Oral History

The development of the offshore petroleum industry is a remarkable story of inventiveness, entrepreneurship, hard work, and risk-taking that turned Louisiana’s relatively isolated coastal communities into significant contributors to the U.S. and world economies. Offshore workers initially came from Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, but soon people from throughout the United States were attracted to the Gulf Coast.  This industry, born in the Louisiana marshes, has grown to have a key place in the modern world. Yet, it is little known, understood, or documented and its dynamic economic role is virtually invisible.  

To explore the history and evolution of this industry and the people and communities where it was born, from 2001-2006 the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (formerly the Minerals Management Service) sponsored a study to examine the historical evolution of the offshore oil and gas industry and its effects on Louisiana’s coastal culture, economy, landscape, and society. Researchers from universities in Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona came together to trace the development from land and marsh to state waters and across the Outer Continental Shelf. As one component of this project, university and community researchers gathered oral histories from workers, family members, community leaders, and others whose lives were shaped by the offshore oil and gas industry in southern Louisiana. Local entrepreneurs, workers, family members, industry and community leaders talked about how this industry grew from its fledgling beginning in the 1930’s through the frenzied activity of the 1970’s and beyond. The interviews ranged from very general conversations about life in southern Louisiana during this period to very specific discussions of particular aspects of the oil and gas industry.

Whenever possible, the interviews were recorded on tape or minidisk for archiving. All audio files were converted to a common format and stored to compact discs for uniformity and ease of storage. Photographs, diagrams, and other materials were gathered as well. The photographs were scanned and a digital copy prepared for archiving; the originals were returned to the owners. In most cases, a copy of the recorded interview was returned to the interviewee. Interviewees granted researchers written permission to place their interviews and digital copies of their photographs in the public domain. These materials are archived at several locations in Texas and Louisiana and are available for unrestricted scholarly, educational and public use. Persons using these materials should credit the donor and the Offshore Oil and Gas History Project (OOGHP). For example, “Interview with John Rogers, OOGHP, 2001” or “Photograph from John Rogers, OOGHP, 2001.”