Segments in this Video

World's Richest Man (00:59)


In the 1950s, Texas oil mogul H.L. Hunt was one of the lucky "wildcatters" who struck it rich. Wildcatters transformed the desert into cities and turned America into a superpower.

New Cowboy Breed (02:45)

By 1901, Eastern establishment replaced Westward Expansion; industrialists like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created an oil demand. Drilling prospectors called themselves wildcatters. Most were gamblers who risked financial ruin.

Petroleum King (01:44)

In 1901, the world's first automobile show was powered by gasoline. Learn about Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust, conservative financial attitude, and Sunday school teachings.

Patillo Higgins (02:19)

Higgins, a Sunday School teacher, believed oil lay beneath Beaumont, Texas. He recruited Captain Anthony Lucas to drill through salt deposits at Spindletop Hill.

Spindletop Hill (02:05)

Lucas borrowed money from wildcatters James Guffey and John Galey for stronger drilling equipment. In January 1901, he and Higgins struck oil that created a 100 foot geyser.

Black Gold Rush (01:15)

It took nine days to control the Spindletop Hill gusher. Higgins and Lucas' discovery attracted nearly 100,000 wildcatters to Beaumont.

Wildcatter Process (03:20)

Prospectors had to decide where to drill, obtain a lease from the landowner, and recruit investors to finance operations. Competition and corruption were fierce. Higgins learned that Lucas' deal with Guffey and Galey excluded him from profits; he sued and settled out of court.

Columbus Marion Joiner (04:01)

Joiner was contemplating suicide when he had a dream of finding oil in Rusk County. He convinced farm widow Daisy Bradford to lease her land, and used a fabricated geology report to recruit investors.

Daisy Bradford 3 (01:43)

Joiner sold false shares to raise drilling money. In August 1927, he began drilling. After two dry holes, his derrick broke and he was forced to drill on the spot—finding oil.

Haroldson Lafayette Hunt (02:46)

The Joiner Well attracted oil tourists, including an Arkansas wildcatter and poker player who sensed Joiner had problems.

Joiner Well Gusher (02:45)

In October 1930, crowds gathered on Daisy Bradford's farm. Martha Watkins Harris recalls standing on the platform before the oil stream. The resulting fame exposed A.D. Lloyd as a marriage con man.

Solution to Legal Problems (03:23)

Joiner faced 150 lawsuits from investors he swindled. Hunt suspected the Daisy Bradford 3 was on the edge of a larger oil reserve. A drill team secretly confirmed his theory; he negotiated to buy Joiner's lease and take on his lawsuits.

Black Giant (03:11)

Hundreds of investors bought land around the East Texas Oil Field, including Hunt. Kilgore had 24 derricks operating simultaneously. The boom brought unsavory characters and opportunists.

Managing the Petroleum Industry (02:31)

Lack of regulation led to overproduction. The state government called on the Texas Railroad Commission to oversee pro-rationing—determining global oil prices. Locals desperate for money ran bootleg petroleum productions.

Fueling World War II (02:20)

The East Texas Oil Field provided much of the oil needed to run Allied airplanes. Hunt became the richest man in the world and helped determine the war outcome. President Roosevelt thanked him personally.

Final Oil Frontier (01:59)

Demand for oil increased with the postwar automobile industry. Returning G.I. Michel T. Halbouty became a wildcatter. By the 1950s, most potential fields were tapped; he went to Alaska and discovered a new field.

21st Century Drilling (04:52)

Computer technology, geophysics and scientific methods rendered wildcatters obsolete. Halbouty continues searching for oil the old-fashioned way. Due to environmental contamination, clean water is valuable in East Texas.

Credits: Wildcatters (00:50)

Credits: Wildcatters

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Part of the Series : Empires Of Industry
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This documentary looks at wildcatters, or Texas oil prospectors, who used unscientific methods to guess where oil fields might be. Pattillo Higgins discovered the Spindletop Hill field near Beaumont. Columbus Marion Joiner located the legendary East Texas Oil Field—also known as the Black Giant. These men risked financial ruin to chase their dreams and were ultimately responsible for petroleum-fueled economic booms during the 20th century.

Length: 45 minutes

Item#: BVL130763

Copyright date: ©2001

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video, Dealer and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.