“Highest oil well in the world”

Oil and gas postcard captions often make claims of the “biggest” oil gusher or the highest rate gas well. This postcard caption has an interesting claim: “the highest oil well in the world.”

Walden, Colorado is located in Jackson County, approximately 100 miles west of Fort Collins. Continental Oil Company completed an oil well in late 1926 and another the following year with surface location elevations of 8200 and 8237 feet.  Many additional wells were drilled in this McCallum oilfield, although it was approximately 40 years later before another McCallum field well had a surface location higher than the 8237 feet.  The current highest well in Colorado is in Gunnison County at an elevation of 11,740 feet.

Thanks to friends and fellow PHI members Tom Sperr and Matt Silverman.


Liebig Trade Cards


The Liebig Company, a producer of meat extract pastes and bouillon cubes, began producing advertisement cards in 1872. The average size of the Liebig cards were 110 mm x 80 mm, larger than the popular cigarette cards of the time.  The cards were produced using chromolithographic printing techniques until approximately 1940, but the company continued to produce cards until 1974.    The highly collectible cards were first given to customers over the counter, but later the cards, often produced in themed sets of six, were given to customers in exchange for coupons that the customers cut out from the product wrappers.

The cards were issued throughout Europe and often in multiple languages, including French, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Flemish. It is estimated that there were over 11,000 different Liebig cards produced with the total number of sets exceeding 1850.

Petroleum-themed Liebig cards include one or more cards in the following sets: The Earth’s Treasures (1900), In the Caucasus (1908), A Journey through the Caucasus (1920), The Story/History of Gas (1921), The Production of Petroleum (1934), Exploitation of Methane (1955), and The History of Roumania (1960).

(Six examples from different sets shown above; J.Spencer collection)

Rickards, Maurice, Encyclopedia of Ephemera, 2000, Routledge, NY, 402 pp.




Texas Through Time

Texas Through Time. Lone Star Geology, Landscapes, and Resources (2016); edited by Thomas E. Ewing.  Bureau of Economic Geology (http://www.beg.utexas.edu/), 431 pp.

Ten great chapters bursting with color photographs, charts, and maps.  A special section that includes 72 “Great Places to View Texas Geology” will become the geologic “bucket list” for many Texas geologists and others interested in the mountains, hills, and plains of Texas.



Japan’s oldest oil field

These two postcards are of Japan’s Nishiyama oil field. The two-view postcard (postmarked in 1927) shows “Nippon’s Nishigasaki Rotary No. 1 Flowing.” This same view is captioned, “Well about one mile from Nishiyama field, the oldest field in Japan.  All gasoline produced in Japan is refined from oil in this field.  Note the thatch covering over derrick timbers” (Mining and Oil Bulletin, June, 1920, p.407).


Burning Oil Tank – Spindletop – 1902

Frank Trost (1868-1944) of Port Arthur, Texas photographed early scenes of the Spindletop oilfield (discovered in 1901), including the famous photograph of the Lucas Gusher. His other Spindletop views were of oilfield fires, derrick scenes, and other gushers. Trost became known as “The Gusher Photographer.”

Many of Trost’s photographs were copyrighted and produced as postcards. Several have labels stating that they were produced by the Tom Jones Publishing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, and sold by the Szafirs Stationers of Beaumont, Texas.  The Tom Jones Art Publishing Company was a printing and engraving company from 1900-1917.  The company also published scenic souvenirs and postcards.

Trost’s photograph of a burning oil storage tank near Spindletop was included in the 1906 USGS Bulletin #282 (Plate IV) and the caption identifies the scene as a September, 1902 fire. This photograph was produced as a postcard, in a “stained” red version and in black and white; both captioned, “Greetings from Beaumont, Tex.”  Another version of this postcard has a title of “Greetings from Lima, Ohio.”

The postcard scans here include the two Beaumont versions; the black & white is postmarked 9/8/1904 and the red stained is postmarked 5/4/1905. The Lima version is postmarked from Lima on 12/22/1904 (also dated on the handwriting).

SPENCER, Jeff A., 2011, Oilfield photographers – three who captured North American oil booms, Frank Robbins, Frank Trost, and Jack Nolan, Oil-Industry History, v. 12, p. 45-57.

Boom Town

One of the best-known oilfield movies, Boom Town (1940) starred Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, and Claudette Colbert. A Cosmopolitan magazine article, A Lady Comes to Burkburnett was the inspiration for the movie. The Burkburnett oil field, discovered in 1912, is located ~15 miles north of Wichita Falls, Texas near the Texas/Oklahoma state line. Many wells were drilled within the town site. A color still shows a scene from the movie in which Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable suit up in early burlap firefighting gear with a blazing oilfield fire in the background. On the reverse of this photograph, within a typed section entitled, “Story in pictures of Boom Town,” is the sentence, “Wherever men seek sudden and fabulous wealth from Mother Earth there is action and thrills.” Promotional postcards showed the movie’s four stars on the front and local theater information on the reverse. As with many American films, Boom Town was released in other countries.   Promotional material for the German version, Der Draufganger, includes a four-page program.

SPENCER, Jeff A., 2012, Oilfield movies: theatre posters, lobby cards, and other promotional material – selections from pre-1975, Oil-Industry History, v. 13, p. 193-198.