By NANCY K. OWENS
ORIGINAL STANOLIND LABORATORY: The University of Oklahoma-Tulsa campus at 41st Street and South Yale Avenue was originally the Stanolind Research Laboratory, one of the most significant additions ever to Tulsa. The laboratory was built in the early 1950s and brought scientists, mathematicians and other intellectuals to the area and created much quality growth in the city. Before World War II, Stanolind Oil and Gas, the production subsidiary of Standard Oil of Indiana, had its home offices in the Philcade Building in downtown Tulsa. Stanolind later became part of Amoco, which is now part of British Petroleum. The OU purchase of the research laboratory in 2002 was made possible by the OU Foundation and a $10 million gift from the Schusterman family of Tulsa.
JERRY L. CORNELIUS for GTR Newspapers
The IPE Staved Off Competition from Houston
By 1936 Tulsa had become the focal point for oilmen from around the world and the Ninth International Petroleum Exposition (IPE) reflected this. According to the Oil & Gas Journal, the premier publication covering the oil industry, “Advance registration for the IPE indicates that Tulsa’s capacity as host will be extended to its limit when all participants in the show finally arrive.”
The focus of the Ninth IPE was on scientific and technical equipment. The exhibits were bigger, better and more numerous. In total, there was over a mile of displays occupying 476 booths.
In addition to the continued focus on business, entertainment and hospitality were offered to the visitors, but on a lower and more tasteful key than the earlier shows. One favorite place for oilmen to relax and renew old friendships was on the golf course. The IPE hosted a golf tournament and entries in 1936 were at an all time high.
1936 was also the year that The Oil World Exposition, a competing event, moved its location to Houston. Houston organizers attended the IPE and tried to lure IPE exhibitors down to Texas, to no avail. The IPE stood alone as the premier event in the industry.
By 1938, the 10th IPE, Tulsa “was truly exulting in the power and progress of its great industry.” According to James P. Walker’s book “The International Petroleum Exposition,” “Preparation for the 10th IPE could only be described as exuberant. All streets in the downtown business section were decorated with overhead banners, and downtown office buildings were kept ablaze with light and special decorations. Plans were made for welcoming the out-of-town visitors with bands and marches through the downtown streets.”
Entertainment, having taken a back seat to business during the previous IPEs, came to the forefront again. The opening event was a spectacular show, complete with cowboys and cowgirls as well as a troop of Boy Scouts carrying flags of all nations. It closed with exploding aerial bombs and planes flying overhead, saluting the “largest American flag ever flown in the US.” During the exposition a dinner-dance was held at Southern Hills Country Club and the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce both hosted luncheons. Singer Joan Brooks and vaudeville comedy act Olson and Johnson both postponed their plans to travel to Hollywood in order to stop in Tulsa and perform at the Cafe le Petrol. Over 20 bands provided nonstop musical entertainment.
The focus of the 10th IPE was on equipment, tools and supplies. The items exhibited were valued at over $10 million. The show closed breaking every previous record for attendance, exhibits, and sales. By 1938 the IPE had become the largest exposition of its kind in the world without a midway. It was the leading factor in Tulsa’s claim as “Oil Capitol of the World.” Said the Tulsa Tribune at the time, “The International Petroleum Exposition is Tulsa’s greatest triumph. It is our city’s best advertisement. It is our proudest possession.”
This sentiment continued during the 11th IPE in 1940. Concerns about the war were strong and the importance of the petroleum industry was stressed during the 1940 IPE. Consequently, the focus of the 11th exposition was on the history and significance of the oil industry. Particular emphasis was paid to oil’s role in providing the public with cheaper and better products.
The 1940 IPE had 10,000 pieces of oil equipment on display from 148 cities spanning 29 states. It was heralded as the greatest demonstration in the world of equipment and devices used in the oil industry. Other industries, however, bought and used the products engineered by the oil equipment manufacturers and they participated in the IPE as well.
General Motors contracted more space than any other exhibitor during the 11th IPE. The company created an impressive display of their new line of cars, trucks and engines for oil field work as well as their new and innovative diesel engines. Chrysler Motor Company was a strong participant. It provided a $20,000 working model of one of the world’s most modern automobile plants.
Foreign oil interests were heavily represented at the 11th IPE. Everyone knew that modern warfare required a tremendous amount of oil. An article in The Tulsa World accurately described the heightened interest in oil: “The next war will be fought with oil.” It went on to point out that the diplomats in Washington “believe that Americans, or rather the United States oil men, know where and how to find oil.”
According to Walker, “An interesting sidelight on the war-heightened interest of foreign delegates to the IPE was the visit of three Japanese representatives of Nippon Oil Company of Tokyo.” They were searching for equipment and technology, which “they needed for the war that would begin in 1941.” The 1940 IPE closed with great praise and Tulsa, as usual, was highlighted as a place of prime importance for the entire industry. At the time, however, no one knew that the next IPE would be eight years away, and in between, a world war.
The war did not affect the enthusiasm and importance of the IPE. Nor did it affect the technological progress in the oil industry. As usual, thousands from all over the world eagerly traveled to Tulsa to see the new and improved equipment, tools and machinery that had been developed during the war years.
Exploratory drilling was at an all time high in 1948. It was also the year that, since 1937, the greatest quantity of new reserves had been located. The country’s known reserves at this time were up to 23.34 million barrels. Demand for refinery production was forecast to exceed all previous records. Tulsa responded to the momentum in the industry. The Tulsa County Fair Board had approved an application to add a plot of land 100 by 900 feet for the anticipated expansion of the show. Requests for exhibition space were at an all time high and Skelly wanted to ensure that everyone would have enough room to display their products. Plans were also made to improve the existing buildings. The Tulsa World reported that “a special grounds committee had been authorized to obtain bids for installing gas, sewer and power lines as well as for a 20-foot paved road linking Drake Drive on the south with Skelly Drive on the north.” In Walker’s account, “This new street was to be a ‘White Way of dazzling brilliance’ and was to be occupied by exhibitors such as Bethlehem Supply Company of Tulsa, General Motors Corporation of Detroit, the George E. Failing Company of Enid, the Brewster Company of Shreveport, Louisiana and Dresser Industries of Cleveland.”
The number of visitors expected at the 1948 IPE approached 20,000 per day for the eight-day span of the show. Housing for them was a serious issue. Tulsa’s hotels and motels could not accommodate all of the visitors. They would be short by approximately 5,000 rooms. In an effort to help, the Tulsa Tribune, in a March 9, 1948 article reminded Tulsans “Every Tulsan is interested as a matter of pride in putting over the Petroleum Exposition. Let’s get those 5,000 rooms.” Tulsans responded enthusiastically to the challenge demonstrating the city’s dedication to the IPE and acknowledgement of the tremendous importance it had for Tulsa.
A record-breaking $100 million of equipment was on display in 1948. Of particular interest was the Reynolds Metals Company’s aluminum bus equipped to demonstrate the usefulness of aluminum in the oil industry. Walker describes the exhibit, “Among the many uses for aluminum shown were welded pipe fittings, special couplings of several types, samples of coated pipe for underground use, threaded pipe for shot-hole casings, and other specialty items.”
One of the more interesting features of the 12th IPE was the Hall of Science. Its exhibits, according to a November 9, 1947 article in the Tulsa World, “were designed to give easily answers and explanations to questions about the discovery of oil, its production, its transportation, its manufacture, its marketing, its application to the needs of people, and its contributions to their welfare.” Displays including geology, drilling techniques, engineering techniques and others were all met with great interest by the visitors adding a level of seriousness of purpose to the event. The IPE continued to break its own records with every passing show. Attendance at the show exceeded all expectations. At 300,332 it broke all records and sales orders reached a staggering $1 billion. It closed, as usual, with a resounding bang.
Bill Skelly, William K. Warren Led IPE in the 1950s
In 1952, for the second time, the IPE was postponed due to war. The U.S. was engaged in conflict with Korea and the show’s executive committee decided to plan for a 1953 IPE. There was more time to enhance the exhibition area and 35,000 square feet was added for outside exhibit space. Again housing would be a challenge but Tulsans were prepared. More than 1,150 private homes had been secured to provide accommodation to out-of-town visitors. Discussions had taken place as to how to better handle the housing complications. It was decided that the show would be extended from eight days to ten days. The logic was that it would allow companies to send half of their executives to the show for a few days. They would return home and the other half would attend.
Promotion of the 13th IPE was strong. In August of 1952 Governor Johnston Murray sent Shirley Barbour, Miss Oklahoma 1952, on a 16-day tour of Eastern cities as a “goodwill ambassador” to promote the IPE. She represented the Governor, who at the time was touring South America to present foreign oil executives with a special invitation to the exposition.
The 1953 show opened to great ceremony with Governor Murray addressing the visitors and, according to Walker, “the unfurling of the largest American flag ever flown in the air, measuring 60 by 80 feet.” There were 1,484 displays valued at over $100 million.
Foreign participation was particularly strong during the 1953 IPE. Foreign manufacturers had made tremendous progress and displayed their equipment with pride. Companies such as Eisenwvrkwuefel of Germany, Societe Nationale de Materiale Recherché L’Exploration of France and the Council of British Manufacturers of Petroleum Equipment and various others gave every indication that they planned to make a permanent impact on the oil in the United States.
A noticeable feature of the 1953 exhibits was how the petroleum industry had adapted technology from other industries for its own uses. Electronics were being used in every process used by oilmen, atomic power was being used for well-logging equipment, and plastics were used in well-bottom equipment, coatings, pipes and corrosion-resistant tanks.
Increasing along with the number of exhibits was the number of marketing materials, brochures and pamphlets handed out to the visitors. Visitors rushing around with armfuls of information were a common sight. For them it was “must reading” along with all of the information coming off of the trade presses. The Oil and Gas Journal offered free “Improve Your Reading” tests to help busy executives get through the daily mountain of reading material. Many of the oilmen saw the value in being able to read quickly and participation in the tests was strong.
In order to divert themselves from the overwhelming amount of information, excitement and fast pace of the exhibition, the 1953 visitors and their wives enjoyed themselves by engaging in a wide variety of entertainment events planned for them by the exhibition organizers. There were symphony concerts, baseball games, luncheons, museum tours, teas and style shows, cocktail parties and dinners.
1953 was a significant year for women at the IPE. It was the first year that the “Woman of Achievement Award” was presented, honoring the contributions of women in the many different areas of the oil industry. The first woman to receive the award was Ernestine Adams, an oil magazine editor from Dallas. The Tulsa World reported, “She received an all expense paid trip to the IPE and was honored at an elegant banquet.”
Attendance at the IPE had mushroomed. During the 13th IPE it was 450,000. Again, the show was considered by all to be an unrivalled success.
W.G. Skelly’s death in 1957 created great turmoil for the IPE. He had been the president of the IPE for 30 years. Everyone had grown to depend on his vision and leadership. After his death the executive committee frantically searched for a successor. They decided on William K. Warren, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Warren Petroleum Corporation and a director of Gulf Oil Corporation. He would serve as IPE president for 11 years. He was very active in the oil industry, as well as a respected civic leader and philanthropist. Warren brought wisdom, vision and energy to his new position, and his IPE executive committee planned to hold the grandest IPE ever in 1959.
1959 marked the 100th anniversary of the oil industry. The IPE committee was determined to highlight Tulsa’s importance in the history and development of the industry.
In 1918 Tulsa was the undisputed Oil Capitol of the World with 40 percent of the world’s production coming from or around Tulsa. By 1959, oil production had doubled around Tulsa. But the percentages had changed. As Walker points out, ”In 1958 the entire world produced 17,700,000 barrels of oil per day, and there were 275,000,000 in worldwide reserves, 60 percent of which was American-controlled. Tulsa, even though its percentage of this production had dropped sharply, continued to lead in oil exploration, research techniques, drilling and transportation.” This leadership was attributed to the University of Tulsa’s Petroleum Engineering School.
Tulsans had always had great pride in living in the Oil Capitol of the World and hosting the IPE. They continued to demonstrate their support for the 14th IPE in 1959. Over 2,000 Tulsa families opened their homes to provide lodging for visitors to the show. There were record numbers of visitors. Over 30,000 people per day attended the show viewing over $500 million worth of equipment displayed in over 1000 booths.
IPE President Warren dedicated the 14th IPE to former IPE President W.G. Skelly. As quoted in the 1959 Tulsa Spirit IPE Scrapbook, he stated, “From the day that Bill Skelly became the president of the IPE in 1925 until his death, his was the hand that steered this exposition show until it became recognized as the greatest single industry exhibition in the world. Therefore, I think it is fitting that in memory of Bill Skelly I now declare this International Petroleum Exposition officially open.”
The 14th IPE focused on innovations in the oil industry. They were simple, yet made a significant impact. According to Walker, “Within the past year world oil production had been increased significantly by the simple expedient of injecting into wells detergents similar to those used in cleaning dirty clothes.” Because of this, thousands of wells had been restored to production, adding millions of barrels to potential reserves. Continental Emsco’s development of the gas turbine engine increased efficiency, versatility and portability and was in the position to replace the standard reciprocating engine used on most rigs.
Walker discusses further developments showcased at the 1959 IPE, “four major oil companies were testing aluminum drill pipe, and the early results surprised even the manufacturer.” The Tulsa Daily World reported on May 16, 1959 that “Results indicated that the lighter drilling pipe could increase the depth capacity of drilling rigs by as much as 60 percent. However, it did cost more.”
Automobile manufacturers provided exciting exhibits as well. Ford Motor Company had ten different types of trucks, engines, power units and industrial tractors displayed over a 10,000 square foot area. The world’s largest truck was quite a draw. The Berliet Company of France had brought it in especially for the IPE. It was designed for use in the Sahara Desert, and in honor of the IPE and the 100th anniversary of the oil industry, it was named “The Tulsa.”
The most nostalgic exhibit at the 1959 IPE was a small booth dedicated to the legendary firefighting pioneer of the oil field fires Myron M. Kinley. He was the man that presidents of oil companies had depended on for years to put out fires on their rigs. According to a May 14 article in The Tulsa Daily World, “Although by 1959 he was slightly deaf and somewhat lame, he was treated with the respect and deference usually reserved for nobility by the oilmen who came to the IPE in 1959.”
Other industry pioneers were honored at the 14th IPE. One of the founders of Sinclair Oil, William L. Connelly of Tulsa, was named “Pioneer of Pioneers” in recognition of his distinguished 64-year career. Walker’s book lists the seven other “Grand Old Men,” “Edmund C. Breene, 81, of Oil City Penn., in production; William A. Cassidy, 93, of Bayonne N.J., in refining; Edward I. Hanlon, 78, of Tulsa, in natural gasoline; Frank J. Hinderlighter, 84, of Tulsa, in supplies and equipment; Wiley B. Hissom, 66, of Tulsa, in drilling; Frank L. Lerch, 71, of New York, in natural gas; and S. Miller Williams, 72, of Robinson Ill, in pipeline and transportation.”
These pioneers received gold lapel pins to confer their special status among the 30,000 oilmen who attended the show, along with the 2,042 foreign oil men (three times the previous record) and the 547,208 assorted visitors in attendance. The 1959 numbers, according the 1959 Tulsa Spirit IPE Scrapbook, “far exceeded the record set during the 13th IPE when 395-352 had twirled the turnstiles of the admission gates to wander through the oil industry’s fantasy land.” As usual, the 14th IPE closed on a note of tremendous success and enthusiasm.
1966 IPE Moved into World-Class Building
In the years leading up to the 1966 IPE, cost had become a concern for the exhibitors and they demanded a better ratio between exhibition costs and return on sales. Exhibitors wanted to reduce the number of non-industry visitors and eliminate what they considered interference from the sightseeing public. IPE officials and most Tulsans were opposed to barring the public from the show. The solution was to dedicate certain days of the show for industry people and other days for the public. The first four days were reserved for the general public and the last six were reserved for the guests and customers of the exhibitors.
Another concern for the IPE organizers was the increasing competition from other shows. In 1966 the IPE began to experience losses and these had to be covered by its reserve fund.
As early as 1960, the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association was recommending that the IPE and all similar oil shows be discontinued. Since 1953 the domestic oil industry had been mired in a market glut and both big and small suppliers had been scrambling for business and trying to save money. In response, IPE officials stated that the technological developments that would continue to take place from 1959-1965 would produce enough equipment that there would be sufficient demand for industry professionals to see it. Therefore, IPE President W.K Warren decided that the 15th IPE would take place.
According to Walker, “Warren was fully aware that if Tulsa did not host the oil show other cities would, for several rivals were clamoring to hold the big international show.” At an October 29, 1963 meeting at the Tulsa Club, bankers, Chamber of Commerce officers, oilmen and state fair officials discussed ways to keep the IPE in Tulsa. Their solution was to propose a $3.5 million bond issue to be held on December 3, with proceeds to be used for the construction of a 10.5-acre exposition building on the Tulsa State Fairgrounds.
In an effort to address the cost concerns of the exhibitors, the IPE directors had determined that construction of the exposition building was necessary to reduce exhibitors’ costs. Additionally, technological developments in instrumentation, automation and processes indicated the character of the IPE would change from an exterior to an interior show.
The bond issue passed and ground clearing for the new site began in mid-1964. The building was completed by 1966 and on April 3 of that year, approximately 5,000 people were on hand for dedication. The Tulsa Daily World reported on April 4, 1966, “Governor Henry Bellmon, speaking from a platform loaded with dignitaries referred to the ‘super duper’ structure as a new industry and said Oklahomans ought to brag more… maybe not as much as Texans, but more.”
The giant building, when completed, was four blocks long, encompassed 10.5 acres and incorporated a cable suspension roof system that eliminated interior pillars. Walker describes it as a “mammoth structure, the largest of its type in the nation. And towering above the entrance to the new building was the ‘Golden Driller,’ eight stories high and weighing 43,500 pounds, a gift of Mid-Continent Supply Company and the permanent symbol of the IPE and Tulsa as oil capitol of the world.”
The 1966 IPE opened on May 12, to much anticipation and excitement. The principal speaker, Texas Governor John Connally, opened the 15th exposition calling for federal and state governments to do everything possible to reverse the slump in exploratory drilling by creating more incentives for oil companies to continue to explore for oil.
The transformations in the oil industry brought about by automation were apparent in the many exhibits in the new exposition building. The Tulsa Daily World, May 13, 1966 pointed out “With the exception of the aerospace industry, the oil industry has used automation to a greater extent than any other.”
Enthusiasm for the innovations in the industry was strong, as described by Walker, “O.W. Graham, president of Instruments Inc., a division of National Tank Company in Tulsa, predicted that the time would come soon that computers would dictate how wells could be pumped to best advantage. Another executive predicted that in the future customers would insert credit cards into gasoline pumps instead of paying a service station attendant.”
As in the past, traditional types of oil field equipment, sporting advancements, were a big feature at the 15th IPE. The Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors demonstrated the Turbo-Titan III. The Tulsa Daily World, May 15, 1966 described it enthusiastically, “It had a gas turbine engine and featured futuristic styling in fiberglass and steel with sophisticated control devices and advanced features for safety, convenience and comfort.” According to the Chevrolet engineers, the advantage of the turbine engine was that it was quieter than conventional gas engines and had few moving parts, making it almost free of vibration and giving it the potential for longer and more trouble-free service. The life of the engine was estimated to be at least 350,000 miles.
Another draw at the show was the Cat 594, the world’s largest pipelayer. It weighed 120,000 pounds and could lift 200,000. Four of these machines were in use on the 175 million dollar Trans-Alpine Project, a 320-mile, 40-inch system to carry crude oil from tankers at Trieste, Italy to refineries in Bavaria, Germany. North American Aviation’s submarine-workboat The Beaver was also on display. It was designed to complete wells 1,000 feet deep in the ocean. Its uses ranged from exploration and survey of the sea bottom to aiding in drilling operations and the installation of flow lines.
Oil professional and casual visitors were in awe of the futuristic machines and devices on display at the 1966 IPE. They weren’t the only ones. The great new IPE building and the marvels of its exposition were so successful that Business Week devoted a two-page spread of text and pictures to it in its May 21 issue. The article emphasized the importance of automation to the oil industry. The IPE management also took steps to assure that a proper record was made on the 1966 show. Tulsa photographer Howard Hopkins was contracted to serve as the official photographer for the event. It was, according to the Tulsa Daily World, May 30, 1966, “one of the biggest photographic assignments ever given to a photographer in the Southwest.”
The 15th IPE closed on May 21 and the general feeling was that the transition from an outdoor to an indoor event had gone smoothly. The county fair atmosphere had been replaced by a business emphasis on customer relationships. Total attendance was some 350,000 from all 50 states and 54 foreign countries. Those who came in for the business-only portion numbered 143,287. In a joint statement President Warren and Manager Martin C. Dwyer, president of the Chicago trade show management firm hired to oversee the operation of the IPE, remarked that the show was highly successful because the exhibitors were pleased with the number of contacts made with customers and prospective customers and the quality and quantity of oil men present.
As 1971 dawned thousands of independent operators believed that the United States was, according to The Tulsa Daily World, December 27, 1970, “on the threshold of a major effort to increase its domestic exploration activities and producing capacity in view of the alarming fuel crisis now upon us.” In response to this the officials of the 1971 IPE decided to make a special effort to assist independent operators and producers, as well as operators of small drilling and well-servicing companies. According to Walker, “This decision was made after a survey by Leslie Brooks and Associates which indicated that there were some 5,000 companies doing exploration and producing activities year-in and year-out. Of these 5,000 firms, some 200 bought 50 percent of the services and supplies and thus received close attention from the sales staff of equipment manufacturers.” This left the other 4,800 companies to fend for themselves in finding out about the latest and best in equipment and supplies. Consequently, IPE officials campaigned to attract independent operators and producers to the 16th IPE by recognizing their important contributions to the industry over the years.
By 1971 F. Randolph Yost of Pan American Petroleum Corp. had succeeded W.K. Warren as IPE president. The 16th IPE was widely anticipated and as of five months before the opening 81 percent of the display space had been sold and $1 billion worth of equipment was scheduled for display inside the IPE building, as well as additional displays for outside.
It opened on May 16 with principal speaker Secretary of the Interior Rogers C.B. Morton discussing the controversy surrounding the Alaska pipeline. According to the Tulsa Daily World, May 16, 1971, Morton told his audience, “Ecology is the most wonderful thing in the world until the lights go out. You have to look at it from a practical point of view.” He concluded that exploration and production had to continue but with more concern for the land than had been the case in the past.
A symposium series was a new feature that had been added to the 1971 IPE and was intended to help exhibitors to present, in a more understandable way, contributions to the industry and its advancing technology made by the oil equipment manufacturers. The five-day symposium covered topics such as arctic exploration, air, water and soil pollution and new product developments.
Ecological concerns were addressed in the Ecology Hall of Science. This educational program was provided to the general public. Exhibit space was provided free to oil companies, trade associations, IPE exhibitors and educational institutions. Displays were required to be non-commercial and to show how the environment was being protected from the harmful effects of oil exploration. The Ecology Hall had 45 exhibits coordinated by former Oklahoma Governor Dewey Bartlett and George Roberts of Pan American Petroleum Corporation.
Two of the most popular exhibits at the 1971 show were Continental Emsco Corporation’s “Robot Girl” and Halliburton’s simulated trip down a 20,000-foot oil well. The “Robot Girl” (operated by a real girl) gave a taped spiel promoting Continental Emsco’s products. Another exhibit, according to Walker, was a 126,000 gallon water tank with clear glass windows that allowed viewers to observe divers work on an underwater pipeline.
By all accounts the 16th IPE, though not breaking previous attendance records, was a success. Foreign participation had increased to include participation from 62 foreign countries – the highest number of international representation in the IPE’s history. Despite slightly lower attendance than the previous IPE, sales at the 1971 IPE had increased. In celebration of the success of the show and the 56 year history, the Oklahoma Petroleum Council and the Oklahoma Historical Society had a seven-foot high granite monument erected at the Exposition building’s south entrance. The text on the marker noted that the IPE had started in Tulsa in 1923 and had grown from displays of $10,000 worth of equipment to exhibits valued at over $1 billion.
Changing Times, Narrowed Focus Spelled IPE’s Doom
The 1976 International Petroleum Exposition in Tulsa was streamlined to just five days and was labeled “Energy ’76.” When it opened on May 17, the major topic of conversation, as described by James P. Walker in his book, “The International Petroleum Exposition,” was “A hole in the ground in southeastern Oklahoma deep enough to dump 24 Empire State Buildings down… a hole more than 5.9 miles straight down.” Most remembered that the equipment and the drill making the hole had come from manufacturers that had first demonstrated their prototypes during Tulsa’s IPE.
The 17th IPE was actually two shows in one. The major portion of the show was dedicated to the petroleum industry. In addition to the oil exposition, a 38,000 square foot area was set up for the general public where they could view exhibits in the “Energy Science Panorama.” The non-commercial exhibits covered a variety of energy-related topics and featured an “Energy Film Festival.”
“Energy ‘76” was more than an exhibit of the petroleum industry’s developing technologies and tools. As reported by the Tulsa Daily World, “A six-session, three-day symposium focused on possible methods of recovering billions of barrels of oil already discovered but not recoverable by conventional methods.”
The primary focus of the exhibits at the 17th IPE was onshore oriented at a time when offshore work was becoming the glamour segment of the industry. At the time however, 92 percent of all operating rigs were onshore and onshore activity accounted for a majority of exploration and production expenditures.
Several pieces of new equipment were unveiled at the IPE including the “Pipehandler.” Developed by Charles R. Morse, Inc. of Anchorage, it was used to place the 38-inch-diameter pipe on the Alaskan Pipeline Project. Another interesting innovation was the “Hydroport” shown by Dickson Brothers, Inc. of Tulsa. It was a portable water system capable of producing drinking water in the field anywhere in the world.
As in years past, awards and honors were presented during the IPE at elegant receptions and dinners. “The Pioneer of Pioneers” Award was given to J. Paul Getty, who began his career as a roustabout in 1909 with Minnehoma Oil Company in Osage, Oklahoma. Getty was unable to attend, but sent a telegram expressing his heartfelt thanks for the award and voicing his optimism for the future of the oil industry. Others shared in Getty’s enthusiasm. The Tulsa Tribune reported on May 22, 1976, “Attendance records at the 1976 IPE were at record levels for oil industry professionals drawing 44,699 qualified buyers.”
At the close of the show, IPE officials were already planning the 18th show. They had decided to hold the upcoming show in 1979 and begin a new series of shows to be held at three-year intervals. Enthusiasm was so strong at the time that no one would have considered that the 18th IPE would be the last.
Prior to the 1979 IPE, there had been an important change in leadership. As related by Walker, “F. Randolph Yost had stepped down to return to the roster of executive directors. James E. Hara, president of Skelly Oil Company, had been selected to replace Yost as IPE president. He died before preparations for the 1979 show were completed and John M. Houchin, retired chairman of the board of Phillips Petroleum Company, was named to the top position.”
IPE officials decided to narrow the focus of the 1979 IPE. This reflected a change in the way the IPE had historically been presented. In 1979, the IPE would focus on specialization in one type of oil industry operation. The title of the 18th IPE reflected this change: “Energy ’79: International Exposition and Congress: International Onshore Equipment and Service Oil Show.” IPE officials believed they were playing to the strength of the Tulsa show with this narrowing of focus.
Although IPE officials were confident that industry sentiment supported such a narrowing of focus, not everyone felt this way. The Tulsa World, August 22, 1979 reported “designating the IPE as an ‘onshore show’ was an admission that the Tulsa extravaganza had lost some of its stature to the Offshore Technology Conference held each year in Houston,” and noted, ”Until this year the IPE had officially ignored the OTC although it had mushroomed in the last few years as offshore petroleum activity spread around the world.”
Despite the fact that the show’s run had been cut from five days to four—the shortest ever, and increasing competition from the many other shows, early registrations for the 18th IPE evidenced industry support. Publicity for the event was strong. Three trade publications—American Oil and Gas Reporter, Drilling Magazine, and Oil Daily announced they would spotlight the IPE in their upcoming issues. The Oil and Gas Journal, as usual, produced a special issue for the exposition.
The IPE of 1979, like those directly preceding it, was closed to the general public. According to Walker’s account, “Some participants and observers, such as James O. Kemm of the Oklahoma Petroleum Council, thought this policy ill-advised; they felt that public support for the oil industry could be generated by admitting everyone to the IPE and that such support was as valuable to the industry as a whole as were sales by exhibitors.” Exhibitors, however, felt that throngs of public visitors milling about was too much of a distraction from the business at hand. Despite conflicting feelings about allowing the public into the show, accommodations were made for some public participation— such as the non-commercial exhibits in the Hall of Science.
Among the impressive displays were a game developed by Cities Service that demonstrated the risks of enhanced discovery; a Getty Oil Company model of a steam flood operation; a Gulf Oil Company model of a carbon dioxide flood and various forms of enhanced recovery displayed by the Department of Energy.
Speeches and panel discussions had replaced the social activities and entertainment that was a big part of past shows. There was a productivity seminar sponsored by the Engineer’s Society of Tulsa and chaired by John Zink, president of Tulsa’s John Zink company and symposiums dedicated to such topics as “Equipment and Future Trends for Exploration of Energy Resources,” “Advancements in Production of Oil and Gas” and “Trends in the Transportation and Storage of Hydrocarbons.” These panels and symposiums were well attended but nothing could beat the displays of oil field hardware. The 18th IPE featured a power generation unit, a geological scale model of the Gulf Coast Salt Basin, vibration instruments, winches of all sizes and many more innovative products.
By all accounts, the 1979 IPE had been a resounding success and there was considerable optimism about the future shows. Despite the positive attitude, after the close of the 1979 show, Martin Dwyer, IPE general manager since 1963, resigned. He suggested that the show be moved to Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas or Chicago in order to generate more interest. Dwyer pointed out that since 1966 the IPE had lost money and was forced to dip into reserve funds to pay bills. He also noted that only 5,000 oil attendees had been from outside Oklahoma. The executive directors convened on April 7, 1980 and approved a motion to close the IPE permanently blaming financial losses and competition from other shows.
Technological developments impacted the IPE as well. By the 1980’s communications had become instantaneous and tools and equipment could be shown by modern audio-visual technology. The IPE had become an anachronism. In Walker’s words, “Those who closed it believed that the IPE exemplified a brilliant epoch in the development of the oil industry worldwide, but it seemed to belong to an era that had past into history. They voted to let it remain there.”
What we have left of those years of success and worldwide recognition stands at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds—the once “Golden Driller,” now the color of cardboard. A permanent part of the landscape, he stands tall, silent and waiting, perhaps to be made golden again as a new and dynamic era of the oil industry ushers in.
Major Oil Companies Dotted Tulsa after WWII
Editor’s Note: This article is the ninth in a multi-part series about the past, present and future of the oil industry in greater Tulsa and throughout the region. The series began in Mid-June 2005 and has been published monthly since. The series is available on the GTR Web site at www.gtrnews.com.
Tulsa was known as the Oil Capital of the World from shortly after the discovery of the Glenn Pool in 1905 through late 1970s, when many of the major oil companies left the city to head for locations such as Houston and Denver. Company mergers, large refineries on the Gulf Coast and the emphasis on offshore production were prime reasons many of the major companies left Tulsa.
Tulsa was also replete with independent oil companies and oil service companies into the 1980s, when the price of oil plummeted internationally to around $10 per barrel.
The Tulsa Yellow Pages in 1952 revealed just how active the industry was. Nine pages were devoted to the oil industry in the 1952 Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages, while the oil industry takes up only three pages in the 2006 SBC Yellow Pages.
In 1952, there were 53 categories listed ranging from Oil Field Equipment to Oil Well Tools. Forty-four companies were listed under Oil Field Equipment, 28 under Oil Field Hauling, 46 under Oil Marketing and 97 were listed under Oil Field Supplies.
In the Oil Producers category, 316 companies were listed in 1952, while 121 are listed under that same category in today’s Yellow Pages. Several 1952 categories, such as Oil Field Scientific Instruments, Oil Well Core Analysis and Oil Well Fire Extinguishing are no longer existent in today’s phone book.
James O. Kemm, author of “Tulsa: Oil Capitol of the World,” came to Tulsa in 1953 as the senior district representative for the Oil Information Committee of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the primary trade association of the oil and gas industry representing more than 400 members.
According to Kemm, “During the 1950s and 1960s, Tulsa was still truly the Oil Capital of the World. Virtually every major oil company had an office here in Tulsa.”
He mentions several well-known names, many of which built buildings still standing but now used by other entities: “Shell, Atlantic, Skelly, Warren, Sinclair, Gulf, Vickers and Cities Service were all here.”
Kemm discusses a brief history of the loss of Citgo. “The Cities Service Oil Company was a subsidiary of Cities Service Company. It moved its oil company headquarters to Tulsa from Bartlesville in the1960s. Later, it moved the whole Cities Service Companies headquarters to Tulsa. Then, part of it merged with Occidental Petroleum, and later the Cities Service Company changed its marketing brand to and then its official name to Citgo.”
In 1990, Citgo was purchased by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The recent loss of Citgo to Houston was controversial in Tulsa and a very tough loss for the city.
In 1955, Mid-Continent Oil Company merged with Sunray Oil Company and became Sunray Mid-Continent Oil Company. In 1962 the company changed its name to Sunray DX Oil Company. In 1968, Sunray DX Oil Company merged into the Sun Oil Company and, in 1976 the Sun Oil Company reorganized and renamed itself the Sun Company Inc. and is known as Sunoco.
The Philadelphia-based Sun Oil Company continues to operate its refinery in Tulsa.
The Gulf Oil Corporation acquired Warren Petroleum in 1956. Ironically, Gulf had close ties to both the Tulsa area and Warren Petroleum through the years. Gulf grew quickly with the Spindletop oil discovery in Texas in 1901. After a few years, the Spindletop field was declining, and Gulf, looking elsewhere, built a pipeline to the Glenn Pool field south of Tulsa. Gulf continued to grow into one of the great oil companies in the world, though in 1984, the Gulf board voted to sell the company to Chevron (Standard Oil of California) for $13.2 billion after a hostile takeover attempt by T. Boone Pickens.
The Carter Oil Company, a spin-off from Standard Oil of New Jersey, had its headquarters in Tulsa into the 1950s, when it was merged into Humble Oil. Humble became Exxon in the 1960s.
Atlantic Refining merged with Richfield Oil in 1966 to become Atlantic-Richfield. In 1969 it acquired Sinclair Oil and later became known as ARCO. Kemm says, “One of the big companies here in the 1950s was Skelly Oil. It merged with Getty Oil in the 1960s. Later, Getty Oil merged with Texaco.”
In 2000, Texaco (except for its downstream assets of gas stations and refining) was acquired by Chevron for $36 billion.
Many other major companies had headquarters or significant offices in Tulsa in the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, independent oil producers were very active, and some, such as William Brothers Pipeline, Mapco, LVO and others became nationally significant companies in their own right. The next issue of GTR Newspapers will provide an overview of independent operators and companies in the Tulsa area into the 1980s.