May 1919
The oilfields of North and West Texas will soon have YMCA accommodations similar to those in the army cantonments, according to the State Secretary of the YMCA. The plan calls for huts to be set up in the oilfields for the convenience and recreation of workers employed in those areas. $$ One of the hottest-selling business machines in oilfield offices is the mimeograph duplicator. (Boomers remember.) $$ Spindle Top has its first deep sand producer after 19 years of more or less deep drilling. Gulf Oil’s McFadden #1 came in flowing 250 bbl/day from a depth of approximately 3,000 ft. Most of Spindle Top’s production has come from depths of 700 to 1,000 ft. $$ One of the reported biggest logistical needs in the oilfields is paved highways, as dirt roads are not conducive for hauling heavy loads of crude oil or oilfield equipment, and the railroads are badly congested.
May 1926
Chemist and engineer Otto Martin constructs plant in Sand Springs, Oklahoma designed to extract potentially marketable chemicals from produced salt water. According to Martin, as many as 85 chemicals can potentially be extracted from field brines. (If only it was commercially viable.) $$ One of the hot oil sands in the North Texas area is the Swastika sand. (Obviously that symbol predated WW II by quite a bit.) $$ Shale gas produced from shallow black shales in eastern Kansas gains popularity, with approximately 1,000 such wells on production and scores more being drilled. Geologists observe that these shallow gas shales are only productive when they are also water-bearing. $$ Wildcatters continue to probe Socal beaches for producible oil, with Huntington Beach and Seal Beach as the latest targets.
East Texas crude oil - $1.20-2.20/bbl (depending on gravity)
May 1932
With possibly three more years of flowing production in prospect for the East Texas field, area geologists go on record estimating the field’s ultimate oil recovery to be approximately 2,100,000,000 barrels from 100,000 productive acres. $$ Oklahoma Governor William Murray issues an executive order to cease all drilling inside the city limits of Oklahoma City for fear of hazards to property and life. The National Guard is put on alert to support the order. $$ Reportedly encouraging signs of the recovery of the oil industry in Oklahoma are brought out in the “Five Civilized Tribes Oil Lease Sale” held in Muskogee, in which Indian land sold for an average of $3.90 per acre. $$ What are the three leading crude oil producing states circa 1932? Texas, followed distantly by California, and then Oklahoma.
East Texas crude oil - $0.98/bbl
The Rest of the Yarn
This month we continue our look-back at the life and times of Sid Richardson, 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 ideal solution for Richardson’s financial woes would be to locate a wealthy partner, someone who could fund drilling that might produce enough oil to repay the banks. For most of 1933 loan officers from both of the two largest banks in Dallas and Fort Worth queried their largest customers, but neither proved interested in backing Richardson. Then, in late 1933, Eugene McElvaney, a vice president at First National Bank of Dallas, came up with a new name: Charles E. Marsh, co-owner of several Texas newspapers, including the politically influential Austin American. Marsh, like his Austin neighbors Herman and George Brown of the Brown & Root contracting company, was using his spare cash to bankroll several Texas wildcatters. When McElvaney sent him a telegram at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, Marsh consented to a meeting.
It is a measure of how totally Sid Richardson cloaked his business in secrecy that the name of Charles Marsh, the man whose backing made Richardson’s fortune possible, remained unknown to Richardson’s family. In all likelihood, Marsh’s name would be lost to history were it not for his subsequent sponsorship of an obscure Texas congressman named Lyndon Johnson. A large man with an even larger ego, Marsh was by every account a self-important blowhard who could be very rude at times. He felt like he could do anything and always wanted to be the great manipulator behind the scenes.
That Marsh and Richardson were polar opposites was obvious. Richardson didn’t care; he just needed money. Marsh’s initial commitment was modest, namely a thirty-thousand-dollar line of credit at First National bank of Dallas. When Richardson quickly drew down that first thirty-thousand dollars, he wanted and needed much more in order to pay off his debt and renew drilling. Marsh resisted extending his line of credit at first, but ultimately negotiated a complicated deal involving First National Bank of Dallas that led to a $210,000 loan followed by another $150,000 loan shortly thereafter. In effect, Richardson has smoozed his way into a partnership that would get him turning to the right again.
Next month, Sid Richardson comes up with the most brazen gamble of his career. (Article excerpted from “The Big Rich.”)
History Quiz
What industry figure is synonymous with the following combination: World War II fighter pilot, bazooka, and completion tools pioneer?
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to by noon May 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift card to a nice restaurant.
Answer to April's Quiz
In 2002, there were approximately 75,000 retail gasoline stations in China.
Answer to March's Quiz
The first horizontal oil well was drilled near Texon, Texas in 1929.
Congratulations to March’s winner – Christa Clark with Shell International E&P