The Texas Oil Industry Illustrated through Postcards


Borger, Texas, ca. 1926
Borger, Texas, ca. 1926

191 postcards that depict the oil boom in Texas are now available online in the Texas: Photographs, Manuscripts, and Imprints digital collection, which is one of more than 30 digital collections that form part of CUL Digital Collections. The postcards are held by SMU’s DeGolyer Library.

Many of the postcards show the rapid growth in Texas oil towns. Take, for example, the 26 real photographic postcards that show the growth of Borger, TX. Borger grew quickly in the 1920s when the railroad completed a spur to the town. It then built a post office, a school, a hotel, a jail and added telephone service and electricity. The town attracted not only oilmen and roughnecks, but also criminals and persons of ill repute.

P. F. Co.'s 55,000 Oil Tank struck by lightning Aug. 5, 1912, Electra, Texas
P. F. Co.’s 55,000 Oil Tank struck by lightning Aug. 5, 1912, Electra, Texas

The town was given the title, “The wickedest place in the world.” Robberies, murders and organized crime were an everyday event in Borger. Governor Dan Moody sent the Texas Rangers to provide stability and sent the Texas National Guard to impose martial law after the district attorney, John A. Holmes, was assassinated outside of his home on September 18, 1929. The Rangers closed down all the saloons and brothels and encouraged many criminals to leave town. Borger then settled down and became a major shipping area for produce and petroleum products. (Source: Borger, TX, The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association)

In addition, a number of the postcard views of the oil boom document vividly the effects of fires from oil wells and storage tanks that were hit by lightning or were set off by a spark when natural gas was unexpectedly found while drilling for oil.

The oil-related postcards were made available through funding from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission as part of the TexTreasures program. The TexTreasures program was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

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