• Introducing Howard Hughes and his Impact on the Oil Industry

Fuel for Thought

Introducing Howard Hughes and his Impact on the Oil Industry

Feb 05 2015

It is practically impossible to discuss the American Oil Industry without considering the impact which Howard Hughes had upon it. Born in 1905, Hughes would become one of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as one of the most celebrated. Although much has been made in tabloid media and in a film based on his life about his battles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a series of mental health problems, Hughes will be remembered as a legendary Hollywood Producer, a pioneer in Aviation and a Philanthropist.

Not-so humble beginnings

Hughes was raised by his mother and father in Texas. Although much is disputed or queried about the upbringing of the notoriously private (and often paranoid) Hughes, it’s thought that he was raised solely by his mother, with his father running the family business.

Howard would get his interest in mechanics from his father who even in his son’s infancy was making huge waves in the oil industry.

The Hughes Tool Company

Originally called the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company, the firm was founded in 1908 by Howard R Hughes Sr. and his long term associate Walter Benona Sharp. The company was formed to capitalise on Hughes’ invention, the two-cone roller bit. The purpose of the bit was to allow rotary drilling in places this had previously been impossible. Hughes Sr. made his invention whilst working in the oil industry (as it was at the time) with Sharp.

Just as many of their contemporaries were also discovering the drills of the time which used a flat piece of metal known as a Fishtail, were failing to make holes in rock because they wore down too quickly. The process was cumbersome and expensive.

Hughes began to experiment with a drill featuring two rotating steel cones which were able to cut into and effectively pulverise the rock in front of them. Hughes patented the design and the two moved out of oil and into manufacturing, now selling their invention to the highest bidder.

Sharp passed away some 3 years after the forming of the company and Hughes Sr. took sole ownership. As this was happening, Howard was showing he had inherited his father’s aptitude for mechanics and engineering. Local legend has him building a motorised bicycle from scraps of a steam engine at the age of 12. From age 14 he was taking flying lessons and auditing mathematics and engineering course at Caltech. Hughes Sr. passed away in 1924 leaving a majority share to Howard who would then declare himself a legal adult to buy out family members who had been left minor shares and became the sole owner of the now called Hughes Tool Company.

But where did it all begin?

You can take a further look back in history in: Where Was the First Ever Oil Well?

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