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Spindletop oilfield discovered

January
10
1901

On this day in 1901, the Spindletop oilfield was discovered on a salt dome south of Beaumont, marking the birth of the modern petroleum industry. Pattillo Higgins, the "prophet of Spindletop," and others had tried for years to find oil on Spindletop Hill, but with no success. In 1899, however, Higgins hooked up with Anthony F. Lucas. Despite negative reports from contemporary geologists, Lucas remained convinced that oil was in the salt domes of the Gulf Coast. On January 10 mud began bubbling from a well that Lucas had spudded in the previous October. The startled roughnecks fled as six tons of four-inch drilling pipe came shooting up out of the ground. After several minutes of quiet, mud, then gas, then oil spurted out. The Lucas geyser, found at a depth of 1,139 feet, blew a stream of oil over 100 feet high until it was capped nine days later. The discovery of the Spindletop oilfield had an almost incalculable effect on world and Texas history. Investors spent billions of dollars throughout the Lone Star State in search of oil and natural gas. The cheap fuel they found helped to revolutionize American transportation and industry. Many of the major oil companies were born at Spindletop or grew to major corporate size as a result of their involvement at Spindletop, including Texaco, Gulf Oil Corporation, Magnolia Petroleum Company, and Exxon Company, U.S.A.

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