Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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The region around Oklahoma City had been subject to oil exploration for decades prior to December 4, 1928, when the Oklahoma City Number One was completed south of the city limits. The Indian Territory Oil Illuminating Company (ITIO) and the Foster Petroleum Corporation brought in the well at a depth of 6,355 feet for a production in the six thousand barrel-per-day range. This discovery opened the Oklahoma City Field, which progressed so rapidly that with the completion of the Hall-Briscoe Number One Holmes on May 27, 1930, it entered the city limits of Oklahoma City.

For the first time the state was presented with an oil field within an urban area, and that situation presented singular difficulties. It was generally recognized that some restriction needed to be put on oil production to help control price as well as to control activities within the state's capital city. As early as September 11, 1929, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued Order Number 4804 stopping all drilling in the Oklahoma City field for thirty days. Early in 1930 the Oklahoma City Council passed an ordinance limiting drilling to one well per city block and restricting activity to specifically designated sections of the city. Legal challenges and flagrant law violations led to such a chaotic situation that Gov. William H. Murray declared martial law for twenty-four hours around the wells on May 5, 1932, in support of the city council. This intervention was followed by another martial law action on June 6, 1932, followed by another of ten day's duration beginning on March 4, 1933. Finally, House Bill Number 481, imposing limitations on all oil produced in Oklahoma, passed on April 10, 1933, and finally brought oil production under some sort of control within the state. In 1935 the field reached north Oklahoma City, and Gov. Ernest W. Marland once again declared martial law in a dispute concerning drill sites around the state capital buildings. As these problems were finally resolved, peak annual production within the field ranged from fifty-one million to sixty-seven million barrels from 1933 through 1937, and strong production continued until well after World War II ended.

One of the most spectacular incidents in Oklahoma oil field development occurred when the Mary Sudik Number One, on the south side of Oklahoma City, came in on March 26, 1930. The drilling crew lost control of the well, and it sprayed oil across the countryside for as far as ten miles away until the rig was capped on April 6. The "Wild Mary Sudik," as the well came to be called, was probably the most spectacular well blowout in the state, but the six-thousand-foot wells throughout the field all had high gas pressure. Several other major blowouts occurred in the 1930s before operators developed the expertise to control the danger.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kenny A. Franks, The Oklahoma Petroleum Industry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). Carl Coke Rister, Oil! Titan of the Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949).

Bobby D. Weaver

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