Oil-Industry History
Volume 9, Number 1, 2008

This Issue was Sponsored in Part by a Grant from HELMER RABILD TUW FOR CHARITIES

Editorial And Meeting Report – Oil Springs, Ontario, Canada, William R. Brice

Journals Under Threat: A Joint Response From History Of Science, Technology And Medicine Editors

Gesner, Williams and the Birth of the Oil Industry, Earle Gray

East and West: Ontario’s Influence on The Western Canadian Petroleum Industry, David Finch

Representing Canada’s Oil Industry Heritage on the World Wide Web, Adriana A. Davies

Recollections — The Search for William Henry Mcgarvey, Canada’s First International Oil Tycoon, Gary May

Recollections — An Oil Family History: 140 Years of Black Gold, David Stauft

The Early Petroleum Industry of Petrolia, Ontario Illustrated on Postcards, Jeff A. Spencer

A Journey Through Two Early Ohio Oil Booms The Northwest Ohio And The Bremen-New Straitsville Booms, Jeff A. Spencer

Samuel M. Kier (1813-1874) – The Oft-Forgotten Oil Pioneer, William R. Brice

All Aboard For Oil Country!, Kathy J. Flaherty

Historical Review of International Petroleum Arrangements, Giulio G. Carini

Independents’ Day Rhetoric, Culture, and the History Of Gasoline Marketing In The United States 1958-2008, Mark Ward Sr.

The Pre-History Of The Rule Of Capture, Terence Daintith

Seneca Oil and Devil’s Tar: Salt Drillers, Medicine Men, and The Pioneer Oil Industry of South-Central Kentucky, William D. Mccarthy

Oil in their Blood – The American Decades (Excerpts From The Novel), Herman K. Trabish

Abstracts – 2008 International Symposium – Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, May 7-10, 2008

2008 Honors And Awards

Volume 9, 2008 Abstracts

Editorial and Meeting Report – Oil Springs, Ontario, Canada
William R. Brice, Editor

ABSTRACT: At a joint meeting May 7-10, 2008, two history organizations, the Petroleum History Institute of Oil City, Pennsylvania (USA) and the Petroleum History Society of Calgary, Alberta (Canada) celebrated the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the oil industry in Canada. The meeting, hosted by the Ontario Petroleum Institute, held the symposium and banquet in Sarnia, Ontario, but then ventured to Oil Springs and Petrolia for the field trip. Co-Organizers for the gathering were Robert Cochrane (Cairnlins Resources Limited), Robert Bott (Petroleum History Society), and Joe Van Overberghe (Executive Director, Ontario Petroleum Institute). The three-day event was capped by a trip to one of the oldest continuous, family-owned oil operations in North America (probably in the world), the Charles Fairbank family business, Fairbank Oil Properties, Ltd. At the two-day symposium the group was enlightened by a diverse group of papers, ranging from the work of Abraham Gesner and the rise of the Imperial Oil Company to the Canadian influence on the early oil industry of Poland. David Stauft shared his family’s 140 years in the oil business. Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon, University of Toronto Professor, the featured speaker on May 8, presented an enlightening lecture, “The Great Transition: Coping with the End of the Oil Age,” on oil production peak and the ongoing energy and environmental crises. But the highlight of the gathering was provided by Charles Fairbank and his sister, Sylvia, as they read letters written by their great-grandfather, John Fairbank, who would later go into the oil business, but then was working as a surveyor in Oil Springs, Ontario. His letters were written to their great-grandmother, Edna Fairbank, who was in Niagara Falls with the children. The brother and sister team were then joined by Bernie Gilmore, with his guitar, as they sang Gilmore’s original songs based, both figuratively and literally, on some of these Fairbank family letters. A wonderful and fulfilling time was experienced by all who attended this 150th anniversary celebration of the Canadian oil industry.

 

Gesner, Williams and the Birth of the Oil Industry
Earle Gray
17 Lang Court, Lindsay, ON, Canada, K9V 6E5
URL: http://www.earlegray.ca

ABSTRACT: This paper outlines the contributions of Abraham Gesner and James Miller Williams in the birth of the oil industry. It also explores how their relationships with two other key figures in the industry’s founding industry, James Young and Luther Atwood, affected their efforts, success, and—in the case of Gesner—financial failure. It draws in part from two of my books, the second edition of The Great Canadian Oil Patch, 2005; and Ontario’s Petroleum Legacy: The Birth, Evolution and Challenges of a Global Industry, 2008. It also draws on newer research that provides additional detail and insight.

 

East and West: Ontario’s Influence on the Western Canadian Petroleum Industry
David Finch
518 – 13th Ave. NE, Calgary, Alberta, T2E 1C4 Canada

ABSTRACT: An enduring myth permeates the Canadian oil patch – eastern Canadians hate the West. Though this theme serves a purpose – like when Westerners want to blame the international economic downturn of the 1980s on Ottawa’s infamous National Energy Program – the fact remains that numerous central Canadian petroleum industry pioneers, and some key Americans, migrated west to Alberta in the early 1900s and helped develop an industry that became pivotal to Canada’s self-sufficiency in oil, natural gas and bitumen. This paper reviews the careers of important individuals who helped find, develop and sustain the Western Canadian oil industry and explains how this relationship between the regions has contributed to the vitality of the Canadian oil patch.

 

Representing Canada’s Oil Industry Heritage on the World Wide Web
Adriana A. Davies, Editor-in-Chief Heritage Community Foundation #54,
9912 – 106th Street, Edmonton, AB T5K 1C5 Canada
URLs: www.albertasource.ca – the Alberta Online Encyclopedia: www.heritagecommunityfdn.org

ABSTRACT: E-learners are using the “Web” for research purposes and the demand for authoritative resources is growing daily. The Heritage Community Foundation has pioneered in the creation of digital heritage content that showcases all aspects of the historical, natural, cultural, scientific and technological heritage of Alberta.. For Alberta’s100th anniversary, the Foundation designed and created the Alberta Online Encyclopedia – www.albertasource.ca – a multimedia learning resource that brings Alberta to every user of the Web. It is a truism that there is general ignorance among Canadians about industrial history as well as the evolution of science and technology in our country. To help address this content gap, the Heritage Community Foundation, with funding support from the Imperial Oil Foundation, in 2003 began to create Canada’s Petroleum Heritage. The result is an online resource that through text, images, audio and video provides a rich historical perspective on the oil industry to the 1950s with a particular focus on Alberta within the Canadian context. Audio and video elements include material from the following: Roughnecks, Wildcats and Doodlebugs: A Popular History of the Oil Patch and the Petroleum Industry in Alberta, CKUA Radio Network’s 16 part documentary series featuring interviews with industry pioneers and builders; The Petroleum Oral History Project Collection – located at Glenbow Museum and Archives. The collection consists of several hundred recorded conversations and 200 photographs; Aubrey Kerr’s various publications on Alberta’s Oil patch—Mr. Kerr has given the Heritage Community Foundation copies of all his publications and is delighted to make these materials accessible to educational and other users; and Earle Gray, Canada’s senior oil industry historian,—Mr. Gray contributed 10 historical essays dealing with different aspects of the industry.

 

The Search for William Henry McGarvey, Canada’s First International Oil Tycoon
Gary May
Suite 202 – 148 Third Street Cobourg, Ontario, Canada K9A 5X2

ABSTRACT: The historic oil fields of southwestern Ontario are strewn with tales of success: e.g., John Henry Fairbank, Jake Englehart, and John E. Crosbie. But perhaps the most poignant is the story of William Henry McGarvey. Rising from his beginnings as the son of a humble shopkeeper, to rubbing shoulders with European aristocracy, McGarvey ultimately died brokenhearted at how the clash of First World War superpower armies laid waste his empire.

Yet little is known about McGarvey’s European exploits and what became of his company and family after he died in 1914. Intent on learning more about McGarvey and ensuring he takes his deserved spot among Canada’s pioneers of oil, last year, I travelled to the oil fields of Eastern Europe, and the streets of Vienna, in my bid to unearth more pieces of the McGarvey puzzle, and returned with an emerging picture of a man who is revered to this day in petroleum circles there as a key figure in the development of the industry.

 

An Oil Family History: 140 Years of Black Gold
David Stauft
348 Springborough Way SW Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3H 5M7

ABSTRACT: This is the story of five generations in an oil business family over the past 140 years. Those involved include the author’s great grandfather, John McDonald, his Grandfather, Francis David McDonald, his Mother and father, Flora McDonald Stauft and Jacob Lauer Stauft, the author, David Lauer Stauft, and his brother Peter Stauft as well as Peter’s 2 sons, and David’s three offspring, Timothy Lauer, Nancy Elizabeth, and Andrew James. Every generation’s work in the oil business has involved Imperial Oil Ltd and/or its predecessor Standard Oil. This is another unique aspect to the family history.

Great Grandfather, John McDonald, first came to Petrolia in 1867. He founded a boiler works there and also built a refinery under the name of the National Oil Works, which he sold to Standard Oil in 1898. His son Frank operated an oil producing property he acquired from his father. He sold his oil to Imperial Oil Ltd. and as a child the author remembers helping him with this process. Frank’s daughter, Flora, was a schoolteacher who went to Peru in South America in 1922 to teach in a school operated by International Petroleum, a subsidiary of Imperial. There she met and married Jacob L. Stauft, petroleum engineer working for the company. He was killed in a well completion accident in1934. She returned to Petrolia to raise their 3 children including myself.

The author and his brother Peter both became geologists and worked for Imperial Oil. His son Timothy and both of Peter’s sons have also worked in the oil business. The careers of the various family members have included all aspects of the business from exploration and production to refining, and administration. Crude oil, or Black Gold and its changing place in our world tie it all together.

 

The Early Petroleum Industry of Petrolia, Ontario Illustrated on Postcards
Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Rd. Bellville, TX 77418

ABSTRACT: In the early twentieth century, picture postcards were both a means of communication and a popular collectible. The North American petroleum industry was represented with postcard views of wooden oil derricks, oil gushers, oil fires, and refineries. Although Petrolia’s earliest oil boom was years before the Golden Age of postcard collecting (1907-1915), many earlier Petrolia oilfield images were used on this period’s postcards. Petrolia (Petrolea) oilfield postcard scenes include spring-pole drilling operations, three-pole ash derricks, the torpedoing of wells, the moving of wooden derricks using horse teams and rolling logs, and early horse-drawn oil tankers. The dangers of oil field-related work are depicted in 1907 scenes of a nitroglycerin plant explosion. Early postcard views include Petrolia’s Canadian Oil Refinery and nearby Sarnia’s Imperial Oil Refinery.

Acknowledgement: Some of the postcards in the Symposium presentation were provided by Martin Dillon from his website, www. petroliaheritage.com/OIL. His cooperation is very much appreciated and is hereby acknowledged.

 

A Journey Through Two Early Ohio Oil Booms The Northwest Ohio and The Bremen-New Straitsville Booms
Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Rd. Bellville, TX 77418

ABSTRACT: Photographs and postcards have helped to illustrate the history, geography, and industrial growth of the United States. This is evident in their depiction of the early “boom days” of the oil industry. Two of Ohio’s oil booms, the oil boom of northwest Ohio and the Bremen-New Straitsville boom of south-central Ohio, are well-represented by photographs and postcards of oil derricks, oilfield fires, storage tanks, and refineries. One of the first giant oil fields in the United States was discovered in northwestern Ohio near the city of Lima in 1885, a year after natural gas was discovered near the town of Findlay. The discovery of the Lima-Indiana oil field set off the “oil boom of northwest Ohio”, a period of land speculation and rapid oil field development that lasted over 20 years. The field propelled Ohio into the leading oilproducing state from 1895-1903. As the field was extended to the south, the nation’s first “over water” wells were drilled in Grand Lake St. Marys, then the largest man-made lake in the world. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Cleveland, soon to monopolize the oil refining industry, built storage tanks, pipelines, and a refinery near Lima. The Ohio Oil Company, now Marathon Oil, was organized in the state in 1887 and still maintains an office in Findlay. South-central Ohio’s Bremen oil field was discovered in 1907 in Fairfield County, which lead to the discovery of the New Straitsville oil field in adjoining Perry County two years later. The villages of Bremen and New Straitsville saw the oil fields extended to town lots. Wells were often so close together that a person could jump from one derrick floor to another. The Bremen- New Straitsville oil boom lasted until the early 1920s and was the last significant Ohio oil boom of the early 1900s.

 

Samuel M. Kier (1813-1874) – The Oft-Forgotten Oil Pioneer
William R. Brice
116 Luna Lane, Johnstown, PA 15904

ABSTRACT: Samuel Martin Kier, son of Thomas and Polly Martin Kier, was born September 19, 1813, somewhere along the Conemaugh River between Saltsburg and Blairsville in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Pittsburgh when he was 21. He quickly became involved in the express business (like the later Railway Express) as a forwarding agent. In 1846, Kier, in partnership with James Buchannan, later President of the United States, established the Independent Line, working with special canal boats which could be taken apart to be put on railroad cars where they were needed, or assembled together and pulled along the canal system where there was no railroad. Kier’s connection to the oil business came through his father. Thomas Kier in 1839, financed by his son, began a salt business at Tarentum, Pennsylvania, on the Allegheny River near Pittsburgh. Thomas had local drillers, using the spring-pole method, put down wells to depths of 500 feet to obtain the brine which was then evaporated to produce salt. But a thick, black substance soon began seeping into the brine wells spoiling the product. About 1842, it was really becoming a serious problem. At first the oil was allowed to run off into the river, then his father tried to skim off the oil and burn it to fuel the evaporation furnaces, but without success. At this point fate stepped in. The wife of a friend of Samuel Kier became ill and the local physician prescribed American Oil, which Kier noticed looked, smelled, and tasted exactly like what was coming out of his father’s brine wells and was allowed to run into the river or out onto the ground. Kier started bottling his own tonic which he called Kier’s Rock Oil, and a new business was underway. To keep up with the demand, Kier had one of the brine wells tubed and pumped. As the salt water supply began to diminish more oil replaced it, and soon the well was producing only oil. Thus in 1845, Kier had established one of the first pumped oil wells. In the late 1840s, he sent a sample of the waste product from the brine wells to a chemist, James C. Booth, of Philadelphia, who suggested that distillation of the crude petroleum would produce a good burning fluid, and he furnished Kier with drawings of a suitable still capable of safely doing the distillation. Kier soon constructed a still and in 1849 began to produce what he called Carbon Oil. But there was still a problem with his new fluid as none of the oil lamps of the day would properly burn this product, so he developed a lamp that would burn his carbon oil without producing smoke. By 1854, Kier had moved his refining business into the City of Pittsburgh to the corner of Grant Street and Seventh Avenue, and thus by the mid-1850s, Kier was operating the only liquid petroleum refinery in the United States. Hence, Samuel Kier is truly one of the great pioneers of the early petroleum industry in the United States and deserves to be in the same company as Edwin Drake, George Bissell, and the others.

 

All Aboard for Oil Country!
Kathy J. Flaherty
ABARTA Oil & Gas Company, Inc., 1000 Gamma Drive, Suite 400 Pittsburgh, PA 15238

ABSTRACT: Although sandwiched between the fish market report and miscellaneous grocery news columns deep within the daily newspapers, headlines such as these invited attention. Is it any wonder that excursions to the oil regions were popular? Daily summaries of oleaginous pursuits populated newspaper columns. Articles overflowing with urgency and enthusiasm alternated with articles brimming with the despair of dry holes and decreased oil production. Drilling activity in each new geographical area refreshed the phenomenon. Oilfield correspondents speculated about everything: the depth to pay sand, any up-hole indications of oil, reservoir quality, the time until the pay was reached, geological trends, plans and intentions of the well owners and operators, and even the chances of success for an offsetting well. Hourly production, drilling progress, shipments, fluctuations in oil output and other such parameters made up a regular portion of the oilfield news.

Oil fever invaded society from the poorest looking for work to the wealthiest seeking investment opportunities. Oil region visitors varied in their interests and motivations, but all wanted a first-hand look at the oil patch. Investors, future oil men, land-lease brokers, competitors, oil scouts, gentility, schemers, reporters, photographers, scientists, rig hands, roughnecks and the just plain curious found their way to the oil fields. Just plain curious myself, I tagged along on a few oilfield excursions through the archives. This article shares a few of those adventures.

 

Historical Review of International Petroleum Arrangements
Giulio G. Carini

ABSTRACT: In international petroleum arrangements between host countries and oil companies, each party has a common goal to make possible the exploitation of the country’s petroleum resource and maximize its economic return. At the same time, a built-in tension exists in petroleum arrangements between the desire of the government to retain control over its natural resources and the expectation of oil companies to maximize the rate of return on its investments. The ideal arrangement is one that effectively accommodates the common as well as the divergent aspirations of both parties. A review of the history of international petroleum arrangements shows a gradual evolution from relatively unequal arrangements to those that are fairer and more equitable, focusing on both parties’ interest in achieving mutual benefit, commercial viability, and stability in the industry. The first half of the 20th century was dominated by the early concession system where the oil company generally had complete freedom in conducting petroleum operations as it was given the exclusive right to explore, develop and market oil in return for the payment of tax and royalty rates. As a reaction to these potentially inequitable arrangements, modern petroleum arrangements such as: (i) the modern concession agreement; (ii) the production-sharing contract; and (iii) the service contracts developed in the later half of the century. Continuing since the 1950’s, host countries and oil companies have used any of the above type of arrangements to achieve these more fair and equitable contractual terms, including often merging concepts of two or more of the types of arrangements.

 

Independents’ Day Rhetoric, Culture, and the History of Gasoline Marketing in the United States 1958-2008*
Mark Ward Sr.
Clemson University 315 Westminster Drive, Pendleton, SC 29670

ABSTRACT: The historian’s interpretive search for truth is unlike the geologist’s scientific exploration for oil. The writing of histories is fundamentally a rhetorical exercise that implicates issues of power and ideology which are inherent to all human social activity. In the annals of the petroleum industry this dynamic is abundantly evident in writing a history of gasoline marketing, an activity that sets the economic power of major integrated oil companies against the entrepreneurial ideology of independent fuel retailers. Thus the following 50-year history (1958-2008) of gasoline marketing, as told from the standpoint of independent marketers, reflects not only dates and events but also rhetorical choices of what to include and omit, emphasize or mute, endorse or refute. This history is therefore instructive not only as a chronicle of the evolving business model for gasoline marketing in the United States, but for the lessons that other petroleum historians can glean for constructing accounts that are informative rather than simply reportorial.

* This essay is adapted, by permission, from a series of articles which appeared in Independent Gasoline Marketing, the bimonthly magazine of the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, between January and September 2008.

 

The Pre-History of the Rule of Capture*
Terence Daintith
Professorial Fellow, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London
Visiting Professor, University of Western Australia

ABSTRACT: The rule of capture, under which oil and gas become the property of the person on whose land the well that produces them is drilled, regardless of whether the oil and gas have been drawn from under other people’s lands, has been blamed for much of the reservoir damage and unnecessary drilling that have blighted the US oil industry. For many decades now the orthodox belief has been that this legal rule was imposed on the industry by the decisions of judges who misunderstood the basic facts of hydrocarbon geology and reservoir mechanics. This paper argues that from the first beginnings of the industry, and long before the rule of capture was first judicially acknowledged – in 1886 – oil producers were operating on a common assumption that the rule would apply in relation to any disputes they might have when one person’s wells interfered with another’s, and that no legal redress would be available in this sort of case. While this assumption may have been engendered by early ignorance about how oil and gas were stored underground, it persisted in the industry despite improved knowledge of reservoir mechanics. No direct challenge to the legality of drainage of oil by drilling being undertaken on a neighbouring property was mounted until 1897; instead, landowners sought to establish, through litigation or by inserting express terms in their leases, that their lessees had a duty to drill offset wells to prevent such drainage.

* This paper is based on a chapter in a forthcoming book on the history and effects of the law of capture in the oil industry, to be published by Resources for the Future (Washington, DC) in 2009 or 2010.

 

Seneca Oil and Devil’s Tar: Salt Drillers, Medicine Men, and the Pioneer Oil Industry of South-Central Kentucky
William D. McCarthy
Department of Social Sciences Chadron State College, Chadron, NE 69337

ABSTRACT: Attempts to locate and exploit brines for making salt in remote frontier communities of Appalachian Kentucky in the early 19th century inadvertently uncovered significant sources of oil. Most well drillers and salt makers cursed their luck, finding that oil polluted their brines and made salt production impossible. A bare handful of well owners tried commercializing oil and developed some of the first recognized oil wells in the nation. Modest amounts of oil were produced and sold for medicinal and pharmaceutical uses. The tools and techniques developed by well owners and drillers for tapping salt brines were suited for oil exploration, but local efforts ultimately faltered owing to difficulties in getting the product to distant markets. Sales of patent medicines ultimately collapsed and the wells were largely abandoned by the 1850s, as failed ventures in making salt. The subsequent development of oil for industrial and lighting purposes in the following years revived flagging interest in the Kentucky wells. Purposeful drilling for oil in Northwest Pennsylvania in 1859 seemed to herald boom years for Kentucky, with its ready sources of oil, but unsettled conditions relating to the Civil War stalled further development for some years.

 

Oil in their Blood – The American Decades
(Excerpts from the Novel)
Herman K. Trabish
2763 Mary Street, La Crescenta, CA 91214

ABSTRACT: OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The American Decades, the second historical novel in the multivolume oil saga, brings to life the mid-20th Century as the United States emerges as an oil power and a superpower. Trabish once again uses a matriarch’s remembrance of oil industry families over three generations and weaves hard fact with adventure, romance and melodrama.

From post-World War I Paris where the peace talks created the modern world to jazz age New York City, roaring 20s Chicago and oil boom Oklahoma, Jacques LeFash Livingstone discovers oil’s secrets, runs from anything to do with oil, marries, has a son and finds himself an oil baron despite his best efforts. In pre- World War II Washington, D.C., Victoria Wade Bridger, Lady North, accepts a diplomat’s request to help American oil men explore in Saudi Arabia and, as a result, gets herself and her dearest friend caught up in espionage and the darkest moments of World War II.

After slogging with the American infantry across World War II Europe, Monty Livingstone gives up his dream of being a spy for his country and goes to work for Big Oil until, in early 1950s Iran, he is unexpectedly recruited into the Cold War. Suddenly, everything from his adolescence in the Oklahoma oil fields to a lost love in Berlin to his training by an MI-6 operative matters if he is to finish his CIA assignment.

Just like the first volume (OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The Story of Our Addition*), the lean, muscular prose and relentless storytelling drills into every incident for a better understanding of metaphysical and stark cold truths about love, family and the dark commodity that drives our world. *For excerpts from the first volume, see Oil-Industry History, v. 8, no. 1, p. 91-99.

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