Oil-Industry History
Volume 8, Number 1, 2007

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This Issue was Funded in Part by a Grant from: Helmer Rabild Charitable Trust (Erie, PA)

Dedicated to the Memory of James D. Berry, III (1937-2007)

Editorial And Meeting Report, William R. Brice

The History Of Oil Along The Newport-Inglewood Structural Zone – Los Angeles County, California, Stephen M. Testa

Urban Encroachment Associated with Bakersfield Oilfields, Tom Giallonardo

History Of Oil Exploration In The Palos Verdes Hills - Los Angeles County, California, Arthur R. (Dick) Brown and John F. Schwiebert

The 1906 Caney Gas Well Fire, Kansas, Jeff A. Spencer and Andy Taylor

The Lakeview Gusher In Vintage Postcards, Jeff A. Spencer

Drilling The Munchausen Well:  Humor And The Oil Industry, Jennifer Ambrose and William R. Brice

The Thorla-McKee Salt Works And Oil Wells And The Macksburg, Ohio Oil Booms, Jeff A. Spencer and Judy Robinson

Oil In Their Blood - The Story of Our Addiction (Excerpts from the Novel), Herman K. Trabish

View From A Honeymoon Cottage, Kathy J. Flaherty

Restoration Of A Franklin 25 Hp Valveless Engine, Scott Van Diepenbos

Joseph P. Reid - Natural Gas Engines, Ellsworth (Pete) Sparks

In Memoriam - James D. Berry, III (1937-2007)

Abstracts - Long Beach, CA – Symposium April 20-23, 2006

Petroleum History Institute Awards – 2007

Report of a meeting on The History of On-Shore Hydrocarbon Use in the UK  (or From Oil Shales and Seeps to ‘Shaleopolis’ and 100 Roughnecks!) 21 April 2007; Weymouth, England, UK, Anne O’Connor

Oilfield Journal





NOTE:  Copies of these papers can be obtained by contacting the Journal Editor.  Charges will vary according to the length of the article.  Please order by Volume number, article title, and author   Article copy will be sent upon receipt of payment.  For more information contact:  W. R. Brice; wbrice@pitt.edu.


The History of Oil Along the Newport-Inglewood Structural Zone – Los Angeles County, California
Stephen M. Testa, Executive Officer
State Mining and Geology Board, 801 K Street, Suite 2015, Sacramento, CA 95814

ABSTRACT:  Following the Los Angeles City Oil Field boom of the 1890s, other fields throughout the Los Angles Basin were subsequently discovered and developed.  During the Roaring Twenties, California became the most oil productive state in the country, and by 1923, one of every five barrels of oil was produced from the Los Angeles Basin.  Notably, thirteen fields have since been discovered along what is referred to as the Newport-Inglewood Structural Zone (NISZ).  The northwest-southeast oriented Newport-Inglewood Structural Zone is an active series of fault s characterized by major right-lateral movement in the southeastern portion of the Los Angeles Basin.  Over 3.4 billion barrels of oil have been produced from these fields since the first field, the Beverly Hills oil field, was discovered in 1900.  Most of the subsequent production was derived from discovery of the super giant Huntington Beach and Long Beach oil fields in 1920 and 1921, respectively.  Nearly 40 percent of the total oil production for Southern California has come from fields situated along this structural zone.  Dramatic production and decline trends during the 1920s and 1930s directly reflected the closely spaced town lot drilling campaigns and unrestricted wasting of reservoir pressure.  Today, a mixed usage of land in a densely populated urban environment exists, including wetlands habitat, parklands, and commercial, industrial and residential developments.  Current environmental issues along this zone are multi-faceted and pertain to seismic hazards, groundwater withdrawal and utilization, ongoing barrier projects via injection to manage salt water intrusion, gas leakage and adverse impact of the petroleum industry to overall groundwater quality.  In 1957, Los Angeles celebrated its rich oil heritage of Signal Hill with the symbol of oil derricks on the Seal of the County.  Political correctness concerning the county’s faith-based heritage resulted in this symbol’s removal in 2004.


Urban Encroachment Associated with Bakersfield Oilfields
Tom Giallonardo

Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources
4800 Stockdale Highway, Suite 417, Bakersfield, California  93309

ABSTRACT:   Soaring housing prices and limited land opportunities in many areas of California have driven developers to the Central Valley of California. In Bakersfield, the developers have found the available land they seek.  As the tentative development tracts spread west and south, however, they have begun to encroach onto land formerly zoned agricultural or resource-mineral producing. This latter condition has given rise to land use compatibility questions and conflicts between surface rights owners and mineral rights owners.  This article is a brief review of some of the issues and potential hazards of increasing housing density near active oil fields.


History of Oil Exploration in the Palos Verdes Hills, Los Angeles County, California
Arthur R. (Dick) Brown
296 College Park Drive, Seal Beach, CA 90740

John F. Schwiebert
10633 Tamarack Way, Stanton, CA  90680

ABSTRACT:  Thirty-seven oil exploration wells drilled between 1895 and 1965 in the Palos Verdes Hills of southern California produced little oil and no gas; most were dry holes.  The first well reached 850 feet, but little additional information survives.  A small oil field on the Gaffey anticline, bounded by the Palos Verdes fault, produced about 10,000 barrels of oil after enhanced production from Pliocene Repetto Sands.  The Gaffey field was abandoned in 1966 about 10 years after discovery.  Most wildcat wells were sited on oil seeps, on anticlinal structures and on promoter’s speculation.  Some of the wells reached the Catalina Schist basement, and this helped to define the thickness of overlying sedimentary rocks.  A few wells intersected the Palos Verdes fault, which is not exposed at the Peninsula’s surface.  Oil exploration in the Palos Verdes Hills ended because of depletion of the Gaffey field, lack of success elsewhere, environmental constraints, urban development, and lack of major reservoir sands.  Oil exploration in the Palos Verdes Hills is now history.


The 1906 Caney Gas Well Fire, Kansas
Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Road,  Bellville, TX  77418

Andy Taylor
Montgomery County Chronicle,  PO Box 186 Caney, KS 67333

ABSTRACT:  On February 23, 1906, a small town in southeast Kansas found itself in the nation’s limelight as a natural gas well erupted into flames after a lightning strike.  For the next several weeks, the flaming well, which was just over the state line in what would later be Oklahoma, became a major tourist attraction and a technical challenge for the men trying to extinguish it.  Many postcards were created showing the 150-foot flame, and the nearby towns of Independence, Coffeyville, Bartlesville, and Caney all claimed the attraction.   Excursion trains brought thousands of tourists to the site.   At times, the local lodging establishments couldn’t accommodate the large crowds.  Newspapers as far away as Los Angeles updated their readers with the progress of extinguishing the fire.    The fire was finally extinguished on March 29th, just three weeks before the great San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906, the next disaster to dominate the newspaper headlines of the day.


The Lakeview Gusher in Vintage Postcards
Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Rd. Bellville, TX  77418

ABSTRACT:  One of the most photographed oil wells of the early twentieth century was the Lakeview gusher near Maricopa, California.  Touted as the “world’s greatest gusher”, many early picture postcards show the gusher reflected in a lake of oil.   The stream of oil and sand shot up over 200’ above the derrick, making for impressive scenes for the “Golden Age” of postcards (1907-1915).  On January 1st, 1909, the Lakeview Oil Company spud their No. 1 well within the Midway-Sunset Field.  At a depth of 1655’ and faced with financial problems, the company approached another nearby operator, Union Oil Company, to take over the drilling of the well.  In return for a 51% interest in the well, Union took over as operator and on March, 15th, at a depth of 2225’, the well blew out.  Estimates had the well gushing 125,000 barrels of oil in the first twenty-four hours and averaging 60,000 barrels of oil a day during the first three months.  Earthen dams, and later a sixteen acre reservoir, were constructed downstream to contain the oil.  On September 9th, 1911, the well finally caved in and the gusher was quiet.  The cumulative oil spewed from the gusher was estimated at over nine million barrels, of which only four million barrels were recovered.


Drilling the Munchausen Well:  Humor and the Oil Industry
Jennifer Ambrose
Associate Curator of Prints and Photographs, The Library Company of Philadelphia,
1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107-5698

William R. Brice
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Johnstown, PA 15904

ABSTRACT:  Today as well as yesterday, the oil industry has been the subject of the cartoonist's pen.  In this paper we will present several examples of how the cartoonists of the late 19th century viewed the Pennsylvania oil industry, especially when it came to investing in the industry.  This series of cartoons and pamphlets from the collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia satirizes the speculative boom associated with the early years of the Pennsylvania petroleum industry. In the brief time between the drilling of the Drake oil well in 1859 and 1865 when these images were published, annual production of crude oil in Pennsylvania had increased to 3,500,000 barrels and was worth approximately $24 million. To finance the rapidly growing industry, over 500 petroleum companies were formed. Many of these companies were under-capitalized and mismanaged, while others were outright fraudulent, causing many to fail and the fortunes of unsuspecting investors to vanish.  In the cartoons, publishers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh named their fictitious oil companies after the famed liar Baron Munchausen, an 18th-century Russian cavalry officer who was the subject of numerous, and ridiculously exaggerated, adventure tales.  They created fake stock certificates and even a prospectus under the name of Munchausen, Philosopher’s Stone & Gull Creek Consolidated Oil Company. The cartoons satirize the gullibility of oil speculators as well as the fantastic promises made by unscrupulous company officers with names like S. W.  Indle, S. Teal, and R. Ascal.


The Thorla-McKee Salt Works and Oil Wells and the Macksburg, Ohio Oil Booms

Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Road, Bellville, TX  77418

Judy Robinson
17153 County Road 40, Caldwell, OH 43724

ABSTRACT:  Forty-five years before the drilling of the famous 1859 Colonel Drake oil well in Pennsylvania, oil was discovered, produced, and marketed from wells dug in southeastern Ohio.  In 1814, Silas Thorla and Robert McKee operated a salt works along Duck Creek, in what is now southeastern Ohio’s Noble County.  They drilled for salt brine using the spring-pole drilling method and a hollow sycamore log as surface casing, and encountered oil and gas.  The mixture was first placed in barrels allowing the less dense oil to rise to the top to separate the oil from the brine. They then gathered the oil by soaking it up with blankets and wringing out the oil.  The oil was bottled and sold as “Seneca Oil”, a medicine for rheumatism, sprains, and bruises.   Early travelers often visited the salt works and in 1818 one traveler wrote about his visit in a letter to a friend.  He stated that the site was one of the greatest curiosities in nature.  He further described Duck Creek covered with as much as three feet of oil for a distance of three miles and that the quality of the oil ...is as fine as any oil from the head of a sperm whale..., and that it burns clear and bright.  In 1860, one of the first oil fields in Ohio was discovered along Duck Creek, approximately ten miles southeast of the Thorla-McKee well.  The discovery of this oil field, the Macksburg oil field of Washington County, helped to ignite an oil boom in southeastern Ohio.   Hundreds of wells were drilled in the Macksburg oil field contributing to a rapid increase in the area’s population, and the development of Marietta, Ohio as an important regional center for oil refining and transportation.


Oil in Their Blood - The Story of Our Addiction (Excerpts from the Novel)
Herman K. Trabish
2763 Mary Street, La Crescenta, CA  91214

ABSTRACT:   This historical novel is a matriarch's remembrance of two oil industry families over three generations: In Pennsylvania, as the Civil War ends, oil industry pioneers fight to control the commodity, own the infrastructure and win the wealth; in the 1890s New York City of the Standard Oil barons, the second generation fights corruption and suffers romantic tragedy as the trade goes global; and, caught in the terrible horrors of World War I, the third generation learns what mature love—and oil—really mean to the emerging modern world. In lean, muscular prose and through relentless storytelling, the book (the first in a multivolume saga of oil's history) is a tour of the world's first oil producing regions, from Pennsylvania through Baku and Persia to Romania. It weaves hard fact with adventure, romance and melodrama to explore the metaphysical and stark cold truths about love, family, oil and our addiction to it.


View From a Honeymoon Cottage
Kathy J. Flaherty
ABARTA Oil & Gas Company, 1000 Gamma Drive, Pittsburgh, PA  15238

ABSTRACT:  What an ideal view from the kitchen window of a cute little house owned by newly wedded petroleum geologists:  a hillside hosting three antique steel derricks peeking over the treetops!   Still enchanted by the trio more than 20 years later, we revisited the wells on several occasions to document the sites with photographs while the derricks were still standing.   Now the remains of the Bellevue-Avalon oil and gas field have all but disappeared.

Along the eastern shore of the Ohio River and about nine miles north of downtown Pittsburgh, the Hammerschmit Pool, discovered in 1886, found oil in three pay streaks in the Hundred-foot sandstone.  The tiny pool consisted of two farms.  It was the earliest portion of the Bellevue-Avalon field to be drilled and was short-lived due to significant quantities of salt water produced together with the small amount of oil.  In 1888, the Harvey #1 well discovered the Bellevue section of the field.  The well initially flowed 700 barrels of oil per day, also from the Hundred-foot.  Because records for individual wells were kept poorly if at all, much of the history of the field is unknown, including the early developments in Avalon.  Eventually, the Bellevue-Avalon field included more than 75 wells and encompassed 1000 acres.   The drill bit encountered multiple pay zones at depths between about 1,500 and 1,800 feet.  Many wells produced enough natural gas to fuel the engines that powered the walking beams and pumped the oil from the wells.  Unfortunately, the water to oil ratio, calculated at six to one, hastened the decline and abandonment of the field.

Researching the history of the land where the three wells once stood took me back to the earliest days of modern settlements along the Ohio River.  Courthouse records begin with August 30, 1799, the patent date for land known as Sandy Bottom and Sidney, the neighboring tracts that became portions of the Bellevue-Avalon field.   The tracts changed ownership several times as they were subdivided and settled; my research narrowed with the territory to include only the specific tracts upon which the three wells were drilled.   Perhaps a reflection of the economy, the land was sold at sheriff sales at least twice, and one of these events resulted in a purchase by James McLaughlin in 1888.  In June 1891, McLaughlin granted a lease to the trustees of McLaughlin Oil Company, which was formed in May of 1892 for the specific purpose of …mining, drilling and operating for petroleum oil with the right of acquiring and holding property necessary for the business of the corporation.  The lease was granted 11 months prior to the formation of the company and required that one well be completed by December 22, 1891, and an additional well was to be drilled within each six-month time period thereafter.  By May 1892, the three wells had been drilled, providing us with an estimated completion date between mid-1891 and mid-1892.

Again, the property changed hands several times until September 1921, when Walter Logue purchased the land and the wells.  Logue lived in a shack a few hundred feet from one of the wells and operated them until his death in 1957.  Perhaps the reason that the derricks were standing until they were removed in 2003 is that Logue climbed to the top each year to coat them with tar to prevent rust.  Relics of the drilling and production activity remained at the wells for more than 110 years and provide a fascinating education in drilling equipment and technology as it existed in the late 19th Century.


Restoration of a Franklin 25 HP Valveless Engine
Scott Van Diepenbos
165 S. SR 19, Bourbon, Indiana, 46504

ABSTRACT:  I was able to purchase a 25 hp valveless engine, built in Pennsylvania by the Franklin Valveless Engine Company, that had been stored inside for quite a while.  It had originally been used on oil wells in Michigan and then brought to Indiana.  Even though the piston was not stuck, the engine was not in good condition.  When I tried to get it to run, I discovered the head was warped, and that started me on the restoration project.


Joseph P. Reid - Natural Gas Engines
Ellsworth (Pete) Sparks
23268 Bryner Road, Pleasantville, PA 16341

ABSTRACT:  Joseph Reid, a native of Scotland, started his working career in a locomotive works at Kilmarnock, Scotland, before immigrating to North America in 1862; first to Montreal and eventually to the United States.  After working in Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia, in 1876 he entered service with the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad Company (now the Erie) at Meadville, Pennsylvania.  Within a year Reid was in Oil City taking advantage of the oil boom all along Oil Creek Valley.  By 1878 he had established his own business and in 1894 Reid developed the first practical gas engine for pumping oil wells.  Unlike many of the other similar engines in operation at that time, Reid's engine was designed to run unattended and could use natural gas, gasoline, or even crude oil as a fuel.  Once one of his engines was set up, a single engine could power as many as forty oil wells at a time, and you could purchase a Reid Engine, depending upon you needs, from 12 to 40 horsepower.  The Company continued manufacturing engines until the end of 1938.  This paper will describe, and illustrate, several of these engines that I have seen, both in the field and restored.