Tom Slick – King of the Wildcatters (1883-1930)
The larger than life reality of the Hollywood-sized titans of novelists Edna Ferber and Harold Robbins, Tom Slick went from “Dry Hole Slick” to “King of the Wildcatters” and masterminded one of the state’s first great oil booms and the rise of Oklahoma into one of the great oil empires in history.
Born in western Pennsylvania, the rugged cradle of U.S. oil and gas country, Slick’s archetypal American saga began when he, his father, and his brother ventured West in 1904 to try their hand in the young petroleum industry. For nearly a decade, Slick learned the oil and gas exploration business and gained renown for his ability to beat his numerous tough competitors and lease underground mineral interests and drilling rights to enormous swaths of land everywhere from Kansas to Kentucky to Illinois to western Canada to Tryon, Oklahoma and its surrounding environs.
With “his office in his car,” or sometimes on street corners, where he later consummated a $100,000 lease deal during the Seminole Oil Field boom, no one outworked or out-visioned Slick, who also gained numerous uncomplimentary nicknames for the many drilling busts his leasing led to for numerous companies, and finally ten straight times for himself.
At this point, the Bristow Record, an area newspaper, wrote that Slick, “continues to gamble on wild cat stuff. Few men have stuck to the wildcatting longer and harder than Slick and associates. It is said he has spent $150,000 (millions of dollars in 2018 currency), mostly on dry holes.”