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Financier and oilman Henry L. Doherty was born May 15, 1870, at Columbus, Ohio. He left school at age twelve to work for the Columbus Gas Company. Over the next eight years, he rose to the position of chief engineer by adhering to a strong work ethic and self-education program. By his mid-twenties he had begun to acquire control of a variety of utility companies. To keep abreast of the latest developments in technology, he established the policy of hiring experts in the various scientific fields related to those industries. In 1910 Doherty formed the New York-based Cities Service Company as a holding company devoted to acquiring utility firms, which ultimately controlled more than two hundred entities.

By 1912 Cities Service had entered the petroleum business and in that year they purchased Theodore N. Barnsdall's holdings, which included a number of Oklahoma based oil companies, most notably the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company (ITIO). All these companies were consolidated under the control of the Empire Gas and Fuel Company, later changed to the Cities Service Oil Company. Headquartered at Bartlesville, Oklahoma, it was destined to play a role in almost every oil and gas discovery in Oklahoma for the next forty years.

In keeping with his scientific approach to business, Doherty, who preferred to be called chief engineer rather than president, established the Doherty Research Company (DORECO) at Bartlesville in 1916 to advance his theories of field unitization as a means of oil conservation and as a location to train petroleum geologists and engineers. He received numerous awards and recognition for his contributions to the development of scientific methodology in the petroleum industry.

By the mid-1930s Doherty became almost an invalid due to an arthritic condition, although he continued to operate his empire from a specially equipped bed. Henry Latham Doherty died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 26, 1939, and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bartlesville (Oklahoma) Daily Enterprise, December 27, 1939. William Donohue Ellis, On the Oil Lands With Cities Service ([Tulsa, Okla.]: Cities Service Oil and Gas Corporation, 1983). Margaret Withers Teague, History of Washington County and Surrounding Area, Vol. 2 (Bartlesville, Okla.: Bartlesville Historical Commission, 1968).

Bobby D. Weaver

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