Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January 10th...This Day in History

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Gusher signals start of U.S. oil industry 1901

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On this day in 1901, a drilling derrick at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas, produces an enormous gusher of crude oil, coating the landscape for hundreds of feet and signaling the advent of the American oil industry. The geyser was discovered at a depth of over 1,000 feet, flowed at an initial rate of approximately 100,000 barrels a day and took nine days to cap. Following the discovery, petroleum, which until that time had been used in the U.S. primarily as a lubricant and in kerosene for lamps, would become the main fuel source for new inventions such as cars and airplanes; coal-powered forms of transportation including ships and trains would also convert to the liquid fuel.

Crude oil, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar industry, is a natural mix of hundreds of different hydrocarbon compounds trapped in underground rock. The hydrocarbons were formed millions of years ago when tiny aquatic plants and animals died and settled on the bottoms of ancient waterways, creating a thick layer of organic material. Sediment later covered this material, putting heat and pressure on it and transforming it into the petroleum that comes out of the ground today.
In the early 1890s, Texas businessman and amateur geologist Patillo Higgins became convinced there was a large pool of oil under a salt-dome formation south of Beaumont. He and several partners established the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company and made several unsuccessful drilling attempts before Higgins left the company. In 1899, Higgins leased a tract of land at Spindletop to mining engineer Anthony Lucas. The Lucas gusher blew on January 10, 1901, and ushered in the liquid fuel age. Unfortunately for Higgins, he’d lost his ownership stake by that point.
Beaumont became a “black gold” boomtown, its population tripling in three months. The town filled up with oil workers, investors, merchants and con men (leading some people to dub it “Swindletop”). Within a year, there were more than 285 actives wells at Spindletop and an estimated 500 oil and land companies operating in the area, including some that are major players today: Humble (now Exxon), the Texas Company (Texaco) and Magnolia Petroleum Company (Mobil).
Spindletop experienced a second boom starting in the mid-1920s when more oil was discovered at deeper depths. In the 1950s, Spindletop was mined for sulphur. Today, only a few oil wells still operate in the area.

(More Events on This Day in History)
  • American Revolution

  • 1776 North Carolina governor calls on Loyalists to combat rebels
  • Automotive

  • 2008 World’s cheapest car debuts in India
  • Civil War

  • 1861 William Seward named Secretary of State
  • Cold War

  • 1989 Cuban troops begin withdrawal from Angola
  • Crime

  • 1994 Green Beret indicted for murder
  • Disaster

  • 1962 Avalanche kills thousands in Peru
  • General Interest

  • 1920 League of Nations instituted
  • 1922 Griffith elected president of Irish Free State
  • 1923 U.S. troops depart Germany
  • 1946 First meeting of the United Nations
  • Hollywood

  • 2000 AOL-Time Warner formed
  • Literary

  • 1961 Dashiell Hammett dies
  • Music

  • 1976 “Convoy,” by C.W. McCall, is the #1 song on the U.S. pop charts
  • Old West

  • 1843 Outlaw Frank James born in Missouri
  • Presidential

  • 1941 FDR introduces the lend-lease program
  • 1967 Johnson asks for more funding for Vietnam War
  • Sports

  • 1982 Dwight Clark makes The Catch
  • Vietnam War

  • 1967 Johnson asks for surcharge to pay for the war
  • 1972 Hubert Humphrey criticizes President Nixon
  • World War I

  • 1923 Harding orders U.S. troops home from Germany
  • World War II

  • 1941 Lend-Lease introduced into Congress


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