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Tower-man working on an oil well derrick, Mountrail County, N.D.
Tower-man working on an oil well derrick, Mountrail County, N.D.
TitleTower-man working on an oil well derrick, Mountrail County, N.D.
Date of Original1955-06
CreatorShemorry, Bill, 1914-2004
Creator RolePhotographer
DescriptionTower-man at work in June 1955, on the Lofflund Drilling Company's derrick on Amerada's Henry Rohde No. 3 in Mountrail County, N.D. The "Highest job in the oil field is the work of the derrick man whose job is to stack the drill pipe as it comes out of the hole, and to help couple it up on the way back. His work on the high platform is a highly-skilled part of the general teamwork that goes on night and day in drilling North Dakota wells... It's not the easiest job in the field and it's not the most dangerous as statistics will prove."
General SubjectOil
People
Work Life
Subject (LCTGM)Men
Oil wells
Oil well drilling rigs
Petroleum workers
Petroleum industry
Pipelines
Towers
Organization NameAmerada Hess Corporation
Amerada Petroleum Corporation
LocationMountrail County (N.D.)
Decade1950-1959
Item Number1-132A-48-1
Format of OriginalPhotographic prints
Dimensions of Original22 x 11 cm.
Publisher of OriginalShemorry, William E. (Bill)
Place of PublicationWilliston
Mud, Sweat & Oil: The Early Days of the Williston Basin
Transcription"Highest job in the oil field is the work of the derrick man whose job is to stack the drill pipe as it comes out of the hole, and to help couple it up on the way back. His work on the high platform is a highly-skilled part of the general teamwork that goes on night and day in drilling North Dakota wells... It's not the easiest job in the field and it's not the most dangerous as statistics will prove." -- Typed as caption on paper with photograph.
NotesTitle created by staff.
Biography/HistoryWilliam E. "Bill" Shemorry was a native of Williston, N.D. who began work in the newspaper industry as a newsboy selling the Williston Herald and the Williams County Farmers Press. In 1953, he started to publish the Williston Plains Reporter, which he operated for 25 years before selling to the Williston Herald. Shemorry then began to concentrate on his own writing and photography. In addition to writing many books on the history of Williams County, he also collected photographs of early North Dakota photographers. Shemorry was an active member of the Williston Fire Department, was Civil Defense Chief of Williams County for three years in the 1950's, and was a combat photographer in World War II. Shemorry's photograph of the discovery of oil in North Dakota on April 4, 1951 at the Clarence Iverson No. 1 is one of the most famous oil photographs ever taken, and was published in many national publications.

The tower-man, working from his small platform high on the derrick of an oil rig is a scene that, while commonplace to members of the drilling crew, is not always seen by visitors. The picture on the front cover of this book was made June of 1955. The Lofflund Drilling Companys derrick pictured was on Ameradas Henry Rohde No. 3, then on a location at the NE SE of Section 7, 157n-94w. This is part of the Tioga field in Mountrail County. In the photo, Joe Hickel, the tower-man is wrestling a string of drill-pipe into a stacking position as the crew brings it out of the hole in order to replace a worn bit. Although the operation looks frightening, he is at ease with his job and wears a safety line to prevent him from falling, in case he should make a slip. It is of interest to know that Hickel, whose home was just north of Ray, was among those first North Dakotans who saw opportunity in the oil fields. Now the industry has trained and employs many area people in a wide variety of skilled jobs.
Bibliographic ReferenceMud, Sweat & Oil: The Early Days of the Williston Basin, by Shemorry, cover and page 4.
Repository InstitutionState Historical Society of North Dakota
Repository CollectionWilliam E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection Mss 10958
Credit LineState Historical Society of North Dakota, William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection (1-132-48-1)
Rights ManagementPermission to reproduce this image must be requested from the State Historical Society of North Dakota.
Ordering InformationTo order a reproduction, inquire about the collection, or provide information about an image, please email Emily E. Schultz at eschultz@nd.gov
Digital IDws1132A481
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