The history of the state of Oklahoma is inextricably linked with the remarkable history of the oil industry. The individuals identified here are true Oklahoma Oil Pioneers whose work laid the groundwork for the oil and gas industry in a young state. Their stories are not only inspirational, but serve as testaments to the extraordinary opportunities the early oil industry provided for individual achievements and public good. Although these individuals are now deceased, their stories of hard work, foresight, courage and accomplishment against overwhelming odds speak to generations of Americans. Thanks to University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren, Museum Director Michael Mares and Vice President for University Development David L. Maloney, this plaza reflects the museums mission of celebrating Oklahoma’s history. So whether you’re enjoying lunch outside the cafe, pausing for a quick photo or strolling through our gardens, take a moment to reflect upon the beautiful Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza and the people who inspired it.
Jack H. Abernathy (1911-1996)Born in Shawnee, Jack Abernathy earned his degree in petroleum engineering at the University of Oklahoma in 1932. As Chief Engineer for Sunray Oil, Abernathy was instrumental in the discovery of the Wilcox Pool, a major oil field located directly under the State Capitol Building in Oklahoma City. As President of Big Chief Drilling Company, Abernathy was responsible for a number of major oil and gas discoveries, technological innovations, and drilling depth records. Abernathy was a long-time proponent of adequate benefits for oil field workers and, under his leadership. Big Chief was a pioneer in creating an insurance and retirement plan specifically for field and operating personnel and in establishing an outstanding safety record. Active in the organizational structure of the petroleum industry, Abernathy was President of the International Association of Drilling Contractors and Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. Prominent in the civic life of Oklahoma, Jack Abernathy was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1971. He was named Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man in 1978 and was inducted into the National Petroleum Hall of Fame in 1990.
Lew H. Wentz (1881-1949)Born in Iowa, Lew Wentz grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lacking a college education but imbued with tenacity, self-reliance, and people skills, he came to Oklahoma in 1911 and made a fortune in the Blackwell field, near Ponca City. A hard and shrewd businessman, his holdings in oil leases made him by 1925 one of the seven richest men in America. A generous philanthropist, he was especially concerned with providing medical care and educational benefits to the young people of Oklahoma. As Chairman of the Highway Commission, he gave his entire salary to the Oklahoma Society for Crippled Children. Active in Republican politics since he was a teenager, he refused repeated requests to run for public office. However, he served as Oklahoma’s national committeeman from 1940 until his death. Thousands of Oklahoma students were able to complete their college educations because of the endowment he established for that purpose. In 1985, Lew Wentz was inducted posthumously into the National Petroleum Hall of Fame.
William K. Warren (1897-1990)“A man of great vision, humility, and compassion,” W.K. Warren embodied the entrepreneurial ability, personal integrity, and philanthropic spirit of the Oklahoma oil pioneers. Born in Tennessee, he came to Oklahoma and in 1922 founded Warren Petroleum Company in Tulsa. Beginning with one employee, his wife Natalie, and $300, he became the leading natural gas liquids marketer in the world. He made major contributions to the natural gasoline industry through the development of large-scale storage techniques and in the transportation of liquefied petroleum by sea and inland waterways. In 1956, Warren Petroleum was sold to Gulf Oil, and Warren served as a director and then director emeritus of that company. W.K. Warren’s service to the petroleum industry was recognized by numerous awards, including Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man in 1967, Grand Old Man of Natural Gasoline in 1976, and the Distinguished Service Award of the Petroleum Hall of Fame in 1978. A man of deep religious faith, Warren received the outstanding distinction of being invested as a Knight of Malta by the Catholic Church for his philanthropic works. Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa is one of his many legacies to the people of Oklahoma.
Joseph A. Taff (1862-1944)J.A. Taff was the pioneer in the study of the geology of southern Oklahoma, with all that implies for the development of the petroleum industry in the state. Taff worked his way through the universities of Arkansas and of Texas and achieved his scientific eminence with only a bachelor of science degree from Texas, earned when he was 32 years old. Born in Tennessee, he paid his way through college by working with the geological surveys in Arkansas and Texas. Bachelor’s degree in hand, he took a position with the United States Geological Survey. Assigned to Indian Territory in 1897, Taff surveyed and published geological reports on 6,000 square miles in the Arbuckle, Wichita, and Ouachita Mountains. He was the first to carry out extensive mapping of the coal beds in Oklahoma. He was responsible for developing the terminology for more than 30 significant stratigraphic units. The lucidity of his descriptions and clarity of his writing in these reports impresses even the layperson. During a part of this scientific work, he was closely associated with Dr. Charles N. Gould, the founder of the Department of Geology at the University of Oklahoma. In 1908, Taff became a geologist with the Southern Pacific Company, working there until his retirement in 1937.
Herbert R. Straight (1874-1963)Herbert Straight grew up I the oil business. His father was a successful producer and operator in the Pennsylvania oil fields and known as “the man who drilled a thousand wells in Pennsylvania.” After graduation from Stanford and working in Pennsylvania, Straight came to Oklahoma in 1911 and consolidated a group of producing properties into what became Cities Service Oil Company, of which he would later serve as President and Chairman of the Board. In 1962, Straight was named Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man and was cited with a number of pioneering efforts: “the first use of electric motors to drill oil wells in Pennsylvania, the use of the first wire line in drilling, the use of a pipe mast as a derrick substitute, the use of steel shafts for bull wheels, the flowing of oil wells with compressed air, and the use of electric motors in pumping oil wells.” Straight was also credited with a seminal role in applying surface geology to finding oil and the underground storage of natural gas.
Tom B. Slick (1883-1930)“The King of Wildcatters” was born in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. The son of an oilman, he came to Oklahoma in 1911, determined to become a millionaire. Early failures led him to be called “Dry Hole” Slick; but on March 12, 1912, his discovery of oil on the farm of Frank Wheeler near Cushing opened one of the most productive fields in the United States at that time. By 1919, the Cushing Field accounted for 17 percent of all the crude oil marketed in the United States. Slick seemed possessed of what he claimed to be an uncanny ability to smell oil sands. “When there’s a new oil field opened up, Tom Slick will be there” was the word among Oklahoma oilmen: and, Slick played an important role in the development of the Tonkawa Field and the discovery of the Crosscut, Texas, St. Louis Wilcox and Tonkawa deep sands. In 1929 he sold one-half interest in his holdings to the Prairie Oil and Gas Company. The reported sum of $40,000,000 made it one of the largest business deals in the history of the oil industry up to that time. Slick was a self-taught geologist, who earned a deserved reputation for innovative ideas and honesty. In 1988, he was named to the Petroleum Hall of Fame.
William G. Skelly (1878-1957)“Never let anything get you down.” This was Bill Skelly’s motto through a lifetime of success in the oil business. Born in the oilfields of Pennsylvania, Skelly started at 15 as an $8-a-week tool dresser in Oil City, Pennsylvania. A man who never ran from a fight, Skelly served as a private in the Spanish-American War. Admirers called him the “personification of rugged individualism.” His holdings in the Healdton-Hewitt Field in Carter County, Oklahoma, and in the oil fields of Kansas and North Texas made him one of the largest independent oil operators in America by 1929. He was a pioneer in developing the Permian Basin oil fields and in recognizing and developing the potential of natural gas. In 1919, he combined his holdings into the Skelly Oil Company. A leading citizen of Tulsa, he was influential in Republican politics and a noted philanthropist. He was instrumental in the creation of the International Petroleum Exposition and Congress. In 1980, he was inducted into the Petroleum Hall of Fame.
Harry F. Sinclair (1876-1956)Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, Harry Sinclair moved with his parents to Independence, Kansas. Inheriting his father’s drug store, Sinclair soon turned from pharmacy to oil, bringing in his first well in Washington County, Oklahoma, on July 25, 1905. An uncanny knack for finding oil coupled with business acumen made Sinclair by 1916 one of the largest oil producers in Oklahoma. Sinclair’s true gift as a pioneer was his ability to conceive and actualize the integrated oil company, which would produce, refine, transport and market oil and its products. An innovator in the field of oil industry investment, he built Sinclair Oil into one of the largest petroleum companies in the world. Charged with fraud and bribery in the “Teapot Dome Case” in 1924, Sinclair spent five years exonerating himself of all charges. A sportsman as well as an oil pioneer, Sinclair was owner of the St. Louis Browns baseball team and of a Kentucky Derby-winning racehorse.
S. J. Sarkeys (1874-1965)S.J. Sarkeys was born in Lebanon and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 17. His brother in St. Louis showed the young man a new invention: the carbide lamp, and Sarkeys found a market for the lamps in Oklahoma. As he peddled them around the countryside, he began to buy farmland and, later, oil and gas leases. The successful production from these holdings became the basis for the several fortunes he made and lost during his lifetime. By 1958, he owned more than 600,000 oil and gas leases. That year, in conjunction with Union of California, he began a wildcat exploration program in western Oklahoma, and in 1959 he founded Sarkeys Inc. Sarkeys was a major force in exploration and drilling in the Anadarko Basin. Before its sale in 1997, Sarkeys Inc. had petroleum operations in Oklahoma and Texas, including offshore drilling, gas pipelines, and processing. In 1962, he established the Sarkeys Foundation with 2,750 shares of Sarkeys Inc. stock. This foundation has grown to become a leading charitable organization, providing millions in funding each year to a diverse range of non-profit organizations and institutions, located primarily in Oklahoma. The world-renowned Sarkeys Energy Center at OU is one of S.J. Sarkeys’ many legacies to the state and country he so loved.
Walter R. Ramsey (1885-1947)W.R. Ramsey was a pioneer in the development of the Oklahoma City oil field. Born in Texas, Ramsey moved to Ardmore as a small child and grew up on a ranch. Like many other successful oil pioneers, he had no formal training in geology and petroleum engineering and, indeed, never attended college. A brief period of study at a private business school in Ardmore prepared him as a bookkeeper. He went to work for a bank in Oklahoma City and succeeded well enough that within five years he had bought his own bank. Hard work was Ramsey’s key to success. By day, he worked in the bank; by night, he was a newspaper reporter; and on the weekend, he devoted himself to the real estate business. By 1911, he was in the oil business, playing an important role in the development of the Healdton Field and the Cement Field in Oklahoma. Along with his brother, W.E., Ramsey remained convinced of the potential of Oklahoma City as oil producing area, despite costly failures. Their “dogged persistence” was rewarded. After the Mary Sudik No. 1 came in on March 26, 1930, Ramsey sold leases worth more than $2 million, while holding on to extensive tracts in the area.
Lev H. Prichard (1883-1949)As President of Anderson-Prichard Oil Corporation, Lev Prichard was a pioneer in the development and marketing of Oklahoma’s oil resources. Born on a cotton farm in Franklin County, Mississippi, “Prich” worked in the field from the time he was eight years old. His farm chores left him time only to attend school for four months a year. Still, he managed to work his way through Mississippi College in Clinton, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1906. He then earned his law degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He came to Oklahoma in 1909, and his legal work led him into the oil business, first in the oil brokerage business and then as an independent operator. His first partner was another Oklahoma oil pioneer, W.R. Ramsey. In 1919, Prichard went into partnership with J. Steve Anderson. The Anderson-Prichard Oil Corporation (Apco Oil Corporation) survived multiple bankruptcies and became a major force in the petroleum industry for over 50 years. Prichard himself was one of the most influential Oklahoma oilmen of his day. Active in civic and club life, he was a member of the American Petroleum Institute and a director of Liberty National Bank. A dapper dresser, he carried a gold-tipped walking stick and always wore a rose in his lapel.
Waite Phillips (1883-1964)Waite Phillips began his career in the oil business working for his brother Frank in the oil fields of Bartlesville. Striking out on his own, Waite became known as one of the most capable and shrewd oilmen of his day. His work ethic was expressed in a memo to employees telling them “it is a greater honor to be the best ditch digger in a gang than in being a mediocre president of a company.” He was, in fact, a superb executive, notable in his direction of the Waite Phillips Company, Philmack Company, and Independent Oil and Gas Company, which merged in 1930 with Phillips Petroleum Co. These companies, together with investments in real estate and banking, made him one of the wealthiest men in America. His philosophy of wealth and its obligations was expressed in one of his favorite quotes: “The only thing we ever keep is that which we give away.” His business ventures left an indelible mark on the skyline of Tulsa in the form of the Philcade and Philtower office buildings. His gift of his home in Tulsa created Philbrook Museum of Art, a lasting testimony to his love and knowledge of fine art. He donated 127,000 acres of his New Mexico ranch to the Boy Scouts of America “for the purpose of perpetuating faith, self-reliance, integrity, and freedom, the principles upon which this great country was built.
Lee E. Phillips (1876-1944)L.E. Phillips was one of five Phillips brothers who became prominent oilmen. Their father was a Union veteran of the Civil War, a small farmer and carpenter. After a brief stint as a schoolteacher, L.E. gave up the prospect of job security and a $40 per month salary to plunge with his brother Frank into the oil fields of Oklahoma. On September 6, 1905, the Anna Anderson well No. 1 came in, marking the beginning of what became Phillips Petroleum Company. In 1905, Frank and L.E. also opened Citizens Bank and Trust in Bartlesville, and it was to the banking side of the Phillips’ interests that L.E. devoted his talents. He became one of the most distinguished bankers in the Middle West, serving as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank for District 10 (Kansas City) from 1926 until his death in 1944. A staunch Republican, a prominent civic leader, and a superb public speaker, L.E. Phillips was called “a genius” in the organization and direction of charitable fund-raising activities. At the height of the Great Depression, it was said of him and his brother: “There are many millionaires in this world but only a few of them who deserve to be. Frank and L.E. Phillips we number among them.”
Frank Phillips (1873-1950)Frank Phillips grew up on a farm in Iowa and earned his first pay digging potatoes at 10 cents a day. He left school at 14 to become a barber and soon owned every barbershop in town. As bankers, he and his brother L.E., came to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in 1903 and began to drill for oil. After two dry wells, on borrowed money but with unshakable optimism, the Phillips brothers brought in 81 straight gushers. In 1917, they founded Phillips Petroleum Company, which continues today the tradition of technological innovation and civic spirit. Phillips funded pioneering work in aviation, and the Phillips laboratories have produced scientific discoveries with applications far beyond the petroleum industry. Phillips built his corporation on an ethic of hard work and company loyalty, and his own reputation for fairness in dealing with the Osages led them to make him a chief of their tribe, the only white man ever so honored. The Woolaroc Museum, near Bartlesville, remains as a legacy of his love of Oklahoma and its citizens.
William T. Payne (1892-1981)Born in Tecumseh, Nebraska, William Payne grew up on a farm near Shawnee, Oklahoma. He worked his way through Oklahoma A&M and went on to earn a master’s degree in microbiology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After service as a 2nd Lieutenant in World War I, Payne entered the oil business as a scout for North American Oil Company in 1919. In 1921, he joined Walter Helmerich, serving as Vice President of Helmerich and Payne Oil Company from 1926-36. From 1936-74, he was President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Big Chief Drilling Company. As an oil pioneer, he played a major role in developing the method of extracting oil from Mississippi Limestone and, thereby, opened important new areas of oil production in Oklahoma. In 1966, he was named Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man. Active in national and state petroleum associations and a civic leader and philanthropist, Payne served as Chairman of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. He received numerous awards for outstanding service. Especially meaningful to him was the Horatio Alger Award, which he won in 1958. Presented annually by the American Schools and Colleges Association, the award honors an American who has risen from modest means to the top of his field.
William Osborn, Sr. (1893-1958)Born in Arkansas, W.B. Osborn learned self-reliance and initiative from his upbringing on the family farm. With an eighth-grade education, he came to Sasakwa in Seminole County, Oklahoma, and found work in a bank. He rose to become the bank manager and a well-known and trusted member of the community. In partnership with bank president, Jim Fleet, Osborn began acquiring leases in Seminole and adjacent counties and played a prominent role in the development of the highly productive Greater Seminole Oil Field in the 1920’s. Based in Ada, his company, Fleetborn Oil, was a pioneer in the discovery of the Fitts Field in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, and an important participant in other oil and gas fields in Oklahoma and Texas. He sold Fleetborn to Crusaders Petroleum in 1937 for $5 million. However, with a sixth sense for productive oil lands, he was soon back in the oil business. Driving down a Texas highway, he stopped to observe a drilling rig and promptly bought 200 acres of what turned out to be highly productive leases. Successive generations have followed in his footsteps in the oil and gas business.
Lloyd Noble (1896-1950)One of Oklahoma’s most distinguished sons, Lloyd Noble grew up in Ardmore, where his father, Sam, and his uncle, Ed, ran first a wholesale grocery business and then a hardware store. After studying at Southeastern State College in Durant, he taught school, then attended the University of Oklahoma and served in World War I. After he and Art Olson divided their drilling company, he formed Noble Drilling Company in 1921. An innovative and highly successful pioneer of the oil industry, Noble left an enduring legacy of philanthropic activity and service to his state and country. In 1924, he was the first Carter County Republican elected to the Oklahoma State Legislature. In 1945, he established the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, a charitable trust, which is now one of the top 50 philanthropic foundations in the U.S. The Noble Foundation’s gifts made possible the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and Lloyd Noble Center. Noble served two terms as an OU Regent and is widely considered to be one of the most effective and far-sighted regents in the history of the University. Noble was awarded OU’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1950. In 1996, he was inducted into the National Petroleum Hall of Fame.
Daniel J. Moran (1888-1948)President of Conoco from 1929-1947, Dan Moran might have been typecast by Hollywood as the model of the hard-driving and hard-boiled business executive. “Born in the shadow of an oil derrick at Cygnet, Ohio,” Moran began working in the oil industry at the age of 10 as a messenger for a pipeline company and learned almost every facet of the business by first-hand experience. After acquiring Marland Oil, J.P. Morgan appointed Moran as President. Moran oversaw the merger with Continental Oil and responded imaginatively to the challenges of the Depression and World War II. Under his leadership, Conoco became a pioneer in offshore drilling, continental pipelines, petrochemicals, and aviation fuel. Moran devised the idea for the Conoco Travel Bureau, a trip-planning service aimed at putting Americans in their cars “to see America first.” He had a managerial style that some people considered overbearing. His unannounced inspection trips were intended to keep every employee working at full efficiency. Ineffectual district managers might be fired on the spot and tossed off the bus in the middle of a Kansas cornfield. Moran was equally concerned to reward efficient and capable employees, devising stock option plans, insurance programs, and a wide range of bonuses and other incentives.
Victor E. Monnett (1889-1972)Dr. Victor Elvert Monnett was a distinguished geologist and university administrator, who played a major role in elevating the University of Oklahoma School of Geology to a leading position in the nation. Born in Hale, Missouri, he went to high school in Purcell, Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1908. He took his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1922. From 1916 until his retirement in 1960, he served on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma. Monnett was a remarkably gifted teacher. His knowledge, wit, and rapport with students made subjects like petroleum and structural geology come alive. His concern for students went well beyond the classroom. He was a true mentor to his students, helping them find jobs and following their careers with great interest. His excellence as a teacher was recognized in 1954, when he was awarded one of the University’s highest accolades by being named David Ross Boyd Professor. He was equally gifted as an administrator. For 31 years, he was head of the School of Geology, a period marked by innovation in curriculum, increased enrollments, new physical facilities and research that brought international distinction to the University. Victor E. Monnett was one of the founders of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and in 1965 he received its Sidney Powers Award.
Hugh D. Miser (1884-1969)Hugh Dinsmore Miser was an outstanding geologist, who played an important role in producing the first geological map of the state of Oklahoma. Miser was born in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, and took both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas. In 1949, that University recognized Miser’s distinguished contributions to geology by awarding him the honorary LL.D. degree. He joined the U.S. Geological Survey in 1911. He served as Chief of the Fuels Section from 1928-1949 and as Staff Geologist from 1948-1954. Miser was the author of numerous scientific articles and reports, dealing with the geology of Oklahoma and Arkansas. He had a special interest in quartz veins in the Ouachita Mountains, and he gave one of his collections of quartz crystals to the University of Oklahoma, where it is now in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Miser had a long and productive relationship with OU and its School of Geology. He worked closely with the faculty and graduate students in producing a new Geologic Map of Oklahoma, published in 1954. In 1948, H.D. Miser was made an honorary member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
Ward S. Merrick (1895-1978)Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and man of vision, Ward Merrick is the embodiment of the spirit of Oklahoma’s oil pioneers. Born in Randolph, New York, he moved to Chicago in 1904. He served with distinction in World War I. His family had been in the oil business almost since the inception of the industry in America; and in 1919, he joined his parents in Ardmore. He knew every aspect of the oil business, from working as a roustabout to holding high office in the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. In 1968, he was chosen as the Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man of the Year. He established the Merrick Foundation and served as first chairman of the trustees of the University of Oklahoma Foundation Inc. His philanthropic works in health care, education, and other areas enriched the lives of people throughout Oklahoma and the nation. Like many successful practical businessmen, Merrick understood the importance of history. He was instrumental in the restoration of Fort Washita and established the Merrick Chair in Western American History, the first fully endowed chair at OU. In 1970, Ward Merrick was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Dean A. McGee (1904-1989)Born in Humboldt, Kansas, and a graduate of the University of Kansas, Dean McGee was chief geologist for Phillips Petroleum from 1927-37. He joined with Robert S. Kerr and rose from being Vice President of Kerlyn Oil Company to President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Kerr-McGee Corporation. A superb field geologist and author of numerous technical papers, McGee was a pioneer of offshore drilling techniques. He is credited with the first offshore oil well in America. Erected 10 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico in 1947, the well produced 1.4 million barrels of crude oil and transformed the oil industry. Dean McGee was the recipient of the first Petroleum Distinguished Service Award, and his service to petroleum engineering and the oil industry was recognized by many of the highest distinctions in the field. A dedicated civic leader, McGee is especially remembered for his role in developing the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The Dean A. McGee Eye Institute is one of the many legacies of this oil pioneer to the people of Oklahoma and the nation.
Robert McFarlin (1866-1942)Robert McFarlin knew the challenge of hard times, and he responded to that challenge with optimism, tenacity, and dynamic energy. Raised on a farm in a Texas ravaged by the Civil War, he came to Oklahoma in 1891. When business ventures in Norman and Holdenville failed to pay off, he mortgaged his home and gambled on oil holdings which ultimately made him one of the richest men in America. In partnership with his nephew and son-in-law, James Chapman, McFarlin founded the McMan Oil Company and was a major figure in developing three great oil fields, Glenn Pool, Cushing, and Healdton. Frustrated at the caution with which traditional banks approached the oil business, McFarlin was founder of the Exchange National Bank, which would become the state’s largest bank and is now Bank of Oklahoma. Public-spirited, McFarlin was a major figure in the civic life of Tulsa, serving as president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. The McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church in Norman is one of the many legacies of his philanthropic activities in religion, education, and other areas.
Thomas H. McCasland (1895-1979)Born near Duncan, Indian Territory, T. Howard McCasland graduated in 1916 from the University of Oklahoma, where he excelled in athletics and won a Letzeiser Award. After serving in World War I, he returned to Duncan about the time the Empire Field discovery well was drilled in late 1919. Recognizing opportunity, McCasland opened a real estate and oil-lease brokerage office and later acquired a small rotary oil rig, which he used in the search for oil and gas. He organized Mack Oil Co. in 1945 and was its chairman of the board for the rest of his life. A pioneer in the discovery of major oil and gas fields in southern Oklahoma, he was active in petroleum and industry affairs. He also was a strong supporter and pivotal alumni leader of OU, serving as a trustee of the University of Oklahoma Foundation from 1949 to 1973 and chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1958 to 1966. He was committed to his hometown and Oklahoma and, through the McCasland Foundation of Duncan, contributed to churches, orphanages, libraries, hospitals, parks, and educational and recreational programs. He received OU’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1959, was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and, in 1972, was named Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man.
Ernest W. Marland (1874-1941)“Everybody should have the thrill that comes to a wildcatter, who after working on a well day after day and night after night, finally brings in a gusher.” E.W. Marland knew that thrill. He discovered some of the richest oil producing areas in Oklahoma, including the Ponca, Burbank and Tonkawa Fields. An innovator in oil exploration techniques, Marland was no less a pioneer in benefits and social and health programs for the employees of Marland Oil Company. His lavish life style was matched by his civic generosity towards his home town of Ponca City, where his gifts included the Pioneer Woman statue. He also provided substantial funding to the University of Oklahoma for the Memorial Union and the football stadium. Marland embodied the spirit of optimism and refusal to quit which has made Oklahoma great. After his company acquired by Conoco in 1928 and he himself went into bankruptcy, Marland entered politics. A New Deal Democrat, he was elected to the United States House of Representative in 1932 and was governor of Oklahoma from 1935-1939. Always the innovator, Governor Marland established the Oklahoma highway patrol, the state license bureau, and the Oklahoma Planning and Resources board.
John E. Mabee (1879-1961)The son of a Union army veteran, John Mabee grew up on a farm in Missouri. He came to Oklahoma in 1907 to homestead 160 acres in the southwestern part of the state. He took his earnings from livestock dealing and invested them in oil drilling and related activities. His oil companies included Mabee Consolidated Corp., and his other business interests included the Mabee-Pyle Cattle Company. Mabee is a classic model of an important type of Oklahoma oil pioneer. Denied educational opportunities, he was self-educated and acquired remarkable skill in oil drilling, finance, and business management. Hard work was the catalyst that made all this possible. “While other people are sleeping, you need to be thinking,” he would say. Mabee was determined to give back to his state for the opportunities petroleum had made available to him. In 1948, he and his wife, Lottie, established the Tulsa-based J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation to support Christian religious organizations and educational and charitable institutions. Mabee’s gifts to such organizations as the Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army, and the University of Tulsa led to his receiving the deserved nickname, “Mr. Philanthropy.”
Arville I. Levorsen (1894-1965)At the height of the Great Depression in 1931, A. I. Levorsen was unemployed, living in Tulsa with a family to feed. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Levorsen was an experienced petroleum geologist and convinced that “any undiscovered oil or gas field exists at best only as an idea in the mind of a geologist. Imagination is what it takes.” Such unconventional thinking led him in 1931 to the discovery of the Fitts Pool near Ada, Oklahoma, and 190 million barrels of oil. He went on to become a pioneering and formative thinker in oil exploration theory. Professor of Geology and Dean of the School of Mineral Sciences at Stanford University, Levorsen was the author of widely used textbooks in petroleum geology and a consultant for petroleum companies and governments around the world. He received the highest award of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and in 1963 was named Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man.
Philip C. Lauinger (1900-1988)P.C. Lauinger was a pioneer in making Oklahoma an international center for information about the oil industry. Born in Oil City, Pennsylvania, Lauinger was the grandson of P.C. Boyle, who founded the Petroleum Publishing Company and established the Oil & Gas Journal as the first major publication devoted exclusively to the petroleum industry. A 1922 graduate of Georgetown University, Lauinger became president of Petroleum Publishing Company in 1931 and guided it for nearly 60 years. Under his leadership and with its corporate headquarters in Tulsa, the Oil & Gas Journal became “the bible of the oil industry,” disseminating information about all aspects of the petroleum business, providing a major source for technological advances, and serving as a powerful voice for the importance of petroleum and its conservation. Prominent in civic affairs, Lauinger was a lay leader in the Catholic Church and was invested as a Knight of Malta. In 1969, he was named Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man. In 1979, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
James Kessler (1890-1971)James Kessler was a pioneer in the development of the Oklahoma City oil field. Born in Kentucky, he moved with his family to Oklahoma in 1905. He came to Oklahoma City in 1912 with $5 in cash but a potential fortune in ambition. He worked as a soda jerk at a drug store in Oklahoma City. Within two years, he saved enough to become a partner in a pharmacy in Edmond. With the spirit of optimism that was the hallmark of an Oklahoma Oil Pioneer, Kessler sold out his interest and used his funds to enter the oil business. After working as a financial agent for oil companies, he struck out on his own, forming first the Kessler Oil Company and then Kessler Petroleum Corporation. He was extremely successful, carrying out oil exploration in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. He was responsible for discovering the Leck oil field in Winkler County, Texas. In 1930, he bought Oklahoma Oil Pioneer F.C. Hall’s interests in the firm of Hall and Briscoe for $1 million. So, Jim Kessler rose from soda jerk to self-made millionaire and president of one of Oklahoma’s leading oil firms -- all in less than 16 years. Such was the romance, rewards, and risks of oil in Oklahoma.
Robert S. Kerr (1896-1963)Captain of industry and statesman of vision, Robert Kerr is the exemplar of the oil pioneers, their fulfillment of the American dream and their contribution to their state and nation. Born in a log cabin near Ada, through sheer hard work and determination, he attended college, served with the U.S. artillery in Europe in World War I, and became an attorney. Legal work led him into the oil business; and in 1929, with James L. Anderson, he founded what would become Kerr-McGee Oil Industries. In 1943, he realized his boyhood dream of becoming governor. In 1948, he was elected to the United States Senate. His book Land, Wood, and Water stressed the importance of the conservation and development of our natural resources. As senator, he added a fourth dimension to these resources--space, space satellites and NASA--which are enduring tributes to his far-sighted political leadership. It was truly said that “he is the man Oklahoma can never completely lose for he left a legacy that will fire young imaginations and remain an example of a very kind and human man who became all we hope for every American.”
William W. Keeler (1908-1987)A Cherokee Indian, Bill Keeler was the grandson of George Keeler, who helped bring in Oklahoma’s first commercial oil well, the Nellie Johnston in Bartlesville. The first language Keeler spoke was Cherokee, learned from his grandmothers. Valedictorian of Bartlesville High School in 1926, he studied at the University of Kansas and began working for Phillips Petroleum during the summers. He rose to become president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board. He was appointed Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation by four U.S. presidents, beginning with Harry Truman and, in 1971, when the Cherokees had their first opportunity since statehood to elect their own chief, he won by a landslide. He made significant contributions as a government adviser on petroleum resources, serving with the Office of Petroleum Administration in World War II. In 1952, he was named director of refining of the Petroleum Administration for Defense and chaired the Military Petroleum Advisory Board from 1954 to 1962. His awards include induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, OU’s Distinguished Service Citation, and the “Golden Plate Award” from the American Academy of Achievement. In 1971, he was named Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man.
John C. Karcher (1894-1978)This 1916 graduate of the University of Oklahoma was a pioneer in the exploration for oil by means of reflection seismography. The discovery came out of research that Karcher did during World War I on sound waves created by artillery fire. Working together with OU Professors William Haseman and Irving Perrine and OU graduate William Kite, Karcher carried out the first successful test of the reflection seismograph on June 4, 1921, in Oklahoma City. Another Oklahoma oil pioneer, Dr. E.L. DeGolyer, recognized the enormous potential of reflection seismography for oil exploration and financed Karcher’s further research. In 1930, defying conventional wisdom about the location of oil, reflection seismography resulted in the discovery of the Edwards Field and transformed oil exploration, finding fields unsuspected from previously available geological data. Karcher served as Vice President of Geophysical Research Corporation, with DeGolyer as President. In 1929, Karcher formed his own company, Geophysical Service, Inc., which went on to become a world leader in the field of reflection seismography. In 1974 Karcher received the OU Distinguished Service Citation.
Frank J. Hinderliter (1875-1965)Frank Hinderliter was a pioneer in the invention and manufacture of oil tools and oil field equipment. He was born in Oil City, Pennsylvania, where his father was a machinist and inventor of oil tools. Hinderliter himself invented his first oil tool at the age of 12 and began work as a machinist in the oil fields of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He came to Oklahoma with his friend, William Skelly, and in 1919 formed Hinderliter Tool Company. The company became a major international maker of oil tools and equipment, and Hinderliter was awarded more than 90 patents. He was called “the Thomas Edison of the oil industry.” During World War I and World War II, he put his inventive genius at the service of his country by designing and manufacturing gun barrels for artillery pieces. To increase broader public understanding of the importance of the petroleum industry, Hinderliter helped establish the International Petroleum Expositions and Congresses, held in Tulsa.
Chesley C. Herndon (1886-1962)C.C. Herndon was born in Clarksville, Tennessee, the son of a Confederate officer. He worked as a traveling salesman and as the business manager of a wholesale tobacco firm to save money for law school. After graduating from Cumberland Law School and being admitted to the Tennessee bar, he came to Chickasha in 1910, seeking opportunity in the new state of Oklahoma. As Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Grady County, he won the highest of accolades for his oratory, leading him to be compared with the nation’s greatest orator, William Jennings Bryan. His legal expertise led to his appointment as Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. In 1914, he entered the private sector and won the admiration of William Skelly, while winning a case against him. In 1919 he became Vice President and General Counsel of Skelly Oil Company, a position he retained until his retirement in 1956. In the acrimonious legal world of the oil industry, Herndon was widely respected for his personal integrity as well as his legal ability. He was a pioneer through his leadership role in establishing an interstate agreement to reduce overproduction of this precious resource.
Walter H. Helmerich (1895-1981)W. H. Helmerich was born in Chicago and attended the Pratt Institute of Technology. He was a pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War I. While at Post Field heading an aerial acrobatic team, he impressed his future wife, Cadijah Colcord, by flying under the telephone wires in Oklahoma City. At one point, he held the world high altitude record. That same daring and willingness to gamble, together with business acumen, made him a success in the oil business. His wife was the daughter of pioneer Oklahoma City oil producer, real estate magnate, and land developer Charles Francis Colcord. In 1920, along with Oklahoma Oil Pioneer William T. Payne, Helmerich formed Helmerich and Payne Oil Company. The company, now Helmerich & Payne, Inc., located in Tulsa, grew into one of the leading contract drillers and oil exploration firms in the world. His activities in the petroleum industry included service on the Interstate Oil Compact Commission. His many philanthropic works included the support of Hillcrest Medical Center, where the Helmerich Cancer Center was named in his honor. In 1980, he received the Marland Mansion Golden Bit Award as Oklahoma’s Outstanding Oil Man of the Year. In 1978, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Robert Hefner, Sr. (1874-1971)Judge Hefner was a pioneer in the development of the Healdton-Hewitt Oil Field, a distinguished jurist whose legal expertise created the standard mineral deed used throughout the country, and a public servant of vision and integrity. Hefner began his law career in Beaumont, Texas in 1903, two years after the discovery of the nearby Spindletop Oil Field. He rapidly became a respected attorney, specializing in oil and gas. In 1908, he moved to Ardmore, Oklahoma. With a remarkable knowledge of practical petroleum geology and shrewd business acumen, Hefner developed holdings of land and mineral rights in 20 states. After serving as Mayor of Ardmore from 1920-1926, he was elected to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. From 1939-1947, he was Mayor of Oklahoma City. Lake Hefner is a tribute to his successful efforts to ensure Oklahoma City “one of the finest water supplies in the Southwestern part of the United States.” In 1970, Judge Hefner and his family donated his magnificently furnished home at 201 NW 14th Street in Oklahoma City to the Oklahoma Heritage Association.
Robert A. Hefner, Jr. (1907-1987)The son of Judge Hefner, also honored as an Oklahoma Oil Pioneer, Robert A. Hefner, Jr. had a distinguished career as an oilman, attorney, and philanthropist. A graduate of Stanford University, Hefner also studied at Harvard and took his law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1930. A man of wide interests and talents, Hefner was an outstanding college athlete, who lettered in basketball, golf, and boxing. A gifted violinist, he played with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Moving to Illinois in 1936, he became one of the most successful and sought after petroleum attorneys in the country. In 1946, he returned to Oklahoma, at his father’s request, and assumed management of Hefner Production Company and became the managing partner of the Hefner Company. A leading independent oil producer, Robert Hefner, Jr. was a major figure in the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. He was an Energy Center Founder at the University of Oklahoma. Widely known for his philanthropic activities, he was instrumental in the donation of the Hefner Mansion to the Oklahoma Heritage Association. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In 1976, Robert A. Hefner, Jr. was named “Outstanding Oklahoma Oil Man.”
Jess Harris, Sr. (1891-1971)Hart Publications named Oklahoma landman Jess Harris Sr. as one of the “100 most influential people” in the petroleum industry in the 20th century. It is a list that includes John D. Rockefeller and Winston Churchill and demonstrates Harris’ standing as a giant in his field. The landman is an essential figure in the acquisition of leases necessary for the drilling of oil. In a rough and tumble business, Harris and the firm he established has for 70 years possessed an unexcelled reputation for professional competence and integrity. Harris began his career in the petroleum industry in Hughes and Seminole counties and expanded into the oilfields of Texas. In partnership with Thomas Nix, he leased millions of acres for his clients and took part in numerous oil and gas drilling ventures all over the United States. Such was the reputation of his firm that major companies and independent operators “working in the Midcontinent region sent their potential hires to the Harris firm for training.” Harris was instrumental in establishing the Oklahoma City Association of Petroleum Landmen. The Jess Harris Memorial Golf Tournament, hosted by that organization for the benefit of charity, is a tribute to his generosity and the esteem in which his peers held him.
Jake L. Hamon (1875-1920)One of the most flamboyant of the oil pioneers, Jake Hamon, was born in Kansas and graduated with a law degree from the University of Kansas. He moved to Lawton and played an important role in the development of that city. The discovery of the Healdton oil fields brought him to Ardmore. Hamon was known as “the Oklahoma oil king who got things done”. Both in Texas and Oklahoma, he built railroads to service the oil fields. He enlisted the financial support of the circus magnate John Ringling in building the railroad from Ardmore to the Healdton oil fields. An influential figure in Republican politics, he served as Chairman of the State Committee. His political power was felt at the national level; and, Hamon was instrumental in the election of Warren Harding in 1921. Like President Harding, Hamon had a fatal attraction to women. His shooting death at the hands of his mistress, Clara Smith Hamon, the former wife of his nephew, and her trial in Ardmore were national sensations in 1921.
Erle P. Halliburton (1892-1957)The founder of Halliburton Company is a classic story of entrepreneurial success in a free market economy. Born on a Tennessee farm, Halliburton left home at 14 and was a manual laborer and sailor before going to work with a cement company in the California oil fields. He pioneered the process of cementing an oil well, “a procedure that protects oil and gas reserves by forcing cement down the hole to prevent the migration of water from one subterranean level to another”. In 1921, he established the headquarters of his company in Duncan, Oklahoma. With his slogan of “We will get there, somehow,” Halliburton focused on improving and expanding the quality of the services he offered the oil industry, and he was a pioneer in providing these same services for offshore drilling operations. His company has continued his legacy of innovation and creativeness by its programs of technological research. In 1982, Erle Halliburton was inducted into the Petroleum Hall of Fame.
F. C. Hall (1877-1954)F.C. Hall was a major figure in the development of the Chickasha, Cement, and Oklahoma City oil fields and a pioneer supporter of civil aviation. Born in Oklahoma, he grew up in Texas and made his start in the oil business in 1913. Hall’s success was closely linked with his partnership with Oklahoma Oil Pioneer Powel Briscoe. Recalling two figures from Greek history--good friends, whose word was their bond--Briscoe and Hall were known as the “Damon and Pythias” of Oklahoma oil fields. In Chickasha, the pair drilled 100 straight wells without a dry hole. The day after the Oklahoma City discovery well came in, on Dec. 4, 1928, Hall and Briscoe flew from Chickasha and began major operations, digging 130 wells with only five dry holes. Hall recognized the business potential of aviation. He was a major backer of Oklahoma pioneer aviator, Wiley Post. Hall spent $100,000 to sponsor Post’s record-breaking round-the-world flight in the “Winnie Mae,” named for Hall’s daughter. Hall himself participated in various aviation races in the 1930s, serving as a navigator and gas pump operator. In 1930, he sold his shares in Hall and Briscoe to Oklahoma Oil Pioneer James Kessler. He moved to California, where he carried out successful oil exploration operations. He returned to Oklahoma City and spent his later years in real estate. Among his real estate holdings was the Broadmoor Hotel in Oklahoma City.
Roy C. Guffey (1902-1994)Roy Guffey was a pioneer in the development of oil drilling equipment. The citation honoring him as “Chief Roughneck” for 1974 noted that “Guffey’s chief contribution to the oil and gas business was his innovative switch from steam to power rigs in the East Texas fields.” Always looking for a better way to drill, Guffey successfully experimented with the use of four-inch O.D. tubing as drill pipe. He was the inventor of a rotary drilling unit known as the “Spad,” and a later unit for deeper wells known as “Super Spad.”
Charles N. Gould (1868-1949)Charles Gould was a pioneer in the scientific study of the geology of Oklahoma and the systematic use of geological science to discover oil. Educated at Southwestern Kansas College and the University of Nebraska, Gould taught at the University of Oklahoma from 1900-11, establishing the Department of Geology, making OU a pioneer in the study of petroleum geology, and training a number of distinguished petroleum geologists. From 1908-11 and again from 1924-31, Gould served as Director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey and was responsible for the county-by-county mapping and description of the petroleum geology of Oklahoma, published in three volumes as “Oil and Gas in Oklahoma.” As a consulting geologist, especially in the period 1911-24, Gould played a major role in the discovery of such Oklahoma oil fields as Poteau, Carter-Knox, and Muskogee as well as fields in Texas and Kansas. Gould’s success did much to convince major oil firms like Cities Service of the value of a scientific approach to oil exploration.
Charles B. Goddard (1880-1959)Born on a farm near Athens, Ohio, Charles B. Goddard ran away from home at 15 and, at 16, was a tool pusher on a rig owned by his uncle in Ohio. In 1901, the 20-year-old Goddard went to Spindletop in Texas to drill a well. When the well was half way down, the owner ran out of cash and agreed to divide the ownership of the well if the crew would complete it without pay. The well came in big, and Goddard became an independent. He and his brother-in-law, Sid Warrener, became partners and drilled numerous wells for 10 years. On Jan. 21, 1911, they joined four other independents to form Humble Oil Company, taking the name from the nearby town of Humble, Texas. Ross Sterling, who later was governor of Texas, was elected Humble’s president. Goddard came to Oklahoma to develop new oil reserves and was a pioneer in the development of the oil industry in southern Oklahoma, including the Healdton oil field. Retiring from active participation with Humble in 1929, he was Humble’s largest individual stockholder when Standard Oil of New Jersey merged all Humble’s stock into Standard N.J. stock. His interest in game hunting led him to develop a remarkable wildlife preserve in the Arbuckle Mountains near Ardmore. He established the Charles B. Goddard Foundation, and his philanthropic work transformed the quality of medical care in the Ardmore area and created the Goddard Health Center at the University of Oklahoma. In 1956, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Jean P. Getty (1892-1976)Called “the richest man in the world” in 1957, J. Paul Getty made a fortune in the oil fields of Oklahoma. His father, a wealthy Minneapolis attorney, came to Oklahoma on legal business in 1903 and struck it rich in oil. After studying classics, economics, and history at Oxford, Getty returned to Oklahoma, where drilling in the Stonebluff region near Muskogee made him a millionaire. He went on to develop oil fields in California, the Middle East, and the North Sea. He returned to Tulsa during World War II, where he successfully ran the Spartan Aircraft Company. A man of great culture and refinement, Getty read Latin authors at breakfast, collected art, and wrote books and articles. A resolute defender of free enterprise, Getty argued that “a large industrial organization that employs thousands of people is doing more good than many a foundation.” The Getty Museum in Los Angeles remains as a monument to his wealth and his belief that the love of art is essential to individuals and to a free society.
Wirt Franklin (1883-1964)The Greater Healdton-Hewitt Field in Carter County, Oklahoma, was discovered in 1913 and during its heyday was one of the most productive fields in the United States. Wirt Franklin, an Ardmore lawyer and real estate dealer, was instrumental in its discovery and a pioneer in the development of the petroleum industry in Oklahoma. As President of Wirt Franklin Petroleum Corporation, he was one of the most influential independent oil producers in the United States. He organized and was the first president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. During World War II, Franklin served as Director in Charge and Director of Production of District Two of the Petroleum Administration for War, comprised of 15 Midwestern states, including Oklahoma. His contributions as a pioneer of the Oklahoma oil industry were highlighted when he was chosen in 1961 by the Oklahoma Petroleum Council as the first recipient of its Outstanding Oil Man Award.
Henry V. Foster (1875-1939)H.V. Foster was a pioneer in opening three of the greatest oil fields in Oklahoma and in the nation: the Osage, the Seminole, and Oklahoma City. Foster was born in Rhode Island of Quaker parents and studied engineering at the University of London and Columbia. His father, a successful financier, negotiated with the Osage Nation in 1896 an oil lease for a million an a half acres, the largest such least in history. After his father’s death, Foster assumed control and founded the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company. Many of the greatest petroleum companies had their origins in the Osage lease, including Phillips, Sinclair, Getty, and Cities Service. After ITIO merged with Cities Service, Foster formed his own company, Foster Petroleum in 1924. Boldly ignoring the advice experts, Foster struck new, extraordinarily rich fields in Seminole in 1926 and Oklahoma City in 1928. While enjoying a lavish lifestyle in Bartlesville, Foster felt the responsibilities of his great wealth. He insisted upon anonymity in his philanthropic activity; and he believed that charity is best directed to those willing to help themselves.
George E. Failing (1889-1976)George Failing was a pioneer in the development and manufacture of portable drilling rigs. Born in Illinois, he came to Tulsa and began his career in oil equipment, working with Frank Hinderliter. The opening of the Garber Oil Field brought new opportunities, and in 1917 he formed the Garber Tool and Supply Company and went into oil production. His business and wealth were lost in the financial collapse of 1929. However, Failing embodied the courage, optimism, and ingenuity of the Oklahoma oil pioneers. He conceived and put into action his idea of placing a drilling rig on the back of a truck and operating it off the power of the truck engine. This innovation reduced the cost of drilling an oil well and revolutionized core drilling and the water well drilling industry throughout the world. By 1935, he was manufacturing portable rigs that could drill 5,000 feet, and oil companies in America and abroad adopted his device. He received the Army-Navy E Award from the U.S. government for his production of drilling rigs and military equipment for the armed services during World War II. His portable drilling rigs were vital to our soldiers in drilling for water and core drilling for construction sites overseas. A man of physical courage and generosity, Failing lost part of his eyesight putting out an oil fire and made a contribution of $10,000 at a critical moment to prevent the closing of Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum.
Everette L. DeGolyer (1886-1956)E.L. DeGolyer was a pioneer in adapting and using geophysical methods for the discovery of oil and in developing the petroleum resources of Mexico. Born in a sod hut in Kansas, DeGolyer had made major oil discoveries even before his graduation from the University of Oklahoma in 1911. From 1909-1910, he mapped and located oil fields that established Mexico as a major producer of petroleum. Serving as President of Amerada and Raycade Oil Companies, DeGolyer was instrumental in applying the reflection seismic method to oil discovery. During World War II and later, he held government posts and served on numerous committees devoted to the development and conservation of energy resources. DeGolyer’s wealth and reputation in the petroleum industry came at an early age, and his later years enhanced both. A man of wide interests and profound thought, DeGolyer was an author of historical as well as technical writings, the owner and rejuvenator of the Saturday Review of Literature, and the collector of an extraordinary library in history and the history of science. This collection, which he donated to OU, is one of his great legacies to the people of Oklahoma.
Joseph I. Cromwell (1873-1946)Joe Cromwell was a pioneer in the development of the Greater Seminole County oil field and discovered the first actual oil production in Oklahoma County. Born in Kansas, he went to business college and took correspondence courses. He worked as a stenographer for a gas company and for a law firm. In 1902, he accepted a position with the United States Indian Service, and in 1903 became Assistant Postmaster at Muskogee. He was a self-trained geologist, who invested his life savings in oil leases and formed his own oil company. His faith in himself was rewarded in 1912 when he brought in his first well. He discovered oil fields in Seminole, Okfuskee, and Hughes counties in Oklahoma. At one time, the Cromwell Pool was the largest and most productive oil field in America. He was President of York Petroleum, and his later career in the Oklahoma City field was in close association with Oklahoma Oil Pioneer Wirt Franklin. The town of Cromwell, Oklahoma, embodied the wild ways of boomtowns in the heyday of the Oklahoma oil fields. Cromwell tried to make it a decent place for families, building a Baptist Church and hiring legendary lawman Bill Tilghman to bring law and order to Cromwell. Tilghman was shot dead in the street, the town all but burned down, and the oil petered out. But the town continues in the spirit of optimism and hard work that was Joe Cromwell’s hallmark.
John M. Crawford (1910-2000)John M. Crawford received a degree in physics from Phillips University in Enid in 1932 and a master’s degree in physics from the University of Oklahoma in 1934. That same year, he went to work for Continental Oil Company in Ponca City as a seismic crew assistant. In 1951, Crawford was promoted to director of exploration research. Three years later, a patent was awarded for “Vibroseis,” Crawford’s innovative device for generating seismic energy using a truck-mounted vibrator instead of dynamite. This device revolutionized the field of seismography and today is used around the world. His work resulted in 11 more patents over the next 14 years. In 1963, Crawford toured the U.S. and Canada as the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Distinguished Lecturer on the development of “Vibroseis.” That year, he also served as chairman of the Geophysical Research Committee of the American Petroleum Institute. An active member of SEG, Crawford received the SEG Medal Award in 1967 and the group’s highest honor --honorary membership--in 1978. In 1979, Crawford was the co-recipient of the State of Oklahoma’s Inventor of the Year Award. In 1991, he received the Lavoisier Medal for Technical Achievement from DuPont.
James A. Chapman (1881-1966)Born in Ellis County, Texas, Jim Chapman came to Oklahoma at the age of 20 to farm and ranch near Holdenville. In partnership with his uncle and father-in-law, Robert McFarlin, he struck oil at Glenn Pool. Their joint company, the McMan Oil Company, was a major figure in developing the Cushing and Healdton fields. When Chapman and McFarlin sold their company in 1916, its price of $39 million set a record that would endure for 40 years. In the partnership, McFarlin was outgoing and dynamic, the people person; Chapman was shy and retiring, preferring to stay out of the limelight. Both shared a cautious, sound approach to the oil business and both sought to give back the wealth they had obtained. At his death, Chapman was one of the richest men in America. The charitable trusts set by Chapman and his wife, Leta, totaled more than $200 million. He was also one of the largest ranchers in Oklahoma, and a portion of the Chapman-Barnard Ranch is now the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
H. H. Champlin (1867-1944)Born in Illinois, Herbert Hiram Champlin made the Cherokee Strip Run, staked a claim for an Enid city lot, and established a hardware store in 1893. He later founded the First National Bank and brought in his first oil well on Christmas Day, 1916. He understood the importance of controlling all aspects of petroleum production. He soon expanded his holdings to include a refinery, pipelines, and ultimately a number of gas stations extending from Texas to Iowa. Among his holdings was a pipeline from his numerous Oklahoma City wells to the Enid refinery as well as a 600-mile pipeline from the refinery going north to a distribution point in Iowa. Champlin embodied the rugged individualism of the Oklahoma oil pioneers and their belief in the free market economy. When overproduction by the industry and the 1930’s Depression drove oil prices to catastrophic lows, Champlin opposed the efforts of Governor William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray to limit production. Because his bank was solvent, he also refused to close the First National Bank when Gov. Murray proclaimed a bank holiday. At its sale in 1954, H.H. Champlin’s Champlin Refining Co. was the largest privately-owned integrated oil company in the U.S.
George F. Buttram (1886-1966)Frank Buttram grew up on a farm in Love County, Oklahoma. A product of country schools, he himself taught school in order to finance his college education. At the University of Oklahoma, he majored in chemistry and played baseball. In an exhibition game between OU and the Detroit Tigers, Buttram gained the unique honor of striking out Ty Cobb three times in succession. He turned down a professional baseball contract, believing that science would offer more rewards. He was right. Graduating with a master’s degree in chemistry from OU in 1912, Buttram soon turned his scientific expertise into a fortune. From July to October 1913, he mapped the Cushing oil field. His 1914 publication of his work led to financial backing for the formation of the Fortuna Oil Company. Buttram was chief geologist and general manager of the firm. The company was sold in 1918, and in 1920 he founded Buttram Petroleum Company. Wealthy by the age of 32, Buttram devoted himself to the oil industry and to civic and political leadership. An unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1930, he served as a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and as an OU regent.
John R. Bunn (1900-1989)A pioneer through his role in opening the Oklahoma City oil field and through his contributions to oil field technology, John Bunn embodied some of the romance of an oilman’s life. A 1923 graduate of OU, Bunn worked as a tool dresser in the oil fields between semesters and began thinking about ways to improve drilling techniques. Bunn is credited with inventing “the first power rotary rig with a steel, portable mast and a large double-drum diesel rig for drilling to 9,000 feet. This was the first rig ever built with electric alloy steel castings.” Inspired while getting a haircut in a hydraulic barber’s chair, Bunn developed the first successful hydraulic rig in 1949. His technological innovations led Conoco to send him to northern Mexico, where he dealt with bandits and floods and worked right alongside his crews to develop major new oil fields.
Powel Briscoe (1882-1966)The life and achievements of Powel Briscoe are testimony to the entrepreneurial spirit, vision, and integrity honored in the Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma exhibit. Born in Newnan, Georgia, he came to Oklahoma and went into the grocery business with his brothers in Marlow. By 1916, he was well established in the oil industry and for more than 40 years, he was a pioneer in the drilling and production of oil and gas. A major figure in the development of numerous oil and gas fields, including Chickasha, Cement, Duncan, and Oklahoma City, he also was considered among the most knowledgeable oilmen in the area. He discovered the highly productive Wilcox Sand-producing horizon and drilled the well nearest to the State Capitol Building, paying for its award-winning beautification. The derrick became the most photographed object in Oklahoma City. His pioneering efforts included the use of electric rigs, construction of a long distance gas line, advocacy of the spacing of acreage per gas well, and the use of aviation in business. In 1928, he hired Wiley Post as his company pilot. He was a success in more than business, raising champion hunting dogs and becoming a national champion skeet shooter. Above all, in an often cutthroat business, he was regarded as a gentleman, who held the admiration, respect and affection of his peers and of those who worked for him.
Clyde M. Becker (1882-1938)“With a rip and a roar, and a kick and a coughnThe Wilcox sand was paying off...nAnd those who stood by understoodnWhy oil men all are brotherhood.”nnThese lines from Clyde Becker’s ballad of The Rambling Rockhound are testimony to the humor of this Oklahoma oil pioneer, known and admired for his technical expertise and personal integrity. Born in Iowa, Clyde Becker graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1912 and spent his early career in the mining industry in Colorado and New Mexico. After service in World War I, he entered the petroleum industry. In 1921, he formed and became president of the Becker-Reed Oil and Gas Company. Becker is a pioneer for his discovery of the Carter-Knox field in southwestern Oklahoma. After serving for a brief period as deputy proration umpire with the Oklahoma State Conservation Department, he returned to the mining industry, opening up the Portland Gold Mine in Kingman, Arizona. Becker served widely as a consulting geologist in the United States, Canada and Mexico. He had six sons, each of whom obtained a degree in geology from the University of Oklahoma.
Theodore N. Barnsdall (1851-1917)T.N. Barnsdall was a major figure in the early history of the petroleum industry in Oklahoma and in the nation. His father, William T., was a shoemaker, who emigrated from England to Titusville, Pennsylvania, where the first successful commercial oil well in the United States was drilled in 1859. William T. Barnsdall drilled the second. Thus, Theodore Barnsdall grew up with oil in his blood. Before he was 20, he had his own producing oil wells. He loved the thrill of wildcatting, and his search for new fields brought him to Oklahoma. The Barnsdall Oil Company was a major force in the development of oil in the lands of the Osage Nation, and Barnsdall himself was a major shareholder and influential figure in the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company. By 1912, Barnsdall presided over an oil empire stretching from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania. Six-foot-four and with girth to match, Barnsdall was a towering figure. He kept his corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh and visited Oklahoma in his private railroad car. In 1922, the name of the town of Bigheart, Oklahoma, was changed to Barnsdall in his honor.
J. Steve Anderson (1885-1961)As one of the founders of Anderson-Prichard Oil Corporation (Apco Oil Corporation), Steve Anderson was a pioneer in the development and marketing of Oklahoma’s petroleum resources. Born of Scottish immigrants, he attended public schools in the Chicago area and studied law on his own. He came to Oklahoma in 1906 and went into the real estate business in Oklahoma City. By 1919, when he formed his partnership with Lev Prichard, he had become a successful wildcatter, with operations in both Texas and Oklahoma. Anderson guided the company through economic depression and wild and woolly times in the oil fields. Hatred of oil men was endemic among some ranchers and signs might be posted; “Notice, oil men, no trespassing. If caught will be shot. If killed, will be buried.” Anderson was active in Oklahoma City civic life. He was a Mason and a Shriner and a strong supporter of the Boy Scouts. Steve Anderson sold his APCO stock in 1946. Upon receiving his bank deposit slip for $7,750,000, he quipped, “Not bad for 25 years work, is it.”
James L. Anderson (1884-1965)Jim Anderson was born in a log cabin on a small farm in east Tennessee in September of 1884. His father and mother divorced when he was still a child and, at the age of 16, he left his broken home and went to work in the oil field near Taft, California, as a tool dresser on a cable tool drilling rig. He made enough money to put himself through Maryville Junior College near his home in Tennessee, where he graduated in 1908. He spent the next almost 20 years working in the field as a roughneck, driller, tool pusher, and drilling superintendent in Oklahoma and surrounding states. In 1921-22 he worked for the British Petroleum as a drilling superintendent on Trinidad Island. In 1927, he and his brother-in-law, Bob Kerr, started the Anderson-Kerr Drilling Company. In the 10 years that followed, this company drilled hundreds of wells in the Oklahoma City field and throughout Oklahoma. Anderson had a reputation for being one of the best drilling men in the business, due largely to his vast experience. Anderson-Kerr Drilling Company eventually became Kerr-McGee Oil Industries.