The Rest of the Yarn
The baby among eight children, “Little Sollie” showed an inventive turn early, repairing machinery on his father’s 240-acre Michigan farm. After attempts at college and selling dry goods, he decided his future lay in rebuilding the oil industry of West Virginia, previously destroyed by the Confederacy. His first attempt, Peninsular Petroleum Co., failed in 1866 after shipping only 240 barrels of oil, but he did not give up that easily.

Over the next 11 years, he moved his family nine times before he was able to develop producing interests near Millerstown, Pennsylvania. There he became a member of the school board and began his political life. When oil prices dropped below $1 a barrel, his angered partner decided to burn down the rig on their one producing well. Failure again starred him in the face, but again he did not give up.

This time he shifted his sights to oilfield equipment. His innate inventiveness and knack for improvisation soon led to a “packer” for separating oil from water. An innovative clamp prevented the rubber from slipping and was patented. Product improvements, the purchase of other patents, and a distribution system employing hardware stores in the oil region led to a thriving business.

One of his most successful inventions was a coupling designed to stop gas pipelines from leaking, an innovation that was ultimately to become his service company’s signature product. At the time, natural gas pipelines were simply being screwed together, and regardless of the type of thread sealant used, they invariably leaked. He had devised a rubber seal that expanded under pressure and formed a leak-proof seal. In the process natural gas pipeline transportation became feasible, and the natural gas industry became a reality.

He was twice elected to Congress, but near the end of his second term in 1906, he suffered a stroke that left him a semi-invalid. He died in 1911, with his company solidly established and major product line expansions coming to fruition that would ultimately make his one of the industry’s preeminent service companies.

Despite failures and personal reversals which would have stopped many a man, in 1998 the conglomerate that he founded was acquired by Halliburton in a $7 billion merger. His name was Solomon Dresser, the founder of Dresser Industries. And now you know…The Rest of the Yarn.

Readers are encouraged to submit brief, ostensibly true stories about notable personalities from our industry’s storied past. Submissions should be e-mailed to

History Quiz
Name the two countries whose oil ministers are generally considered to be the founding fathers of OPEC in 1960.

If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to by noon January 15. The winner, who will be chosen semi-randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift certificate to a nice restaurant.

Answer to December’s Quiz
The 80’s TV sitcom that became the source of well names for a San Andres play in West Texas as recently as 2 years ago was “Mash” (e.g., Radar and Hot Lips wells).

Answer to November’s Quiz
Because of the moose head outline of the peripheral well locations in a field in eastern Montana, many of the Bakken horizontal wells in the field have been named after the characters in the late 50’s & early 60’s cartoon series, “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” (e.g., Chainsaw, Whiplash, Natasha and Peabody).
Congratulations to November’s winner (several correct answers this month) – Gary Willingham with Noble Energy.