A Texas Story

119 years ago on January 10, 1901, on a saltdome hill called Spindletop, the carbon economy with all its complex tradeoffs was born. After Spindletop, liquid fuels became so cheap, and so easily transportable, that the new automotive industry quickly went over to gasoline, navies around the world switched from coal to oil, and railroads too began to transition from steam power.

Yet the location itself is silent and desolate, just a flagpole in the far distance marking the actual site of the gusher (which is not at the nearby Gladys City Spindletop Boomtown on the Lamar University campus, about a mile north). The air still has the rotten-egg sulfur smell the first settlers of the Veatch grant noticed, and led Pattillo Higgins in his quest to find the potential oil underneath. With all the derricks gone, the site looks not unlike how it might have looked before the discovery, though the occasional pumps and drills remind you that the oil is there still.

Take a tour of a lonely but uniquely significant spot in world history.

Sean Ketchem Avatar

About the author

I’m Sean Ketchem, living in Berlin with two passports, two cats, and a fascination for history and culture.

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