From crude to refined: Standard Oil comes to Baton Rouge

Stanocola Refinery Band

Stanocola Refinery Band

Exhibition features photographs from 1909

On display through August 15, 2009

In 1909, Standard Oil executive John Adam Bechtold was one of a team sent by Standard Oil to establish operations in Baton Rouge. On April 13, 1909, Standard Oil filed a charter in Baton Rouge. An excerpt from that document outlines the magnitude of activities planned by the company:

To prospect and bore for, mine, market and sell petroleum and gas; to purchase, transport, sell, produce, refine and export petroleum and its products, and to manufacture the by-products therefrom arising; to buy and sell naval stores; to lease or construct, maintain and operate pipe lines, with proper pumping stations and storage tanks for the distribution and storage of petroleum or gas, and in connection therewith, to erect, maintain and operate a telegraph or telephone line or lines; to charter, own and operate ships, tugs, barges and other vessels for the transportation of petroleum and its products, and to lease or own or operate wharves and docks, tanks, cars and other equipment necessary for the transportation of petroleum and its byproducts by land or water, and generally to have, hold and exercise all such incidental powers and privileges as relate to the objects herewith above set forth.

Fortunately for us, Bechtold was an amateur photographer, who was fascinated by the great adventure of building a refinery. He focused his lens on the construction, catching mule teams as they graded earth to build the refinery, men as they wait to be paid, the destruction caused by the 1909 hurricane, and the arrival of the first trainload of crude from Muskogee, Oklahoma. He also photographed family and friends, giving us a glimpse of Baton Rouge at a time when horses and mules still provided much of the transportation in town and the Stanocola Band provided entertainment at civic events.

The exhibition includes more than 30 images reproduced from an album the Bechtold family put together, which has been preserved and passed down to Mrs. Marna Shortess, J.A. Bechtold’s granddaughter. More than a dozen images in the original album are also on display, as well as materials from the Libraries’ Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, which show the importance of Standard Oil and its successor companies in the history of Baton Rouge.

Exhibitions Coordinator, LSU Libraries Special Collections

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