In the early 18908, Edward L. Doheny, a mining prospector down on his luck, observed residents of Los Angeles gathering ''brea'' from the area's tarpits for use as fuel in coal-scarce California. Realizing that this crude tar was petroleum that had con ealed upon contact with the open air, oheny explored the residential neighborhood near Westlake Park, pooled resources with Charles A. Canfield, an old mining crony, and purchased a city lot for $400. Unaware of oil-drilling methods, Doheny and Canfield began by sinking a four-by-six-foot miner's shaft, digging it out by hand with pick and shoveL They found an oil seep seven feet below the surface and kept digging, despite the presence of gas. They finally gave up at 155 feet, nearlovercome by fumes. Doheny then fashioned a crude drill from a sixty-foot eucalyptus tree trunk and continued to bore the hole. On the forieth day of work, gas burst out of the hole and oil bubbled up into the shaft. The boomwas on.
With fortunes to be made, the residential district became crowded with promoters, drillers, and derricks. Trampled gardens, chugging and wheezing pumps, flooded lawns, and other nuisances went along with the attempt to tum backyards into pay dirt. In an area bounded by Figueroa, First, Union, and Temple streets, more than 500 wells were producing oil by 1897 (Figure 1).
Drilling wells in the Los Angeles City field posed the problem of making oil production compatible with urban living. Residents had to deal with noise, dirt, traffic, odors, and waste disposal. At least one solution to the waste disposal problem proved unique. A homeowner with a rig in his backyard had no place for a sump in which to run waste water and mud.