tv The Oil Industry Christianity Politics CSPAN March 22, 2020 12:40pm-2:01pm EDT
as we are finishing up. so hang out. don't go anywhere. you can begin to pack up your things. i just want to make sure i got everyone as you were coming in. thanks so much. i guess we are going to finish early. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] lectures on history and they go by streaming our podcast anywhere, anytime. you are watching american history tv on c-span3. >> next, university of notre dame professor darren dochuk talks about the oil indistry's impact on american religion and politics. he's the author of "anointed with oil: how christianity and crude made modern america." the southern methodist university center for presidential history and the clement center for southwest studies cohosted this event. mr. graybill: good evening.
thanks so much for coming. it seems particularly appropriate given the subject of today's lecture to encourage you to pretend as if you are in church and to move in, scoot in if you would, to give folks who are, not necessarily late arriving, but people who are fashionably on time room to sit. i should say that this answers an age-old question for me. which is, if there is anything that can depress the turnout for a lecture, i think we have the answer. which is no. it was raining cats and dogs a few minutes ago. and i wondered, will there be people there? and sure enough, here you are. i tip my cap to all of you, you are in for a treat this evening. my name is andy graybill. i am the director of the clement
center. i would like to thank the many people who helped make this evening possible. thanks to jeff, who directs the cph. especially for those people who have coordinated all of the logistics. during my first semester at the clement center, we received an anonymous $500,000 gift in honor of the governor who had died earlier that year. the donor wanted to hear our ideas first about how we put those funds to use before they were transmitted. naturally, i proposed that this money be applied to my mortgage. [laughter] he passed. the benefactor liked much more the idea that we use the money generated by this endowment to convert one of the junior postdoctoral fellowship lines to one that would support an
invited senior scholar. who would cost more and they are harder to pry away from their home institutions. with that settled, i turned to my associate director for suggestions about who we might target as the inaugural recipient of this senior fellowship. she immediately proposed darren dochuk, who was hard at work with what sounds like a fascinating book about oil, religion, and politics. right up our alley given its southwestern focus. because of other commitments, darren could only join us for the spring 2013 semester. but we loved having him with us in part because of his winning personality. you will get a taste of that in a moment, but especially so we could lay some claim to the book that resulted from the time that he spent here. it is a true pleasure to welcome him back to smu this evening having come full circle since he has finished that book.
he grew up in alberta. listen for the vowels. you will know what i mean. he will probably murder me for saying this, but he started his college career as a scholarship volleyball player at george mason university in fairfax, virginia. he decided that the mishigos of the d.c. area was too much for him. i am making that up. but for some reason he returned home to his native canada. in vancouveris ba which he followed up with a phd from the university of notre dame. he started his teaching career in the midwest at purdue before a brief stint as a associate professor in humanities. proving that you can go home again, darren moved to notre dame five years ago where he is an associate professor of history.
his first book, published in 2011, won several major awards including the john h. dunning prize from the american historical association, and one from the organization of american historians. a truly wonderful book. i have used it so many times in teaching in undergraduate and graduate classes that i have gotten free copies. i'm not going to give them away to you, but i have free copies. i will leave it at that. he has co-edited a volume that emerged at a symposium called sunbelt rising. the politics of space, place, and region, published in 2011. that was a big year for darren. his research has been supported by the american council society, national endowment for the humanities, the american philosophical society, and the rockefeller foundation. he is here tonight to discuss his latest book, "anointed with oil: how christianity and crude made modern america," published
last year by basic books, to great acclaim. following his lecture, he will be happy to take your questions and sign books which are available for purchase. right outside and off to the left is a place where darren can sign them for you. so please join me in welcoming darren dochuk. [applause] mr. dochuk: thanks, andy. and thanks to jeff, rhonda, and to ruthann, and to the center for southwest studies as well as the center for presidential history for co-sponsoring this event. as you heard, the support of smu over the years has been tremendous and i am grateful and it is nice to be back on campus in dallas even with this unusual weather. something i am used to though, having spent a good part of my
life in vancouver, british columbia. it is a privilege to be with you today, especially because we are on an oil patch. i spent a good amount of my time over the last few months talking to audiences on the oil patch , whether it is down in the southwest or in alberta, canada. places it turns out where there is just a bit of oil and a bit of religion. so it tends to be a good conversation. and i am looking forward to that conversation later. it is also really special to be here quite simply because i spent so much time as a fellow, as andy just pointed out, really doing the first wave of research for this project. and during that productive four or five months here, i was able to pour through the papers here at smu. the petroleum pamphlet collection, which is just tremendous, but also do some quick trips to other archives around the state.
again, no surprise that texas looms so large in my story. but being introduced along the way to so many colorful characters. someone who is a cross from daniel plainview to "there will be blood" to "the apostle" played by robert duval. someone who is absolutely convinced that he could prophesy where oil existed and despite the efforts of geologists to thwart his advance, sure enough, came through in january 1901, predicting the site where it would erupt, putting texas on the map. someone who saw himself as working with the favor and in favor of the divine. or a geologist such as william fletcher cummins, a geologist of a slightly different generation. this is a methodist circuit preacher who during his travels
on horseback in the southeast portion of the state during the 1880's and 1890's, would look for oil. and sure enough, predict often where it was going to be. and then would move into mexico to serve as a geologist. someone who combined his vocations as a cleric and a geologist. or jake simmons, a very compelling figure, the most prominent african-american wildcat oilman who got rich in east texas in the 1930's and used his wealth to build an empire. but one that was also philanthropic, using his money to promote civil rights. he is also partially responsible for opening nigeria and ghana to oil exploration in the 1950's and 1960's. and others, like this very compelling figure, someone who wore her face on her sleeve as well. very committed to a social gospel of human uplift and equality. it is she who, as you probably
know or should know, would be responsible for taking down standard oil, forcing, really compelling the government to take apart the standard monopoly in 1911. this is all coming through her writing. again, these are just a few of the characters that i got to know better at smu. each individual saw oil as more than a material resource or commodity. to them, it was a gift of the divine and a vocational calling that transcended the base workings of business. petroleum was their anointing by god and their call to uplift humanity. my goal in writing the book was to explore how it is that oil has long enraptured americans in such fashion, and how it has imprinted itself on the american soul with real, lasting, social and political consequences. for people certainly in the pulpits and pews, and also those beyond. someone who recognized that oil
was existential, even theological for americans, was president jimmy carter, his words were appropriate for opening this talk. in summer of 1979, carter delivered his infamous crisis of conscious speech, or his malaise speech. it was one of his most important addresses, as it came amid revolution in iran and a resultant second energy crisis. with dead seriousness, he pleaded for people to support his energy conservation agenda. but he also asked for more. as i was puttering to speak, he explained, i began to ask myself the same question that i now know has been troubling many of you. why have we been not able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem? you can picture him slamming, gently, his fist on the desk. it is clear that the true problems of our nation are deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages. deeper even than inflation or
recession. it is a crisis of confidence. it is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. in the days to come, he implored in conclusion, let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the american spirit. those of you who are aware of carter's career know that he spoke often on energy. in fact, he opened up his presidency in spring of 1977 with an energy program, at which time he said that kind of the fight for renewable energy, supplies, and new alternative sources amounted to the moral equivalent of war. and those who are aware of the 1979 crisis speech also know its evolution was uneven. many of his advisers advised him against preaching and sermonizing to the people. they wanted him to show confidence. they wanted him to show that he
had answers, not to draw them into a kind of despair over the moral or lack of moral fortitude of the nation at that time. but carter did not budge and went ahead anyway. and the main takeaways of the speech therefore were his alone. first, that the united states had confidence in itself and its global standing. an second, the crisis was not just energy-related. it was a spiritual crisis as well. his speech pointed to a couple of my core questions. how did oil get grafted on to the soul of america and serve as a catalyst for its ambitions on a global stage, paving the way for what would be known as the american century? and what happened and what did it mean for the nation when the confidence of an american century fueled by big religion and big oil crumbled during the carter era? in an effort to address these and other queries related to the
book, i want to offer a sample glimpse of a couple of facets of what i call a religious biography of oil. and i'm going to focus principally on the heart of the 20th century for the 1930's to the 1970's. i will begin by glancing at how some american powerbrokers, from the very beginning of the industry, envisioned the petroleum industry as essential to the rise of american political exceptionalism on an international stage, then i will cut to the local level, and move beyond altitude. and we will focus just on one, what might be familiar to -- one familiar oil patch which might be familiar to you, east texas in the 1930's. and i will finish by summarizing some of the political legacies of these crude awakenings in modern american. petroleum achieved unprecedented status between the 1930's and 1970's, but it first captured
on there because authority in the 19th century as the fuel and lubricant that would light cities. spectacular in its arrival, democratic in its privileging of individual free labor, oil registered as modern america's lifeblood. its discovery during the civil war and its role in setting the nation's new economic course, its perceived regenerative properties for those on the civil war battlefield, as well as for a nation seeking healing. all of this underscored oil's nature for a society on the rise. this is abundantly clear in the popular literature of the time. it is boilerplate for the american petroleum industry and also something that connected the property of oil and the materiality of it to religious
allegory and dreams of american providence and destiny on an international stage. everywhere it is to be met with, it lights the temples and mosques amid the ruins of babylon. it is the light of abraham's birthplace in damascus and burns in the grottos of nativity in bethlehem, and the cottage and the banks of the euphrates and the golden horn. it penetrated china and japan. it shed radiance over many a dark african waste. american petroleum is the true true cosmopolite. omnipresent and omnipotent. fulfilling its mission of lighting the whole universe. [laughter] bold, yes. nothing cautious either about that. as much as u.s. oil was mythologized or used as
boilerplate, it also influenced god-fearing individuals with real clout, whose shared vision of the future translated to real corporate structures and outcomes. their efforts were evident in early generations in the oil industry, but they carried special weight as u.s. influence spread globally in the 20th century. two sons of missionaries serve as illustrations here. consider the first picture above. this is henry luce, the famous publisher whose parents were missionaries in china, funded by the rockefellers. in february of 1941, luce used the pages of life magazine, which he owned, to beseech americans to recognize their status as protector of the free world and create the first american century. the first great american century, his term. luce had tested this charge a month earlier in a talk at the american petroleum institute. there, he praised oilmen for being the vanguards of america's expanded role.
having within you a dynamic spirit of freedom and enterprise and a genius for cooperation and organization, it follows inevitably that you did not stop at the frontier, for your sense of the roundness of the world, i salute you. luce was especially enamored with large oil corporations that were exploring for oil across the globe, and in the process, spreading modern technologies and know-how. it was at this time that the seven sisters, as they would become known, derided as such, which included five u.s. oil companies, gulf, texaco, standard new jersey or exxon, and standard new york mobile. this is the moment in which these companies were turning towards south america and the
arabian peninsula, urged on by washington to discover new fields and secure american's hegemony before domestic reserves ran out. we have had several cycles of peak oil in the last 120 years. this is coming in the wake of fears of peak oil in the interwar period, anticipating what would come next as the automobile industry continued to expand in the postwar period. for luce, their corporate labors conjured a sense of limitless power, which, when harnessed by god-fearing patriots, had the capacity to transform the world. he drew on metaphor to encourage his compatriots to use oil to fuel international advancement, with america at the head. scholars have proved how the the nations -- the nation's singular possession of petroleum served as the pillar of the american century. but luce, the very architect of the term, suggested a religion of ecumenical outreach and global development be included as a twin column. a second individual does as well.
william eddie, the son of presbyterian missionaries in the middle east, and in fact, his parents were among a generation of american missionaries that moved to beirut. there, they spread mission bases but also hospitals and schools, most famously american university in beirut. beirut. eddyed at princeton, went on to dartmouth. by the early 1940's, he was a man of protestant confidence to envisioned a new world constructed out of enchanting crude. 1940, while traveling, recruiting financial support for "thechool, he lectured on power of god in the secular world," which implored laypeople to be the quote, shock troops of the church, and raise up each sector of the globe. you and i, he declared, you and
i who believe in christendom are not doomed to weakness. we serve the only totalitarian king. we who follow christ need to cover ourselves with tolerance, reverence, and charity. and then wherever we walk, we shall find ourselves standing on holy ground. within months, eddie was acting on this imperative. serving as an officer for the office of strategic services. eventually of course the cia, to survey arabia for subsurface crude, gain knowledge of its people and their faith in allah, and bring the u.s. into union with this rising kingdom. five years after claiming allegiance to a totalitarian and tolerant christianity, he oversaw a historic deal, pictured here before you, installing the u.s. in the region for good. again, doing so truly committed to what he saw as a religious alliance, a moral alliance between a people who shared faith in monotheism and the
book. his subsequent career testified to the potency of this liberal international vision. as a hired consultant for aramco, he promoted peace between western and saudi interests by way of mutual ambition and shared respect for the divine. through aggressive proliferation of corporate promotion as well as practical instruction on how to live and labor in a land saturated with god and black gold, eddie not only wrapped aramco in a myth of capitalism and corporate benevolence, he also animated ground-level operations on the drill sites and in the oil camps with the tenor of intercultural and ecumenical exchange. and one of the more, i think, fascinating lines of work that my research took me into was looking at the interior lives, the internal workings of aramco, especially in the 1940's through the 1960's. there, william eddie and several
other managers, many coming with missionary backgrounds, devised really a whole kind of institutional structure by which islam and protestantism and catholicism could kind of create a shared community, a shared knowledge of one another. for instance, they established the arabian affairs division and housed it with some of the of islam andars the world. this division was responsible for education and for creating a sense of internationalist ecumenical exchange. they also created secretively, because they were not allowed technically in this islamic country and this theocracy, morale groups with small groups of christian worship. and they did so of course, they called them morale groups because they could not call them what they really were, congregations and parishes. and again, it's a system that
proliferated in the shadows. owninforcing, again, their kind of religious commitment to this enterprise as something more than the pursuit of black gold by the late 1950's, at least 5000 workers attending the catholic morale groups, thousands of others doing so as well for anglican, evangelical, and eventually other groups. and finally at the highest altitude, they called for a moral alliance of america in the arab world, linking american catholics and protestants with muslims, again based on shared monotheism. in the book i talked about the effects of this on politics in washington in the late 1950's when eisenhower especially wanted to create a judeo-christian america to bring protestants, catholics, and jews together to reinforce a sense of purpose, always in the face of communism, but also because of lobbying of these arabs in
aramco, who wanted to reach out and include muslims within this quadrilateral. of course, with broader international political implications. this sense of vocation spoke to the aspirations of a whole cadre of visionaries. powerbrokers with rising influence in mid-20th century, major oil, and the state. they adhered to what i call in the book a civil religion of crude, a confidence that big religion identified as ecumenical, internationalist, civil, and cosmopolitan, wedded to big oil, defined by integration, combination, and collection to guarantee global -- collective effort between state and company informed fields to guarantee global influence. the linchpin of this cadre was, again, alluded to earlier, the rockefeller family. a family that was known to suppose the missionaries both in china, where luce's parents worked, and those working with a
tougher soil in the middle east. john d rockefeller junior embodied the civil religion of crude i placing the profits of his family's standard oil empire in the service of a philanthropy that stretched scientifically informed international development. in the realm of corporate relations, his influence was imprinted on the lamp, a magazine produced by standard new jersey and exxon, to keep employees, stockholders, and the public inspired to advance petroleum's humanitarianism into modernizing societies. junior's sense of mission got a boost in 1940 when his five sons founded the rockefeller brothers fund. of the five, none was more important in linking oil to global economic and cultural initiatives than nelson rockefeller, pictured with a pointer, whose work with inter-american affairs placed him at the forefront of the u.s. plans in south america. we don't have time to go into the influence that he had within major oil circles. his work with creole oil in
venezuela in the late was 1930's crucial to his own kind of career development. he insisted his oil company hone its human relations policies and deal with locals on a more equal -- never fully equal playing equal --never fully playing field. at the heart of that was also a sense of embedding religion, in the case of venezuela, catholicism, on company compounds to help provide a foundation for this vision. and he reached out to his co-executives and managers and called on them to be secular missionaries, if you will. nelson's agenda would assume energy and see in the early 1940's and increasingly in the late 1940's as latin america becomes a site of political contestation and fear of communism looming large. with that in mind, president truman would outline his point-four program in 1949 where he said america's foreign-policy
, international engagement had to focus on economic uplift and a vision of developing the globe to win hearts and minds through the application of technological know-how. know-how,c technological know-how as well. again, this is very much coming out with and aligned with nelson rockefeller. and aramco, incidentally, would build its model in some ways drawing on the same lessons learned and instruction that nelson rockefeller would offer in venezuela. nelson was not outspokenly religious, but he was a man who longed to reshape the southern hemisphere in an image of christian democracy. you believe that his civil religion of crude would stymie communism's influence and would ensure america's place at the head of the new international order. indeed, big oil's apostles would not have warned biblical convictions on their sleeves. -- not have worn biblical convictions on their sleeves. it would be for the sake of universal brotherhood. yet however much they were drained of its dogmatism, oil's
promise continued to inform their actions. its solicitations to extract bounties from the earth with an eye to a higher being at a higher sense of being. oil's global topography became their theological plains. the civil religion of crude is one thread in oil's religious biography. certainly vital to understanding role ined states' international context. but if we want to understand some of the profoundest turns in modern united states politics, you must look at the oil patch, a unique landscape out of which stirred an reversible challenge -eddie-luceefeller gospel. there, amid jungles and the glow of refining fires, countless citizens stirred up and long-held the carbon gospel of their own, the one that i call wildcat christianity. now, in technical terms, the
progenitors of this faith were wildcaters themselves. independent oil hunters who drilled wildcat discovery wells on domestic frontiers. emboldened by oil's rule of capture, the business's founding legal code, which granted any man authority to cap subsurface crude aggressively and on their terms, wildcatting lent the early industry essence that would endure across time. for john d. rockefeller senior, that rule of capture was in his mind, wasteful. his was a bureaucratic outlook that lined up with the protestant work ethic. which assumed good capitalists would uphold rules of calculation and control. whereas rockefeller sought to dull oils laissez-faire consolidatingy the industry, the competitors who had hoarded his monopoly in western pennsylvania considered their rule of capture sacrosanct.
it protected their wishes to act alone, be it before their god or on their patch of soil. they reveled in risk-taking and accepted the volatilities of chance and pursuit of profits as if there were no tomorrows. they were warrior heroes. wildcat christianity captured in sacred terms the resilient utopian expectations that accompanied their quest to drill. amid their sector's boom bust cycles and fluctuations of health and wealth, their faith offered meaning through a theology that nurtured personal mystical encounter with soil and an active higher being. a fierce individualism fortified by small-scale association. and notions of time that anticipated the violence of life in the age of oil. at the turn of the 20th century, wildcat christianity was forced out of its original home in the alleghenies by the rockefellers and relocated west of the mississippi. and those of you are familiar with the history of oil know that this is a story of migration. western pennsylvania would
flourish into the 1890's. , theoon, of course epicenter of the oil would shift -- american oil would shift west. it would do so much to the surprise of the rockefellers. john archibald, perhaps you are aware, famously said in the early 1890's that he would drink every gallon of oil west of the mississippi. this is how sure he was that oil did not exist there. others would have the last laugh, of course, and that is producers who were forced out and have to go hunt for it with their spiritual devices, prayer, and whatever geologist knowledge they had into western terrain. there they would discover oil in southern california, central and south texas with spindle top, really putting texas on the map and starting the texas gusher age. and then of course it would culminate in many ways in the east texas strike of the 1930's. the story does not end there, of
course. it goes to west texas and elsewhere. i would like to pause now and just flesh out what does this wildcat christianity look like on the ground. i have talked at length about the executives and the managerial class, but i want to give you a sense of what i think are four facets of wildcat christianity as they appeared in east texas in 1930's. i know we have at least one person here from east texas is -- who is somewhere in the audience. so how did wildcat religion come to define the western oil patch in such potent and lasting form? well, let's take a look at this briefly. how did it start? well, it started with daisy bradford, a christian woman who ter columbusldcat marion joyner to find oil on her farm. a self-made prophet from alabama whose only education came from
memorizing the old testament, joyner was a quintessential poor boy, who could only work shallow pools. he was certain that god would guide him to crude. with word of something brewing, people dressed in their sunday best and would make their way to bradford's farm to watch the magic man at work. on october 5, 1930, audible gargling could be heard in the casing. next came a spurt, then a flow, all of which electrified the crowd. one witness described the scene as hilarious. oil, they cried, oil. some jumped up and down with joy, tossing straw hats high into the air to demonstrate their feelings. one crewman pulled out his pistol and shot at the oil spray in the sky and was quickly tackled, of course -- danger all around. [laughter] joyner turned pale at his creation, almost in disbelief that what he had prophesied came true. well, what came true was epic in proportions, the east texas pool was to be discovered as the
largest, up to that point, ever discovered in the world. it was a length of 43 miles long, 10 miles wide, containing 5.5 billion barrels. what happened overnight is a booming population with this new booming economy. workers from all over the region poured into east texas looking for employment. what else is going on at this time? the depression. yeah. so, here you have in the poorest counties of one of the poorest regions, all of a sudden this explosion of possibility, and people are ready to take full advantage of that, no matter the cost. more jobs, higher income, this was the odd circumstance that made east texas an island during the entirety of america's decade of depression. the phenomenal excess of abundance led to it acquiring a larger-than-life feel.
again, what did it create culturally in the pews and in the pulpits? four essentials i would say to the wildcat faith. enraptured with the black stuff, east texas's citizens revamped a wildcat system of belief association in politics that would legitimate their ownership of this new material form of wealth. first, amid this excitement of the gusher age, they intensified a spiritual outlook that saw god as the reason for their escape from affliction into abundance. even as they envisioned this, they also embraced the mystery and curious workings of chance. and in keeping with their prosperity gospel, celebrated the speculative and supernatural dimensions of faith, oil, and the markets. good christians, they believed, were to spend more energy writing and maximizing the wins of oil than trying to control and discipline them. several features of this booming landscape reinforced this mindset -- the landscape itself,
once farmland, is now a jungle of oil derricks. i think the joke in one of these towns is that you could jump derrick to the next and travel for blocks on end. which was not so bad when you're trying to escape a fire. the rise of the wildcat personality. the wildcatter. perhaps many of you have read about the big rich. there have been many books written about h. l. hunt and others who hit it big here. reinforcing again the ability of the independent oilman to dream big. and to not just dream big, but have others dream with them. there are reasons for this. i think quite striking, at the first outset of the strike, first discovery, major oil company standards refused to go in. their geologists said this is just a small little pocket, don't worry about it. well, you've got all these small producers, again, still using a
range of devices to find oil, continually striking another well, another expression of oil wealth. so, why is this important? well, as late as 1935, independents will manage more than half of the 22,500 wells in operation in east texas. this is not just mythological, or mythical, it is something concrete. the power of the independent oilman and the wildcat are now assuming a new form. church life itself would change. one of my favorite pictures is the oil derricks around this church property. i believe in longview. not an unusual occurrence or sight. many churches saw this as a way to gain riches, and they would bring in, lease their land out, often they would open up by consecrating their land, and then they would spud the well. one church did not have to wait long before the riches poured
in. new buildings would follow. there was it turns out a revival in gothic architecture throughout the region. so even the poorest churches of christ, pentecostals, could now pour their money into incredibly impressive architectural forms. the windfall for east texas's lucky citizens also created a second affect, a leveling of class, or a new populist dream. and a rise of conviction that plain folk could finally realize their destiny as equals. that the rockefellers no longer had their grip on them. as one writer offered, here with -- was a democratic opportunity that pushed frontiers far beyond adam smith's wildest dreams. oil saturated with riches pouring into their offering plates come even especially the most marginalized religious folk could enjoy the launch into this new social order. they too could contribute into sending their riches to small christian colleges.
some larger, like baylor, to support them during the depression, taking ownership of religious institutions beyond the four counties of east texas. bolstered by the success of their communities, looking to future gains, east texas church folk nevertheless knew that oil was impermanent. a local captured the sentiment when he titled his memoir, "where oil flows, joy and woe curiously mingle." showers of wealth and health today could mean deluges of misfortune tomorrow. this was the trade-off of life in an oil boom escape, where the statoil dreamscape, where the temporality and -- oil dreamscape, where the temporality and the frailty of everything and an inevitable future of depletion always clouded the soul. when you strike oil, you let loose hades. and hades was apparent in east texas. the usual outbreaks of fire and destruction, injuries and death, but in the case of east texas, really, the ultimate form of devastation occurred at the new london school in 1937.
this was a brand-new, million-dollar school of 700 kids. it was the envy of school districts around the country. on one of the classrooms, there was a plaque to which students would look on a daily basis. "oil and natural gas are east texas' greatest mineral blessings. without them the school would not be here and none of us would be here learning our lessons." on one day at the end of class, the last class session, someone flicked on a switch in the mechanical room and what immediately happened was beyond belief. one of the school's brand-new buildings literally exploded into the air. we have stories of children in the other building looking one minute, seeing a building, going down to tie their shoes and look up again and not seeing it anymore. for the next 18 hours, oil workers poured into the town,
hoping to find the children buried beneath the rubble, using their hands to claw out workers, safety workers coming from dallas. media as well, including a young walter cronkite. the end of this was 300 children dead. one third of the town's average population. incidentally, it would be the reason why the federal government would mandate ance for natural gas. this is life in the oil patch of east texas. for many east texans, the calamity generated new end times thinking. their existence encouraged them to appreciate life and health and wealth is a miraculous interlude in an otherwise difficult slide towards cataclysmic end. and pray to an all-powerful being that give event take it said, yet was always there. there was a mentality that defied post-millennial confidence in the gradual
betterment of humanity, rockefellers confidence, and accepted the reversals of an apocalyptic mode. but rather than dwell on despair, local pastors urged citizens to renew their faith in a christ who expected them to use what prosperity they had in they are passing moment -- they are passing moment -- their passing moment to prepare for his return. surely god is beginning a revival here that is destined to sweep america, they charged in the wake of the new london disaster. fourth dimension of this, and this is where we will focus on for the remaining moments, the remaining minutes. and that is on the political side of this. the spirit of rebellion that is generated in east texas. amid the oil patch, citizens absorbed the related truth that they alone had the courage to down end time's darkness with uncompromising
drive, including in their work. if time is running out, death and an afterlife on the horizon, what is a person to do but drill, drill, drill? and was it not incumbent on them now to use politics to guarantee them that right? those who inhabited oil patches were therefore filled with a spirit of rebellion. it was led by these cohort or -- cohorts of wildcatters. there would be earlier fights on behalf of the wildcaters, talking about a fight of the standard at the federal level, but it is the 1930's that will spark this rebellion in full. we already know that, thanks to the work of the historians, it is at the new deal that the rise of the postwar conservatism takes root. largely in reaction to franklin d. roosevelt's policy on labor. but i argue in the book that we need to also understand just how central oil and texas oil is to this movement. the revolt intensified, therefore, in the 1930's and especially the 1940's.
partly in response to new deal policies, trying to curtail some of the excesses of east texas and the chaos. but also in reaction to u.s. oil's shift abroad. which was encouraged by the secretary of interior, pictured below on the right. unable to tap faraway pools, by washington's investment in a -- pools, frustrated by washington's investment in a foreign instead of domestic production, wary of internationalist projects of ecumenism and development, and feeling abandoned, independent oil responded politically. instrumental in this counteraction and illustrative of wildcat religion's political rise was j. howard pew, whose muscular faith fueled values following the traditions of his father, not an uncommon story here. the son of a man who was almost driven out of business by standard in western pennsylvania. j. howard assumed the seriousness of his father. one senator once quipped, a senator who did not appreciate
ew he is that j. howard p not only talks like an affidavit, he looks like one. [laughter] he was a serious-looking fella, with some bushy eyebrows. this was a man who preached a sermon at the company's christmas party every year, insisting on why you had to use the king james version. a smart, conservative, serious businessman and christian. and as a result of sunoco's kind of rootedness in texas, its first kind of leverage would come, and saving the company would come from moving to spindle top to beaumont almost immediately. and it would take a foothold there. it would then have a big hold of east texas. so even though it was based in pennsylvania, sunoco would become really the square dealer as many said, as opposed to the new dealer, the square dealer, family-run companies of east texas. so j. howard pew kind of assumed
the role of wildcat political warrior naturally. what were some of the initial political victories? and here will take us to the present moment in the next few minutes. how does the spirit of rebellion manifest itself in a broader political moment? some of these pivots are hidden ones in our history. a first victory for the pews and the wildcaters of east texas and -- wildcatters of east texas and texas as a whole was their dissension and protest against the proposed anglo-american petroleum agreement, which was fashioned by harold ickys as a way for the federal government to align with the british and large oil companies to really kind of take new steps in a postwar period to manage the pools and the drill sites that were coming online in the middle east especially. now, ickys saw himself as being one of the leaders of this coalition. but, and as he saw, too, this
was an attempt to further the internationalist oil ambitions and the civil religion of crude that he shared with eddie and luce. thanks to those who used the media that they owned, and were considerable, to stir up opposition to the agreement, this would be a failed attempt. his plan would place the american petroleum industry under the bureaucratic control of the federal government and expose it to foreign interest. as a result of this protest, which made its way into washington, roosevelt would shelve it, and truman would kill it a short time later. second victory and a quieter one , at this very moment, israel becomes a state. because of their alliances and the need to mandate and work only in arab/muslim oil producing states, the majors could not move into israel. and so who does israel turn to, lead by a number of oil executives with american oil experience? well, they would turn to the
independence of texas. the independents from texas would welcome the opportunity and often, with their bibles in hand, would travel to the holy land to use scripture to hunt for crude. it would be a frustrating journey at first, but this is one that continues for many independent oilmen. and strengthening once again this relationship with israel. pew would have other means of promoting his politics. one would be the formation in 1948 of the pew charitable trust, and especially his own trust within this. which was in his words, "to acquaint americans of the values of the free market, paralyzing effects of government controls, and the interdependence of christianity and freedom." again, nothing subtle. [laughter] the third victory, and key victory to getting us closer to what happens in the 1960's and 1970's, culminating in 1980, is the tidelands controversy.
and this is going to arise when truman seizes control of 10 book miles offshore oil leasing, not just in texas, but also in california and along the coast in louisiana. this would lead to a revolt of unprecedented nature among independents. and they would fight back. they would fight in 1948 on behalf of the dixiecrat party. we know about the issue of race and civil rights and how that sparked strom thurmond's alternative to the democratic party. but the fight for tidelands control was also important as well. more importantly, it would lead to 1952 and the work of wildcatters and their allies in the church. especially evangelicals in the southwest. especially evangelical preachers like the emerging star evangelist billy graham, who at this very juncture would make dallas his second home and would make first baptist his church
membership. is proximity to the hunts and so forth, perhaps likely part of his reasoning. but it would be this alliance of an emerging evangelical movement, which again, we know the political outcome of to some degree, and wildcaters that we would see the revolt really come to fruition in 1952. a rally of churches and oil associations behind the eisenhower ticket. not just rallying behind the ticket, but in the case of billy graham being instrumental in wooing dwight eisenhower to the republican ticket. the result would be an eisenhower victory on a platform of handing back control the tidelands to the states. and this was a very valuable commodity, much of the leasing was funding public education in texas. again, so the fight for control of tidelands was also a family values political issue. forging this alliance that would have lasting effects.
and you might be wondering what this is. this is billy graham's evangelistic ministry that started a movie company. his first movie produced was "mr. texas." his second movie was "oil town usa," based in texas. celebrating the potential of the wildcatter should he come to christ and personal salvation to use that wealth and those riches to promote the gospel that billy graham preached to large audiences throughout the world. what were some of the next steps beyond this? the unabashed evangelical push for petroleum would continue. in 1964, many powerbrokers within this emerging block threw support behind barry goldwater, whose campaign against nelson rockefeller for the gop ticket caused liberal critics to rail against extremists in the oil
funded political right. but for independent oil pew, who like bankrolled the arizonan, there was no question who was on the wrong side of the spectrum, rockefeller republicans. besides conjuring up bad memories of one family's near destruction of another sustenance, rockefeller also registered with pew as the face of a coercive system of centralization and compromise that had long threatened to emasculate his profession and the country's beliefs. -- countries hallowed institutions and beliefs. i know much about rockefeller, pew wrote privately, he is the worst person to become president of this country of ours. to put a republican in as president like nelson who supports all the evils that have brought the country to its knees would be the most tragic thing that could happen. goldwater's vanquishing of rockefeller in the primaries gave pew great pleasure, the acceptance speech trumpeted the wildcat ethic. i would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and let me
remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. having defeated their archrival, and in many ways his vision, goldwater assumed control of the republican party. meanwhile, they continued to build economic empires. oil production and refining centers designed to secure oil reserves for the continent. and one of the most impressive was the great canadian oilsands project, built in 1960 by jay howard pew in partnership with the evangelical premier of alberta at the time, whose friendship was shared thanks to billy graham. so kind of a triangulation of politics, religion, and oil. in 1952, pew would invest $250 million in the oilsands. this would be the largest private investment of its kind in canada at that juncture. 54,000 acres out of which they wanted to draw oil.
the project began in 1964, at least it was christened. and in 1967, the opening ceremonies was a great celebration full of prayer and singing, almost like a revival. this venture combines drama and science. man against nature. daring the risk of large financial resources, some proudly announced at the time. great canadian oilsands stood at the tribute to man's inventiveness and determination to overcome the obstacles of nature and the signal that the dawn of a new age arrived. richard nixon would rely on this same system of support to win his victory in 1968 and 1972. was tightly attuned to the religious topography of the oil patch. through his ties to billy graham and sunbelt-based ministries, he gained access to the aspirations of an ascendant force that would soon redefine the american landscape.
indeed, the energy crises of the 1970's would empower this southwestern based evangelical and oil movement and republican right. on one hand, the global ruptures of the decade and the struggles of major oil companies to handle opec and the quest by arab oil -producing countries to nationalize their industries undermined the multinational corporations and the civil religions of crude that rockefeller once stood for. on the other, the prosperity gospel that had captured the southwestern oil patch mindset in the 1930's now bloomed on a national stage, propelling the evangelical movement phenomena that was associated with as a whole into the national consciousness. famously of course one magazine declaring 1976 the year of the evangelicals, as well as oil-funded superstructures of education and church ministry. like oral roberts here in tulsa.
all symbolizing the rise of this oil-fueled evangelical movement. which was really by this point, the beating heart of wildcat christianity. meanwhile, evangelicals purchased books that pinned the energy crisis on u.s. reliance on muslim-controlled oil. a reliance created by the s.ckefeller prophesies the end of the world was imminent because washington had forsaken the interest of values of independent oil. among the most popular author of such books is john, based right here at dallas theological seminary, who wrote for a sprawling national audience. his 1970's text armageddon, oil in the middle east crisis, reached millions of readers. he channeled his end times angst against environmentalists who made america dependent on non-christian others. were americans able to tap oil pools just off the gulf coast, in alaska, underneath southwestern soil and the shale deposits of colorado and wyoming, he asserted they might yet survive another day.
pairing premillennialist understandings of time with fears of peak oil, arab, muslim control over oil and the threats to israel and the kind of american power, evangelicals in the southwest, oil and church associations forcefully sold the message that it was the patriotic independence of u.s. oil patch that could save america from the dependence on foreigners and from its slide into godlessness. wildcatting oil warriors did not the dogs just want revival, they wanted to bring their fuel and family values to the white house. jimmy carter would feel the effects of that ambition. to be sure, and as historians have emphasized, social politics looms large as well. carter supported the equal rights amendment and women's rights. they all wrangled evangelicals, who by 1979 had come to see jimmy carter as anything but evangelical.
independent oil men were among those who led the fight for social conservativism. with jay howard pew now deceased, it was up to other wildcatters to bankroll the cause. one of the biggest boosters was .hunt's son, bunker the junior hunt had the crusade for christ, which proposed a one billion venture to proselytize youth, and sponsor a christian apologist, whose 1979 manifesto sparked evangelicals' antiabortion crusade. but not much triggered hunt in his. rage more than carter's energy politics. the president's support of the e.r.a. and abortion rights infuriated them. but carter's crisis of confidence speech was equally damning in their eyes. carter bemoaned the nation's high energy consumption. the attack on oil in moralistic terms was, in their mind, the final straw. over the course of the next year, republican candidate ronald reagan inflamed their anger with his hard-driving
quest for the presidency. running on the slogan "let's make america great again" he won the hearts and minds of the american oil patch. [laughter] "we must remove government obstacles to energy production," he declared when he announced his candidacy, "it is no program to say, simply use less energy." malaise had no place in reagan's academy. -- vocabulary. exuding the audacity that the oil patch embrace, he mingled with preachers promising them the nation would be great again as soon as washington's bureaucrats let rugged wildcaters is open up new frontiers and pioneers raise their children in communities calibrated to the morals of of an honorable past -- morals of an honorable past. the structure of the wildcat christianity is oil funded mega churches, schools, and pastors --ld welcome it amplify welcome and amplify reagan's family values message. reagan would reward his supporters by making one of them
his secretary of the interior. in this role, pentecostal james watt would see to it that evangelicalism's long-standing fears of federal encroachment on their resource would find policy outlets, and in the spirit of the southwest, wildcatters who had begun their fight against the new deal order by confronting an interior secretary of a different ilk he would promise to restore can study and ship of the -- restore custodianship of the oil patch to the people who headlong worked at as theirs. although watt's career in washington would be short, the wildcat revolt would continue to strengthen in the 1980's and beyond right to today. each step forward for wildcat republicanism would mean a step back for the dreams of men like william eddie. rising frustrations of opec, festering worry about liberal drifts in energy policy and heightened tensions with aramco, with whom william eddie had befriended and suspicions that americans turned to foreign oil in 1940 was at the root of the
shortages in the 1970's. this intensified and anxiety that the gop new elite used to undermine the rockefeller vision. by the 1980's with saudi arabia now sole owner of aramco, the company's moral alliance -- morale groups and moral alliance disbanded. and a few minutes with -- and umenists of william eddie's generation dead or dying, one could say that the american century and the twin pillars of international oil and religion had succumbed. of course, there are other signs including the persian gulf war. and a violent remapping of oil interests and american confidence in the middle east. today it is very clear that the exceptional authority is no longer america's to enjoy alone. that highlights and ironing in play -- highlights and ironing in place -- highlights an irony in play. major oil's ambassadors who went out into the world to educate people in the fantastic possibility of the black stuff
helped spur other myths of exceptionalism that now apply from abroad. one should consider current politics as the wildcatter's day in the sun. mike pence headline fundraising dinners whose seats wer filled by wildcatters like tim dunn. we are putting american energy first, mike pence proclaimed in midland. he heralded the three pillars of american greatness -- faith, freedom, and the last, god-given natural resources and promised that developing them would make america great again. it is a familiar refrain, one that jay howard pew's peers would recognize. at the same time, the oil patch as static is also misleading. as much as i've emphasized two of the 20th century oil patch, -- centuries carbon gospels, others have had authority and created legacies as well. recent battles over energy and environment have exposed dissent within oil patches and the efficacy of the wildcat
imperative. evidence, for instance, in children of the wildcat gospel and the oil patch are rallying against the keystone pipeline and the alberta oilsands. one young evangelist among them for the carbon free gospel states it simply, "many people see the pipeline as a political or economic issue but i see it as a moral issue." another proselyte promises a power shift brought on by revival on behalf of the planet. in yet another ironic twist, joining the rockefeller brothers fund to finance this protest isa oilsands the pew charitable trust. the proud creation of jay howard pew, the project is now under attack from another one of his institutional legacies. finally, as much as wildcat religion continues to possess the pulpits and pews of the
american oil patch, oil's effects on spiritual health are being debated and decried, is oil and gas really of god? regardless of what side , one thingall remains consistent with the past -- and it is a dynamic that president jimmy carter perceived in his 1979 speech. that energy debates in this country are as animated by competing worldviews of the here theyow and thereafter as are by sheer economics, and that for combatants across the spectrum, waiting them -- waging them is the moral equivalent of war. thank you. [applause] we have a few minutes for questions.
thank you very much for your -- >> thank you very much for your talk tonight. one comment, one question. the comment, it was the event of the new london school explosion, by the way i'm a registered professional engineer in the state of texas. it waws that one event that the state legislator implemented the licensing of engineers that designed and built public infrastructure. that was another outflow from that one tragic event. >> thank you. >> the question i have is my grandfather grew up in east texas on a farm. at that time, the farm boys were flooding from the farms to longview and kilgore to work in the field. and quickly, the parents, the mothers particularly, reeled the boys back in because there was such a massive loss of life and limb in that type of occupation.
luckily, i'm here because he migrated from there into dallas during the depression and left the fields to come here to find employment. but was there anything in the research that talked about trying to reconcile religion with this extremely dangerous life? >> yeah, for sure. great question, great point. and thanks for that story, too. and certainly i've brushed over in an effort to show how in chanting this oil boom was, -- enchanting this oil boom was, it was devastating and people knew from the get go that was the flip side and i could've gone on about that. first of all, those who went to kilgore and longview did not always get jobs. in fact, the labor pool was quickly saturated and they found themselves in food lines. that did not line up with the prosperity gospel. and of course, the destruction
of lives was just profound. i write in the book of other instances that pale in comparison to new london but almost on a daily basis open up the newspaper and hearing of some of the following -- somebody falling off an oil derrick, killing themselves or impaling themselves. i guess what i would add to that is, even the down site, the dark side of the oil boom, ultimately reinforced this kind of religious world view that came to expect the calamity. not necessarily welcoming it, but expecting it is part of the new reality. pentecostalism. why would it flourish? the sense of the supranational workings of god in a crazy environment with rich potential. but also, the gospel of healing. healing services, healing revivals which spread throughout the oil patch and for this very reason, to let average people handle the grief and handle the
>> thank you very much for your talk. can you talk about what was driving the demand? what was the biggest -- was it the use, the heating oil, vehicles? you talk about the supply side, but what about the demand? >> right, well that changes over time. the beginning it is mostly illuminant, as well oiled eyes. oil dies.-- whale used at the turn-of-the-century, churchill turning the british naval fleet to oil rather than ca which ,ome -- rather than coal
which leads to a whole changing geopolitical strategies. and then with automobiles in the 1920's and 1950's, as we were talking about the don of the hydrocarbon age and the age of freeways and rapid expansion of suburbs and so forth. thanks. fuel of all kinds, right? in fact pew, as much as he hated he loves getting those federal contracts during world war ii. produced, refined more aviation fuel, more high quality aviation fuel than any other company. i think matching if not beating the standard of new jersey, its great enemy, as well. thank you, government, for those contracts. it allowed pew to come out of the world are -- the war all the more better positioned, both financially and philanthropic.
yes? >> [inaudible] i recently finished rachel maddow's book "blowout." have you read it? >> the question comes up quite often, and i should probably sit down and read it. [laughter] i would ask you to comment, because i'm sure she read your book as far as her research, but she further connects the dots of big oil with the far right, but also into countries that are not democratic, because where people have a voice, they make them reduce their margins to clean up after themselves, etc. >> good question. i hope she has read my book. i have been on a few of these
talks where they are like, you have to send her your book. i have center my book. if you have direct access, send her an email. i would love to have a conversation with her. she is on the mark, and what you heard today and will read through the book is, i think, giving these subjects at all levels somewhat the benefit of the doubt, trying to show detail the textured about how oil has been a destructive force globally, and these companies have done great damage, something that rachel maddow, of course, highlight, and rightly so. i'm trying to explain in a broader narrative and context how people were willing to take at aose costs, even personal level, or what were there more -- what were
their motivations, or highlighting a few individuals whose work for international oil companies stemmed from profound personal convictions. wrestled with the mugginess of middle eastern politics -- in fact, william 1960's ald die in the very bitter man, because he saw the american government shifting course from this moral alliance torts support of israel, -- heards support of israel, so thought how this region was erupting. that it was partially responsible for bringing oil to the region or building an apparatus. that is a very important facet of this story and i'm glad rachel maddow has told it, and i am going to read her book now and see if she told it well. >> [inaudible] do you envision an addendum to
with the so-called singularity, producing our own oil? do you ever see -- anhopefully there is addendum that might include -- i will say this, the addendum would include fracking, perhaps, and some of the more recent. american century over as the way i see it, but of course, after another fear of early 2000,the there is plenty of gas and oil now, and an american energy independence is now secured more than it was before. that would be one aspect of it, the ways in which alternative energy sources are going to on accountexpanded of the same kind of entrepreneurialism that we see in oil, in the wildcatting ethic of yesteryear. there might be ways in which
this unfolds, certainly, the scale of oil on a global scale and the politics of that is also going to become -- and saudi arabia, saudi aramco now, the most profitable company in the world. these are all things to watch in the coming few years. but honestly, i have enjoyed my time in oil, i am not sure how much more i will end in it. [laughter] texas, and being in my next topic, i have to find a way to come back. thank you. [applause] >> that obviously concludes our events, but i will remind you that there are books for sale outside, and darren will be available to sign them. they figure for coming. -- thanks again for coming. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020]
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