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Practical Tools, the Beginnings of Professional Practice, and the Founding of AAPG: 1900-1917


Subsurface structure contours have been used as a method in delineating anticlines since the 1870s. In 1902, William T. Griswold of the U.S. Geological Survey, created a technique to map structure contours using spirit leveling, and later, plane table and alidade. Griswold taught this technique to his geologists colleagues, such as Malcolm J. Munn, where it was used to identify anticlinal traps for petroleum exploration. In 1908, Griswold left the U.S. Geological Survey and started one of the first geological consulting firms in the world with his former colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey: Edgar McCrary and Fred Hutchinson. The company, W.T. Griswold & Company, also hired an employee named Kessack D. White, a student at the University of Kentucky. After two years, Griswold left to become the Chief Geologist of the Philadelphia Company. The firm was renamed the McCrary & Hutchinson and was in operation for five years in Marietta, Ohio, until it was dissolved in 1912. In early 1913, Edgar McCrary moved to Tulsa to work for the Guffey-Gillespie Oil Company, where he established the first geologic exploration department within a petroleum company in Tulsa. He brought with him the technique of mapping subsurface structure contours using plane table and alidade. While as Chief Geologist for Guffey-Gillespie Oil Company, Edgar McCrary hired a geologist, J. Elmer Thomas, who he fired a few months later for being too soft for field work. Soon after he was fired, J. Elmer Thomas landed another position in the industry and very soon afterwards became the first President of AAPG. Malcolm J. Munn left the U.S. Geological Survey and moved to Tulsa in mid-1913, where he organized and headed the geological department of Gypsy Oil (Gulf Oil) company. This was the second oil and gas company to establish a geological department in the mid-continent. Malcolm Munn was the Chief Geologist with Gypsy Oil from 1913 through 1918. Edgar McCrary, Malcolm Munn, and Kessack D. White are recognized as founders of AAPG. They showed that the use of the plane table and alidade was cost effective in the creation of detailed structure contour maps. Sydney Powers, in 1926, mentions that the technique was rapidly adopted in the mid-continent region, after it was introduced in 1913. Mapping structure contours using plane table and alidade was the practical technique that made the use of geology indispensable to oil and gas exploration, and enabled the founding of AAPG.