December 1950
An interesting follow-up to last month’s field naming controversy for the Kelly-Snyder field in West Texas…..The family of the Magnolia landman (not geologist, as previously reported), Frank H. Kelley, for whom the field was reportedly named, experienced a number of name changes through the years. Frank’s descendents came to the U.S. from Northern Ireland under the name of O’Keleigh, and some sort of calamity that they experienced caused them to drop the O’ in their name. Then some of them apparently ran afoul of the law and disgraced the name of Keleigh causing them to change it to Kelly. Finally, Frank’s father, a small town doctor, did not want to be thought of as a relative of a local character named Kelly and thus added the second e. Thus, the field in question could very easily have been called the O’Keleigh-Snyder field.
East Texas crude oil - $2.65/bbl
December 1970
There is reportedly some movement by the Israeli’s to get the Suez Canal back in operation even before the official settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict. $ The Russians report plans to drill a wildcat in an area of the Black Sea that could “possibly contain the world’s largest offshore petroleum deposits.” $ A White House commissioned energy study begins assessing the antitrust significance of oil companies moving into coal and nuclear energy. $ Global oil transporters are reportedly planning to build “megaton-size” oil tankers. These 1-million-dwt vessels would likely pose serious propulsion and maneuverability problems, possibly requiring three propellers.
U.S. active rig count – 1,173
December 1990
U.A.E. Oil Minister Mana Said al-Otaiba, longest serving OPEC minister, has been replaced in a cabinet reshuffle with Yusuf Omeir Yusuf. (Someone is reportedly working on a musical about the deposed minister’s life entitled Mana Mia.) $ Eastern European nations hit hard by the oil price spike scramble to obtain oil supplies. Czechoslovakia will even begin pumping shut-in Moravian oil. (And you always thought Moravia was a fictitious city from a Groucho Marx movie now didn’t you.) $ President Bush and Mexican President Salinas de Gortari meet to discuss expanding Mexico’s drilling and production sector for U.S. service and supply companies. (E&P companies need not apply.) $ A DOT official reports that 25% of the nation’s domestic oil production is being transported through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Light sweet crude oil - $28.02/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 1,175
The Rest of the Yarn
This month we continue our look-back at the life and times of Clint Murchison, one of the “Big Four” oilmen who laid the foundations of a flamboyant lifestyle that would come to define the image of Texas Oil.
The year after Murchison’s son Burk died of pneumonia, another discouraging experience occurred in the form of the boiler in the Big House exploding, burning much of the structure and all of Murchison’s books. Not dwelling on this loss for long, he began construction on a new Big House within 18 months and personally oversaw every detail. It was to be the largest private home in Texas, thirty-four thousand square feet, a red stone colossus longer than a football field. The master suite alone had eight full-sized beds for Murchison, his two remaining sons, and whatever pals were staying over. The new home’s centerpiece was the two-story game room with its mezzanine encircling the room for his books and for musicians at parties. A local painter was hired to paint wildlife murals on each wall. North Texas wildlife was portrayed on one wall, East Texas whitetail deer on one, West Texas muledeer and prairie dogs on one, and South Texas waterfowl on another. The wall in the adjoining bar was covered with wall-to-wall tarpon scales.
The Murchison’s and their nine servants moved into the mansion in early 1939, with Murchison at the ripe old age of forty-four. At that time, his eldest son John was in his second year at Yale and Clint Jr. at Lawrenceville Prep in New Jersey. Friends began noticing that Clint was mellowing. Though the weekend parties continued, they were tamer, in large part because Murchison had quit gambling and cut back on his drinking. The reason was a twenty-three year old blue-eyed blonde named Virginia Long.
Often described as a petite Lana Turner, “Ginnie” was Murchison’s dream girl, a spontaneous, energetic East Texas tomboy who could shoot ducks, reel in tarpon, and play gin rummy with the gusto of an oilman. Though clearly in love, they waited four years to be married in a quiet ceremony at a friend’s house. For their engagement, Murchison gave Ginnie a 16-carat marquis diamond costing $125,000.
All of this was pocket change for Murchison, who had cash gushing into his accounts from East Texas and the Southern Union pipelines. He leveraged his growing fortune fivefold by using every penny as collateral for new and ever-larger bank loans. He had been one of the first oilmen to capitalize on the banks’ new energy-lending practices and one of the first to begin diversifying outside oil. Fearing inflation, he purchased his first non-oil asset, an Indianapolis insurance company in 1939 and another in 1942.
His world was once again shaken when his American Liberty partner, Dudley Golding, was killed in a plane crash, an incident that frightened Murchison away from private planes for several years. Golding’s death triggered an awkward situation with his widow, Georgia, who sought to remain active at American Liberty.
Next month, we conclude our look-back at the life and times of Clint Murchison, by examining the breakup of American Liberty, the dissolution of its holdings, and what Murchison called the biggest mistake of his life. (Article excerpted from “The Big Rich.”)
History Quiz
Due to the fear of explosions, oil was initially not a common cargo on ships. What was the name of the first successful bulk oil tanker introduced in 1878?
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to by noon December 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift card to a nice restaurant.
Answer to November’s Quiz
According to former practitioners of the lost art of water-witching (i.e., divining rod) and as documented in U.S. Geological Survey publications, this purported “foundation of all geophysics” was documented in publications as early as 1532.
Answer to October’s Quiz
Of the four E&P companies listed, namely Amoco, BP America, Phillips Petroleum, and Conoco, only Conoco failed to make the industry’s top ten in total assets in either 1988 or 1989.
Congratulations to October’s winner – Dean Wehunt with Chevron Business Development Inc.