May 16th, 1934 – Stripper Well Association Established

In 1934, the National Stripper Well Association was established in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The purpose of the organization was to protect and promote the interests of proprietors of small-producing wells. Usually, Stripper Wells generate less than 15 barrels of oil per day. This is the equivalent to less than 90,000 cubic feet of natural gas daily.

In a 2015 statement by Interstate Oil And Gas Compact Commission, it was concluded that 72.2% of functioning U.S. wells were classified as “marginally producing.”

May 16th, 1961 – Gas Museum Begins Operations

In 1961, in southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum opened its doors for the first time. This area held, and to some degree still holds, a giant natural gas generating terrain. It covered an impressive 8,500 square miles into the panhandles in Oklahoma and Texas.

The museum holds a tiny exhibition hall that offers insights into a major natural gas field in North America and it even has its own gas well. The well was drilled in 1945 and continues to generate oil at the exhibit today.

May 17th, 1882 –  Pennsylvania’s Enigmatic Well Makes Major Waves

In 1882, a small Pennsylvania settlement uncovered oil, and the discovery would have a major impact on the industry. As soon as news of the well’s daily oil generating capacity were revealed, the industry shifted and oil rates plummeted.

The Enigmatic well generated a staggering 1,000 bopd. While knowledge of this development was protected, its reveal had an impact on oil rates. Over 4.5 million oil barrels were marketed daily at Pennsylvania’s three oil exchanges.

Walt Atwood gave details on the impact of the 646 Mystery Well on the Cherry Grove settlement. It made history in 1882. Today, the community still celebrates the Cherry Grove Mystery Well every year, honoring the major impact it had on the small town.

May 17th, 1901  – Establishment of Texas Guffey Petroleum

On May 17th, 1901, J.M. Guffey founded Guffey Petroleum Company, which would eventually go on to be one of the world’s biggest oil companies. Guffey’s intention was to purchase the Lucas Gusher, a well drilled about six months earlier at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas. Guffey bought nearly half of the oil production, while the rest was owned by the Mellon family from Pittsburgh.

This is when Guffey established the Gulf Refining Company.  The company’s goal was to process and advertise the oil generated by Guffey Petroleum. Andrew Mellon took over the company from Guffey in 1907. He restructured the company upon which it became the Gulf Oil Company that is still globally recognized today.

May 19th, 1885 – Lima Oilfield Discovered in Ohio

Northwestern Ohio had just started to experience flourishing oil generation in 1885 when the Lima Oilfield was discovered. Benjamin Faurot was in the area to initiate operations in the bid to find natural gas when he found Lima.

According to one historian, Faurot found oil when he penetrated into the Trenton Rock Limestone formation at a depth of 1,252 feet.

Just one year later, Lima had become one of the most notable oil producers in the world. The impressive production grabbed the attention of Toledo mayor, Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones, leading him to later establish the Ohio Oil Company.

May 19th, 1942 – Exclusive Rights Offered for Portable Drilling Rig

In 1942, George Failing, a frontrunner in innovative oilfield machinery, was offered exclusive rights for his portable rig drilling machinery; a device that would forever simplify the drilling process.

He designed the back area for a drilling rig that was similar to the ones utilized for drilling low wells and shot-holes. This device was principally suited for drilling rocks, offering an uncomplicated and practicable link between the feeding mechanism and the Kelly rod.

The initial illustrations for the drill were completed in 1933 with the help of H. John Eastman, who had a reputation as the father of directional drilling.

It became clear that Failing’s rig was extremely efficient for the time. The device was able to drill ten slopped, 50-foot holes per day, while conventional steam-powered rotary rigs would take an entire week to complete a similar project.

This new rig had a positive impact for those in developing countries too, as it was also used to drill water wells. After Failing received his exclusive rights in 1942, he continued to bring new improvements and innovations to the drilling industry. The George E. Failing Company continues to construct mobile drilling rigs today.

May 20th, 1930 – New Laws and Regulations Bring Doodlebugger Troubles

On May 20th, 1930, the Society of Economic Geophysicists set up shot in Houston, Texas and quickly introduced new laws and regulations over the oil industry. In no time, this professional agency rapidly evolved into being the authority in the science of oil, eventually growing to encompass nearly 30,000 members in 128 nations.

The society aims to ensure that acceptable and safe geophysics procedures are utilized. Now known as the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, they also look for advancements in resources.

Three acceptable procedures for survey and drilling for oil were enumerated and detailed in one of the organization’s 1936 publications. The procedures encompass seismic, gravity and magnetic techniques.

The report also cautioned upcoming geophysicists about “black magic” or “doodle-bug” procedures that used unverified elements of oil, minerals or geological materialization.

Early Doodlebuggers contended with volatile conditions and a whole lot of uncertainties in the implementation of their operations. In order to honor the work and contributions of these individuals, in 2002, the association erected a sculpture of celebrated Doodlebugger Jay O’ Melia in their headquarters.

May 8th, 1918 –  Fort Worth Panthers Take on the Shreveport Gassers In Record-Setting Game

The oil industry and America’s favorite past time joined forces in the early 1900s with a 96 team baseball league that featured oil towns from around the country. This record-setting game took place between the Fort Worth Panthers and Shreveport Gassers on May 8th, 1918. The game lasted 20 innings before it was finally stated to be a tie.

The game made national news as it occurred at a time when baseball was quickly growing into a favorite American pastime. Other oil towns that competed in the league were the Wichita Falls Spudders, Iola Gasbags, Corsicana Oil Citys, Independence Producers, Tulsa Oilers and the Okmulgee Drillers.

May 8th, 1920 – Burbank Oilfield Opens

In May 1920, the Kay County Gas Company struck oil when looking for gas on a lease in the Ponca City, Oklahoma area. An oilfield was opened after a partner company, Marland Refining Company gained control over the well, Bertha Hickman No. 1.

After the oil boom produced by 1901’s Red Fork Gusher, the area was starting to see a great deal of industry growth. At this time, a new ordinance was put in place that allowed dictated companies only drill with a spacing of 10 acres between them. This was an effort to help with oil conservation in the rapidly growing area. For four years after this discovery, the Burbank Field was producing approximately 21 million barrels per years.

May 9th, 1863 –  Raid Destroys Oil Boom Town

A raid near the Ohio River destroyed thousands of oil barrels and equipment when a Confederate cavalry brigade attacked an oil town in an area that is now West Virginia.

General William “Grumble” Jones led the Confederate cavalry that executed this attack. The focus of this attack was an oilfield named Burning Springs. Jones’ attack on Kanawha River was the very first attack where an oilfield became a target in war. Burning Springs was raided by over 1,000 Confederate troops where an estimated 150,000 oil barrels and countless drilling rigs were destroyed.

Nearly a century before this, 250 acres of this region were acquired by George Washington. The interest was due to the oil seeps naturally contained by the land. This wealth ultimately lead to West Virginia reaching statehood in June of 1863.

May 12th, 2007 – Oil Museums Open to Public

In 2007 during Oklahoma’s centennial celebration of statehood, the Conoco and Phillips Petroleum Museum officially opened its doors.

Today, this museum is an educational resource for those visiting Ponca City. The contents cover both production and exploration history for Conoco. The historical accounts starts at the very beginning with the company serving as a coal, kerosene and grease distributor in Utah and including different mergers and incorporations through the company’s nearly century-long history.

The existing Phillips Petroleum Company Museum, located in Bartlesville, on the other hand, contains exhibits that showcase the creation of groundbreaking plastic products and high-octane gas. This museum also takes visitors through the work of L.E and Frank Phillips and their beginnings in the early 1900s when the brothers began drilling wells around the country.

May 14th, 1953 –  Tourists Love Golden Driller

Mid-Continent Supply Company first debuted the “Golden Driller” at Tulsa Oklahoma’s International Petroleum Exposition on May 14th, 1953. The massive gold statue instantly became a crowd-favorite among visitors.

In 1959, the Golden Driller made another appearance for the petroleum expo, attracting a great deal of attention. As his popularity grew, the company decided to refurbish the beloved figure and donated Golden Driller to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds Trust Authority.

In 1966, the driller entered refurbishment.

By the 1970s, the Golden Driller was completely fully refurbished, with the updated version of the monument standing at 76 feet tall and weighing over 43,500 pounds. According to Tulsa city officials, this attraction is the biggest free standing statue in the world.

May 14th, 2004 – Louisiana Petroleum Museum Opens its Doors

The Louisiana Petroleum Museum Opened its doors on May 14th, 2004 in a location right outside of Shreveport, Louisiana. It was the first museum focused on the gas and oil industry in the state. It was originally named the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum but is now known as The Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum.

The museum has exhibits that go through many big milestones in Louisiana’s oil and gas industry, including the Caddo Parish discoveries that started in 1905. Exhibits also cover the economic success that followed the petroleum boom in the state.

One of the biggest attractions at the museum is the exhibit on the technology behind Ferry No. 1; a well built in 1911. It was an “offshore” well and it is known as the first in the nation. Oil production still takes place in the area surrounding the museum today.

May 15th, 1911 – Problems Arise for Standard Oil

In May 1911, Chief Justice Edward White was deep in review of over 12,000 pages of court documents when he made the controversial decision to mandate the dissolution of Standard Oil Company in New Jersey.

This ruling was considered historic. It caused Standard Oil to be separated into 34 different companies, ultimately dissolving the company’s massive monopoly on the industry. The official ruling was the upholding of an earlier decision made in Circuit Court. It was decided that the company, owned by John D. Rockefeller, was violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.

At this time, the Standard Oil Company had six months to comply and to break down into subsidiaries. This move, although controversial, was a long time coming for the oil giant. Five years before this ruling, President Roosevelt’s Justice Department had issued 44 different antitrust lawsuits against tobacco, railroad, beef and other trusts in major industries throughout the country.

April 17th, 1919 – The Start of Another Texas  Oil Boom

In 1919, the Waggoner No. 1 Well produced 4,800 oil barrels every day starting another oil drilling boom in the Wichita County, Texas area.

S.L. Fowler’s farm was the location of a well that brought in a large number of organizations along Red River border in Oklahoma. This area was producing oil for about seven years by this time and it included Wichita Falls. Due to the amount of competition, most of the newly formed companies would not find success.

There were a number of wells found in the area later known as Northwest Extension Oilfield. The latest being the Waggoner well. The oilfield was made up of roughly 27 square miles of S. Burk Burnett horse ranch. Both of these oil booms in North Texas inspired 1940’s “Boom Town” starring Clark Gable.



April 18th, 1939 – Inventors Improve Old Oil Flow Methods

In 1939, a Los Angeles inventor named Ira McCullough patented a mechanical firing system and a multi-bullet shot perforator that would ultimately improve oil flow methods. The point of the invention was to perforate casing after its installation inside a well and when elements had been shot into the casing, through the formation.

Firing on multiple levels into the borehole enhanced oil flow. The device also included disconnectable means for safety. When charges entered then were lowered to the borehole it rendered the percussion inoperative. This served as a safety measure to protect against inadvertent operation.

Henry Mohaupt also made his own advancements over a decade later, creating an explosive that was hollowed out to perforate wells in 1951. He took advantage of anti-tank technology used in World War II to bring this innovation to life.



April 19th, 1892 – First Gas-Powered Automobile Takes It’s First Ride

On April 19th, 1892, Frank and Charles Duryea test drove an automobile powered by gasoline that they invented in their workshop in Springfield, MA. This is now credited as the very first automobile made for regular sale in America. The Duryea Motor Wagon Company ended up producing 13 of these cars and shortly after, manufacturers followed suit.

The Duryea brothers made their first automobile sale in 1896. It was named the Duryea Motor Wagon. However, initial usage of the vehicle didn’t go as smoothly as planned. According to one report, a motorist driving the Duryea Motor Wagon hit a cyclist and completed the first recorded traffic accident involving an automobile in America.

In 1900, eight years after the original invention, the automobile appeared at the first auto show in America, which was held in Madison Square Garden. Out of 4,200 of the models sold in the U.S. around 1,000 adopted this gas-powered model introduced by the Duryea brothers.



April 20th, 1875 – New Innovations Make Well Pumping Becomes More Efficient

Levi Streeter and Albert Nickerson from Venango County patented an improvement for well pumping in April 1875 that would go on to vastly improve efficiency in the oil industry. At the time, a single engine powered by steam to pump multiple wells, while the technology created by Streeter and Nickerson utilized a method of walking beams that were linked and balanced.

According to the patent, while one walking beam would lift from one well, a third well would also lift. Wells two and four would perform the opposite task at this time.

This system was the predecessor to the popular rod-line pulley and rope technology that was used throughout the 20th century.



April 20th, 1892 – Oil Boom Hits Los Angeles

In 1892 mining partners Charles A. Canfield and Edward L. Doheny made a discovery that would catapult the California oil industry when they discovered a massive oilfield in Los Angeles near the present-day Dodger Stadium. After drilling tar seeps in-between Colton Avenue and Beverly Boulevard–right in the middle of the city, the two found a Well that would go on to produce up to 45 barrels per day.

Over the next two years, more than 80 more wells were discovered under Los Angeles, bringing about a major oil boom in the city. By 1987, that number grew to over 500.

This Los Angeles field found itself producing an estimated 750 thousand barrels in 1895. This was above half of the roughly 1 million oil barrels that came out of California, which by 1925 was producing half of the world’s oil supply.



April 20th, 2010 – BP Well Accident Makes History

On April 20th, 2010, at around 10 PM an explosion took place on the Deepwater Horizon, near the Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Prospect, in a tragedy that would lead to one of the biggest and most controversial oil explosions in modern history.

The rig was about 50 miles from the coast of Louisiana finishing a well when the explosion happened. This occurred just a few months after the rig had set a new record for drilling the deepest well in existence, going more than 4,130 feet below water at a vertical depth of 35,050 feet. Eleven of 126 total crew members on board were tragically killed and others 17 were injured. This semi-submersible vessel sank after being destroyed by fires and the explosion.

A large oil spill followed after the BP well was completely destroyed by the fire. It was amazingly capped in July of the same year. The Coast Guard, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Regulation and Enforcement) and others investigated the issue eventually producing an official  accident report on the event in 2011.



April 22nd, 1920 – New Industry Appears in Arkansas

On April 22nd 1920, southern Arkansas became the official site of the first completed natural well. This gas well was located 2.5 miles away from El Dorado and produced as much as 60 million cubic feet of gas each day.

It was drilled to about 2,250 feet and brought the promise of oil in Nacatoch Sands. A different nearby well was not producing any commercial amount of oil just days before this.

The well was eventually named the Busey-Armstrong No. 1 and it responsible for kickstarting the Arkansas oil industry. The first commercial oil wells were established the following year and by 1922, the high-producing Smackover oilfield was discovered.



April 22nd, 1926 – Statue Rises in Skedee, Oklahoma

On April 22nd, 1926, a statue celebrating the friendship of Osage Indian Chief Bacon Rind and Colonel E.E. Walters was erected in the town of Skedee, Oklahoma.

Starting in 1912, Chief Bacon Rind and Colonel Elmer Ellsworth Walters used sales from mineral leases to raise millions of dollars for the area.

Notable men like William Skelly, E.W. Marland and like Frank Phillips bid in front of crowds of people in these auctions which took place in Pawhuska, under a large elm tree on the property of a building known as Tribal Council House.

April 10th, 1866 – The Densmores Usher in Change

James and Amos Densmore, inventors from Meadville, Pennsylvania were approved for a patent on their petroleum transporting system that lead to the Pennsylvania oil boom a year earlier.

The Densmore Brothers and America’s First Successful Railway Oil Tank Car, 1865


The cars shown in the patent had a simple yet reliable design for attaching two reinforced containers together on a standard railroad car. Despite the fact that the oil-tank cars were an improvement, they were quickly replaced the more practical designs used today.

The first tank car. Replica of a Densmore-type tank car.


Amos Densmore left the oil transportation business but had a new big idea in 1975. He had come up with a different way to arrange a typewriters’ keys. He did this so that letters that were often used would no longer collide. This arrangement, known as the “Q-W-E-R-T-Y” arrangement was a significant improvement. Desmore founded the Densmore Typewriter Co. following his success in the oil industry.



April 13th, 1974 – Bertha Rogers No. 1 Sets a Record

Bertha Rogers No. 1 set a record for well depth in 1974. After a total of 504 days and seven million dollars were put into the well, it ended at 31,441 feet because of liquid sulfur. This well was in the center of the Anadarko Basin in Oklahoma. The Bertha Rogers No. 1 held the record for deepest well in America for 30 years, before being overtaken in 2004.

Lone Star Producing Company and GHK Company owned by Robert Hefner III thought that natural gas reserves would be found in the depths of the basin. It extended all the way from the Texas Panhandle to West-Central Oklahoma. The attempt to reach the reserves began in 1967, two years later, they discovered the reserve at 24,473 feet.

Despite the natural gas discovery, a historian named Robert Dorman noted that gas sales could not make up for the high cost of drilling to this depth. This was because of price control by the government. It would cost over $6 million for the drilling, while the cost for a traditional well was a fraction of that.

In November 1972, drilling began on The Bertha Rogers No. 1. On average, progress of 60 feet was made each day. The temperature and bottom hole pressure had climbed to 475 degrees and close two 25,000 pounds per square inch respectively. Bottom hole cuttings took about eight hours to meet the surface, a staggering six miles above.

Bertha Rogers was finished as a gas discovery at 13,000 feet, despite the fact that there was no gas at its deepest point. The casing required (just over 1 million pounds) was the heaviest to be handled by any rig at the time. Work done on Bertha Rogers Well was credited with leading the way for technologies for deeper drilling and the gas plays in the 1990s.

Bertha Rogers Crude Oil Lucite Paperweight. The natural gas well drilled almost six miles deep in the Anadarko Basin of Oklahoma.



April 14th, 1865 – President Lincoln’s Assasination Has Ties to Oil Industry

John Wilkes Booth assassinated the President Abraham Lincoln on April 14th, 1865–and this infamous day actually had ties to the oil and gas industry. He did this after being unable to make a fortune in the oilfields of Pennsylvania. Booth and few of his friends had formed the Dramatic Oil Company after Booth abandoned a career in acting for an attempt to take advantage of an oil boom in Venango County.

Booth made several trips to Franklin, Pennsylvania in January 1864 when he decided to lease a farm on the Allegheny River. The Dramatic Oil Company did see oil production in their well, around 25 barrels per day, but Booth wanted to increase production. He decided to shoot the well in an attempt to accomplish this. He left the oil region in July 1864 once the well was destroyed. Months later he would go on to complete one of the most tragic assassinations in history.

John Wilkes Booth’s fantasy of Pennsylvania oil wealth abruptly ended in July 1864.



April 15th, 1897 – Oklahoma Emerges as Leader in Oil Production

On April 15th, 1897, dozens of people gathered around a well, Nellie Johnstone No. 1 near the Indian territory of Bartlesville in an area that would later become the state of Oklahoma.

A “go devil” was dropped into the well bore by one of George Keeler’s stepdaughters and was set off a placed nitroglycerin canister. That produced a gusher that jump-started the oil industry in Oklahoma. This event also lead to another big discovery in the Bartlesville-Dewey Field. It was Nellie Johnstone No.1. When Oklahoma reached statehood in 1907, it subsequently became the world leader in oil production.

Drilling started in the area started and Bartlesville would soon become incorporated with a population of 200 people that same month. Four months after that, the Nellie Johnstone No.1 Well showed signs that it would produce oil when drilling reached 1,320 feet. This well was named for the daughter of partner William Johnstone.

The Bartlesville area saw a lot of growth through the decade after the discovery. The population climbed to more than 4,000 people. The annual oil production for Oklahoma peaked at over 43 million barrels. Now, an education center and an 84 foot replica wooden derrick stand to keep the story alive. The land for this area was donated by the namesake of the well, Nellie Johnstone Cannon. It is known as Discovery 1 Park.



April 16th, 1855 – Rock Oil Shines With Yale Professor’s Discovery

A chemistry professor from Yale University, named Benjamin Silliman Jr., broke new ground with his discovery of “rock oil.” This substances could be turned into an illuminating oil once distilled. His report had a great impact, so great it convinced investors from New Haven, Connecticut to fund drilling efforts lead by Edwin Drake in northwestern Pennsylvania.

According to Silliman’s report, companies would be able to use the raw material, rock oil, and through a simple and inexpensive process, turn it into something much more valuable.

Now it was known that kerosene could be distilled from both oil and coal. This conclusion lead to the first commercial oil discovery in the United States. This took place in Titusville, four years after the report was published.



April 16th, 1920 – Arkansas Enters the Petroleum Industry

The very first oil well in the state of Arkansas was completed by Col. Samuel S. Hunter on April 16th, 1920. Hunter worked for a company in Shreveport, Louisiana known as the Hunter Oil Company. This well, Hunter No. 1 was drilled to just over 2,000 feet. It was later called the Lester-Hamilton No. 1 after its lease owners.

This well only produced a small amount of oil for Ouachita County but it lead to a bigger well discovery in the same area. The S.T. Busey well began to gush oil in January 1921. These wells launched oil production and the petroleum industry for the state of Arkansas.

The Standard Oil Company of Louisiana later purchased Col. Hunter’s original lease for more than $2.2 million. This lease included 20,000 acres and the non-commercial discovery well.

December 20, 1913 – Cosden Opens New Refinery In Tulsa

The Cosden Building, now known as the Mid-Continent Building, was Tulsa, Oklahoma’s first skyscraper. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oklahoma’s Prince of Petroleum, Joshua Cosden Sr, opened a brand-new refinery in Tulsa, OK in 1913. The massive building, which was the city’s first skyscraper, could produce up to 30,000 barrels a day. It was one of the largest refineries every opened in the United States, and is still in operation today.

Cosden would use the success of his two refineries to incorporate Cosden and Company, which would go on to organize the Cosden Pipeline Company and the Cosden Oil and Gas Company. His business ventures were successful enough to earn him a fortune of over $50 million, which he would go on to spend lavishly.

In the 1920s, he lost all of his money and his companies were bought by the Mid-Continent Petroleum Company. Undaunted, Cosden relocated to Texas and made a second fortune drilling wells. Unfortunately for Cosden, it seemed as though history would repeat itself as this second fortune was wiped out in the Great Depression.

December 20, 1951 –  Minor Oil Deposits In Washington

Flaming Geyser Park, located south of Seattle, Washington, is named for a flame that was fueled by a pocket of natural gas 1,000 ft below the surface. When the exploratory well first hit the pocket, it sent a geyser of flame 25 ft in the air. The gas has since been exhausted and the flame no longer burns.

On December 20th, 1951, the Hawksworth Gas and Oil Development Company found a minor deposit of petroleum and natural gas in Washington State. The Tom Hawksworth State No. 4 Well would produce only 35 barrels a day and was abandoned as not having commercial potential. This would only mark a future of letdowns for the state of Washington and the many companies looking to find their fortune in the area.

Well No. 4 would be reopened by the Sunshine Mining Company 16 years later. The company deepened it, but production did not improve and it was shut in once more.

The only commercial well in Washington was located only a few hundred yards away from the Tom Hawksworth No. 4 Well. That well was also completed by the Sunshine Mining Company, in 1959. However, it too would close only two years later.

Several hundred wells were drilled around the state and exploration efforts continued well into the 21st century. However, no other significant deposits have been found and it’s unlikely that there is much petroleum located in the state.

December 21, 1842 –  Birth Of an Oil Town “Aero View” Artist

Thaddeus Fowler would produce hundreds of panoramic views of different cities, from New Jersey to Texas. Though he worked all over the country, he is best known for producing views of oil towns in Pennsylvania.

On December 21, 1842, Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler was born and would eventually go on to be one of the most notable oil town artists in the country. Generally credited as T.M. Fowler, in the art world, this artist and cartographer is well known for producing birds’ eye view maps of cities across the country. He was one of the more prolific of the artist to produce these views, which were popular toward the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

Though he would produce renderings of many cities, including Trenton, New Jersey; Sisterville, West Virginia; and Wichita Falls, Texas; he was best known for producing views of oil boom towns in Pennsylvania. For a small fee, the artist would include inset views of homes and businesses.

December 22, 1875 – Pennsylvania Ave. Paved With Natural Asphalt

Trinidadian bitumen, or natural asphalt, is sourced from Pitch Lake. It was a source of asphalt, used for paving in England and North America. Today, it is a tourist attraction.

In 1875, Pennsylvania Avenue, the main street through Washington D.C., was paved with asphalt. It was one of the first and one of the biggest projects of its type. The project marked a major milestone in the development of the nation’s capital and it came just four years after the city attempted to pave the main throughway with wooden blocks–a feat that would prove to be problematic.

President Ulysses S Grant made the decision to have the street paved with bitumen, naturally sourced asphalt. The project took two years to fully complete and covered over 50,000 acres in asphalt.

The bitumen paving lasted about a decade. In 1907, the avenue is repaved again with higher quality asphalt distilled from petroleum sourced from within the U.S.. In the 21st century, over 2.5 million miles of roads are now paved in this way.

December 22, 1903 – Baker Tools Founder Patents First Cable Tool Bit

R.C. Baker stands with a stack of casing shoes of his own design.

In 1903, the owner of Coalinga Oil Company, Reuben Carlton Baker, invented and patented a new type of cable-tool drill that would change the drilling industry forever.

The bit addressed a problem Baker faced while drilling in Coalinga County, California. The great deal of hard rock in the area made fitting casing downhole difficult and the drill-bit Baker developed allowed the drilling of a hole larger than the casing.

Baker became an active member of the Coalinga community, helping to found a bank, power company and a few other oil companies. Baker also went on to create the Baker Tool Company to manufacture and sell many improvements he had made for drilling equipment.

Without much formal education (never having progressed past third grade), Baker built a successful business and patented a number of inventions. The Baker Tool Company still exists today and since 1987 has been operating under the name Baker Hughes International.

December 22, 1975 – President Ford Creates Strategic Reserve

Seen here is President Gerald Ford signing the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which established the first strategic petroleum reserve.

On December 22nd, 1975, President Ford signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act into law; a law that still has a major impact on our country and the oil and gas industry today. As part of that law, a reserve of petroleum was put aside to help prevent oil and gas crises like that which arose after OPEC placed an embargo on oil exports to the United States.

Today, there are almost 700 million barrels of petroleum set aside, the largest stockpile of oil owned by a government in the world. It is stored along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana.

The act, which created the reserve, also set fuel economy standards for automobiles and gave the Department of Energy authority to set standards on appliances and consumer goods for energy conservation.

November 28, 1892 — First Oilfield West Of Mississippi is Discovered

The original Norman No. 1 well was abandoned after it stopped producing, but a replica was built on its site in the 1960s to mark the site.

Until 1892, no oil was ever discovered west of the Mississippi River. However, on November 28th of this year, the Normon No. 1 Well started sprouting oil in eastern Kansas. It was the first well to tap the huge Mid-Continent oil province, and ultimately lead to the big oil rush in the West.

The well was less than 1000 ft deep, but produced a gushing flow of petroleum. At the time, a sample of the oil was sent to Pennsylvania, one of the country’s major oil producing regions of the time. The sample established the potential of oil discoveries in the western US, and encouraged further exploration in the western portion of the country.

The Mid-Continent region would eventually contain hundreds of oilfields, though most of the easily obtainable oil would be extracted fairly quickly. There are still fields that are producing oil today, but enhanced recovery techniques are needed to get oil out of these areas.

November 28, 1895 — Chicago Hosts First Automobile Race

For a brief time in the late 1800s, the Duryea brothers would be the biggest producers of gas powered automobiles, building 13 by hand in 1896.

In 1895, America saw its first ever automobile race when Herman H. Kohlstaat, who owned the Chicago Herald-Tribune, organized the very first event of its kind. It was quite different than the gas-powered races we are used to today. The race covered 54 miles, running from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois, and back. The race took place during a freezing snowstorm and several of the drivers didn’t finish due to the cold.

The winner, J. Frank Duryea, completed the race in 10 ½ hours, averaging just over 5 miles an hour. His prize money for finishing the event was $2,000. The race would draw attention to the ‘horseless carriage’ and spearheaded America’s love affair with cars.

December 1, 1865 — Shakespeare In Pithole, Pennsylvania

The site of the Murphy Theatre is marked by this placard. Today, there is little trace of the building in the ghost town.

Pithole, Pennsylvania, a small town fueled by a big oil boom reached its peak when it hosted a star-filed Shakespeare production. The production, which featured Eloise Bridges, one of the most famous actresses of the time playing Lady Macbeth, took place at the local Murphy Theater. The event proved just how popular these oil boom towns could be. Pithole, which started with a population of just 2,000 grew to a population of over 20,000 in just one year, and began hosting big events such as this.

Murphy’s Theatre, where Eloise Bridges played the famous Shakespearean role, was the largest building in the town. It could seat over 1,000 people and was three stories high, embodying the sudden wealth and intemperance of the oil boom. Bridges would sell out the theatre every night, seven days a week, for the length of the show’s run.

Shortly afterward, the nearby oilfield was played out. The oil boom was followed quickly by a bust and by the next year the town’s population would be back down to 2,000 people. Businesses relocated or closed, and a series of fires began to take a toll on the empty town. It was eventually abandoned entirely, becoming a ghost town covered by grass and trees.

December 1, 1901 — Creation of the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company

Henry Foster’s La Quinta Mansion now serves as an administration building for Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

In 1896, Kansas banker, Henry Foster applied for an oil lease on the Osage Indian Reservation. At the time, the area was in the Indian Territory, though it would later become Osage County, Oklahoma. This lead to the formation of the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company (ITIO) an organization dedicated to exploiting the oil fields in the area.

Henry Foster passes away before the lease could be granted, so his brother Edwin would sign the lease instead. Initially, the lease was divided between Osage Oil Company and Phoenix Oil Company. The Osage Indians received a royalty of 10% on the petroleum produced.

However, the first drillings were not very successful, so the two companies ultimately joined forces, and was purchased by Theodore Barnsdall. Under new leadership, ITIO drilled over 350 new, producing wells. The company would be sold once more to the Empire Distributing Gas Company for approx. $40 million, making it one of the biggest and most profitable drilling companies of its time.

December 1, 1913 – Pittsburgh Gets the First Dedicated Filling Station in America

In addition to gas, the first filling station offered free air and water.

The first purpose-built gas filling station opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1913, paving the way for hundreds of thousands of gas stations to eventually open up across the country. Located at the corner of St Clair Street and Baum Boulevard, the station featured a marquee with electric lights, engine service and tire installation. The filling station was built and operated by Gulf Refining Company, a petroleum company that was based in southern states, but had refineries in Pennsylvania.

On opening day, the station charged $0.27 per gallon. It sold only 30 gallons on its first day, though by that weekend it was selling over 300 gallons per day. Before filling stations became common, those with cars typically got their gas and general stores or hardware stores.

In addition to building the first service station, Gulf Oil was the first company to offer road maps to customers. These early maps showed the locations of the Gulf Oil filling stations and were drawn by ad man W.B. Adkins, who came up with the idea. Eventually, Gulf would hire professional map maker l Rand McNally to produce their road maps.

December 1, 1960 – Lucille Ball Stars in Oil Musical

Lucille Ball performed some songs from the musical on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Beloved TV icon, Lucielle Ball took the leading role in the musical Wildcat, a show about a down-on-her-luck female oil prospector. The play opened on Broadway on December 1, 1960 and marked the first, and last, time that the I Love Lucy star would appear on Broadway. Though Ball was popular, the show did not do well and was panned by critics. Lucille Ball was ill through much of the show’s run and the production ultimately closed when the actress collapsed on stage in May of 1961.

December 2, 1970 – Creation of the Environmental Protection Agency

William Ruckelshaus served as the EPA’s first administrator.

On December 2nd, 1970, President Nixon officially launched the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to provide a single agency responsible for research, setting standards, and regulation enforcement. While, at the time, some thought the environmental protection movement was a passing fad, the EPA has remained an active agency ever since.

Along with the launch of the EPA, the government also created the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the goal of exploring, developing, and preserving marine resources in the US.

December 4, 1928 – Reflection Seismology Used to Locate Oil Field

Reflection seismology is similar to radar or sonar systems, bouncing a signal off denser material to produce a ‘map’ of the local geology.

In 1928, the introduction of a new technology would make drilling for oil less of a gamble, completely changing the oil industry forever. Reflection seismology uses controlled explosions to send sound waves into the ground which pass through less dense soil and bounce off denser rock. The patterns of these waves provide valuable clues on where oil may or may not be located.

Amerada Petroleum was the first company to use the method successfully while scouting locations for drilling in Oklahoma. The technology was originally developed to locate artillery emplacements during World War I.

December 4, 1928 – Oil Discovered In Oklahoma City

A working oil rig is located right in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

The Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company completes the Oklahoma City No. 1 well, located just south of the city limits.

While the state of Oklahoma had already been known for its oil production for decades, it wasn’t until 1928 that drillers found oil in the state’s capital city. The Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company completed the Oklahoma City No. 1 Well, located just south of the city limits, on December 4th.

The well produced over 100,000 barrels in its first month of operation, encouraging others to drill wells in the area, up north and right up to the capitol building. In fact, there is a working oil rig still located directly in front of Oklahoma’s State Capital.

Within a few years, over 800 wells producing oil were drilled and further discoveries occur in 1930, prompting more oil development. However, the explosion of oil production ultimately prompted the city to prevent companies from drilling in the northern part of the city to help protect some of the capital’s urban areas.

One survey by GoBankingRates found that 29 percent of Americans believe they’ll become a millionaire. With a little bit of know-how, a good enough idea and a little luck, any of us could end up being the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, right?

And while there are more millionaires than ever before in the United States, they make up less than 10 percent of the population, and about half of the nation’s millionaires are retirees… not millennial tech entrepreneurs.

For many people, what happens in the oil patch is mythical.

And while everyone is busy talking about Exxon, Chevron or the acquisition of Anadarko by Occidental, there’s a much smaller subset of oil and gas companies known as independent operators.

And by coupling ingenuity and technology, these tiny operators have identified an opportunity by morphing into an altogether new type of oil entrepreneur.

virtual oil entrepreneur

Enter: John Graham

John Graham is a virtual operator.

John is a second-generation petroleum engineer, and he has nearly 40 years of experience in the petroleum industry under his belt. He founded Select Exploration Group alongside his former Devon Energy colleague Paul Baclawski. And they’re running their small oil and gas company as virtual operators.

After opting for early retirement, John and Paul decided to strike out on their own.

The two did some research, and then it was time to start buying up wells. And as they got started, they had some decisions to make.

John says, “We see a lot of our friends go the private equity route to get started. If you get backed by a private equity company, they want you to be structured with an office and all the overhead that comes with it.”

According to John, this is bad news.

“We talk to a lot of companies about acquiring some of their existing oil and gas properties that are uneconomic are marginally economic. And with these companies it’s their general administrative expense that’s eating them alive. They have office and staff overhead – what’s more, is they’re leasing prime office space which gets expensive. There’s a lot of oil and gas properties that are profitable if you don’t have that overhead.”

Instead of going that route, John and Paul looked to Houston’s Harbinger Resources. Another small petroleum startup, their partnership also allowed them to keep operations lean.

John says, “They’ve got the operations and the financial background; we’ve got the reservoir engineering and geoscience background.”

It’s also worth noting that the Harbinger team, like Select Exploration, works out of their homes.

John told us, “We have no desire to all live in Houston or all live in Oklahoma City and have a conventional company. What we want to do is to acquire and operate producing assets. And we plan to achieve this by working online from different locations.”

And since the business’ inception, they’ve been doing just that.


Tools and Tricks of the Trade

There are plenty of resources out there that make being virtual operators a possibility. Thanks to those, John says, “We don’t have to be in the same office every day with that overhead.”

So what does virtual operations look like? John told us:

“During the past year, I have probably analyzed two or three acquisition opportunities per month for the group using my petroleum engineering software I have on my laptop. The information we need is available. It is not always free; there are a lot of state oil and gas boards, corporation commissions that have online well and oil and gas data which can be complemented and augmented by new oil and gas production data services.”

The same industry software that would be installed on computer systems in those high-overhead offices can be accessed through the cloud.

Additionally, there are some solutions out there that are specifically made for independent oil and gas operators.

GreaseBook is an option for gathering, tracking, recording and analyzing production data direct from the pumper and field crew. Essentially, it replaces the Excel and paper production reports between operators and their pumpers in the field.

When simple apps are combined with a more powerful SCADA, telemetry and remote monitoring engine, small and mid-sized operators are able to bring all their production information into one system and scale out their operations at a fraction of the cost it would take to do so with more conventional workflows and software.

By essentially ‘renting’ these cloud-based products, independent operators are enabled to focus on what matters most: producing oil and gas at the lowest cost possible.

These tools coupled with some of the programs being used by other location-independent entrepreneurs (like Google Drive for file storage and sharing) or Join.Me (for meetings) round out the tools of the trade.

But what about the stuff that happens locally, you ask? Well, we asked John about that. It seems that one of the tools of the trade is networking. Another is trust. He told us:

“When we acquired the properties, I spent at least a couple of days with the engineer that works for the company that we acquired the properties from and I quizzed him. Who do you like working with? Who do you not like working with? We prepared a vendor list with contact information that he handed off to me, then I either met or introduced myself to those vendors and picked who I thought could do the job and would be responsive to my needs.”


The Reality of Being a Virtual Operator

The reality is that being a virtual operator in the oil and gas industry is 100 percent possible.

John and Paul and their colleagues aren’t the only ones doing it. There are plenty of small oil companies running virtual operations, and their ranks continue to increase. And for many of these small companies, they wouldn’t be profitable or even viable if they had those traditional setups with high overhead.

Of course, being a virtual operator doesn’t mean you’ll never visit the lease again.

We asked John about how often he finds himself out in the oil patch. His answer: every four to six weeks. On these trips, he visits the lease and meets with his pumper. But most importantly, he visits with his youngest daughter and her children; they live conveniently nearby.

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