Gusher Signals Beginning of U.S. Oil Industry – 1/10/1901

US History |

The drilling derrick at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas creates an enormous crude oil gusher on January 10th, 1901 that coats the landscape for hundreds of feet while marking the start of the American oil industry. The geyser was located at a depth of over 1,000 feet while it flowed at a beginning rate of roughly 100,000 barrels a day; it took a total of nine days to cap. 

Following man’s discovery of petroleum, this would be used as a main fuel source for new creative inventions such as airplanes and cars; petroleum was originally during this time in the U.S. mostly in kerosene for lamps as well as a lubricant. Transportation that was using coal-powered forms such as trains and ships would eventually convert to using liquid fuel.

Crude oil is a natural mix of hundreds of a variety of hydrocarbon compounds contained in underground rock and became the world’s beginning trillion-dollar industry. Formed millions of years ago, these hydrocarbons were tiny aquatic plants and animals passed on while forming at the bottom of ancient waterways; this formed a thick layer of material that was organic. Later, this material would be covered with sediment putting pressure and heat on it while transforming it into what comes out of the ground today; petroleum.

Amateur geologist and Texas businessman Patillo Higgins became convinced in the early 1890s that under a salt-dome formation south of Beaumont was a big pool of oil. Along with several partners, they formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company made many unsuccessful attempts drilling before Higgins would leave the company. Higgins leased a tract of land to a mining engineer named Anthony Lucas at Spindletop. Roughly two years later, what became known as the Lucas gusher occurred on January 10th, 1901 which ushered in what would be known as the liquid fuel age. Sadly, Higgins at this point no longer had his ownership stake.

Beaumont would see its population in three months triple as the area became known as a boomtown for “black gold.” The town would be made up of merchants, oil workers, investors and unfortunately, con men; this led some individuals to name it “Swindletop.” 

After a year’s time, Spindletop had contained over 285 wells that were active as well as roughly estimation of 500 oil and land businesses operating in the area which includes some of which are currently major players; Magnolia Petroleum Company (Mobil), Humble (currently Exxon) and the Texas Company (Texaco).

What could be called a second boom, Spindletop became popular again when more oil was located at deeper depths beginning in the mis-1920s. Decades later, Spindletop would be mined for sulphur in the 1950s while presently, only a small amount of oil wells are still operational in the area.

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Lelani Bright


Lelani began her writing career when was just a little girl and was named editor of her school’s paper her senior year. She took it as an honor when her classmates couldn’t wait to read what she had to say on certain topics. She didn’t like the hustle and bustle of working for her city paper. That is when her career began here and she hasn’t looked back since.