Maj. Frederick R. Burnham in his British Army uniform, 1901.

Maj. Frederick R. Burnham in his British Army uniform, 1901.

The region was named for a Spanish soldier who in 1784 received a land grant for grazing cattle. “But family fortunes truly took off with discovery of oil in the 1920s, first in the Torrance area and then, most resoundingly, on Dominguez Hill itself,” noted California State University, Dominguez Hills, in 2007.

By 1933, Maj. Burnham’s exploration company and Union Oil had paid more than $10 million to stockholders. Learn more California history in First California Oil Wells and Discovering Los Angeles Oilfields.

September 8, 1891- Patent issued for “Flexible Driving Shafts”

The modern concept of horizontal drilling may have begun with two late-19th century patents by John Smalley Campbell of London. After receiving a British patent for his “useful improvements in flexible driving shafts or cables” in 1889, Campbell received a U.S. patent (no. 459,152) for his drilling method. While the main application described in the patent was dental, “the patent also carefully covered use of his flexible shafts at much larger and heavier physical scales,” explained oil historian and geologist Stephen M. Testa in a 2015 article for Pacific Petroleum Geology Newsletter.

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September 9, 1855 – Birthday of Discoverer of Spindletop Oilfield

Anthony Francis Lucas, who in 1901 discovered prolific salt dome structures in the Texas, was born (named Antun Lučić) in Split, Croatia, After receiving an 1875 engineering degree at the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria, he served as a captain in the Austrian navy before immigrating to America. He became a U.S. citizen in 1885, changed his name to Lucas, and worked as a mining engineer and geologist in Washington, D.C.

50-foot granite monument commemorates the Lucas gusher in Texas.

Dedicated in 1941 and moved to the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in 1977, a 50-foot granite monument commemorates the Lucas gusher. Photo by Bruce Wells.

While developing salt mines in Louisiana, Lucas learned of Pattillo Higgins and an unlikely search for oil at Spindletop Hill in Beaumont, Texas (see Prophet of Spindletop). Lucas took charge of drilling effort and discovered the massive oilfield in January 1901. The headline-making “Lucas gusher” led to the founding of hundreds of petroleum companies. Learn more in Spindletop launches Modern Petroleum Industry.

September 9, 1928 – Oklahoma regulates Oil Production

A state regulatory body for the first time issued an order limiting oil production for the entire state. The move was an effort to control excessive production from many newly discovered Oklahoma oilfields, including several giants of the Seminole oil boom. With falling oil prices (and tax revenue), the Oklahoma Corporation Commission set the state’s oil production limit to 700,000 barrels daily and limited production of wildcat wells to 100 barrels of oil a day.

September 10, 1879 – Merger of Two California Companies will lead to Chevron

Today headquartered in  in San Ramon, California, Chevron Corporation began in 1879 when the Pacific Coast Oil Company acquired California Star Oil Works, which a few months earlier had made the first major California oil discovery.

Circa 1870s Pacific Coast Oil Company logo with derricks.

The Pacific Coast Oil Company’s logo included derricks at Pico Canyon, site of California’s first commercial oil discovery. Photo courtesy of Chevron.

As the future major U.S. oil company grew, its retail outlets added dozens of service station logos — including Standard Oil Company of California’s chevron, the Texaco red star, the orange disc of Gulf Oil, and the Unocal “76” logo. “We trace our beginnings to an 1876 oil discovery at Pico Canyon, north of Los Angeles, which led to the formation of the Pacific Coast Oil Company,” notes Chevron, which acquired Gulf Oil in 1984 and merged with Texaco in 2001.

September 10, 1969 – Second Test of Nuclear Fracking of Natural Gas Well

A 40-kiloton nuclear device was detonated underground about eight miles southeast of present-day Parachute, Garfield County, Colorado. Project Rulison was the second of three natural gas reservoir stimulation tests involving nuclear explosions in wells.

Newspaper headline in 1969 for Rulison atomic explosion test at natural gas well.

Experimental nuclear fracturing of natural gas wells took place as late as 1973. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library.

The unusual “fracking” tests were part of Operation Plowshare, a government program to study peaceful uses of nuclear explosions. The first, Project Gasbuggy, was a December 1967 detonation of 29 kilotons in a New Mexico natural gas well. The third detonation took place in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, in 1973. All of the tests produced unusable radioactive natural gas.

September 11, 1866 – Distilling Kerosene in Vacuum leads to Mobil Oil

Matthew Ewing, a carpenter, patented a new method for distilling kerosene in a vacuum to produce lubricants. His post-Civil War invention would lead to Mobil Oil. Three weeks after his patent, Ewing and partner Hiram Everest founded Vacuum Oil Company in Rochester, New York. Their first product was “Ewing’s Patent Vacuum Oil,” a leather conditioner.

Circa 1870 advertisement for "Ewing's Patent Vacuum Oil"

Beginning in 1866, “Ewing’s Patent Vacuum Oil” preserved and lubricated leather harnesses.

After Ewing left the partnership, Everest found success with an improved Vacuum Harness Oil. He distributed the lubricant in square containers previously used for canned oysters.

In 1880, Everest sold 75 percent of Vacuum Oil to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. More than half a century later, the vacuum-produced lubricants company evolved into Socony Mobil and then into Mobil Oil before becoming ExxonMobil in a 1999 merger. Also see Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.

September 12, 1866 – First Texas Oil Well finds Oil at 106 Feet Deep

The Texas petroleum industry was born when Lyne Taliaferro Barret and his Melrose Petroleum Oil Company drilled a well that produced small amounts of oil a few miles east of Nacogdoches.

Map of region east of Nacogdoches, home of first Texas oil well.

Lyne Taliaferro Barret in 1859 leased 280 acres east of Nacogdoches, Texas, in an area known for oil seeps.

The Confederate Army veteran’s No. 1 Isaac C. Skillern well – drilled in an area known as Oil Springs – found the newly prized resource at a depth of 106 feet. Barret’s well yielded a modest ten barrels per day; limited access to markets soon led to his company’s failure. The field laid dormant for nearly two decades – until other exploration companies found oil nearby. The Nacogdoches field was the oldest producing field in Texas for many decades (some wells produced well into the 1950s). Learn more in First Lone Star Oil Discovery  and visit Nacogdoches, “the oldest town in Texas.”

September 13, 1957 – First Hawaiian Refinery

Storage tanks at the oil refinery in Hawaii.

Millions of barrels of oil are delivered to Hawaii by tanker each year.

Standard Oil of California announced it would build the Territory of Hawaii’s first oil refinery, eight miles west of Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. According to a September 1959 Popular Mechanics article, Standard Oil originally planned to import oil “by means of an unusual undersea submarine cable.”

September 13, 1975 – President Ford dedicates Petroleum Museum

President Gerald R. Ford addressed 400 guests at the 1975 dedication ceremony of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library and Hall of Fame in Midland, Texas. After touring the new museum, the president was presented with a bronze sculpture by artist Lester Fox called “Dressing the Bit.” The presentation was made by Chairman Emil Rassman.

Pump jacks on exhibit at the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas

President Gerald Ford spoke at the Petroleum Museum’s 1975 opening in Midland, Texas. Photo courtesy Petroleum Museum.

According to Executive Director Kathy Shannon, the Petroleum Museum today includes extensive indoor and outdoor geological, technical, and cultural exhibits — and the world’s largest collection of Jim Hall’s famous Chaparral racing cars.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please become an AOGHS supporting member today. Help us maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2020 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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