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Houston History: Howard Hughes Sr., the Houstonian that changed the oil industry

Howard R. Hughes Sr.
Howard R. Hughes Sr. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – Meet Howard Robard Hughes Sr., the man that changed the oil industry.

Born in Lancaster, Missouri and raised in Keokuk, Iowa, Hughes would follow his father steps in becoming a lawyer. However, he changed his career path and ventured into the lead and zinc-mining industry.

It wasn’t until 1901 when Hughes arrived in the Lone Star state with the discovery of Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas.

Howard R. Hughes Sr.
Howard R. Hughes Sr. (KPRC)

At the time, many drilling companies had a difficult time getting through underground rock formations to drill oil.

All of that change in 1906 when Hughes and his partner Walter Sharp began designing and experimenting with drilling.

Sharp and Hughes began testing their new drilling technology at Goose Creek, outside Houston. The tool was a success and “fishtail” rotary drills would become part of the past.

Howard R. Hughes Sr. drill patented on August 10, 1909
Howard R. Hughes Sr. drill patented on August 10, 1909 (KPRC)

Two years later in 1909, they patented the new tool and founded Sharp-Hughes Tools Co. on Buffalo Bayou.

Sharp-Hughes Tool Co.
Sharp-Hughes Tool Co. (KPRC)

In 1912, Sharp passed away and Hughes purchased half of the company from Sharp’s widow, becoming Hughes Tools.

Twenty four years later, Hughes Tools would patent another useful tool, the Tricone roller cone drill bit, technology still used today.

On January 14, 1924, Hughes died of a heart attack during a business meeting in Houston. Hughes had 73 patents to his name upon his death.