Drilling for oil on Venice Beach | Via
Native Americans first discovered oil in California, as it seeped to the surface of the earth. They used it as a lubricant and sealant for canoes. It was later used for similar purposes by Spanish colonizers.
As the state’s population boomed in the decades following the gold rush of 1849, there was a rapidly growing demand for petroleum.
Drilled in 1876, the first commercially successful oil well in California was Well No. 4 in the Pico Canyon Oilfield in the Santa Susana Mountains.
More discoveries followed, from the Los Angeles City Oil Field in 1892 to Huntington Beach in 1920 and Long Beach in 1921.
By 1920, California was producing 77 million barrels of oil a year, and vast stretches of the state were occupied by derricks, drilling rigs and refineries.
In places such as Venice, California (now known as Marina del Rey), oil derricks ran right up to the shore, mingling with residential neighborhoods and pristine beaches.