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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History Tid-Bits

History Of The Marland Oil Company

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E.W. Marland was the antithesis of a rugged Oklahoma cowboy - an anglophile favoring English fox hunting, Norfolk jackets and knickers. But, these refined duds and pastimes did little to conceal Marland's true nature, a rough and tumble oil explorer with a penchant for risks, the bigger the better.

After losing his luck in the oilfields of Pennsylvania, Marland headed west to Ponca City, a small Oklahoma trading town "no more than a wide place in the road," an early company employee recalled. Marland made several excursions to the famed 101 Miller Brothers Ranch in search of oil, convinced immense deposits lay beneath. Geology was his divining rod, he said, a science yet to be proven in the hunt for crude.

Marland and the Millers met with White Eagle, Chief of the Ponca and emerged with permission to drill off the crest of the hill on an allotment owned by the Ponca Indian, Willie-Cries. For a $1,000 annual payment and a 12.5% override, a lease was obtained from Willie-Cries, and on June 11, 1911, that well “Willie-Cries-For-War” struck oil and stayed in production until 1976, bringing wealth to the company and its investors.

“I have slept in the derrick of many a discovery well - gone for a week at a time without even taking my boots off, wet to the skin in freezing weather - meals out of a dinner pail - and loved it for the excitement it gave and the sense of satisfaction that came from tapping a treasure house of nature, filled with liquid gold.” - E.W. Marland.

Left - E.W. Marland, at his first Oklahoma well, “Willie Cries.” This discovery in 1911 opened up a new empire for production. The real oil development of central Oklahoma dates from the day when this well came in.

Right - E.W. Marland's first Oklahoma well, “Willie Cries.”




E.W. Marland - The Oil Man

E. W. Marland was considered to be a maverick by many oilmen of his day. Others saw him as an innovative leader. He was the first to believe in geology as a tool to help discover oil and his methods proved to be effective. His geology department launched an innovative drilling experiment - core drilling - which became a major operation. Marland brought the seismograph from Germany and had a two year jump on the industry in the use of this geophysical method of locating favorable structures. 




Marland quickly built a small refinery to process the crude, and incorporated the Marland Oil Company to market the refined output. Built in 1918, the Marland Oil Refinery in Ponca City was considered one of the outstanding economic achievements in the Oklahoma oil industry. Labor requirements at the refinery caused the population of Ponca City to triple in only a few months.

Marland created an atmosphere of opportunity, loyalty and comfortable living at the Marland Oil Company. He was “E.W.” to all employees, not “the boss” or an aloof chief executive of a great oil corporation.

Employee benefits offered at Marland Oil were at least 25 years ahead of their time:

  • Free medical and dental care.
  • Bonuses for discoveries, premiums for improvements, and easy stock purchases.

In addition he bought a bank, and then lent money to his employees at 6%, so they could all afford to purchase a home. Then he built over 1000 homes. (The standard rates at other local banks were 8 - 10%.)

The Marland Oil Company represented the model industrial plant in the United States, and was active in every phase of the oil business:

  • It explored for oil and opened new fields.
  • It produced oil.
  • It transported oil.
  • It operated natural gas plants.
  • It operated refineries.
  • It manufactured gasoline and the whole array of retail petroleum products.
  • It marketed its gasoline and oils.
  • It produced and marketed natural gas.
  • It had pipelines that carried oil and pipelines that carried gas.
  • It shipped, in its own tank cars and by steamer, the products of the Marland Company all over the world.

His "Midas Touch" brought in one well after another, including the giant Burbank and Tonkawa fields. As money flowed like the oil beneath, Marland invested the proceeds in the industry's first research division, which developed seismography techniques and new drilling methods to discover even more oil.

Even in the early 1920’s, the Marland Oil Company encompassed a vast area, including the Marland refinery, the Marland office building, the 5,000,000 barrel storage tank farm, fields that produced the crude oil supply, and the Marland warehouses and loading racks capable of loading 100 rail cars of oil daily. Surrounding the entire complex were many beautiful landscape improvements, a striking contrast to the usual industrial enterprise.

Everything E.W. Marland did, he invested with beauty and symmetry. Hundreds of service stations were built, many drawing from Marland's personal taste in architecture -- they looked like tiny English cottages. All Marland filling stations were alike, in the shape of a triangle synonymous with the Marland Oil logo. Each were also landscaped and surrounded by flowers. By 1927, there were 550 Marland Oil service stations in 11 states.

Ernest W. Marland, President of the Marland Oil Company, had vast oil holdings that made him one of the dominant figures in the petroleum industry of America, and probably the largest independent producer and refiner in the world. He accumulated a personal fortune of more than $30,000,000.00. Over a 10-year period, he paid income taxes totaling $3,600,000 - an average of $1000 a day.

Soon Marland was dubbed the "millionaire producer of Ponca City." He lived the high life, playing polo on his formal estate in Ponca City with many luminaries of the day, such as humorist Will Rogers. But he was equally generous to his adopted city, endowing schools, libraries and public art.

The exploration and production activities of Marland Oil extended into Texas, Colorado, California, Mexico, Central America and South America. The sign of the red triangle became familiar in America and became known abroad.

After only 17 years in business, E.W. Marland became a victim of a hostile takeover by J.P. Morgan. In October 1928, E.W. resigned as president and chairman of the board of Marland Oil Company and began a career in politics. Marland Oil then merged with the Continental Oil Company.

Conoco was on its way.

Today, the company is known around the world as.....ConocoPhillips