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The anticlinal theory of oil and gas accumulation was conceived in the Appalachians by recognition of the relationship of the structure of the strata to the occurrence of gas and oil. A New England M.D. who had migrated to southern Ohio made the first recorded observation of this relationship before 1836, but pronounced no theory. A quarter century later, in 1861, another New Englander pronounced the first theory from observations on the Ontario Peninsula, Canada. Four months later, an Ohio college professor made observations in West Virginia and independently pronounced essentially the same theory. It was employed successfully there until 1865, after which the concept languished until 1878 by reason of its misapplication. The first successful application of the theory in Ontario had followed its pronouncement by only a year.

Prior to the inception of the natural gas industry in 1884, the anticlinal theory was successfully utilized in the search for oil by knowledgeable prospectors. But they often discovered gas instead of oil, and gas was not then a saleable commodity. Nevertheless, this gas was soon to provide the impetus for the inception of the natural gas industry. The anticlinal theory was reintroduced in 1885 at a propitious time to provide the most viable means, the interpretation of the structure of the rocks, of obtaining a continuing supply for a rapidly growing gas industry. By 1901, its understanding aided the discovery at Spindletop in East Texas of the greatest oil gusher the world had ever known and “began a new era of civilization.”

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