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Six Historical Events in the First 100 Years of Canada's Petroleum Industry

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Photo of PHS Commemorative Pin SetIn 1988, the Petroleum History Society issued a limited-edition set of pins commemorating historical events in the first 100 years of Canada's oil and gas industry.

The pins were created and sold to help fund the society's first Oral History Project, which taped the memories of petroleum industry pioneers for future generations.

1858 - Oil Springs, Ontario
1908 - Bow Island, Alberta
1914 - Dingman Well, Alberta
1920s - Oil Sands, Alberta
1920 - Norman Wells, Northwest Territories
1947 - Leduc, Alberta

Center pin: Canada's Oil and Gas: The First 100 Years

1858 - Oil Springs, Ontario

PHS Pin Commemorating Oil Springs1858

James Miller Williams dug the first oil well in North America at Oil Springs, Ontario, in 1858, fully one year before the more famous Drake well in Pennsylvania. Although intended as a water well, when the Williams No. 1 well found free oil twenty metres below surface, it set off a flurry of activity which briefly made southwestern Ontario a world leader in petroleum drilling and production skills and technology.

1908 - Bow Island, Alberta

PHS Pin Commemorating Bow Island 1908

Spudded in 1908, Old Glory was the name of the discovery well which located the Bow Island gas field, the first major discovery in Alberta's earliest important commercial oil and gas exploration venture. Developing the field led to the first pipelines delivering natural gas to Alberta communities. Construction of a 16-inch pipeline from southwest of Medicine Hat to Calgary began on April 22, 1912 and was completed in only 86 days. A second leg reached Lethbridge on July 12, 1912.

The Bow Island pin depicts the celebration in Calgary on July 17, 1912, when 12,000 Calgarians gathered to watch Mrs. Eugene Coste - wife of the man who drilled Old Glory and founded Canadian Western Natural Gas - light the inaugural flare with a roman candle.

Photo of Eugene Coste.
Eugene Coste
(Glenbow Archives

1914 - Dingman Well, Alberta

PHS Pin Commemorating Dingman Well 1914

May 14, 1914, was a victorious day for Arthur W. Dingman as he and his associates savoured the fruits of their risk-taking. This puny success, the Dingman wet gas discovery, was the precursor for the deeper zone find. Drilled ten years later just a few kilometres away, Royalite No. 4 put Turner Valley on the oil and gas map.

Photo of Dingman Well #2, 1914.
Dingman Well #2, 1914
(Glenbow Archives NA-2335-5)
The Turner Valley Gas Plant is a Provincial and National Historic Site which is being preserved and reclaimed. This link will take you to more information on the Alberta Government's website in the Museums and Historic Sites section.

1920 - Norman Wells, Northwest Territories

PHS Pin Commemorating Norman Wells 1919

Led by geologist Ted Link, in 1919 a crew of six drillers and an ox named "Nig" made a six-week 1900 kilometre journey northward by railway, river boat and on foot to the site now known as Norman Wells along the Mackenzie River. The ox helped to build a log house and put the drilling rig in place before being butchered to provide food for the drillers during the long cold winter. Drilling resumed in the spring with the world's most northerly oil discovery coming in on August 23, 1920.

Photo - First Imperial Oil well, Norman Wells, 1920.
First Imperial Oil well, Norman Wells, 1920
(Glenbow Archives NA-503-4)

1920s - Oil Sands, Alberta

PHS Pin Commemorating Oil Sands 1930

The world's largest known petroleum deposit, Alberta's oilsands were used as a caulking material and for other purposes by Indians, probably for thousands of years. But the first white explorer to note them was Peter Pond, who wrote in his diary in 1778 of "springs of bitumen which flow along the ground" near the intersection of the Clearwater and Athabasca rivers. During the 1920s, the Alberta Research Council's Dr. Karl Clark developed the hot water process used today to produce synthetic oil from strip mined bitumen at two plants near Fort McMurray.

Photo - Interior view of shack with samples of tar sands and extractions, Fort McMurray, Alberta, 1920
(Glenbow Archives NA-1142-6)

1947 - Leduc, Alberta

PHS Pin Commemorating Leduc Discovery 1947

Imperial Oil's February 13, 1947 landmark crude oil discovery at Leduc, 40 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, represented the beginnings of the modern oil industry in Canada. Based on a classic photo, this pin shows industry (personified by Vernon Taylor, Imperial's production manager) and the Alberta Government (personified by the Honourable N. E. Tanner, Minister of Lands and Mines). Their hands on the valve wheel symbolize the vital and enduring linkage between enlightened regulators and energetic industry.


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