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.