This timeline represents an edited version of text obtained from the book, The History of The Standard Oil Company, written by Ida M. Tarbell in 1904
1859: Colonel Drake Strikes Oil
"Colonel" Edwin Drake, one-time railroad conductor,
drilled the first commercial oil well in Titusville Pennsylvania.
By the 1880s, the commercial potentialities of oil was just
beginning to be realized. In two decades oil production
had grown to the point where more than 80 percent of the
worlds petroleum consumption was supplied by Pennsylvania
1863: The Teamsters & Pipeline Gathering
The first discoveries were transported to rail stations by teamsters
using converted whiskey barrels and horses. From the very beginning,
transportation was key with the teamsters holding the first regional
monopoly position. They charged more to move a barrel of oil 5 miles
by horse than the entire rail freight charge from Pennsylvania to
New York City.
Despite considerable ridicule, threats, armed attacks,
arson and sabotage, the first wooden pipeline, about 9 miles
in length, was built in 1865 in essence bypassing the teamsters.
During this same point in history, a young entrepreneur
named John D. Rockefeller, was busily acquiring kerosene
refineries, and strong positions with the railroads. In
1870 he combined his companies into one, the Standard Oil
1879: Tidewater - The First Trunkline
Independent oilmen, in a desperate effort to compete with
Rockefellers position in transportation, built the
first crude oil trunk line called Tidewater in 1879.
Within a year, Rockefeller owned half of Tidewater and was busily
laying pipelines to Buffalo, Philadelphia, Cleveland and New York.
1880s: The Rise of Russian Oil
Rockefeller looked to export his kerosene lamp oil production
to Northern Europe and Russia.
Not long after this, oil was discovered near the Russian
sea town of Baku. Over 20 refineries sprang up in the region,
but once again, logistics was key.
A pipeline was constructed through the mountains east of Baku where
an enterprising merchant Marcus Samuel developed the first organized
kerosene shipping enterprise to compete with Rockefeller and send
kerosene to Europe and the Far East.
1880-1905: Gushers and Refineries
Meanwhile, back in the states, geologists were astonished to see
oil discoveries in Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas, and the first true gusher
at Spindletop, TX which flowed 110,000 barrels per day.
sprang up near oil fields and new markets with the largest being
Rockefellers venture on the southern shores of lake Michigan
at Whiting, Indiana.
By the turn of the century, oil was discovered as far west
1905: Crude Oil Pipelines
At this point in history the oil business was shifting
from kerosene lamp oil to gasoline.
Edison's electric light bulb replaced oil lamps in many of the
cities reducing the kerosene market but Henry Ford had changed the
landscape with mass produced automobiles.
Crude oil pipelines carrying oil from the prolific fields
in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to the refineries in the East
began to cross the country.
1900-1915: The Government Acts
By now Standard Oil controlled over 80 percent of the worlds
refining and transportation. John D. Rockefeller was the
most powerful man in the world.
In 1890 the US government passed the Sherman Anti-Trust
Act and an energetic young president, Theodore Roosevelt,
challenged the Standard Oil Trust.
Pipeline regulation went hand in hand in 1906 as the Hepburn
Act made interstate pipelines common carriers who were required
to offer their services at equal cost to all shippers.
In 1912 the anti-trust litigation was final and Standard
Oil dissolved into seven regional oil companies.
Which is Now...
In 1913, the Valuation Act was the first attempt at Federal
involvement in US pipeline ratemaking.
1917: Crude Oil Pipelines
the advent of WW I, crude oil pipelines where traversing much of
Pipeline Mileage Triples
During the 1920s, driven by the growth of
the automobile industry, total U.S. pipeline mileage grew to over
1935: Population Shifts (Product Lines)
By the 30s, the population continued to move west
across the Mississippi River and the first product pipelines
where built from Whiting, St. Louis and Kansas City to the
1945: Product Lines Grow During WWII
Throughout WW II, product systems grew rapidly along the
eastern seaboard. 48 US oil tankers were sunk in the early stages
of the war showing the US vulnerability to such attack. This quickly
led to the expansion of land based large diameter pipelines carrying
crude oil and products from areas such as Texas and Oklahoma to
East Coast consumer states.
Near the end of the war, pipeline regulation became the
responsibility of the US Interstate Commerce Commission
who introduced the notion of reasonable returns in the 8
percent to 10 percent range.
1950s-1960s: The Search for Oil
In the 50s and 60s, the balance of supply was
For the first time the US was a net importer of oil.
U.S. oil companies became major explorers for oil in far flung
Major discoveries were made by U.S. companies in: Egypt, Argentina,
Venezuela, Trinidad, West Africa, the North Sea, Western Canada,
the Caspian Sea, the Middle East and offshore China.
1950s-1960s: Shifting crude supply
As lower 48 oil production declined and petroleum supply
came increasingly from overseas and Canada, the pipeline
industry responded with major industry systems from the
US Gulf Coast to the Mid West, Western Canada to the Mid
West, and California to the US West Coast.
In 1954, Stanolind, the Indiana Standard pipeline company, became
the largest liquid pipeline carrier in North America. A position
it held until the most recent Enbridge expansion.
1968: The population Moves West
The relentless move westward continued and product pipelines followed.
Also, the rise of import refineries on the US Gulf Coast led to
the construction of Colonial pipeline to supply the eastern seaboard.
Colonial was the largest privately financed undertaking
in US history in 1968.
1970 - 1977: The Trans Alaska Pipeline
the discovery of the Alaskan Prudhoe Bay oil field in 1968, pipeline
designers faced the challenge of building a pipeline to carry 1.6
million barrels per day of oil across 800 miles of frigid, snow
covered mountains and frozen tundra.
Completed in 1977, the Trans Alaska Pipeline carried over 2 million
barrels per day in 1988 and continues to deliver approximately 1
million barrels per day.
1970s - 1990s: The Advent of Specialty Pipes
Modern pipelines became increasingly versatile as they
were called upon to:
- gather oil and gas over one mile beneath the ocean surface
- transport supercritical fluid carbon dioxide for territory
- carry natural gas liquids for growing regional heating
and olefins industries
- and transport specialty chemicals between chemical plants
Pipelines continue to play a major role in the petroleum industry,
providing safe, reliable and economically transportation. As the
need for more energy increases and population growth continues away
from supply centers, pipelines are need to continue to bring energy
From the early days of wooden trenches and wooden barrels, the
pipeline industry has grown and employed the latest technology in
pipeline operations and maintenance. Today the industry uses sophisticated
controls and computers systems, advanced pipe materials and corrosion