American Frontier (1953)

I’ve continued to dig through various electronic archives, looking for contemporary accounts of the oil boom in Williston in the 1950s. Tonight I hit upon gold, a 1953 film sponsored by the Oil Industry Information Committee of the American Petroleum Institute:

I’ve embedded the YouTube link here, but the film itself is available from It’s public domain, so you can download it in various forms if you like.

I’ve just watched it, and there’s a lot to say. The theme of the frontier dominates, and the only time the narrator mentions any residents who predate the Norwegian settlers is when an oil prospector picks up an arrowhead as a good luck charm.

(Also, the film begins oddly. The first sentence, intoned over images of wind-blown prairies, is nonsense: “The wind blows west from the Great Lakes.” Anyone who has lived in Williston knows (1) the wind comes from the west and blows toward the east, and (2) the closest Great Lake is 700 miles away.)

I will come back to this film later. It’s of a piece with other documents from the Oil Industry Information Committee, which published a series of booklets for schools “designed to provide a reciprocal exchange of information and understanding between the oil industry and the schools,” according to the authors of The Williston Report, published in 1958. I’ve ordered a copy of one of those publications (thanks to AbeBooks), and I’ll revisit the film and report once the booklet arrives.


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