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 »  Home  »  Science  »  Anthony F. Lucas b. Antun Lucic of Split, Croatia, discoverer of the the first major gusher in Texas in 1901
 »  Home  »  People  »  Anthony F. Lucas b. Antun Lucic of Split, Croatia, discoverer of the the first major gusher in Texas in 1901
 »  Home  »  Education  »  Anthony F. Lucas b. Antun Lucic of Split, Croatia, discoverer of the the first major gusher in Texas in 1901
Anthony F. Lucas b. Antun Lucic of Split, Croatia, discoverer of the the first major gusher in Texas in 1901
By Prof.Dr. Darko Zubrinic | Published  10/30/2011 | Science , People , Education | Unrated
The Lucas gusher in Spindletop, Texas 1901: On This Spot on the Tenth Day of the Twentieth Century a New Era in Civilization Began

Anthony F. Lucas - Antun Lučić 1955-1926, born in the city of Split in Croatia,
the father of petroleum engineering

The Lucas Gusher 1901, source of the photo The portal to Texas history.
This is one of the most important events in the history of the petroleum industry.

Antun Lucic (americanized name is Anthony F. Lucas; born in Split 1855, died in Washington 1921) discovered the first major gusher in Texas, The Lucas gusher, flowing at the rate of 80,000 to 100,000 barrels per day. It blew in January 1901. About 50,000 people came to see it. This meant the earliest massive exploitation of oil and petroleum in the world. Antun Lucic, known as Anthony F. Lucas (F. = Francis is after his father Franjo, mariner and shipbuilder from the island of Hvar) believed that the nearby Spindletop hill, near the town of Beaumont, covered a vast pool of oil. His company became one of the first oil companies in Texas. Antun Lucic was a mining engineer who completed his studies at the Polytechnic institute in Graz, Austria, where also his fellow countryman Nikola Tesla later studied. By 1902, as many as 285 wells were operating on Spindletop Hill and over 600 oil companies had been chartered (the population of Spindletop sprang from 8,000 in 1901 to 60,000 in 1902, i.e. in just a year!). In this way Captain Anthony Lucas enabled the United States to surpass Russia as the world's leading oil producer. With the Lucas gusher, a black-gold rush began, and fortune-seekers from all over the world poured into Texas. Over time, Houston became a center of the oil industry, and a captive of the British-dominated global oil cartel.

Lucas gusher, 1901 (

...This picture was taken four days after the oil began to gush. The well went wild for ten days, pouring approximaly 800,000 barrels of oil, and making an oil lake covering some 100 acres of land, before Captain Lucas was able to cap it. Great quantities of oil went as far as Port Arthur, sixteen miles below, on the coast. see [Soric, p 97])

Anthony Lucas (Antun Lucic) invented the so called "Christmas tree", which is the system of valves and pipes installed on the wellhead to harness a gusher. The "Christmas tree" is connected to the piping for transportation or storage of oil.

Christmas tree invented by Anthony Lucas
in order to harness a gusher (photo from [McBeth])


Anthony Lucas and drilling crew,
photo from Math/Science Nucleus for children


Spindle Top, congestion of derrics in 1901-1902 (photo from [McBeth])


Antun Lucic (Anthony Lucas) on the left (photo from [McBeth])

The naval fuel board program adopted by the USA Government in 1901 specified that all the vessls should be equiped for the burning of oil as fuel. Railroads in increasing number were using it, and manufacturers were substituting it for coal and gas. At that time the automobile industry just began to develop, and the importance of Lucic's discovery for its further expansion was enormous.

Spindle Top in 1902. A forest of derricks, the might of America, erected around the original Lucas well.

Antun Lucic is also considered to be the founder of modern petroleum reservoir engineering. He was consulting engineer in USA, Russia, Mexico, Algeria, and Romania. As an expert in mining he was elected the life long chairman of the American Committee for Oil and Gas (later called Petroleum Division, more information).

Some of the most important inventions of Anthony F. Lucas, that are still in use, are:

  • overhead method of mining in salt mines
  • surface exploration of underground mineral deposits
  • application of hydraulic rotary rig in oil well drilling
  • construction and application of back pressure valve
  • use of clay for drilling fluids
  • construction of blowout, so called "killing" equipment
  • designing of well logs

In 1936 The American Institute for Geological and Metallurgical Investigations founded a prize named after him: Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal.

Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal

A museum with 18 m high granite obelisk was built in honour to the Lucas gusher in Spindletop. There is also 1,5 m granite monument of Lucic with inscription saying that his discovery revolutionarized industry and transport,... and changed lives of people in the whole world.

18 m granite obelisk in honour

18 m high granite obelisk, built in honour
to the Lucas gusher, Spindletop, contains the following lines:

On This Spot
on the Tenth Day of the
Twentieth Century
a New Era
in Civilization Began

Petroleum has revolutionized industry and transportation; it has created untold walth, built cities, furnished employment for hundreds of thousands, and contributed billions of dollars in taxes to support institutions of government. In a brief span of years, it has altered man's way of life throughout the world. (see [Soric, p 99])


In 1943 Lucas' son and daughter-in-law established charitable foundation in his name.

Antun Lucic (Anthony F. Lucas)

Antun Lucic (Anthony F. Lucas) is placed among 200 of most deserving Americans in the course of the entire history of the USA. There are a street and an Elementary school bearing his name in the City of Beaumont, Texas.

Today we can proudly claim that the father of the oil industry in America, if not in the entire world, was a Croatian immigrant, Captain Anthony F. Lucas (Lucic), and that he has set into motion the modern oil industry, which, to the time of Lucas' discovery of oil, was claimed to be desert land and worthless sand. (see [Soric, p 105])


As to his nationality, it is often mistakenly described as Austrian, and sometimes even Italian (like in Who is Who in America, where there is also another mistake - that he was born in Trieste). On his grave in Rock Creek, Washington, he is said to be of Illiric origin, where Illiric is a standard name for Croatian. For more information about Anthony Lucas see here, and also

  • Lucas, Anthony Francis (The Handbook of Texas)
  • Who Was Anthony F. Lucas? (for children)
  • Anthony (Luchich) Lucas
  •, where he is wrongly designated as "Austrian"
  • Spindletop, Texas
  • James Anthony Clark and Michel T. Halbouty: Spindletop, New York, Random House, 1952
  • Everett DeGoyler: Anthony F. Lucas and Spindletop, Southwest Review 30, Fall 1945
  • Reyd Sayers McBeth: Pioneering the Gulf Coast; a story of the life and accomplishments of Capt. Anthony F. Lucas, New York 1918; reprinted and revised by INA Naftaplin in Zagreb, 1998, ISBN 953-96949-5-7, translation into Croatian - Antun Lucic, Zacetnik traganja za naftom na obali meksickog zaljeva, ISBN 953-96949-4-9
Many thanks to Mr. Vedran Joseph Nazor, USA, for help to collect data about Antun Lucic.


Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal
Society of Petroleum Engineers, USA

The Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal honors distinguished achievement in the identification and development of new technology and concepts that will enhance the process of finding or producing petroleum. Recipients of this award automatically become Distinguished Members.

Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal
In 1936 The American Institute for Geological and Metallurgical Investigations
founded a prize named Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal.

About Anthony F. Lucas

Anthony F. Lucas was born as Antun Lučić in Croatia in 1855, then part of the Habsburg monarchy. He was a mining engineer, often referred to as the father of petroleum engineering. His successful drilling of the famous Spindletop field near Beaumont, TX was one of the most important events in the history of the petroleum industry. The Spindletop discovery in 1901 marked the beginning of the modern petroleum industry. It ushered in the development of the Texas Gulf Coast as a major oil-producing area. Lucas’s advanced knowledge of petroleum engineering principles was revealed when he revisited Spindletop in 1904 to find that 1200 wells had been drilled on 200 acres. Only 100 of these wells were still producing. Lucas then stated that a half dozen wells would have produced more than all those drilled, and he charged that the reservoir had been damaged by indiscriminate drilling activities.

Established in 1936 by AIME as the first major Institute Award to recognize contributions in petroleum engineering, the Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal is SPE’s major technical award. It recognizes those responsible for developing new technology and concepts and demonstrating distinguished achievement in improving the technique and practice of finding and producing petroleum. The Medal may be presented to a non-member.

Prepared on the basis of the following source: Society of Petroleum Engineers, USA

With this article we mark 110 years from the discovery of the Lucas Gusher (1901-2011),
one of the most important events in the history of the petroleum industry.

Past recipients of the Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, USA:
2011 - Curtis Whitson
2010 - Christine A. Ehlig-Economides
2009 - Mukul M. Sharma
2008 - Tony Settari
2007 - S.M. Farouq Ali
2006 - Keith K. Millheim
2005 - Stephen A. Holditch
2004 - Gary A. Pope
2003 - W. John Lee
2002 - Abbas Firoozabadi
2001 - Ian M. Cheshire
2000 - Jean-Laurent Mallet
1999 - Michael J. Fetkovich
1998 - Andre G. Journel
1997 - John C. Calhoun Jr.
1996 - Larry W. Lake
1995 - Fred I. Stalkup
1994 - Lawrence B. Curtis
1993 - Michael Prats
1992 - Lincoln F. Elkins
1991 - Donald W. Peaceman
1990 - George W. Govier
1989 - Keith H. Coats
1987 - Eugene R. Brownscombe
1986 - Henry J. Welge
1985 - Nick Van Wingen
1984 - Joseph E. Warren
1983 - Henry J. Ramey Jr.
1982 - Paul B. Crawford
1981 - Claude R. Hocott
1980 - R.C. Earlougher
1979 - Donald L. Katz
1978 - Gustave E. Archie
1977 - Marshall B. Standing
1976 - J. Clarence Karcher
1975 - Michel T. Halbouty
1974 - William L. Horner
1972 - Albert G. Loomis
1971 - M. King Hubbert
1970 - Henri G. Doll
1969 - Clarence J. Coberly
1968 - A.F. van Everdingen
1967 - John E. Sherborne
1966 - Lloyd E. Elkins
1965 - Ralph D. Wyckoff
1964 - William Hurst
1963 - Lyon F. Terry
1962 - John E. Elliott
1961 - Edwin O. Bennett
1960 - Albert C. Rubel
1959 - John T. Hayward
1958 - Carl E. Reistle Jr.
1957 - John E. Brantly
1956 - Stuart E. Buckley
1954 - Bruce H. Sage
1953 - Morris Muskat
1950 - William E. Wrather
1948 - Wallace E. Pratt
1947 - William N. Lacey
1946 - James O. Lewis
1944 - Charles V. Millikan
1943 - John R. Suman
1941 - Marcel Schlumberger
1941 - Conrad Schlumberger
1940 - Everette L. DeGolyer
1938 - Henry L. Doherty
1936 - J. Edgar Pew

Formated for CROWN by prof.dr. Darko Žubrinić
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