Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 7,830
Registered: ‎10-03-2014


oil derricks california old photos

California was not always all about Hollywood, the bliss and glamour of being a superstar, and walking the red carpet on Academy Award night. In fact, it was a bleak contrast of what was once a state heavily fed on oil.

Oil! Oil! Oil! It was truly “black gold” that moved the nation’s Golden State into the future of the 20th century.


The sight of myriads of oil towers installed on familiar venues such as Downtown Los Angeles, Venice Beach, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, or Santa Fe, was overwhelming. Dark. Gloomy. 


Oil pumping in California.


By 1895, the state of California, alone, produced 1.2 million barrels of oil. With the new oil supplies from California—along with increased oil production in Texas and Pennsylvania—the price decreased from $9.60 per barrel in 1860 to $0.25 per barrel in 1895.

oil derricks california old photos

Huntington Beach, circa 1930s.


At the turn of the century, oil production in California continued to rise at a booming rate. In 1900, the state of California produced 4 million barrels. In 1920, production had expanded to 77 million barrels.


Between 1920 and 1930, new oil fields across Southern California were being discovered with regularity including Huntington Beach in 1920, Long Beach and Santa Fe Springs in 1921, and Dominguez in 1923, and Inglewood in 1924. Southern California had become the hotbed for oil production in the United States.


The oil boom caused whole areas to become home to hundreds of wooden drilling derricks owned by independent speculators. With the oil derricks sticking up like giant quills, neighborhoods started to look gloomy.


In places such as Venice, California (now known as Marina del Rey), oil derricks ran right up to the shore, mingling with residential neighborhoods and pristine beaches.


In Huntington Beach and in Santa Barbara, legions of derricks lined the coast, vying for space with sunbathers and lifeguard stands. While today these violent protrusions are at odds with the Southland’s idyllic, fun-in-the-sun image, but at the time L.A. was still in its infancy, and the metastasizing cityscape was preoccupied with growth, not beauty.


This is how Los Angeles Times described the Venice Beach–Del Rey oil field in 1930: Today oil derricks stand like trees in a forest… . Steam pile drivers roar on many a vacant lot… . One hundred and eighty permits to drill for oil have been given and twenty-five more are in procedure… . If this fever continues, as it gives every indication of doing, one reasonably may expect to see virtually the entire water-front line of private properties from Washington street to Sixty-sixth avenue or Playa del Rey dotted with a line of oil derricks.

oil derricks california old photos

An oilfield in Venice, California. 1930.



oil derricks california old photos

A forest of oil derricks sprouts up on the Signal Hill oil field, Long Beach, California, in 1937.


oil derricks california old photos


Long Beach, 1937


oil derricks california old photos
Long Beach 1951
oil derricks california old photos
Venice, CA
Source:  RareHistoricalPhotos,com.
Long Beach Today
Long Beach Travel Guide - Choice Hotels
Venice CA today
Los Angeles, California #laliving | Wanderlust | Pinterest | Los ...



Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 6,132
Registered: ‎06-10-2015

Facinating pictorial @Foxxee   Thanks for taking the time to put it together and posting.  

Respected Contributor
Posts: 2,564
Registered: ‎06-04-2012

Wow @Foxxee even though a native San Franciscan had NO idea these ever existed!


Thank you for posting Smiley Happy

Regular Contributor
Posts: 233
Registered: ‎04-13-2016

Wow!  This is interesting. Never knew this. 

Honored Contributor
Posts: 30,496
Registered: ‎03-10-2010

Southern California's oil boom was the premise of the film There Will Be Blood.


The performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in the film should be a course for all aspiring actors.


66 - Movie Review - There Will Be Blood | Mark Quigley's Homepage | Mark's Webpage

~My philosophy: Dogs are God's most perfect creatures. Angels, here on Earth, who teach us to be better human beings.~
Honored Contributor
Posts: 66,207
Registered: ‎03-10-2010

I bet the water near those wells was a mess.  We ran into some crude oil once off the beach in Corpus Christi and had to use pure acetone to get it off skin, although it left a dark stain.  Bathing suits were ruined.


We didn't know if it came from an offshore oil rig or a leak in a passing ship but the beach should have been closed.


Oil seems to get into the water if there's a well anywhere in the vicinity.

New Mexico☀️Land Of Enchantment
Trusted Contributor
Posts: 1,525
Registered: ‎01-25-2023

I had no idea....

Critter Lover! (especially cats!)
Trusted Contributor
Posts: 1,133
Registered: ‎04-04-2014

Hi, @Foxxee !  I lived in Huntington Beach from 1989-2006 and while the number of wells/pumps has decreased, there are still areas of them not far from housing.  There are a number of big platforms off the coast that are used as landmarks for aircraft landing at Long Beach, Orange County and perhaps LAX depending on where they are coming from.  

Honored Contributor
Posts: 17,412
Registered: ‎07-26-2014

@Foxxee   Very interesting.  Never knew that.  Thank you for posting it.


Did the article mention if any of the oil derricks on private land made the land owners filthy rich?

"Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference."


Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 7,830
Registered: ‎10-03-2014

@Mz iMac wrote:

@Foxxee   Very interesting.  Never knew that.  Thank you for posting it.


Did the article mention if any of the oil derricks on private land made the land owners filthy rich?

@Mz iMac 


Didn't see that anywhere, but it sure looks like it did.