Spindletop Boom Days
Texas History
6.125 x 9.25, 282 pp.
41 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 09/01/2000
Clayton Wheat Williams Texas Life Series
Price:        $29.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Spindletop Boom Days

By Paul N. Spellman

Spindletop. The word conjures images of Texas oil: roustabouts, roughnecks, oil barons, and endless rows of wooden derricks. The discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901 revolutionized the oil and drilling industry in the United States: before Spindletop's seventy thousand barrels of oil a day, no other well in the United States had produced more than three thousand barrels in a whole month. In Spindletop Boom Days Paul Spellman weaves together first-person narratives to tell the story of this moment in history and to describe the day-to-day life of those involved with the Spindletop gusher. These are stories of people, men and women of differing backgrounds and ethnicity, who touched the lodestone of the American frontier character. Some were culturally polished; most were ragged and forthright and completely honest. They were self-reliant to a fault, but they knew exactly when and how to cooperate in the necessities of the moment. They were fiercely independent and democratic in their beliefs. Although many stayed, most were transient in their lifestyle, arriving with great expectations, working with compulsive diligence, and moving on—some without a trace—when the next horizon beckoned. Spellman provides informative accounts of innovation in the petroleum industry such as new drilling techniques, the use of “drilling mud,” and improvements in derrick construction. Through the experiences of the men and women who lived it, from Big Hill to Sour Lake to Batson, we learn about the deadly fires and other dangers of working on the oil rigs, unruliness in the streets, and the comedy and tragedy of daily life. And Spellman entertains with stories of characters such as former Texas governor Jim Hogg and other legendary names in Texas' oil industry, including Walter and Jim Sharp, David Beatty, and Joseph Cullinan.Like no other story of Spindletop and the oil boom, this narrative history is a “slice of life” seen through the eyes of the men and women who lived through those rowdy, entertaining, exciting days in Southeast Texas.

Paul N. Spellman is professor of history at Wharton Junior College, Wharton, Texas. His first book, Forgotten Texas Leader: Hugh McLeod and the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, was published by Texas A&M University Press in 1999.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Spellman has done a masterful job of research. . . a fascinating oral history told by the ordinary people who lived through what is truly one of the most amazing events in American history. In short, the book is a good read about how we got where we are today.” --The Chronicles of Oklahoma

“. . . rousing good fun to read as well as a valuable historical analysis. . . . the author examines in extensive and interesting detail the effects of the oil boom on the lives of people of all kinds and the region they inhabited. Spellman takes a familiar story and makes it live in well-presented detail. . . . Not only does Spindletop Boom Days include much rich material that has never before been published, thus making it valuable to scholars interested in many aspects of early 20th century industrial and social history, but the book also stands as an excellent example of the uses of contemporary narrative in the writing of history.” --Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas

“A valuable contribution to the literature. It is an important reference work for military and Texas scholars and for history aficionados. It succeeds in placing human faces on the individuals involved with logistics and military spending.” --The Journal of Military History

“In vivid detail, the author brings us their firsthand accounts which capture the comedy and tragedy of daily life at Spindletop.” --Texas Illustrated Magazine

“First-hand accounts and anecdotes are the things that I think bring history to life and Spellman’s book about Spindletop is filled with them.” --The Facts

“Spindletop is a prime name in the economic and social history of Texas. With an assembly of first-person reports and eyewitness accounts, Spellman has woven together this excellent narrative and anecdotal history of the human experience at Spindletop. This history is enriched with contemporary photographs of the famed gusher, drilling crews, well sites, and Spindletop’s pioneering men and women. . . . Substantial chapter notes, a thorough bibliography, and a comprehensive index support the book’s value as a history reference.” --CHOICE

“. . . has captured the magnitude of the differences oil discoveries made in Texas. . . .a fascinating story, and thoroughly documented. . . . If you like Texas history, you will love Paul Spellman’s most recent contribution to it. . . . Great stuff; read it.” --The Austin Chronicle

“Spellman’s book, which features sound scholarship and good writing, will be valuable to everyone interested in the early wildcatting of the Texas oil industry.” --Journal of Southern History

“Spindletop Boom Days is an important contribution to the existing books on the booms because of the actual participants’ descriptions. It is entertaining to read and should be on the shelves of public and university libraries as a part of Texas’s rich social, cultural, and commercial history.” --Review of Texas Books

“Spellman has made excellent use of the material, selecting wisely to provide a lively narrative. For the general reader, full of wonderful stories of interesting people involved in important, dangerous work.” --Centennial Celebrations


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