Halliburton Company, one of the world's largest suppliers of the complicated technology and services needed to extract oil from beneath the earth's surface, traces its origins to a lone individual who in 1919 began "cementing" wells in the Burkburnett oilfield. The company reached global dimensions within the lifetime of the founder, and it acquired a solid reputation within the oil and gas industry for its dependable service and continuing technological innovation. In 1962 it acquired the huge construction firm Brown and Root. Before the energy industry's decline beginning in 1982, Halliburton operations reached a peak with revenues at $8.5 billion and a workforce of 115,000.
The founder of the company was a Tennessean named Erle P. Halliburton (1892–1957), whose involvement in the industry began after his discharge from the navy in 1918, when he took a job in California with the Perkins Oil Well Cementing Company, a pioneer in the field. The use of cement in drilling oil wells was and is integral, for its injection into the well seals off water formations from the oil, protects the casing, and minimizes the danger of blowouts. Halliburton became so intrigued with the process that he evidently became obnoxious with his multitude of suggestions, and he was fired. Getting hired and being fired by Perkins were the best two things that ever happened to him, Halliburton later said, for he and his wife, who worked with him, now moved to the booming new fields around Burkburnett to find work cementing wells with his new and improved method. Halliburton, starting with a borrowed pump, a wagon and team, and a wooden mixing box, called his enterprise the New Method Oil Well Cementing Company. This encouraging title failed to win him much business around Burkburnett, but when he moved his operations to southern Oklahoma to the prolific Healdton field, near Ardmore, his fortunes improved. A key step forward came when he was able to prove his cementing techniques by controlling a wild well on a Skelly Oil property.
Several months later, on May 7, 1920, he reorganized as the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company. In 1921 the company established a headquarters in Duncan, Oklahoma. The next year Halliburton patented a new "jet-cement" mixer, which increased the speed and quality of the mixing process. By late 1922 seventeen Halliburton trucks were busy cementing wells in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The work was difficult, for the vehicles frequently got stuck in mud as they moved across all sorts of terrain to reach well sites. "We will get there, somehow," became the company slogan. Employees and supervisors as well had to be hardy, grimy, tough-willed men. As late as 1959 every company official but one was said to have started with Halliburton as a truck driver.
In 1924, when the company was incorporated, seven major oil companies made significant investments in it. In 1926 Halliburton established a Canadian operation, and in 1940 it expanded operations into South America. In 1948 the stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange; in 1960 the firm shortened its name to Halliburton Company; and in 1961 it moved its headquarters from Duncan, Oklahoma, to Dallas. With success and prosperity came expansion, most of it directly related to the oil and gas industry, but the basis of the company remained its cementing operations. In 1957 the company acquired Welex Jet Services, Incorporated, of Fort Worth. Two years later it bought Otis Engineering Corporation of Dallas. The significant acquisition of Brown and Root of Houston in 1962 gained for the company the sort of subsudiaries that heretofore had been missing: industrial and marine engineering and construction firms. Brown and Root had been involved in many notable construction projects, foremost being its work in constructing the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center) near Houston, but its construction work included especially off-shore production platforms. At the time of acquisition Brown and Root had annual revenues of $5.5 billion. During the 1980s Halliburton acquired Geophysical Services from Texas Instruments and Geosource, another geophysical service company. It also started Halliburton Logging Services through a buyout of Gearhart Industries.
Since the mid-1980s the company's oilfield-services group, based in Dallas, has overseen cementing, stimulation, logging, jet perforating, equipment engineering, and advanced technology software. The engineering and construction services group, headquartered in Houston under Brown and Root, has generated about as much business as the oil-services group. A third major division of the company, less significant in terms of revenue, is in insurance operations. The conglomerate sold part of its Insurance Services in 1992 in order to focus on the energy division. Halliburton conducts business in the United States and in 118 foreign countries. In 1991 the company employed over 73,000 people and generated revenues of close to $7 billion.