US History

Everything you know about the world was created in this Texas town 116 years ago today

Photo credit: Original photo by John Trost, now in public domain

Photo credit: Original photo by John Trost, now in public domain

On Jan. 10, 1901 the world as you know it came out of the earth in Beaumont, Texas.

People knew about oil and its possible uses, but it was never found in large quantities. Oil wells of the period, mostly found in Pennsylvania, only produced several barrels a say.

Oil’s limited production meant New York-based Standard Oil dominated the then-small industry. Because of oil’s scarcity, most homes were still lit and heated by candles and coal.

But Patillo Higgins and Captain Anthony Lucas, operating on a theory oil existed in large quantities deep within salt domes, began drilling in a field outside of Beaumont, Texas.

After weeks of drilling, on the morning of January 10, 1901, at a depth of 1,139 feet, the massive drill pipe suddenly rocketed out of the ground, followed by a burst of natural gas that shot giant boulders into the air, followed by…silence.

Then, a massive gusher of oil thundered out of the well, reaching hundreds of feet into the sky.

In all, nearly one million barrels of of it spewed out of the ground before it could be capped.  That one moment changed everything.

Within a year over 500 companies were formed in Beaumont to drill at Spindletop, including what are today known as Gulf and Texaco. Spindletop shattered Standard Oil’s monopoly and made petroleum a massive industry.

The discovery of oil in Beaumont completely revolutionized the world. Oil was now a cheap, efficient way fuel cars, trains and ships, turning travel from a luxury into an everyday activity. It now made it possible to cheaply and quickly transport and ship goods around the world, turning the United States into an economic superpower. Oil was also refined and developed into plastics and most modern medicine, dramatically expanding life expediencies.

Virtually everything you touch or use, and the world as you know it, owes its existence to Beaumont, Texas and that one moment 116 years ago today.

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