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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Texas oil field, 1919

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Texas oil field, 1919
NMAH, Archives Center, API Collection


This object appears in the following sections:

Americans Adopt the Auto:
Americans Adopt the Auto — “Fill 'er Up!”

Gasoline Pump

Canfield filling station

Oilfields in Texas
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
This photo shows oil fields in Texas, which became a major center of U.S. oil production in the 20th century.
Physical Description
Photograph. Inscribed on the photo are the following words: "Looking West from Golden Cycle-toward the famous North West Pool that surpasses in Dividends and Activity any oil pool yet discovered. copyright Harkimer 240 Wichita Falls." The photo shows a scene with lots of derricks, tents, barrels, horses pulling wagons, and men in rough and ready conditions.
Date Made:
Americans discovered petroleum deposits in Pennsylvania in the mid-19th century, and used that petroleum, primarily, for lighting. Gasoline was produced in small quantities, but it was mainly used as a cleaning fluid. Consumers began to use petroleum products for fuel in the 20th century, and demanded larger quantities of gasoline when cars became widely used. American companies searched for and exploited huge deposits of oil in the South and West. In 1920, for example, Breckinridge, Texas's oil field produced 50 million barrels annually, 10 times the amount of American domestic production in 1871. Domestic crude production rose from 69,389,000 barrels in 1901 to 220,449,000 barrels in 1911. By 1926, the U.S. was producing 770,874,000 barrels of crude. At the same time, fears that the supply would run short, led American companies to look for oil elsewhere in the world, involving them in the politics of the Middle East, Mexico, and other oil-rich regions. Still, throughout the first half of the 20th century, the United States was both the major user, and a major producer of oil.

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