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.
...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.
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 high granite obelisk, built in honour
to the Lucas gusher, Spindletop, contains the following lines:
| On This Spot |
on the Tenth Day of the
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) 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
Many thanks to Mr. Vedran Joseph Nazor, USA, for help to collect data about Antun Lucic.
- Lucas, Anthony Francis (The Handbook of Texas)
- Who Was Anthony F. Lucas? (for children)
- Anthony (Luchich) Lucas
- www.spindletop.org, 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