22 July 2013

A 1925 Photo of C.C.M.O. Workers, Olinda, Part One

Typically, photos of oil fields are heavy on the physical characteristics of the site, whether these are broad panoramas or focused views, including derricks, associated structures, open or closed tanks, and so forth.  Occasionally, people might be included in a view celebrating the "gusher," commemorating an oil fire or a tank explosion, or perhaps a shot of workers "on the pump" to demonstrate the workings of a particular well.

The 1925 image, from the collection of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, in this post, though, is probably somewhat rare and unusual, with the focus exclusively on the nearly sixty people pictures on the lease of the C.C.M.O., or Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Company, at the Olinda oil field.  While portions of the physical site are in the background, the subject are workers.  No company executives are to be found, but there are plenty of truck drivers, derrick workers, gaugers, tool dressers, roustabouts and other common laborers. 

Fortunately, someone took the time to write the surnames and the first initial of the given names of everyone, excepting the one child found in the image, totaling fifty-seven men.  While information could not be found on some of those pictures, most can be identified through census and other records, and a snapshot of what the oil field's population was like about ninety years ago.

The image was simply titled "C.C.M.O.—Olinda" and was taken by C. C. Duffey of Long Beach and was taken in September 1925.  The Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Company was founded in 1899 by Joseph A. Chanslor and Charles A. Canfield to develop oil wells in the new Midway field of Kern County.  First, some background on the company's founders.

This September 1925 panoramic photo shows nearly sixty employees and others of the C.C.M.O. (Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Company), which operated at the Santa Fe Railway-held property of the Olinda Oil Field.  Courtesy of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, California.  Click on the image to see it enlarged in a separate window.
Canfield, born in May 1848 near Buffalo, New York, migrated to Colorado in 1869 to try his hand at mining and struggled for over fifteen years in the industry, including in places like Ruby Hill, Nevada, a claim in the desert some 120 miles west of the Utah border and, finally, Kingston, New Mexico, where Canfield worked with Wisconsin native Edward L. Doheny.  When the latter declined an invitation from Canfield to work a mine there, Canfield hit pay dirt in 1886.

In 1887, with his newfound riches, Canfield migrated to Los Angeles, then undergoing a massive real estate boom known as the "Boom of the Eighties" and following the completion by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad of a direct transcontinental line to the town.  As the boom mushroomed Canfield invested in the real estate market, only to see his investments disappear in the inevitable bust that came by the end of the decade.  Another failed project during that boom was the Olinda Ranch, created in 1887 by William H. Bailey of Maui, Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Doheny made his way to Los Angeles and was flat broke, but met up with Canfield again and convinced him to invest a small sum on a hunch that there was petroleum to be found in the hills northwest of downtown Los Angeles.  With a $400 stake and primitive drilling equipment, Doheny hit it big in December 1892 with the first successful well in Los Angeles city limits, inaugurating the Los Angeles City Oil Field.  The Doheny-Canfield Oil Company became a successful concern for several years and the two men were instrumental in convincing the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, known commonly as the Santa Fe, to convert their engine fuel from coal to oil.

By 1897, however, Doheny, in partnership with the Southern California Railway Company, a subsidiary of the Santa Fe, turned his attentions to Olinda and Canfield took his interests north and opened the Coalinga Oil Field in 1896 with Joseph A. Chanslor. 

Chanslor was born in May 1868 in Fishing River, Missouri, just northeast of Kansas City, and his family appears to have come to Los Angeles during the same fabled boom of the 1880s that brought Canfield.  His father, John, had a successful grocery business and Joseph worked there as a clerk and, for a time, as an Internal Revenue Service collector, before joining forces with Canfield as vice-president of the Coalinga Oil Company.  How exactly he became partner with a man twenty years his senior is not known, but Chanslor, Canfield and Doheny also had a gold mining operation in the Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County, though this proved unsuccessful.

The three men formed separate oil companies, but kept their alliances intact.  Doheny's Petroleum Development Company drilled wells at Olinda under lease from the Southern California Railway, which was eventually disbanded by its parent company, so that the Santa Fe operated in name at Olinda from the first decade of the 20th century onward.

Meantime, Canfield and Chanslor formed their Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Company in 1901 for their new enterprise in the Midway field, on the west side of the lower San Joaquin Valley, southwest of Bakersfield.  The two operated the company for just a few years and the two men were instrumental in major deals like the purchase of 108,000 acres of oil and mining lands in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 1902, before it was purchased by the Santa Fe Railway, which then merged it with Doheny's Petroleum Development Company.  The Santa Fe's Olinda operation was under the auspices of the C.C.M.O. name for many years.

Meantime, Doheny and Canfield continued their alliance, especially as Doheny expanded his oil empire into Mexico in 1902 and sold off his interests in California to pursue his projects in the Tampico area, though he did return to California oil endeavors within several years.  Doheny's Pan-American Petroleum Company was wildly successful in Mexico, with one well, the "Casiano" producing 75 million barrels of crude in just under a decade.  Canfield was a partner in the Mexican oil project and his 1913 "Who's Who in the Pacific Coast" entry made a point of noting that he was involved in the paving of "all streets" in Mexico City, as well as work to install gas lines in the capital.

Canfield was also an investor in the early 1900s with a syndicate including railroad tycoon Henry H. Huntington and others in buying the Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, on which Beverly Hills was later developed.  He also had a major interest in developing the San Diego beachfront community of Del Mar, where he built a palatial residence in 1910.  Canfield did endure the tragedy of having his wife, Chloe, killed at their Los Angeles home in 1906 by a former coachman employed by the family when she rebuffed his attempt at a loan.  Canfield later moved to his Del Mar home, but died there only a few years later, in 1913, at age 65.

As a sidenote, his daughter Daisy was married to the Pan-American Petroleum vice-president, and an attorney, Jay Danziger, and she inherited a quarter of her father's $8 million fortune.  Later, she sold about 1,700 acres of Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas land she inherited to real estate and oil magnate Alphonzo Bell, who established the tony subdivision of Bel-Air.  After separating from her husband, on grounds of "cruelty" (meaning she alleged he had affairs) in 1918 and securing a divorce a few years later, she married film star Antonio Moreno (known for his staring role in the Clara Bow smash "It" in 1927.)  They resided in a massive mansion in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, which still stands, but later separated.  In 1933, Daisy Canfield was killed when the car in which she was being driven, rolled off Mulholland Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains.

As for Joseph Chanslor, the sale of the C.C.M.O. to the Santa Fe allowed him to move to San Francisco, though he maintained an interest in the company for some years afterward.  Later, he was president of a coal company in Monterey County, was a founder of the Associated Oil Company in 1902, and was a director of the Tidewater Oil Company (later purchased by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty) until just before his death in San Francisco in 1946.

Next, details of this great photo and of the men depicted in it.


Douglas Westfall said...

Great panorama of Olinda. I've seen one other in front of the grain office. Wish I had the names. Olinda was the boyhood home of famous American League baseball pitcher Walter Johnson, who held the record of some 3,500 strikeouts for over 50 years.

Best Regards, Douglas Westfall, historic publisher. SpecialBooks.com

prs said...

Hello Douglas, it is a great photo and there will be some follow-up posts soon hopefully with details from the image and about the people. Walter Johnson was mentioned in an early post here--maybe some more on him will appear down the road. Thanks for visiting and for the comment.

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RichieMac said...

I just came across this photo while going through family heirlooms. My photo is in excellent condition. My great grandfather, John A. Adams, is the 7th man from the right!

RichieMac said...

I just realized your picture is not complete. He's actually just to the right of the last man in your picture.

prs said...

Hi RichieMac, thanks for the comments and interesting that your ancestor is in the photo. I'll check the original, which I think is complete but was cropped for the post (probably because of the poor condition and curling.) Anyway, glad you found the post.