On December 21, 1929, Governor Clyde M. Reed lit a gas flame atop a forty-foot pipe on the Hugoton High School football field and officially proclaimed Hugoton as the Gas Capital of the Southwest. A few years earlier, the discovery of gas in southwest Kansas had brought unprecedented jobs and economic opportunity to the region. The stories of work and working in Kansas’ gas industry are on display in Fueling the Way We Work, the Stevens County Library’s companion exhibition to The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. Both exhibitions are on display at the Stevens County Library in Hugoton October 27 through December 9, 2012.
In 1926, wildcatter Walter L. Sidwell discovered one of the nation’s largest gas fields while seeking oil in southwest Kansas. The discovery was made official in 1927 and that year, the Hugoton Hermes newspaper reported $100,000 in town improvements, including 15 new homes and a new newspaper building. Along with the newfound prosperity came job opportunities in the gas industry and with contractors who built sewer systems and disposal plants for the region’s growing cities. By 1930, oil and gas leases had resulted in $3.5 million for southwest Kansas counties.
“Walter Sidwell’s discovery of the Hugoton Field changed the way we worked in southwest Kansas,” observed Eunice Schroeder, Stevens County Library director. “We are pleased to share his story in Fueling the Way We Work, the companion exhibition to The Way We Worked, developed in partnership with the Stevens County Gas and Historical Museum.”