Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Good Side of the Oil Industry

There isn't a whole lot to the oil exhibit in the Bob Bullock museum. It focused more on early oil discovery and drilling technology, "wildcatters" fattening their wallets and a state populated with farmers quickly converting to urban sprawl.

I wanted to comment on something I expected to see at the museum, but did not: higher eduction's early dependence on the oil boom. In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas appropriated over 200,000 acres of land to future universities in Texas, under the guidance of Mirabeau B. Lamar, "Father of Texas Education." Before finding oil on the land endowed to state universities, the University of Texas campus was covered in "shacks." A Permanent University Fund was established and split up (as Dr. Webber noted in class) into two-thirds to the University of Texas and one-third to Texas A&M. Investment returns from the fund alone up to 1998 has accounted for over $8 billion. (data, history from

In an earlier blog this week, Ross Tomlin asked what Texas would look like if oil had not been discovered. I would assume the University of Texas would not be a premier university had it not been so fortunate as to discover oil on endowed lands.

I thought it would be funny to add this photograph by Erich Schlegel of a reenactment of Spindletop (100 year anniversary in 2001), which is also found on the website.

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