What Did Howard Hughes Sr Invent

Founders of oilfield service company giants Baker Oil Tools and Hughes Tools.

Howard Hughes was born Christmas Eve 1905 in Houston, the only child of Howard Sr. And Allene Gano Hughes, she a local socialite, he a bright and charming ne'er-do-well who decided, with the birth.

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There is a art/sculpture that depicts the three headed drill bit that Howard, Sr. Invented (1909) and patented. 1700 Main street: The Hughes family lived in the Beaconsfield apt/hotel in 1916 (room 2A). Howard was 11 years old. The hotel still stands and has been renovated. During his days in Hollywood, Hughes developed a reputation for being a playboy, dating such actresses as Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Ginger Rogers. Hughes developed a passion for flying. Didn't give her a lot of attention, so she focused all of her attention on Howard Jr.' When Hughes attended camp, his mother took a nearby apartment to be close to her son. Howard Hughes was one of the brightest figures in Las Vegas’ neon history. But he came to Las Vegas under the cover of darkness during Thanksgiving weekend in 1966. Hughes rode in on a fortune.

As the U.S. petroleum expanded following the 1901 “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop in Texas, service company pioneers like Carl Baker and Howard Hughes brought new technologies to oilfields. Baker Oil Tools and Hughes Tools specialized in maximizing oil and natural gas production (competitors would include Schlumberger, a French company founded in 1926 and Halliburton, which began in 1919 as a well-cementing company.

R.C. “Carl” Baker Sr.

Baker Oil Tool Company, later Baker International, was founded by Reuben Carlton “Carl” Baker Sr. of Coalinga, California, who among other inventions patented an innovative cable-tool drill bit in 1903 after founding the Coalinga Oil Company.

Baker Tools Company founder R.C. “Carl” Baker in 1919.

“While drilling around Coalinga, Baker encountered hard rock layers that made it difficult to get casing down a freshly drilled hole,” notes a Coalinga historian. “To solve the problem, he developed an offset bit for cable-tool drilling that enabled him to drill a hole larger than the casing.”

Baker also patented a “Gas Trap for Oil Wells” in 1908, a “Pump-Plunger” in 1914, and a “Shoe Guide for Well Casings” in 1920.

Coalinga was “every inch a boom town and Mr. Baker would become a major player in the town’s growth,” reports the Baker Museum. Baker organized small oil companies, a bank and the local power company.

After drilling wells in the Kern River oilfield, Baker added another technological innovation in 1907 when he patented the Baker Casing Shoe, a device ensuring uninterrupted flow of oil through a well. By 1913 Baker organized the Baker Casing Shoe Company (renamed Baker Tools two years later). He opened his first manufacturing plant in Coalinga.

The R.C. Baker Memorial Museum was the 1917 machine shop and office of Baker Casing Shoe. When Baker Tools headquarters moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, the building remained a company machine shop. It was donated by Baker to Coalinga in 1959 and opened as a museum in 1961. Carl Baker Sr. died in 1957 at age 85 – after receiving more than 150 U.S. patents in his lifetime.

“Though Mr. Baker never advanced beyond the third grade, he possessed an incredible understanding of mechanical and hydraulic systems,” reported the Coalinga museum.

The Houston manufacturing operations of Sharp-Hughes Tool at 2nd and Girard Streets in 1915. Today, the site is on the campus of University of Houston–Downtown. Photo courtesy Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.

Baker Tools became Baker International in 1976 and Baker Hughes after the 1987 merger with Hughes Tool Company.

Howard R. Hughes Sr.

The Hughes Tool Company began in 1908 as the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company founded by Walter B. Sharp and Howard R. Hughes, Sr.

“Fishtail” rotary drill bits became obsolete in 1909 when the two inventors introduced a dual-cone roller bit. They created a bit “designed to enable rotary drilling in harder, deeper formations than was possible with earlier fishtail bits,” according to a Hughes historian. Secret tests took place on a drilling rig at Goose Creek, south of Houston.

“In the early morning hours of June 1, 1909, Howard Hughes Sr. packed a secret invention into the trunk of his car and drove off into the Texas plains,” notes Gwen Wright of History Detectives. The drilling site was near Galveston Bay. Rotary drilling “fishtail ” bits of the time were “nearly worthless when they hit hard rock.”

The new technology would soon bring faster and deeper drilling worldwide, helping to find previously unreachable oil and natural gas reserves. The dual-cone bit also created many Texas millionaires, explained Don Clutterbuck, one of the PBS show’s sources. “When the Hughes twin-cones hit hard rock, they kept turning, their dozens of sharp teeth (166 on each cone) grinding through the hard stone,” he added.

Although several inventors tried to develop better rotary drill bit technologies, Sharp-Hughes Tool Company was the first to bring it to American oilfields. Drilling times fell dramatically, saving petroleum companies huge amounts of money.

Howard Hughes Sr. of Houston, Texas, received a 1901 patent for a dual-cone drill bit.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers has noted that about the same time Hughes developed his bit, Granville A. Humason of Shreveport, Louisiana, patented the first cross-roller rock bit, the forerunner of the Reed cross-roller bit.

Biographers note that Hughes met Granville Humason in a Shreveport bar, where Humason sold his roller bit rights to Hughes for $150. The University of Texas’ Center for American History has a rare 1951 recording of Humason’s recollections of that chance meeting. Humason recalls he spent $50 of his sale proceeds at the bar during the balance of the evening.

After Sharp died in 1912, his widow Estelle Sharp sold her 50 percent share in the company to Hughes. It became Hughes Tool in 1915. Despite legal action between Hughes Tool and the Reed Roller Bit Company that occurred in the late 1920s, Hughes prevailed – and his oilfield service company prospered.

What Did Howard Hughes Sr Invent

By 1934, Hughes Tool engineers design and patented the three-cone roller bit, an enduring design that remains much the same today. Hughes’ exclusive patent lasted until 1951, which allowed his Texas company to grow worldwide. More innovations (and mergers) would follow.

A February 1914 advertisement for the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company in Fuel Oil Journal.

Frank Christensen and George Christensen had developed the earliest diamond bit in the 1941 and introduced diamond bits to oilfields in 1946, beginning with the Rangley field of Colorado. The long-lasting tungsten carbide tooth came into use in the early 1950s.

After Baker International acquired Hughes Tool Company in 1987, Baker Hughes acquired the Eastman Christensen Company three years later. Eastman was a world leader in directional drilling.

When Howard Hughes Sr. died in 1924, he left three-quarters of his company to Howard Hughes Jr., then a student at Rice University. The younger Hughes added to the success of Hughes Tool while becoming one of the richest men in the world. His many legacies include founding Hughes Aircraft Company and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Learn more oilfield history in Making Hole – Drilling Technology.

Oilfield Service Company Competition

A major competitor for any energy service company, today’s Schlumberger Limited can trace its roots to Caen, France. In 1912, brothers Conrad and Marcel began making geophysical measurements that recorded a map of equipotential curves (similar to contour lines on a map). Using very basic equipment, their field experiments led to invention of a downhole electronic “logging tool” in 1927.

After successfully developing an electrical four-probe surface approach for mineral exploration, the brothers lowered another electric tool into a well. They recorded a single lateral-resistivity curve at fixed points in the well’s borehole and graphically plotted the results against depth – creating first electric well log of geologic formations.

Meanwhile another service company in Oklahoma, the Reda Pump Company had been founded by Armais Arutunoff, a close friend of Frank Phllips. By 1938, an estimated two percent of all the oil produced in the United States with artifical lift, was lifted by an Arutunoff pump. Learn more in Inventing the Electric Submersible Pump (also see All Pumped Up – Oilfield Technology).

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact [email protected] © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Carl Baker and Howard Hughes.” Author: AOGHS.ORG Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/oil-almanac/carl-baker-howard-hughes. Last Updated: December 20, 2020. Original Published Date: December 17, 2017.

Cite this
Dittmann, M. (2005, July). Hughes's germ phobia revealed in psychological autopsy. Monitor on Psychology, 36(7). http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug05/hughes

Howard Hughes--the billionaire aviator, motion-picture producer and business tycoon--spent most of his life trying to avoid germs. Toward the end of his life, he lay naked in bed in darkened hotel rooms in what he considered a germ-free zone. He wore tissue boxes on his feet to protect them. And he burned his clothing if someone near him became ill.

The phobia grew so severe that it might have contributed to Hughes's increasing addiction to codeine and his reclusiveness in the two decades before his death from heart failure in 1976. Nearly two years after his death, Hughes's estate attorney called on former APA CEO Raymond D. Fowler, PhD, to conduct a psychological autopsy to determine Hughes's mental and emotional condition in his last years and to help understand the origins of his mental disorder. Fowler's findings were used in civil lawsuits filed by people who made claims to the billionaire's estate. Hughes had died without a will.

How Did Howard Hughes Die

Fowler, who at the time was a professor and chair of the University of Alabama's psychology department, was recommended to conduct the psychological autopsy by an attorney he had worked with previously on mental health right-to-treatment cases. Fowler worked full time for one year conducting the autopsy and then on and off for five years following that.

To complete the autopsy, Fowler interviewed Hughes's former staff and evaluated newspaper reports, court depositions, old letters Hughes's mother wrote about him and other documents ranging from transcripts of Hughes's phone calls to his pilot logs.

'A picture gradually emerged of a young child who pretty much was isolated and had no friends, and a man who increasingly became concerned about his own health,' Fowler says.

That research led Fowler to believe that Hughes's fear for his health most likely emerged from his childhood. Hughes's mother was constantly worried about her son's exposure to germs, terrified that he would catch polio, a major health threat at the time. His mother checked him every day for diseases and was cautious about what he ate.

In adolescence, Hughes was paralyzed for several months and unable to walk. After a few months, the symptoms disappeared. Fowler believes Hughes's paralysis--for which no physical basis was found--was psychologically based and an early manifestation of his lifelong pattern of withdrawing in times of stress.

Hughes's fear of germs grew throughout his life, and he concurrently developed obsessive-compulsive symptoms around efforts to protect himself from germs, Fowler notes. For example, he wrote a staff manual on how to open a can of peaches--including directions for removing the label, scrubbing the can down until it was bare metal, washing it again and pouring the contents into a bowl without touching the can to the bowl.

Ironically, Hughes ended up neglecting his own hygiene later in his life, rarely bathing or brushing his teeth. He even forced his compulsions on those around him, ordering staff to wash their hands multiple times and layer their hands with paper towels when serving his food.

What Did Howard Hughes Sr. Invent

'He didn't believe germs could come from him, just from the outside,' Fowler explains. 'He was convinced that he was going to be contaminated from the outside.'

--M. DITTMANN

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