It Was A Circus!


This is John Ringling of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus fame, the Greatest Show on Earth.


Mr. Ringling was born in Iowa in 1866, one of five brothers, and went on to become one of the top ten wealthiest men in the country, his net worth once estimated at $200MM.


Besides his vast entertainment empire he built a railroad in Oklahoma and invested in numerous oil ventures with the Melons (Gulf Oil) from Pittsburg. He died of pneumonia in Florida in 1936 at the age of 70.


In 1911 he and his wife, Mable, bought 20 acres of land in Sarasota, Florida, west of Orlando and ultimately moved there permanently in 1916. They built a lavish home the size of an NFL football stadium on the 20 acres, 36,000 square feet with five stories, 46 rooms and 18 bathrooms. He then proceeded to buy half of Sarasota County and ultimately moved the entire circus operation to Sarasota as a winter home.


In 1925 he was approached by a man named, Kenneth Hauer, with an outfit called Associated Oil and Gas Company to lease some acreage near Englewood, some 12 miles from Sarasota. Hauer had hired a renown geologist from Louisiana named Coulter and bought a statement from the API saying there as a "100% chance of finding oil in Florida.


Oil fever hit the community of Sarasota hard and Hauer proceeded to turn the prospects of finding oil on the John Ringling Tract 1 into a literal... circus. The well was sold for about 5 times what it would cost to drill and even Mr. Ringling himself fell for the hooey and invested. The well was projected to 6,000 feet TD and when it was spud on March 13, 1927 over 7,000 people came out to witness the beginning of the great Florida oil boom.

There was band, free Coca-Cola, candy for children and men in attendance were given free cigars.

Two weeks later Associated encountered massive salt water flow at a depth of 1,530 feet. They filled the entire well bore up with cement and gravel, tore the rig down and moved the hell out in less than a day. People that came out over the ensuing weeks to see how the well was doing, hoping to see a gusher, found little more than a few broken timbers from the rig tear down. Associated Oil and Gas Company vanished.


And that was in the end of the Sarasota County oil boom.

Humble Oil found commercial oil in Sunniland Field in 1943, Florida's actual first oil discovery.