common knowledge that Howard R. Hughes Jr., the mysterious, multi-talented movie
producer, pilot, inventor and entrepreneur from Houston
never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from.|
up rich and inherited a fortune made by his father, the founder of Hughes Tool
But how did Hughes
Tool Co. evolve into an icon in industry?
Goose Creek oil field at Baytown
had something to do with it.
has it that one dark night in 1909 Howard Robard Hughes Sr. sneaked into the oil
field with business partner Walter Sharp and two other guys. The fearless four
wore working clothes, disguised as roughnecks.
The purpose of this clandestine
operation was to test an oil tool – a rolling bit -- that Hughes had invented.
Certain his invention would revolutionize the industry, Hughes didn’t want any
curious competitors nosing around.
The erstwhile roughnecks took their
places on a rig floor. Hughes carefully unlocked a wooden box and lifted out a
burlap-wrapped “secret weapon.” He attached it to a drilling item and pulled the
wrapping away as they lowered it into the hold.
his book, “Early Texas Oil,” Walter Rundell Jr. described the invention as a rolling
bit with two cones with unevenly spaced teeth. |
“Because the conical bit
could drill a straight, round hole quickly and efficiently,” Rundell wrote, “it
was vastly superior to the older fishtail bit. The latter would wear rapidly because
rocks dulled its cutting edges.”
The test in the Goose Creek oil field
far exceeded all expectations and marked the beginning of the cone bit industry.
Forming the Sharp-Hughes
Tool Co., the two partners set out to manufacture and sell this new item.
Sharp died in 1913, Hughes bought out the business and in 1915 renamed it the
Hughes Tool Co.
His early advances in rotary drilling technology gained
wide attention and put Houston on the
map as the world's leading manufacturer of drilling equipment.
he had improved the original cone bit, making it more efficient and less costly.
Hughes also is credited with the invention of other drilling services that saved
time and money.
In addition, he did his part during World
War I, creating a tunneling machine to drill from Allied trenches to German
extraordinary man died on Jan. 14, 1924, at the age of 54, when his only son was
a student at Rice.
Along with the company store, Howard Robard Hughes
Jr. inherited the patent rights to his father’s most famous invention, the basis
of their financial empire.
We’re referring, of course, to the cone bit
that made history in the Goose Creek oil field.
Back then, in 1909, Howard
Robard Hughes Jr. was a 2-year-old toddler and could not have grasped the significance
of his father’s trip to the oil field in the middle of the night.
Senior left their home in Houston that
night, Junior must have been in bed asleep.
If he woke up and asked mommy where daddy was, she probably told him he was working
late, as usual. (“Hush, little Howie. Go back to sleep.”)
Mrs. Hughes didn’t know where her husband had gone.
Apparently, he was
a secretive, private person as well as imaginative, creative, innovative.
Some called him a man ahead of his time, a visionary, a dreamer, an explorer.
Could it be that Howard Robard Hughes Jr. inherited much more than mere money
from his father?
December 2, 2012 columns
Topics: Baytown | Houston
Texas Town List | People
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