A. C. Belford

Standard Oil Executive


Tall and slender, sandy hair and mustached, his complexion pale, which seems at odds for some who spends as much time outdoors, A. C. Belford instantly draws everyone’s attention upon entering a room. It is noting theatrical, dramatic, but rather the opposite – a sense of detachment as he moves deliberately, slowly, with a grace all his own. An odd mix of an almost preternatural calmness with an underlying menace. His eyes although seemingly striking a deadpan expression can not conceal something rather sinister lurking to be set free.


One would think the most difficult work in oil production would be getting oil out of the ground but in fact it can be argued that the more difficult step in the process was transporting it. Wooden barrels having to be transported, often hundreds of miles, on creaking wagons, drawn by a strong team of horses. So from the field operations drillers had to hired teamsters, sometimes at prices reaching $4 a barrel in order to get their oil to rivers, railroads, and ultimately to refineries to be distilled. In rural Pennsylvania, for a young farm boy, there was no better chance of striking it rich, other than sinking a well, then to haul the leaking, black crude over the nearly impassible terrain of Pennsylvania farmland and dense woods. The few that were barely passable, leading out of Oil Creek Valley, having been quickly transformed into oil slick, muddy ruts.

A. C. Belford, the youngest son of Harlan Belford was thirteen when he started work as a teamster. “Hauling oil and oil-field equipment and the like to and from the railhead.” Slender but strong and determined, A. C. took to the hardscrabble life. Once he had gotten too close to a rig and had been knocked unconscious by a pulling rod, but surprisingly it didn’t faze him. He got up and staggered over to his team.

He had work to do.

By fourteen he was pumping his own lease and at seventeen he was running a crew of men.

In 1902 he left for Kansas where he began working for Mid-Continental Oil. There was a disagreement. Some words. And then, in 1904 he left Med-Continental to work for the American Torpedo Company, driving a nitroglycerin wagon. “Interesting work. Gives one, a whole new perspective, being, one of the most dangerous jobs, to be found among the oil fields.” A year later, he was working as a pumper. A roustabout for Lahoma Oil, before moving on to Douglas-Lacy, which was soon bought and renamed Creston Oil, before it was sold and then sold again. “That’s how it worked. The biggest bankroll wins.” A.C. didn’t care too much for management. So, he went to work for Wolverine Oil, first as a foreman, and then, later, as a superintendent. Although he had only a grade school education, he claimed he was a graduate of the oil field universities.

It was said he could smell crude. He could point to a spot, where, if a bit was placed, you would strike oil.

Such an oracle of divination for crude caught the attention of Standard Oil of New Jersey. In 1910 they had him heading up new fields. In 1915 Standard decided it best to send their hardscrabble roustabout overseas, where he eventually landed in Romania, the 6th leading oil exporter.

Headquartered in Bucharest, A. C. Belford was now a Standard Oil Executive. Someone to slowly walk into a few government houses. Someone who could exude an underlying menace when necessary.

What with Royal Dutch-Shell moving in on the oil fields.

A. C. Belford

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