Antun Lučić- Croat who started the Texas oil revolution

Did you know who is most responsible for the most significant oil well in Texas (1921)?

Antun Lučić, the pioneer of the new age of the oil industry

The oil industry was born on the hill in Southeast Texas. The hill was formed by the rise of the Spindletop salt dome. In the second half of XIX. century Pennsylvania was the leading U.S. country in oil production.

On January 10, 1901, that changed.

For centuries, Native Americans have known about the places where oil is coming to the surface. They would use such oil as a cure for various ailments. In 1543, Spanish explorers found tar sands along the Texas coast and used them to waterproof boots.

In the second half of XIX. In the 19th century, Texas produced less oil. Production began in 1866 in a field called Oil Springs. 

Pattillo Higgins, a self-taught geologist, was one of the few who believed that the modern industry would turn from coal to oil. But where to find all that oil?

Anthony F.Lucas

He believed that a considerable amount of oil would be in Spindletop, more precisely in the trap at the top of the salt dome; In 1982, he set up his own business to make it work. In the years to come, many members of the professional community considered Higgins’s ideas unrealistic. Higgins ran an ad in a local newspaper, and one man, like-minded, Captain Anthony F. Lucas responded. He had experience as an engineer and miner at Louisiana salt beds.

Antun Lučić, a Croat who started the Texas oil revolution. Today, he is perhaps better known in Texas than in his home country of Croatia. An American inventor of Croatian descent, a naval officer, a miner, is most responsible for the first oil well in Texas in Spindletop, near Beaumont.

He was born in Split in 1855 in the family of Captain Franjo Lučić from the island of Hvar and was educated at the famous High Technical School in Graz, also attended by Nikola Tesla, and became a mechanical engineer. For some time he served in Pula and Rijeka as an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. He moved to the US when he was 24 years old. Living in the US, he changed his name in Anthony Francis Lucas (Francis is named after his father Franjo) (he is also known as Lucich).

In the US, he began to pursue oil exploration, drawing on his conclusions, developing some original ideas. He tried to search for oil in the US state of Texas, whereby that time there were no significant oil sources. He was persistent in mud rotary drilling (which he applied first).

He was convinced that he would find a large supply of oil on the land he had purchased. When he reached a depth of 275 meters, he had no money, so he had to partner with other investors. He continued drilling and reached a depth of 375 meters when the miracle happened. At 10.30 am on the morning of January 10, 1901, oil erupted heavily from Lučić’s well. The oil geyser was about 50 meters high.

That source on Spindletop Hill was named Lucas Gusher and is world-famous today. It produced a whopping 16,000 tonnes of oil a day, making it the largest in the world. It was a turning point for the Texas economy, as it was the first significant oil source discovered in that state. In a year, the population near that source increased from 8,000 to 60,000. Around 600 oil companies opened in the close vicinity.

Antun Lučić’s inventions: Above-ground method of extracting salt from a salt mine, underground exploration of underground mineral deposits, usage of the hydraulic rotary machine for drilling the oil wells, construction and usage of the check valve, ie anti-eruption equipment, use of clay for drilling muds. Lučić invented the so-called A “Christmas tree” represented by a system of valves and tubes placed at the mouth of a well; The Christmas tree is connected to the pipeline for the transfer and storage of oil.

Lučić died in the American capital of Washington at the age of 65, after a long career as chair of the American Oil and Gas Committee. Interestingly, Lučić is listed among the 200 Most Honored Americans, and the American Society of Petroleum Engineers awarded him with the Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal.


Antun Lučić is one of the most significant figures in the history of twentieth-century world energy. In the United States, he is considered the father of the oil industry. His discoveries have completely changed the lives of millions of people around the world. He is still almost unknown in Croatia.

By its importance to the history of civilization, Antun Lučić stands side by side with his compatriot and colleague Nikola Tesla.

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