Canadian History for Kids!

Canadian History for Kids: Alberta Oil

June 16, 1936 – Bob Brown, brings in a gusher at Turner Valley Royalties No. 1 well, Alberta.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at the Alberta oil boom!

Robert Brown, an electrician from Quebec, strikes oil in Alberta, on June 16, 1936!

It all began back in May of 1914 when a minor from Ontario, W.S. Heron, notices oil coming out of the ground in a farm in Turner Valley Alberta. He starts a company called Calgary Petroleum Productions Company (CPPC) with the help of investors such as future Prime Minister Robert Bennett and Senator James Longhead. His general manager, A.W. Dingman, is able to bring in the first well, called Dingman No. 1, on May 14, 1914. Unfortunately the well is more natural gas then oil but because oil if more important the gas if burned off and a huge amount of the gas is wasted. The burn off at the largest well at Hell’s Half Acre is so high it could be seen as far away as Regina.

During the Great Depression in the 1930’s people were travelling to find jobs. Some came to Alberta’s oil fields. In the winter, the people would often gather around the huge fires at Hell’s Half Acre just to stay warm.

With more and more wells being drilled, huts and buildings are now being erected. Soon communities are being built with such colourful names as Poverty Flats, Snob Hill, Dogtown, Little New York, Little Chicago and Little Philadephia.

In 1924, CPPC becomes the Royalite Oil Company, and it hits it next big strike at Royalite No. 4. Now the well is putting out 21 million cubic feet of gas and 660 bottles of Naphtha per day. What do great about Naphtha? Well with the earlier wells the clear naphtha didn’t need to be refined before it could be used as fuel for cars. They could fill the cars directly from the well.

Then Robert Brown, while working as an electricity utility superintendent in Calgary, decided to start his own oil business with the help of George M. Bell, owner of an Alberta Newspaper, and J. W. Moyer. Their business, Turner Valley Royalties, had a whole new way of doing business. Rather than selling shares to their investors, their company offered royalties to those putting money into their venture.

On June 16, 1936, they hit it big. Their well, Royalite No. 1, brought in crude oil. It started at 850 barrels a day, and peaked in 1942 with the production of over 10 million barrels of crude oil. Just in time to help with the war effort.

It was an amazing venture and a costly one. At that time it cost more than $150,000.00 to drill a well and more than $10,000.00 to move the drilling equipment from one well to the next well. By 1935 Turner Valley was the most important producing oil field and Imperial Oil was the most important oil company with 77 oil wells. By 1938 there were 100 oil wells in Turner Valley owned by Imperial Oil.

By 1945 the oil boom had slowed down considerable with less than 10 oil fields. The last well drilled by the Turner Valley Royalties, was Royaltie No. 90, in December of 1950.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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