January 2016 /// Vol 237 No. 1

Columns

First oil

Starting our second century

Pramod Kulkarni, World Oil

Welcome to the first of seven special issues to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Gulf Publishing Company. We wish the celebration had come when the oil and gas industry was at the top of the current boom-and-bust cycle, but who amongst us can choose our own birthday? Let’s accentuate the positive and appreciate the fact that this is one of the few celebratory milestones in what is, otherwise, expected to be a difficult year for the upstream sector.

Gulf Publishing Company was incorporated in the State of Texas, in September 1916, by the Gulf Coast’s leading oil company executives and oilfield equipment manufacturers, as wildcat discoveries were being made in Goose Creek field along the Houston Ship Channel. Gulf Publishing acquired the Gulf Coast Oil News, a weekly broadsheet. Ray Lofton Dudley, an oil reporter for the Houston Post newspaper, was appointed editor. Mr. Dudley changed the Gulf Coast Oil News into a magazine format and guided its growth into a leading oil-trade publication.

In 1918, the magazine’s title was changed to The Oil Weekly, to reflect expanded coverage of the oil and gas industry throughout North America. By 1931, Mr. Dudley had acquired majority control of Gulf Publishing. He believed in specialization, and in 1922, put this philosophy into practice by dividing up The Oil Weekly circulation into two other publications—The Petroleum Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer (downstream), now titled Hydrocarbon Processing, and Filling Station, which later became Petroleum Marketer (retail). In 1947, The Oil Weekly was recast as a monthly, World Oil magazine, as the publication’s content shifted more to news analysis and technology reports for an industry that had expanded throughout the world.

Oilfield archaeology. The 100-year anniversary special section in this issue covers Gulf Publishing’s growth during the early years: 1916-1938. Subsequent issues will describe our tumultuous growth in successive decades, culminating in the 100-year anniversary special section in the July 2016 issue. Our Gulf Publishing library has retained magazine issues since 1917, a small collection of photos and employee newsletters. Many of the historical documents have been discarded over the 100 years, with successive company office moves. For me, it has been a thrilling experience to reconstruct the history of Gulf Publishing and its magazines by thumbing through archived magazine issues and uncovering an assortment of source documents, such as stock certificates, historical newspaper advertisements and articles. Hopefully, you’ll find the resulting articles in the special section both informative and entertaining, about the early days of the oil field and Gulf Publishing’s special place throughout those exciting years.

What next? One insight that I’ve taken away from the study of the 1916-1938 era is of the continuous cycles of crude oil shortages and over-production. Our industry has had to contend with up-and-down cycles, one decade after the next. So, I expect the current bust to swing into a boom sooner than we think.

Gulf Publishing and Mr. Dudley took advantage of a vacuum of news and oilfield technology analysis, and filled it with specialized publications, using the advanced information technologies of the day—letterpress typesetting machines and web presses—to deliver the latest information to their subscribers.

As we embark on Gulf Publishing’s second century, we should continue to adopt Mr. Dudley’s strategy of using the latest communications technologies to deliver information and analysis, where it is needed, as quickly as possible. By taking advantage of the market and information technology opportunities that come our way, there’s no doubt in my mind that a future editor of World Oil (or its successor of a different name) will be writing in 2116 about Gulf Publishing embarking on its third century. Who knows, perhaps the editorial will be conveyed via instantaneous mind-to-mind propagation. wo-box_blue.gif 

The Authors ///

Pramod Kulkarni pramod.kulkarni@worldoil.com

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