The Legacy of Frank Phillips and His Oil Company – Woolaroc. Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Posted on October 13, 2014


The western oil boom  of the early 1900’s drew men from all over the country to the Indian lands of the Oklahoma Territory.

Among those men were Frank Phillips and his brother Lee, who established the Anchor Oil and Gas Company in 1903.  After watching nearly all their money disappear down two dry wells, the brothers finally struck it rich with the Anna Anderson in 1905.frank phillips

The Anna Anderson was the first of 80 consecutive productive wells drilled by the company, and the Phillips Brothers were well on their way to success.


The Anna Anderson

By the 1920’s Frank Phillips was looking for a country retreat.  He purchased 3,700 acres of open land that he named Woolaroc after the Woods, lakes, and rocks that existed in abundance on his property.

In 1930, Anchor Oil Co. began looking for a new name and logo –  something that would include the Phillips name while reflecting a stronger connection with the automobile.

According to company lore, the solution presented itself as two employees were returning to Bartlesville after road-testing the company’s newest gasoline. The passenger commented that the car was going “like 60.”  The driver looked at the speedometer and replied, “Sixty nothing … we’re doing 66!”

Supposedly the event took place near Tulsa on U.S. Highway 66, which had opened in 1927 connecting Chicago with Los Angeles. This happy coincidence led the company to choose Phillips 66 as its new brand name and to adopt the already-famous Route 66 shield as part of their new logo.

That sounds like something straight out of the Public Relations department to me. After all, the brothers knew the Great Depression would eventually end, and when automobile traffic along Route 66 returned, they would need something to attract the eye of the traveling public. Their new logo linking themselves visually with the route itself did just that.

Now, back to the ranch.images (3)

For Frank Phillips, Woolaroc became not only a getaway, but a lifestyle.

He developed an interest in archaeology as an offshoot of geology. He and participated in several digs on his own property resulting in a vast collection of Pre-Historic and Native American artifacts, which he first displayed in his ranch house.

When this collection, as well as a growing collection of Western art and artifacts outgrew his home, a foundation was established and a separate building constructed for their display.

images (2)Today, native and exotic wildlife, such as buffalo, elk and longhorn cattle roam the grounds. The Woolaroc Museum contains an immense assembly of Western paintings, sculpture and artifacts; American Indian material, and one of the largest collections of Colt firearms in the world.

The Woolaroc Ranch Historic District, also known as Rock Creek Game Preserve, Frank Phillips Ranch, Phillips Osage Park and Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 5, 2008.

An ‘official’ Phillips 66 Museum in downtown Bartlesville offers a slick, professional presentation of the history of the company, but it is Woolaroc that speaks mostly clearly about its founder, Frank Phillips.66IMG_0555