I grew up in LA at a time when there were oil derricks everywhere. I had friends with rigs literally in their back yards, and when driving around LA or the Long Beach area, it was very common to see the grasshopper oil rigs pumping up and down, and the smell of oil as you went past. (FWIW, this is a "grasshopper" oil pumper. If you haven't seen one in action, the curved heads on the left bob up and down from the pivot in back.)
At the end of the year I got to thinking about life in LA and all the oil shocks and crises that have been in the news during 2010. And that made me think of a simple enough question:
When was the first productive oil well drilled in California? And.. for extra credit, who drilled it and where?
I'll warn you--this seems really simple, but answering the question definitively took me a while (and I'm still triple-checking my answer).
For clarity, a "productive" oil well is one that pumped more than 10 barrels of oil AND the output of which was refined and not used in its native out-of-the-ground state.