President’s Column – June 2010

Title: A Long History of RMAG with AAPG – so What’s In It For Me?
Author: Jerry Cuzella
Publication: The Outcrop, June 2010, p. 6, 8, 11-12

On December 1, 1921, the once lavish Albany Hotel located at the corner of Stout and 17th Street in Denver, was the site of the first organizational meeting to discuss an association of geologists in Denver. Seven prominent geologists were in attendance, L. Andreson, Max W. Ball, J. M. Douglas, T. S. Harrison, E. E. Hintze, C. T. Lupton, and C. B. Osborne, they would become the seven founding fathers of the association. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was agreed they would meet again at the Albany on December 21 of that same year. At the end of that meeting, C. B. Osborne was chosen as temporary secretary and another meeting was scheduled for January 26, 1922 at the Albany and that all of the geologists in the Denver area be invited to attend. Some fifty geologists showed up for that January meeting and would become charter members of the newly formed “Rocky Mountain Association of Petroleum Geologists” (RMAPG); meetings were to be held at the Albany on the first and third Thursday of each month at 12:15 PM. The first program meeting was held shortly thereafter on February 9, 1922 with a paper presented by L.R. Van Burgh titled “The Pre-cretaceous Stratigraphy of Western Kansas.” When Max W. Ball was elected as Vice-President of AAPG at their annual meeting in Oklahoma City in the spring of 1922, he invited AAPG to hold its first regional meeting in Denver on October 26-28 of that year, and an early relationship between the associations was underway.

Denver in 1922 was a city on the cusp of transition and formed an interesting back-drop for the nascent association of geologists. With the election of a reform-minded administration in 1912, Denver’s famous brothels, cribs, and sporting clubs of Market Street’s red light district between 19th and 20th Streets were either cleaned-up or torn down. Coloradoans rushed ahead and voted the entire state dry, shutting down liquor sales on midnight December 31, 1915, well ahead of the enactment of national Prohibition on January 16, 1919. Newspaper headlines of 1922 featured stories of the arrest and break-up (August 25) of the famous “Blonger Gang” of organized criminals that operated throughout the country with its headquarters in Denver. It was a sensational round-up of some 33 grifters involved in a $1 million confidence ring that preyed mostly on unsuspecting tourists and visiting businessmen. The gang was headed up by one Lou Blonger, “The Fixer” and ruling king of Denver’s underworld. He reportedly had a direct telephone line to the Mayor, Dewey C. Bailey and politicians at all levels. Along with connections to the chief of police; he was pretty much guaranteed immunity from prosecution. Old Lou, a civil war veteran, operated a number of saloons, gambling halls, and other sordid enterprises in western boomtowns, eventually settling in Denver in 1880. He plied his con-games along 17th Street with his headquarters just up the street from the Albany Hotel at 17th and Larimer. In 1921, Philip Van Cise was elected District Attorney and made his first order of business after taking office, to go after Denver’s underworld figures; Blonger and his gang would be Van Cise’s first target. He would continue to be one of Denver’s stalwart crime fighters despite his serving only one term as the District Attorney. When Benjamin Stapleton was elected mayor in 1923 with promises to wipe out corruption, restore morality, law, and order with backing from the Ku Klux Klan, Denver clearly was changing from an old west style of crime and vices to a different sort of immorality that was sweeping across the country at that time.

So it seems, with the confidence thieves gone and the triangle of vice, gambling, liquor, and prostitution somewhat quelled, Denver had a welcoming appearance. It was in 1926, RMAPG Vice-President, Alex W. McCoy, was elected President of AAPG and upon his recommendation, it was decided that AAPG would hold their second regional meeting in Denver, as part of the Western States Joint Convention which included the Rocky Mountain Section of the A.I.M.M.E and the American Mining Congress. The meeting was held September 20-23, 1926 at the brand new Cosmopolitan Hotel. The style of that conference was planned with one definite theme in order to avoid a lengthy and congested program. Remarks in the “Association Round Table” (AAPG Bull., 1926, vol. 10, no. 11, p. 1178-1180) state that the technical program and social events were well received and enjoyed by all the participants; most notably, “No gavels were broken warning speakers of their time limits.” The meeting was a tremendous success, and a close professional connection between the two associations was cemented.

Times were changing in Denver and the world by 1941, Prohibition was repealed, the Great Depression was drawing to a close, the Klan was disgraced and its influence in the state was short-lived and long gone. War was waging in Europe and North Africa, President Roosevelt declared the United States “an arsenal of democracy,” oil would be part of that armory, and the domestic petroleum industry would be mobilized into action. In Colorado, oil production in 1922 was just 266 BOPD from 60 wells, this is in contrast to 1941 statistics where Colorado had an average production of 5,890 BOPD from 200 producing wells (Crutcher, 1961). Colorado was becoming a recognized oil producing state. So in 1941, an invitation again was extended to, and accepted by AAPG to hold the annual convention in Denver in 1942. This meeting drew around 900 registrants; it was a joint meeting of the Society of Economic Paleontologist (SEPM) and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG).

After the war, the RMAPG would undergo a makeover, and in 1947 the board of directors produced a constitution and changed the name of the association to the “Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists” (RMAG). The RMAG petitioned AAPG to hold another National Meeting in Denver, the 33rd Annual Meeting to be held in the spring of 1948, the number of registrants was 2,992 and would be the largest attendance to that date and for sometime afterwards. The RMAG and AAPG succeeded big with this event. With revisions of the tax laws, RMAG revised its constitution in 1954 and the association was incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the laws of Colorado. Also in that year, the RMAG voted for affiliation with AAPG, their petition was accepted and RMAG was approved as an affiliated society on April 15, 1954. The structure of RMAG had now taken the form that we know today, with a connection to AAPG that had its roots from the very early days, with affiliation it now had become official.

So after all this, what is an affiliated society of AAPG anyway? As referenced in AAPG’s Bylaws (Article Vll, Sec. 1) and the Constitution (Article Il), “[AAPG] may affiliate with duly organized groups or societies which serve the needs of members of the Association in geographically defined areas and which by objects, aims, constitutions, bylaws, or practice are functioning in harmony with the objects and aims of the Association… Affiliated Societies within the United States (referred to in these Bylaws as ‘United States Affiliated Societies’) and International Regions shall be eligible to elect Delegates to the House of Delegates of the Association.” In summary, other benefits to the affiliated society include a periodic listing in the AAPG Bulletin, special notices of distinguished lecturer tours, items of interest concerning AAPG and the petroleum industry, a quarter-page advertisement in the Explorer and consideration for entry of publications into the “Datapages digital geology program.”

If you are unfamiliar with “Datapages” it is an online, electronic media archive of geological publications, where publications are easily accessible, searchable, and can be affordably downloaded. Individual papers from RMAG’s archive of technical publications (e.g. The Mountain Geologist and Guidebook articles) are now available on Datapages, however new releases of these publications are only available from RMAG until an exclusive period has expired. This endeavor has just gotten underway a couple of years ago, and allows for the access of RMAG publications to a much wider audience than ever before.

With affiliation, RMAG members who are also members of AAPG are elected to the AAPG House of Delegates where they participate in the legislative affairs of the Association. The affiliated societies are allocated delegates to the House based on the number of AAPG members in their society with the ratio of one delegate per seventy members.

Membership in RMAG certainly doesn’t require membership in APPG, but those members of RMAG who are eligible are encouraged to join AAPG. There are three classes of membership: Active, Student, and Associate. The criteria for these membership classifications can be found at the AAPG web-site ( One might ask, and reasonably so, what’s in it for me and what benefits do I get from joining AAPG? The Association is recognized worldwide as a prestigious, professional organization of petroleum geoscientists; it is one of the world’s largest professional geological societies with over 31,000 members worldwide. The Association promotes advances in the science of geology and inspires high professional conduct and a code of ethics. Members receive monthly, in either electronic or hard copy format, the Bulletin, and the Explorer, they also receive discounts on books and other publications, registration savings for conferences and exhibitions, and also education forums such as short courses and field trips. Three divisions within the association serve the needs of its members. The Division of Professional Affairs (DPA) speaks out on ethical, technical, and legislative matters. The Division of Environmental Geosciences (DEG) offers an opportunity to increase their membership’s knowledge about the environment and the petroleum industry. Members include environmental specialists, consultants, major and independent oil company employees, public sector employees, students and other interested individuals inside and outside of the energy industry. The Energy Minerals Division (EMD) was organized to advance the science of geology especially as it relates to energy minerals. It focuses on the unconventional hydrocarbons (including coal-bed methane, gas hydrates, gas shales, oil shale, and oil sands, tight gas sands, and more recently to renewable energy resources. If you are not a member of AAPG, I suggest taking a look at the Association’s web-site. While navigating through the site, one can review the myriad of benefits that results from being a member. Becoming a member is easy, membership applications can be filled out online, and it will open the door to a professional society with a long history of distinguished members who were and continue to be at the cutting edge of the geosciences. If you are already a member, I suggest checking out the web-site, there might be some benefits that you ‘re missing out on.

So when you see the year 1922 on the RMAG seal (designed by RMAG member Bill Smith), there is a lot of history behind that date for the RMAG and its early beginnings in Denver. Philip Van Cise, a man of high ethical standards and former Denver district attorney who fought crime in the Mile High City at the cost of his career, finally received recognition in April 2010, with the naming of the new justice building at 490 W. Colfax Avenue as the “Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center.”

The Denver skyline has changed much over the years, eventually the old Albany Hotel was demolished in 1977 and the Cosmopolitan dramatically imploded in 1984. Now, AAPG conferences are held downtown at the Colorado Convention Center; the last AAPG Annual Convention and Exposition occurred in 2009 and had over 7,000 registrants. At the recent meeting in April of the Rocky Mountain Section (RMS) of AAPG in New Orleans, it was decided that RMAG would be the host society for the 2014 RMS-AAPG meeting to be held in Denver. The RMAG has a long tradition with AAPG stretching back to 1922 and will continue on this path for the 2014 meeting with plans to present a technical program that will bring to the membership contemporary and relevant topics that are at the forefront of advancements in the geosciences.

A brief history of Philip Van Cise is found on the web at

More stories on the Blonger gang can be found on the web at

A comprehensive review packed with the interesting history of RMAG replete with great anecdotes pictures, and jokes was prepared by Hal Kellogg for the 75th Anniversary of RMAG and forms the basis for the history presented, it’s a “must read” and can be found in:

Kellogg, H. E., 1997, 75 Years of the RMAG: The Mountain Geologist, Vol. 34, no. 4, 171 p.


Crutcher, W.A. 1961, Highlights of industry activity Colorado, Nebraska, and the Denver Basin, in Parker, J.M. ed., Oil and Gas Fields Volume, Colorado-Nebraska: RMAG, p. 16-24.