DGS Intl. Dinner - Early Texas Oil Field Photographers
EARLY TEXAS OILFIELD PHOTOGRAPHERS
Commercial photographers captured many great views of early Texas oil booms. Common scenes included oil gushers, oilfield fires, fields of wooden derricks, and boomtowns. These photographs were produced and sold, often as real photo postcards (RPPCs).
Port Arthur, Texas photographer Frank Trost (1868-1944) had the good fortune to photograph early scenes of the Spindletop oilfield (discovered in 1901), including perhaps the most famous photograph of the Lucas Gusher. Trost sold over 45,000 prints of this photograph in just a few months. His other Spindletop views include dozens of derricks so close together they appear to be touching, the field’s first oilfield fire, and several views of early gushers. Postcards were also made from Trost photographs.
Benjamin Harrison Loden (1870-1926) was the founder and owner of Loden’s Studio in the North Texas town of Electra. His work appears to be generally limited to scenes from the town and the Electra oil field (discovered in 1911). One photograph of his from the nearby Burkburnett oilfield has been located. His postcards include oilfield fires, derricks, gushers, and a missionary group ready to venture into the oilfield.
Frank J. Schlueter (1874-1972) and his wife, Lois, opened a photography studio in Houston in 1907 or 1908. Schlueter captured scenes in at least sixteen Texas Gulf Coast oil fields and the Vinton oil field in nearby southwest Louisiana. Though perhaps best-known for his oilfield photography, Schlueter also documented the growth of Houston and the surrounding area’s industries and agriculture until his retirement in 1964 at the age of 90. Schlueter’s work includes some excellent panoramic photographs. Hundreds of Schlueter’s photographs are preserved at the Houston Public Library as the Schlueter Photographic Collection.
Two additional Texas oilfield photographers, active in the Houston area, were F. (Frank) G. Allen (1882-1921) and L. (Lester) L. Allen (1875-1949). These contemporaries are not thought to be related. Frank, formerly a New York newspaper photographer, photographed scenes in Goose Creek, Humble, West Columbia, Damon Mound, Hull, Blue Ridge, and Pierce Junction oil fields. Frank may have had a studio for a brief time in Shreveport, Louisiana where he produced and sold photographs of the nearby Caddo Lake and Homer oilfields. Like Schlueter, Frank Allen produced some stunning panoramic photographs.
L. L. Allen captured images in the 1920s of Raccoon Bend, Orange, West Columbia, and Spindletop (second boom) oil fields. He also ventured a very short distance into Louisiana, capturing scenes at the Hackberry oilfield. Census records list him living in Houston in 1910 and the Texas towns of West Columbia (1920) and Orange (1930).
Jack Nolan (1889-1972) was a pioneer Texas photographer and newspaperman who documented the East Texas oil boom of the early 1930s. Nolan’s real photo postcards are highly collectible and capture the hustle and bustle of the boom towns and oilfield camps, as well as spectacular images of oil gushers and oilfield fires. He also documented the enforcement of martial law in the oilfields by the Texas National Guard. Nolan photographed some of the early gushers and boomtowns of West Texas before venturing to East Texas. Jack’s postcards are also known for their highly descriptive captions.
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