Petroleum History Institute – Its History, Mission, and Activities

Title: Petroleum History Institute – Its History, Mission, and Activities
Author: William R. Brice, Editor (, Oil-Industry History,
Publication: The Outcrop, March 2011, p. 12-15

The Petroleum History Institute is an organization whose mission is to pursue the history, heritage, and development of the modern oil industry from its 1859 inception in Oil Creek Valley, Pennsylvania, to its early roots in other regions in North America and the subsequent spread throughout the world to its current global status. The organization was founded in 2003 from the ashes of the Drake Well Foundation (DWF), which had expanded its activities well beyond the banks of Oil Creek Valley in western Pennsylvania. As the Drake Well Foundation had fulfilled its original mandate, and the name implied a regional scope, the original organization was dissolved and Petroleum History Institute (PHI) was formed to continue and enlarge upon the activities begun by the Drake Well Foundation through its annual symposia and field trips, and publications. Membership in PHI is open to individuals and corporations, and there is a special student rate. Institutional subscriptions to the journal, Oil-Industry History, are accepted at the standard individual membership rate of $40.00 per year.

PHI continues to publish Oil-Industry History which was founded by the Drake Well Foundation in 2000. This publication is believed to be the only peer-reviewed journal devoted exclusively to the history of the international oil and natural gas industries. From the very first issue, the articles illustrate the broad scope of topics for which the journal has become known. For example, in Volume 1 (2000) among the papers published were the following: “Petroleum Geology in the United States,” by G. M. Friedman and S. A. Poissant; “Archeology in the Ontario Oil Field,” by E. L. Kemp; and “History of the Oil Industry In India,” by S. N. Visvanath.

Beginning in 2003, PHI began inviting authors of presentations at the symposia to submit their work for publication in the journal, thus providing a wider audience for the papers. An example would be in 2008, PHI and the Petroleum History Society (Calgary) held a joint meeting at Sarnia, Ontario, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Canadian oil industry and the papers in Volume 9 (2008) reflect that joint endeavor, e.g.,: “Gesner, Williams and the Birth of the Oil Industry,” by Earle Gray; and “The Early Petroleum Industry of Petrolia, Ontario Illustrated on Postcards,” by Jeff Spencer. The following year both groups gathered again, this time in Titusville, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Drake Well. Volume 10 (2009) included: “Edwin L. Drake (1819-1880); His Life and Legacy,” by William R. Brice; and “Petroleum Pioneers of Pittsburgh,” by Alfred N. Mann. In addition to the more meeting-specific articles, PHI continues the international aspect of our mission with such papers as: “Shell and the Salem – the Largest Marine Fraud in History,” by Basil South (v. 5); “The Occurrence and Exploitation of Malaysian Oil & Gas Resources,” by Harwant Singh (v. 6); “Historical Review of International Petroleum Arrangements,” by Giulio G. Carini (v. 9); and “Geology and Oil Exploration – The Studies of Giovanni Capellini in Romania,” by Francesco Gerali (v. 10). Oil-Industry History is currently in volume 11 (2010), and a sampling of papers from the current issue includes: “The Vinton (Ged) Oil Field, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana,” by Jeff Spencer; “Lester: Arkansas’ First Oil Discovery (Almost),” by Raymond P. Sorenson; “George Bernard Reynolds: A Forgotten Pioneer of Oil Discoveries in Persia and Venezuela,” by Rasoul Sorkhabi; and “The Development of the Italian Oil Industry in the Emilian Apennines,” by Francesco Gerali which also includes a bibliography of oil history literature from 2008-2010, and ten-year index (author and subject) to all articles that have appeared in Oil-Industry History from 2000 through 2009; which represents a total of over 1400 pages of oil history. All back issues of Oil-Industry History are still available in their original printed form, although the stocks for some issues are getting low. Interested parties can contact me at the above address, or through the PHI permanent address: Petroleum History Institute, P. O. Box 165, Oil City, PA 16301-0165. Please inquire about special prices on a complete journal run for new members.

In addition to the journal, PHI also has available a facsimile reprint of Abraham Gesner’s well-known, but hard to find, 1861 publication Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum & Other Distilled Oils. Many of the illustrations in the facsimile reproduction are clearer than the original. This hard-cover reprint is available for $25 (non-mbrs)/$20 (mbrs)/$10 (student), plus $5.00 postage and handling.

AWARDS: Each year the Petroleum History Institute honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the development and heritage of the international oil and gas industry. Except for the Distinguished Service Award, neither the nominator nor nominee must be a member of PHI. Nominations should be forwarded to: Larry Woodfork, Chairman-PHI Awards ( The COLONEL EDWIN L. DRAKE LEGENDARY OILMAN AWARD recognizes the contribution of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the business of oil and natural gas. The SAMUEL T. PEES KEEPER OF THE FLAME AWARD honors and recognizes individuals who have provided great service in preserving and bringing before the public the heritage and history of the oil and gas industry. The award bears the name of a deceased long-time petroleum geologist, oil historian, and one of the founders of the Petroleum History Institute. The Distinguished Service Award honors members who have donated significant time, energy, and expertise to the advancement of the Petroleum History Institute.

MEETINGS – SYMPOSIA – FIELD TRIPS: Since 1996 the organization has conducted three-day meetings in an area of historical importance in the oil and gas industry. Beginning in 2005 these gatherings have been held on an annual basis. Though they are organized around the specific location of the meeting, the meeting symposia (30 minute oral presentations and posters) are open to any topic related to the history of the international oil and gas industry. The field trips have taken our group to some of the major historical sites in North America.

The 2011 meeting will be held in Marietta, Ohio, June 23-25, 2011, which is an area well known in the history of petroleum in the eastern U. S. as it was the home of Ebenezer Andrews, one of the first to note the connection between oil and anticlinal axes. The abstract deadline is May 1st, 2011. Abstracts (600 words – specify oral or poster) can be submitted electronically to William Brice at PHI welcomes both oral and poster presentations. The 2011 PHI meeting has the following co-sponsors: Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP), Ohio Oil & Gas Association, Ohio Geological Survey, Ohio Geological Society, Ohio Chapter of SPE, Southeastern Ohio Oil & Gas Association, and Marietta College. The meeting headquarters will be at The Lafayette Hotel, a historic venue in Marietta, Ohio. Registration fees, which are still being determined, will include most meals and coffee breaks, symposium, and field trip. Please check the PHI web site for the final fee details:

Participants must make their own hotel arrangements. We have currently blocked 40 rooms under “OOGEEP,” with a secondary name as “Oil History Symposium.” So, when reservations are made, either name can be used. The deadline for rooms is May 23, 2011. The hotel information is as follows: The Lafayette Hotel, 101 Front Street, Marietta, OH 45750;, (740) 373-5522, 1-800-331-9336. Negotiated Room rates for Thursday: Queen – $68, Queen Parlor – $78, Riverview King – $88, King Parlor – $88, Riverview King Parlor – $98. Negotiated Room rates for Friday and Saturday are: Queen – $83, Queen Parlor – $93, Riverview King – $103, King Parlor – $103 Riverview King Parlor – $113.

The Meeting Program will begin on Thursday afternoon (June 23rd) with the Opening Reception and mounting of poster presentations. The Symposium will be held on Friday (June 24th) with AM and PM sessions, and the Awards Banquet and Keynote address will be held Friday evening on board a river boat on the Ohio River. Saturday (June 25th) is the day-long field trip. Current plans call for visits historic sites both in Ohio and portions of West Virginia. Saturday evening there will be a Farewell Dinner, which is the official close of the meeting. Final details and registration fees will be posted on the PHI web site: