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GENERAL AMERICAN OIL COMPANY

GENERAL AMERICAN OIL COMPANY. The General American Oil Company of Texas, headquartered in Dallas, was, before its 1983 acquisition by Phillips Petroleum Company, one of the largest independent oil companies in the nation, with worldwide operations and interests. Company founder Algur Hurtle Meadows sold Model T cars in South Georgia, attended Mercer University for a year, served as materials department manager at Standard Oil in Shreveport, and studied law before entering the business that became General American Oil. With Ralph Trippett he first formed a finance company known as the General American Finance System, which quickly expanded to include some twenty companies in Texas and Louisiana. Faced by the Great Depression, the company began to finance drilling operations by buying "production payments," a kind of financial instrument resembling a mortgage but payable from the sale of oil and gas when it was produced. In particular, the firm bought oil payments from oilman J. W. Gilliland. It was a merger with his company in 1936 that formed General American Oil Company of Texas, a Delaware company, with Ralph Trippett as president. Headquarters for the company in Dallas were established in 1937. Through the merger the new company acquired 170 oil wells, several refineries and casinghead-gas plants, and all the assets of General American Finance System and its subsidiaries. Gilliland replaced Trippett as president in 1937, and for the next five years the company struggled, as crude oil prices dropped and overdrilling led to the Hot Oil act and other industry regulation. The firm sold its refineries and gas plants, but in 1941, when Gilliland retired, it acquired three acres at Hawkins near the East Texas oilfield, which provided three million barrels of oil reserves. Using oil payments bankable at face value with interest paid out of oil, or interest-bearing production payments, the company flourished, attributing its success to its ability to buy large reserves of oil and gas in the ground rather than having to undertake exploration. Thereafter it integrated further with the purchase of 100 wells on several West Texas properties in 1943 and others in 1944 and 1945. In 1946 it sold its Hawkins field properties. In 1948, however, it acquired others in Oklahoma and southern Louisiana. By that year a net total of 400 wells produced 7,000 barrels of oil daily. Also in 1948, General American Oil developed a permanent interest in Texas when Algur Meadows and his wife, Virginia, chartered the Meadows Foundation for the benefit of the people of Texas.

The year 1949 brought further expansion, with the acquisition of Republic Petroleum Corporation and discovery of the Sweetie Peck field in West Texas. In 1950 the company acquired the production assets of North American Oil Consolidated and gas acreage in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. By 1952 it had acquired the stock of the San Juan Oil Company, with 450 wells in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Illinois, and had bought the assets of Bonanza Oil Company. In 1953 the firm established General American Oils, Limited, from an interest in Fargo Oils, Limited, of Canada, and began oil exploration in Canada and Spain. Expansion reached a new high in 1954, however, when the company nearly doubled in size with the acquisition of forty wells in East Texas, fifty-five in California, a half interest in the Coleville Field in West Saskatchewan, a third interest in Condor Petroleum, and the acquisition of the refinery and properties of Deep Rock Oil. It subsequently acquired wells from Big Chief Drilling Company and a number of wells in Pawnee County, Kansas, among a host of others. In 1957 General American common stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Between 1957 and 1960 General American acquired an interest in the Cogdell Canyon Reef Unit in Scurry County, Texas, the Dora Roberts Field in Midland, 300 wells in Coleville, and a one-third interest in Blueberry Oil and Gas in British Columbia. In 1960 it acquired $65 million worth of properties, tripling its gas reserves. By 1961 the firm had 3,900 oil and gas wells and interests in 1,000 others, and a net daily production of 16,000 barrels of liquid hydrocarbons and 90 million cubic feet of natural gas. At that time reserves totaled 140 million barrels of oil and liquid hydrocarbons, and 800 billion cubic feet of gas. In 1964 the firm acquired Stockton, Whatley, Davin and Company, a wholly-owned mortgage-loan, real-estate, and insurance subsidiary, and in 1967 the firm merged its affiliate Premier Petrochemical of Pasadena, Texas. In a joint venture, the company later worked with Exxon Corporation (see EXXON COMPANY, U.S.A.) to explore and develop 10,235 acres in Alaska. By the 1980s General American was conducting drilling operations in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands sector of the North Sea. Its net income in 1980 was $57,961,000, and its net acres under lease in 1981 totaled more than 300,000 (developed) and 2,000,000 (undeveloped). Ripe for takeover in a decade that would see extensive mergers and acquisitions, General American Oil was ultimately acquired in 1983 by Phillips Petroleum Company.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

W. Lewis Perryman, Jr., General American Oil Company of Texas (New York: Newcomen Society, 1961). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Diana J. Kleiner

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Diana J. Kleiner, "GENERAL AMERICAN OIL COMPANY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dogrm), accessed October 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.