Dr. Seuss once created zoological oddities for Esso products of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.
Seuss the oilman? Thirty years before the Grinch stole Christmas in 1957, many strange and wonderful critters of the children’s book author were seen in Standard Oil advertising campaigns.
Few know that Theodor S. Geisel created advertising campaigns for Standard Oil for many years. This Standard Oil Company “Essolube” oil change card was issued between 1930 and 1940.
During the Great Depression, fanciful creatures drawn by the future Dr. Seuss promoted Essolube and other products for Standard Oil of New Jersey. He later said his experience at Standard, “taught me conciseness and how to marry pictures with words.”
Standard Oil’s “Flit” was a popular bug spray.
In the cartoon that launched his career, Theodor Seuss Geisel drew a peculiar dragon inside a castle. The January 14, 1928, issue of New York City’s Judge magazine featured the beast. Geisel would soon introduce America to many less threatening characters inhabiting his imaginative menagerie.
“Flit,” was a popular bug spray of the day – especially against flies and mosquitoes. It was one of many Standard Oil Company of New Jersey consumer products derived from petroleum. Late in 1927, Standard Oil’s growing advertising department, which had focused on sales of Standard and Esso gasoline, lubricating oil, fuel oil and asphalt, reorganized to promote other products, according to author Alfred Chandler Jr.
Dr. Seuss later said his experience working at Standard Oil helped him develop his fantastical characters and tales.
“Specialties, such as Nujol, Flit, Mistol, and other petroleum by-products that could not be effectively sold through the department’s sales organization were combined in a separate subsidiary – Stanco,” noted Chandler in his book, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise. Chandler’s 1962 book also examined the organization of General Motors, Sears, Roebuck and Co., and E.I. du Pont de Nemours.
“Quick, Henry, the Flit!”
Geisel’s fortuitous bug-spray cartoon depicted a medieval knight in his bed, facing a dragon who had invaded his room, and lamenting, “Darn it all, another dragon. And just after I’d sprayed the whole castle with Flit.”
According to the curators of the Dr. Seuss Collection at the University of California, San Diego, an anecdote in Judith and Neil Morgan’s 1995 book Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel, the wife of the ad executive who handled the Standard Oil account saw the dragon cartoon. (more…)
Petroleum company’s historic red Pegasus soars again in Dallas.
Mobil Oil’s Pegasus was perched on the famed Dallas, Texas, Magnolia building from 1934 until August 1999, when rust and structural issues forced its removal. On Jan. 1, 2000, a carefully crafted duplicate replaced it atop today’s Dallas Magnolia Hotel.
Thanks to its local popularity, the high-flying trademark returned to Dallas as the twin flying red horses — one on each side — and the duplicated red neon today glows bright. As 1999 dew to a close, the Mobil Oil Pegasus was painstakingly recreated by the American Porcelain Enamel Company of Dallas.
Years later, a Dallas hotel restored much of the Magnolia building’s original Pegasus after finding its remains in a city-owned shed. The Omni Dallas Hotel funded the restoration, and in 2015 the red neon-edged symbol (now one-sided) was re-lit in front of the hotel on Lamar Street.
The rotating 35-foot by 40-foot Pegasus sign first beamed its red neon glow above a Dallas hotel in 1934.
Wherever seen today, the Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil) trademark has been a feature of Dallas since first welcoming attendees to a 1934 petroleum convention. It remains among the most well recognizable corporate symbols in American history.
When the 400-foot-tall Magnolia Petroleum building opened in 1922, it was the city’s first skyscraper — and tallest building west of the Mississippi River. With 29 floors and seven elevators, the Magnolia building towered over the nearby Adolphus Hotel, built in 1913. It was designed by Sir Alfred Bossom of the United Kingdom in a “modified classical design.”
The Vacuum Oil Company trademarked the Pegasus logo in 1911 and by the 1930s was marketing Pegasus Motor Spirits and Mobiloil. Completed in 1922, the Magnolia Petroleum building was “a great peg driven into the ground holding Dallas in its place.”
The Magnolia also was the first high rise in the United States to have air conditioning, according to the management company that acquired the building in 1997. The restored lobby features a gold leaf decorative plaster and the original elevator doors engraved with the Pegasus logo. With much of the original architecture’s classical design and gold leaf restored in 1999, the Dallas Magnolia Hotel has become a “boutique hotel” blending its past with modern amenities.
More than 70 years old, this 11-foot Pegasus dominates the lobby of the Old Red Museum of the Dallas County History and Culture. The winged logo was originally displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair – and later atop a Mobil gas station in Casa Linda in East Dallas.
After the 1922 opening, a local reporter described the Magnolia – which cost the oil company $4 million to build – as “a great peg driven into the ground holding Dallas in its place.” In 1925, when Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) acquired Magnolia Petroleum Company, the Dallas headquarters building was included. Nine years later Pegasus would land on the roof.
The flying red horses began their journey in 1911, when a Vacuum Oil Company subsidiary in Cape Town, South Africa, first trademarked the Pegasus logo. Based in Rochester, New York, Vacuum Oil had built a successful petroleum lubricants business around an 1869 patent by its founder, Hiram Everest, long before gasoline was even a branded product.
Vacuum Oil Company’s products used a gargoyle prior to adopting the winged horse of mythology.
At first, a stylized red gargoyle advertised the company, which produced early petroleum-based lubricants for horse-drawn carriages and steam engines. The Pegasus trademark proved to be a more enduring image. In Greek mythology, Pegasus – a winged horse – carried thunderbolts for Zeus.
By 1931 growth of the automobile industry expanded the Vacuum Oil product lineup to include Pegasus Spirits and Mobilgas – later simplified to Mobil. When Standard Oil of New York and Vacuum Oil combined to form Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, the new company adopted the familiar winged trademark, as does an affiliate, Magnolia Petroleum.
The certificate from Cape Town, South Africa, notes that the “Vacuum Oil Company of South Africa Limited” is named “as proprietor of the Trade Mark represented above.”
It took a year to build the rotating 35-foot by 40-foot Pegasus sign. It first beamed its red neon glow in 1934, welcoming the first annual meeting to be held in Dallas by the American Petroleum Institute. For decades the emblem slowly rotated above the growing city as corporate consolidations and mergers changed Socony-Vacuum ownership.
In 1955, the name of the company changed to Socony Mobil Oil; in 1966 became just Mobil Oil. A neon Pegasus displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair found its way to a Mobil gas station in Casa Linda, Texas, and later to the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture — where it’s on exhibit today.
In 1974 the petroleum icon’s motor ground to a halt. Mobile Oil moved out of the Magnolia building three years later and sold the aging skyscraper and glowing but unmoving sign to the city of Dallas. Twenty-years later, Pegasus’ neon lights finally went out.
As a Denver-based developer restored and transformed the deteriorating Magnolia building into a luxurious 330 room hotel in the late 1990s, a group of patrons and corporate partners joined in to bring the broken and rusty Pegasus sign back to life. They raised more than $600,000 for the project.
The Project Pegasus team targeted New Year’s Eve of 1999 and dawn of the new millennium to reintroduce Dallas citizens to their petroleum heritage landmark. Restoration of the 8,000-pound sign proved challenging. The derrick-like tower structure was reparable and the old mechanical rotation system could be updated with new technology. But time and weather had damaged the porcelain coated steel signage and neon tubing. New 16-gauge steel panels had to be cut, using the originals as templates.
Only two facilities in the United States were large enough to accommodate baking the emblematic red porcelain onto the new panels; fortunately, both were in Dallas. More than 1,000 feet of new neon tubing was required to trace the familiar outlines as craftsmen and technicians remained faithful to the original.
A view of Pegasus in photographer Carolyn Brown’s popular 2004 book, Dallas: Where Dreams Come True.
The efforts of all were rewarded at midnight on December 31, 1999, when fireworks and millennium celebrations welcomed Pegasus back to the Dallas skyline.
“You can’t tell the new one from the old one except for the fact that the faces are now red and not rusty,” explained one of the restorers (see Sign Makers Restore Historical Flying Red Horse). “We replaced every old piece with a new piece that was exactly the same as it was before.”
The Pegasus sign “is a beloved icon of the city of Dallas,” proclaimed Kay Kallos, public art manager in the Office of Cultural Affairs, which manages its maintenance. Mobil Oil merged with Exxon in 1999, creating today’s ExxonMobil, headquartered in Irving, Texas. Visit the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2020 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.
Citation Information – Article Title: “Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/petroleum-art/high-flying-trademark. Last Updated: Nevember 14, 2020. Original Published Date: March 14, 2010.
Company town players made it to the Big Leagues — and the Hall of Fame.
The first pitcher ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 worked in oilfields as a teenager and began his career on an oil town baseball team in California.
As baseball became America’s favorite pastime in the early 20th century, many new oil patch boom towns fielded their own teams – with names that reflected their communities’ enthusiasm and often, their livelihood.
Oilfields of Dreams
In Texas, the Corsicana Oil Citys made baseball history in 1902 with a 51 to 3 drubbing of the Texarkana Casketmakers. Oil Citys catcher Jay Justin Clarke hit eight home runs in eight at bats during the game – still an unbroken baseball record.
The once pitcher for the Olinda Oil Wells – Walter “Big Train” Johnson – joined “Babe” Ruth in a 1924 exhibition game.
In 1922, the Wichita Falls minor league team lost its opportunity for a 25th consecutive victory when the league determined the team had “doctored the baseball.” The Wichita Falls ballpark caught fire in June — during a game — and burned to the ground. It was a memorable season.
In Oklahoma oilfields, the Okmulgee Drillers for the first time in baseball history had two players who combined to hit 100 home runs in a single season of 160 games. First baseman Wilbur “Country” Davis and center fielder Cecil “Stormy” Davis accomplished their home run record in 1924, although their team faded away by 1927.
Today’s Tulsa Drillers play in the Texas League as a AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
The Tulsa Oilers were the strongest team in the Western League for a decade, winning the pennant in 1920, ‘22, ‘27, ‘28 and ‘29. The name continues in the Central Hockey League’s Tulsa Oilers. The Tulsa Drillers, a AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, a Major League club, play in downtown Tulsa.
In baseball’s first official night game, the Independence, Kansas, Producers lost to Muskogee Chiefs 13 to 3 on April 28, 1930. The game was played under portable lights supplied by the Negro National League’s famed Kansas City Monarchs.
“More than 250 producing wells once dotted these hill,” notes the Olinda Oil Museum and Trail near Brea, California.
The Independence Producers were one of the 96 teams in the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, now known as Minor League Baseball.
Iola Gasbags and Borger Gassers
Thanks to mid-continent oil and natural gas discoveries, in just nine years beginning in 1895, Iola, Kansas, grew from a town of 1,567 to a city of more than 11,000. Gas wells lighted the way.
However, the Iola Gasbags reportedly adopted their team name not for the resource, but after becoming known as braggers in the Missouri State League. “They traveled to these other cities, and they’d be bragging that they were the champions, so people started giving them the nickname Gasbags,” reported baseball historian Tim Hagerty in a July 2012 National Public Radio interview.
From a booming town in Kansas thanks to natural gas, the Iola Gasbags are pictured in 1904. Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.
In 1903, the players renamed themselves the Iola Gaslighters — but had a change of heart and reverted to the original name the following season.
“They said, ‘You know what? Yeah, we are, We’re the Gasbags.'” added Hagerty, author of Root for the Home Team: Minor League Baseball’s Most Off-the-Wall Names and the Stories Behind Them. “I think the state of Kansas may take the prize for the most terrific names – the Wichita Wingnuts, the Wichita Izzies, the Hutchinson Salt Packers…and the Iola Gasbags.”
In the Texas Panhandle, the Borger Gassers disappeared after the 1955 season, despite Gordon Nell hitting a record-setting 49 homers in 1947. Team owners blamed television and air-conditioning for reducing minor league baseball attendance and profitability.
Detail from 1909 baseball card featuring Pacific Coast League pitcher Jimmy Wiggs. Image courtesy Library of Congress.
In Beaumont, Texas, site of the great Spindletop oil discovery of 1901, minor league baseball lasted for decades under several names. The first team, the Beaumont Oil Gushers of the South Texas League, was fielded in 1903. By the 1904 season the team was known as the Millionaires and then the Oilers before becoming the Beaumont Exporters in 1920.
East of Dallas, in Van, Texas, fielding practice at the oil town baseball high school includes a reminder of a prolific oilfield discovered in 1929. Photo by Bruce Wells.
Although many thought the name should be changed to the Refiners, reflecting the city’s industry, for the 1950 season the team was briefly known as the Roughnecks.
Beaumont’s last AA Texas League team was the Golden Gators, which folded in 1986. Another team in the Texas League, the Shreveport Gassers, on May 8, 1918, played 20 innings against the Fort Worth Panthers before the game was finally declared a tie at one to one.
Walter “Big Train” Johnson and Olinda Oil Wells
In 1894, the Union Oil Company of Santa Paula purchased 1,200 acres in northern Orange County for oil development. Four years later the first oil well, Olinda No. 1, came in and created the oil boom town.
Perhaps baseball’s greatest product from the oilfield was a young man who was a roustabout in the small oil town of Olinda, California. Walter “Big Train” Johnson would earn national renown as the greatest pitcher of his time.
Around the turn of the century, Olinda Oil Wells baseball players began making a name for themselves among the semi-pro teams of the Los Angeles area.
A 1961 baseball card notes headline of the former California oilfield roustabout’s amazing 1913 pitching record, which lasted until Don Drysdale pitched 58 scoreless innings in 1968.
By 1903 the Orange County team was sharing newly built Athletic Park in Anaheim, “two hours south of Olinda by horse and buggy,” notes one historian. Youngster Walter Johnson rooted for the local team, the Oil Wells.
Today, tourists visit the Olinda Oil Museum and Trail. This historic Orange County site includes Olinda Oil Well No. 1 of 1898, the oil company field office and a jack-line pump building.
Johnson, originally from Humboldt, Kansas, moved to the thriving oil town east of Brea with his family when he was 14. He attended Fullerton Union High School and played baseball there while working in the nearby oilfields. His high school pitching began making headlines, including a 1905 15-inning game against rival Santa Ana High School where he struck out 27.
An 1898 oil discovery made by the Olinda No. 1 well launched an oil boom town that ked to a local baseball team.
By 17, Johnson was playing for his oil town baseball team, the Olinda Oil Wells, as its ace pitcher. He shared in each game’s income of $25, according to Henry Thomas in Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train. “Not a bad split for nine players considering that a roustabout in the oilfields started at $1.50 a day,” Thomas noted in his book. Johnson finished with a winning season and soon moved on to the minor leagues.
Johnson’s major league career began in 1907 in Washington, D.C., where he played his entire 21-year baseball career for the Washington Senators. The former oil patch roustabout remains major league baseball’s all-time career leader in shutouts with 110, second in wins (417) and fourth in complete games (531).
In 1936, “Big Train” Johnson was inducted into baseball’s newly created Hall of Fame with four others: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson. In 1924, Johnson returned to his California oil patch roots. On October 31, he and his former baseball teammates played an exhibition game in Brea against Babe Ruth and the Ruth All-Stars.
The Brea Museum & Historical Society today includes exhibits, rare photographs, and research facilities. There’s also an on-going project recreating Brea in miniature.
Texon Oilers of the Permian Basin
On May 28, 1923, a loud roar was heard when the Santa Rita No. 1 well erupted in West Texas. People as far away as Fort Worth traveled to see the well. Near Big Lake, Texas, on arid land leased from the University of Texas, Texon Oil and Land Company made the discovery. The oilfield, about 4.5 square miles, revealed vast oil reserves in West Texas. Exploration spread into other areas of the Permian Basin, still one of the largest oil-producing regions in the United States.
The first oil “company town” in the Permian Basin, Texon, was founded in 1924 by Big Lake Oil Company. The Texon Oilers won Permian Basin League championships in 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1939. Texon remains a tourist attraction – as a ghost town.
Early Permian Basin discoveries created many boom towns, including Midland, which some would soon refer to as “Little Dallas.” By 1924, Michael L. Benedum, a successful independent oilman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other successful independent producers – wildcatters – formed the Big Lake Oil Company. The new company established Texon, the first oil company town in the Permian Basin.
Today a ghost town, Texon was considered a model oil community. It had a school, church, hospital, theater, golf course, swimming pool – and a semi-pro company baseball team. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Texon Oilers baseball team was the centerpiece of the employee recreation plan of Levi Smith, vice president and general manager of the Big Lake Oil Company. Smith, an avid baseball fan, organized the club soon after he founded the Reagan County town (a few miles west of today’s town of Big Lake).
The Permian Basin oilfield was featured in a 2002 movie featuring a high school teacher and baseball coach. Image from Walt Disney Pictures poster.
By the summer of 1925 a baseball field was ready for use. In 1926 a 500-seat grandstand completed the facility. “In 1929 the Big Lake Oil Company began a tradition of hosting a Labor Day barbecue for employees and friends, highlighted by a baseball game,” noted historian Jane Spraggins Wilson.
“Management consistently attempted to schedule well-known clubs, such as the Fort Worth Cats and the Halliburton Oilers of Oklahoma,” added Wilson, who explained that during the Great Depression, “before good highways, television, and other diversions, the team was a source of community cohesiveness, entertainment, and pride.”
After the World War II, with its famous the oilfield diminishing and the town losing population, aging Oilers left the game for good, Wilson reports. By the mid-1950s the Texon Oilers were but a memory.
Hollywood visits Oilfields
The 2002 movie “The Rookie” – filmed almost entirely in the Permian Basin of West Texas – featured a Reagan County High School teacher.
A Midland, Texas, museum exhibits Permian Basin history.
Based on the “true life” of baseball pitcher Jimmy Morris, it tells the story of baseball coach, Morris (played by Dennis Quaid), who despite being in his mid-30s briefly makes it to the major leagues.
The movie – promoted with the phrase, “It’s never too late to believe in your dreams” – opens with a flashback scene near Big Lake, the Santa Rita No. 1 drilling site.
At the beginning of the 2002 movie “The Rookie,” Catholic nuns christened the Santa Rita No. 1 cable-tool rig. In reality, one of the well’s owners climbed the derrick and threw rose petals given to him by Catholic women investors.
As the well is being drilled, Catholic nuns are shown carrying a basket of rose pedals to christen it for the patron Saint of the Impossible – Santa Rita.
Whiting has been home to the North-west Indiana Oilmen since 2012.
“Much is made of the almost mythic importance of oil in Big Lake, with talk of the Santa Rita oil well,” explains ESPN in the The Rookie in Reel Life. Learn more about the Permian Basin in Santa Rita taps Permian Basin and visit the Petroleum Museum in Midland.
Oilmen of Whiting, Indiana
In 1889, the Standard Oil Company began construction on its massive, 235-acre refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Today owned by BP, the Whiting refinery is the largest in the United States.
In 2012, Whiting fielded a baseball team. On June 3, the North-west Indiana Oilmen crushed the Southland Vikings 14-3 at Oil City Stadium in Standard Diamonds Park for the first win in franchise history. The Oilmen team became one of eight in the Midwest Collegiate League, a pre-minor baseball league.
Standard Oil’s giant refinery in Whiting, Indiana, processed “sour crude” in the early 1900s. Now owned by BP, it is the largest U.S. refinery. The city of Whiting incorporated in 1903.
“The name Oil City Stadium celebrates Whiting’s history as a refinery town tucked away in the Northwest corner of Indiana for over 120 years,” noted team owner Don Popravak. “The BP Refinery, located just beyond they outfield fence is a constant reminder of the blue collar attitude Whiting was built on,” he added.
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 email@example.com. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.
Citation Information – Article Title: “Oilfields of Dreams – Gassers, Oilers, and Drillers Baseball.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/petroleum-art/oil-town-baseball. Last Updated: October 25, 2020. Original Published Date: September 1, 2007.