The New York, Manhattan, Metropolitan, Municipal, Knickerbocker and Harlem gas companies merged in 1884.
The history of Con Edison includes stories of work crews from New York City’s many competing gas companies digging up lines of rivals – and literally battling for customers, giving rise to the term “gas house gangs.”
New York gas-light companies provided lighting for streets, businesses and residences beginning in 1823. They later merged to become the nation’s largest utility – Con Edison. This 1873 “bird’s eye view” illustrates New York and Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge, under construction from 1870 to 1883, is at right. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Today still among the nation’s largest gas utility companies, Consolidated Edison, Inc. – known as “Con Edison” or “Con Ed” – began on November 11, 1884, when six New York City gas-light companies merged. But Con Edison can trace its history more than six decades earlier to the New York Gas Light Company. All provided gas from their nearby plants distilling coal.
“Before the Brooklyn Bridge spanned the East River, before the Statue of Liberty first graced New York Harbor, and before skyscrapers rose above New York City’s streets, the utility companies that would eventually become Con Edison were already building the energy infrastructure needed to fuel and sustain the city’s growth,” notes one historian. (more…)
Subsidiaries in Kansas and Oklahoma discover giant Mid-Continent oilfields.
Cities Service Company was established in September 1910 by Henry Latham Doherty as a public utility holding company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, home of the first commercial Oklahoma oil well. Five years after its founding, Doherty’s company would make its own historic discoveries.
Doherty began by selectively purchasing natural gas producing properties in Kansas and Oklahoma. He acquired distributing companies and linked them to his natural gas supplies. Cities Service Company derived income from the subsidiary corporations’ stock dividends. One natural gas subsidiary drilled exploratory wells in central Kansas.
The Ohio Oil Company drilled a well more than four miles deep in 1954.
Founded in 1887 by Henry M. Ernst, the Ohio Oil Company got its exploration and production start in northwestern Ohio, at the time a leading oil producing region. Two years later, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust purchased the company — known as “the Ohio” — and in 1905 moved headquarters from Lima to Findlay.
Soon establishing itself as a major pipeline company, by 1908 the Ohio controlled half of the oil production in three states.The company resumed independent operation in 1911 following the dissolution of the Standard Oil monopoly. The new Ohio Company’s petroleum exploration operations would expand to Wyoming and beyond.
The Ohio Oil Company in 1930 purchased Transcontinental Oil, a refiner that had marketed gasoline under the trademark “Marathon” since 1920. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.
In 1915, the company assigned 1,800 miles of pipeline, as well as gathering and storage facilities, to its newly acquired Illinois Pipe Line Company. The Ohio then purchased the Lincoln Oil Refining Company to better integrate and develop crude oil outlets.
“Ohio Oil saw the increasing need for marketing their own products with the ever increasing supply of automobiles appearing on the primitive roads,” explained Gary Drye, a collector of gas station antiques, in a 2006 forum at Oldgas.com. “They finally ventured into marketing in June 1924 with the purchase of Lincoln Oil Refining Company of Robinson, Illinois. With an assured oil supply, the “Linco” brand soon expanded.
The Ohio Oil Company marketed its oil products as “Linco” after purchasing the Lincoln Oil Refinery in 1920. Undated photo of a station in Fremont, Ohio.
Meanwhile, a subsidiary in 1926 co-discovered the giant Yates oilfield in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and West Texas. “With huge successes in oil exploration and production ventures, Ohio Oil realized they needed even more retail outlets for their products,” Drye reported. By 1930 Ohio Oil Company distributed Linco products throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky.
Marathon of Ohio Oil
In 1930 Ohio Oil purchased Transcontinental Oil, a refiner that had marketed gasoline under the trademark “Marathon” across the Midwest and South since 1920. Acquiring the Marathon product name included the Pheidippides Greek runner trademark and the “Best in the long run” slogan.
Adopted in 2011, the third logo for corporate branding in Marathon Oil’s 124-year history.
According to Drye, Transcontinental “can best be remembered for a significant ‘first’ when in 1929 they opened several Marathon stations in Dallas, Texas in conjunction with Southland Ice Company’s ‘Tote’m’ stores (later 7-Eleven) creating the first gasoline/convenience store tie-in.”
The Marathon brand proved so popular that by World War II the name had replaced Linco at stations in the original five state territory. After the war, Ohio Oil continued to purchase other companies and expand throughout the 1950s. In 1962, celebrating its 75th anniversary, The Ohio changed its name to Marathon Oil Company and launched its new “M” in a hexagon shield logo design. Other milestones include:
1981 – U.S. Steel (USX) purchased the company. 1985 – Yates field produced its billionth barrel of oil. 1990 – Marathon opened headquarters in Houston. 2005 – Marathon became 100 percent owner of Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC, which later became Marathon Petroleum Corp. 2011 – Completed a $3.5 billion investment in the Eagle Ford Shale play in Texas.
On June 30, 2011, Marathon Oil became an independent upstream company and unveiled an “energy wave” logo as it prepared to separate from Marathon Petroleum, based in Findlay. Read a more detailed history in Ohio Oil Company and visit theHancock Historical Museum in Findlay.
Ohio Oil’s California Record
As deep drilling technologies continued to advanced in the 1950s, a record depth of 21,482 feet was reached by the Ohio Oil Company in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
Petroleum Engineer magazine in 1954 noted the well set a record despite being “halted by a fishing job.”
The deep oil well drilling attempt about 17 miles southwest of Bakersfield in prolific Kern County, experienced many challenges. A final problem led to it being plugged with cement on December 31, 1954. At more than four miles deep, down-hole drilling technology of the time was not up to the task when the drill bit became stuck.
The challenge of retrieving obstructions from deep in a well’s borehole – “fishing” – has challenged the petroleum industry since the first tool stuck at 134 feet and ruined a well spudded just four days after the famous 1859 discovery by Edwin Drake in Pennsylvania. See The First Dry Hole. In a 1954 article about deep drilling technology, The Petroleum Engineer noted the Kern County well of the Ohio Oil Company – today’s Marathon Oil – set a record despite being “halted by a fishing job.”
The well was lost. A 1953 Kern County well drilled by Richfield Oil Corporation produced oil from 17,895 feet, according to the magazine. At the time, the average U.S. cost for the nearly 100 wells drilled below 15,000 feet was about $550,000 per well. Six hundred and thirty-two exploratory wells with a total footage of almost three million feet were drilled in California during 1954, according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Visit the West Kern Oil Museum.
Citation Information – Article Title: “Marathon of Ohio Oil.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/stocks/marathon-ohio-oil. Last Updated: September 12, 2020. Original Published Date: December 28, 2014.
When Edwin L. Drake drilled the first U.S. oil well in 1859 along a creek at Titusville, Pennsylvania, he transformed the landscape of the Allegheny River valley — and America’s energy future. The former railroad conductor’s discovery launched an industry as investors and drillers rushed to cash in on the new resource for making kerosene for lamps.
Grocery store owner John Wallace formed the Wallace Oil Company in 1865 to drill for “black gold.” Detail from Wallace Oil Company stock certificate.
The ensuing scramble fueled the nation’s first petroleum exploration boom. Newspapers reported discoveries on farms clustered in Northwestern Pennsylvania’s “oil region.” Newly incorporated oil companies rushed to construct wooden derricks with steam-powered cable-tools for “making hole.” Drillers came to John Rynd’s farm at the junction of Oil Creek and Cherry Tree Run, the Blood farm to the north, and the widow McClintock farm to the south.
Operating a grocery store on the Rynd farm in 1859, Irish immigrant John Wallace witnessed the excitement firsthand. When the first of many wells found oil on the Rynd farm in 1861, derricks already had crowded the region’s hillsides. Four years later, the ambitious 24-year-old entrepreneur could no longer resist catching oil fever.
With the science of petroleum geology its infancy, “creekology” and oil seeps often were the only tools for finding promising locations to drill. Some exploration companies turned to dowsing (hazel or peach tree rods preferred) to find oil.
After witnessing the oil region’s drilling boom from his Rynd farm grocery store, John Wallace caught oil fever. “Oil Region of Pennsylvania,1865” map courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, F.W. Beers & Co.
Wallace acquired a 3/32 royalty interest in a 200-acre tract on the neighboring McClintock farm (previously owned by investors Curtiss, Haldeman, and Fawcett). He incorporated Wallace Oil Company in 1865 with an office at 319 Walnut Street in Philadelphia and issued stock certificates.
Although records offer no evidence of Wallace Oil Company actually drilling and completing a well, Wallace’s lease trading speculations, financed by his 3/32 royalty income, and energetic sales of stock, made the company money.
A circa 1875 building at Rouseville in the Pennsylvania oil region hosted an attorney, lease agents, a small oil exchange, and petroleum companies like Wallace Oil Company. Detail from stereograph “Pleasant morning – Rouseville,” courtesy Library of Congress.
Purchasers of Wallace’s stock stood to gain from both royalties and appreciation. The financial horizon looked promising. In 1865, a 42-gallon barrel of oil sold for for $6.59 a barrel (nearly $100 in 2013 dollars).
Boom and Bust
As the gamble to find oil spread, Pithole Creek and other oilfield discoveries inspired more drilling — and speculation at oil exchanges in Titusville, Oil City, and elsewhere. Those seeking petroleum riches in 1864 included John Wilkes Booth, whose Dramatic Oil Company drilled on a 3.5-acre lease on the Fuller farm.
By the end of 1869, Wallace Oil Company ‘s McClintock farm leases still produced an average of 200 barrels of oil daily from 32 wells. It took three more years before Wallace Oil Company paid its first and only dividend to investors, who received one cent per share in 1874. But by then, one industry publication noted, “oil had left the territory.”
The company dutifully paid the state an annual “Tax on Stock,” and in 1871 paid its first ever “Tax on Income.” A circa 1875 Library of Congress stereograph of a small building includes signs for the “Wallace Oil Company,” the “Allegheny & Pittsburgh Oil Co.,” the “Oil Basin Petroleum Co.,” the “Buchanan Royalty Oil Co.,” and the “Rouseville Oil Co.”
Rouseville in 1861 had been the scene of a deadly oil well fire, one the earliest fatal conflagrations of the U.S. petroleum industry.
By the early 1890s, Wallace Oil Company’s expanded oil-region holdings were reduced to the original 3/32 royalty from its McClintock property, which no longer produced commercial quantities of oil. Overproduction had drained profitability from the countryside.
In August 1895, American Investor reported Wallace Oil Company had lost its wells and property and could not even muster resources to pay legal fees associated with formal dissolution of the company. The grim assessment concluded, “the company is in a hopeless condition. The stock has no market value.”
Early petroleum exploration began near oil seeps in Indian Territory.
Drilled in 1889 and completed a year later near oil seeps at Chelsea in Indian Territory, the story behind the another first Oklahoma oil well is not as well known as the Bartlesville gusher seven years later.
Under President Andrew Jackson, Congress enacted the Indian Removal Act of 1830, forcibly relocating native American tribes westward to what would later become known as Indian Territory.
The Cherokee Nation town began as a stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1881.
Land west of Arkansas, “remote from white settlements,” seemed a good place to send them at the time, explained a 1900 report by the American Geographical Society of New York (Vol. 32). “It was intended to settle them there for all time, whereby they could live to themselves, according to their own pleasure, with self-government, under the protection of the general Government.” (more…)
African American entrepreneurs began their Oklahoma oil venture in 1917.
Discovery of Oklahoma’s giant Healdton oilfield in August 1913 about 20 miles northwest of Ardmore launched years of investment as petroleum companies competed to secure leases and drill.
Decades of production from the Healdton oilfield would yield more than 200 million barrels of oil — but the prolific field left hundreds of forgotten petroleum companies hidden in its exploration and production history.
Oil production from the Healdton field was shallow, averaging about 1,000 feet, and the low cost of drilling attracted many small ventures that operated on capital raised by aggressive stock sales. State “Blue Sky” laws had yet to restrain advertising excesses and promotions. Competition for investors often was fierce (see Homestead Oil Company).
Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company
When a group of foundering Coffeyville, Oklahoma, investors gave up on their 100-acre oil lease in 1917, four African American entrepreneurs bought out the venture and its unfinished 1,360-foot-deep well, which had encountered “several light sands” and a water-filled borehole. Wilson Newman, J.C. Pratt, S.M. Holland, and Heston Welborn formed the Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company, capitalized at $50,000, and set up offices on East 2nd Street in Oklahoma City.
Today, East 2nd Street is the heart of the “Deep Deuce” district and is known for its historic jazz and culture. But in 1917, that part of downtown was exclusively for “coloreds,” segregated to the other side of the Santa Fe railroad tracks. It was the era of Gov. William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray’s Jim Crow laws (the Civil Rights Act was still half a century away), but along East 2nd Street African-American businesses and neighborhoods prospered.
Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company moved into offices at 319 and 321 East 2nd Street, across from the Black Dispatch weekly, established two years earlier by Roscoe Dunjee. Advertised as the “Largest circulation Negro journal in Oklahoma,” the paper soon carried Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company promotions encouraging readers to invest.
“Buy Stock in a Home Company – With Men Whom You Know at its Head…100 acres leased and shallow wells producing the high-grade of oil,” declared one ad. The company announced plans “to deepen our 1,360 foot well to the lower pay.” Early investors could get in for the bargain price of $1 a share.
As Ardmore Lubricating Oil operations continued into June 1919, news reports for stockholders were mixed. The company completed a producing well on its 100-acre lease that yielded one barrel of oil a day of “high grade lubrication oil.” The company’s chemist predicted it would be worth $10 a barrel at a time when ordinary oil was selling for $2 dollars per barrel.
In 1920, Ardmore Lubricating Oil began moving equipment to drill a well just outside Tatums, about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City. The company announced it would build its own refinery there to process its especially valuable oil from the Healdton field. Tatums was one of about 50 all-black towns in the former Indian Territory that grew from post Civil War reconstruction. These self-segregated communities were reflective of the times; they remain as reminders of America’s struggle with race and identity.
The superintendent, manager and stock salesman of the Ardmore Lubricating Oil, H.E. Baker, published a telegraphed message about the Tatums well site: “We have three wells producing the highest grade and most valuable oil found in the United States, the great drug Icthyol Oil, one of the most sought for and needed products of the world today.”
“Icthyol” was a popular European skin ointment produced from dry distillation of sulfur-rich oil shale, but Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company executives declared they could refine it from Tatums’ crude oil and process it in their own laboratory. In February 1920, the company announced a four-day grand opening to celebrate their new lab upstairs.
“The general public is cordially invited to come and see Kerosene, Automobile Oil and Icthyol,” noted an Ardmore Lubricating Oil promotion. Other ads proposed mutually beneficial business arrangements with merchants, investors, farmers, and consumers.
Increasingly creative financing and uninterrupted stock sales were needed for Ardmore Lubricating Oil to remain solvent. The Black Dispatch in 1921 praised H.E. Baker, noting his company’s “development grows by leaps and bounds…You can get into this company now on the ground floor, $10 is all that you can invest at this time for each member of the family, this will insure at the outset an equal opportunity for all, later on the hundreds of stock holders can get together and determine as to the larger plan of organization.”
Tatums’ townspeople in 1927 hosted and acted in “Black Gold,” a silent picture produced by Norman Studios and featuring an “All Colored Cast.”
However, construction of the Ardmore Lubricating Oil refinery in Tatums still had not begun by August 1921. News about the company’s oil wells grew scarce as Baker sold his own leases. The last appeals for new investors appearing in the Black Dispatch were nevertheless optimistic:
“Wonderful Opportunities In Larger Faith And Deeper Hole,” proclaimed the newspaper. “To anyone with a limited amount of brains it can be seen that a little more faith and a deeper hole will bring into the hands of the Negro landholders in this section the millions of dollars, which their white neighbors all around them are reaping hourly from the derricks that have lunched great holes in the earth and are spouting liquid treasure everywhere.”
A few years later, but too late for Ardmore Lubricating Oil, the area around Tatums did experience an oil boom that was celebrated on the big screen. In 1927, townspeople hosted the making of Black Gold, a silent picture produced by Norman Studios and distributed to all-black theaters the next year. The Florida-based studio described its movie as a “stirring epic of the oil fields” with a cast including, “U.S. Marshall L.B. Tatums. and the entire all-colored City of Tatums, Oklahoma.”
The action-packed melodrama featured Ace Brand, his sweetheart Alice, and a one-legged cowboy (named Peg), who overcame both adversity and injustice in the oil patch. While the film’s happy ending delivered an oil gusher, Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company did not.
Few financial records remain about the company, but Gateway to Oklahoma History and the Black Dispatch’s archives offer more context to this almost forgotten story from U.S. petroleum history.
Citation Information – Article Title: “Ardmore Lubricating Oil Company.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/stocks/ardmore-lubricating-oil-company. Last Updated: May 9, 2020. Original Published Date: July 4, 2019.