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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)


Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about Spindletop. This gusher in 1901 ushered in the oil era in Texas.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Stevie Ray Vaughn “Texas Flood” Texas Flood, Epic Records (1983)]

CURWOOD: The folks who gathered on Spindletop Hill this week back in 1901 had little idea they were about to witness the birth of the age of petroleum. Indeed, when oil was struck at about 10:30 in the morning, the wife of the leaseholder had him hurry back from the barbershop in town. She was worried the oil would stop and he would miss all the action. But Spindletop didn’t stop. It gushed for years and would shoot 150 feet into the air if it wasn’t capped.

At the time, oil was used mainly to make kerosene and to grease wagon wheels. It would take the automobile and its thirst for gasoline to make the oil business huge. Even so, thousands of boomers inundated the small southeast Texas town of Beaumont, eager to get their share of black gold. The Spindletop oil fields produced millions of barrels per year until the salt dome that formed the hill was depleted. In the 1950s, the area was stripped mined for sulfur, and today, Spindletop looks like a swampy sinkhole. But prospectors say there are still huge gas and oil reserves deep below the site, and descendents of the original leaseholders still draw oil royalty checks to this day.

And for this week, that’s Living on Earth Almanac.




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