Ever since the legendary oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny and his partner, Charles A. Canfield, struck oil northwest of downtown Los Angeles in 1892, extracting petroleum from the land beneath Southern California has been a major part of the Southern California economy. For decades, it also had a powerful effect on the landscape of Southern California. Oil derricks towered over sandy beaches, houses, schools, golf courses, and orange groves. In one case an oil derrick even stood stubbornly in the middle of a Beverly Hills street.
Many of the wells have since been closed, and in some cases the towering derricks have been replaced by the ever-nodding horsehead pumps, but the surreal views of oil derricks dominating the Southern California landscape survive in the following images, drawn from several of the region's photographic archives.
Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, personal collections, and other institutions. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here will provide a view into the archives of individuals and cultural institutions whose collections inform the great narrativein all its complex facetsof Southern California.