J. O. Hoard

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J. O. Hoard
John Oscar Hoard headshot.png
Latest company Hoard Exploration
Membership Founding Member

John Oscar Hoard, Jr. is listed in the 1921 Bulletin of the University of Texas as being from Big Spring, Texas.

From an article in The Leading Edge [1]

John Oscar Hoard’s application for membership in SEG (then known as the Society of Petroleum Geophysicists) is dated July 3, 1930 and establishes him as one of the Society’s 49 Founding Members. Incredibly, he had already spent the better part of a decade in the infant seismic industry. The native Texan left his boyhood home of Big Springs, Texas at age 14 and, after graduating from high school, enrolled at the University of Texas where one of his engineering instructors was O. S. Petty who, likewise, would soon enter the field and found one of its most prominent contracting companies.

At Seismos

A few years later, Hoard and another student were offered jobs as chain men with the first Seismos crew that had come over from Germany under contract with the Marland Oil Company (later to metamorphose into Conoco). Hoard never went back to school or left the seismic industry. He subsequently worked for Shell and Geophysical Research Corporation before starting his own com- pany, Hoard Exploration, “about a year before the bank holiday” which mathematically computes to 1932. The brief associations with Seismos and GRC makes Hoard a member of a very exclusive club-people who worked directly for both Ludger Mintrop and John C. Karcher, the scientists/ entrepreneurs responsible for the practically simultaneous generation of seismic exploration on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the decade immediately following World War I.

Hoard Exploration

Hoard Exploration was never a massive operation. It had six crews and maybe 40-50 total employees at its peak. But it was big enough to survive the lean times and to sufficiently prosper during the periodic booms so that its founder was able to retire at age 50. After a couple of years of travel (“which nearly drove me crazy”), he settled into permanent retirement in Houston where, if asked, he will downplay his own accomplishments but extol those of others-the famous and infamous, the celebrated and the unjustly neglected-who dominated an era that did nothing less than transform the life style of the world by discovering a huge amount of cheap energy.

“I had the opinion that the center of the oil business was the sidewalk alongside the Texas State Hotel in downtown Houston,” he recalls. “It was lined with oil men and every one had leases in his pocket. It’s boggling to think of the amounts of money that must have changed hands in some of those sidewalk deals.”

Memories of an Era

Hoard obviously has a wealth of first-hand memories of that era, some of which add another nuance to those-like Mintrop and Karcher-whose lives and achievements are well chronicled, and others which illumine areas of interest that are not as well known as they possibly should be.

Some examples:

Ludger Mintrop: “He was very determined that none of the Americans who were working on his US crews would learn what they were doing. Therefore, he instructed his key people to speak German when they were talking about a technical part of the operation. That worked because none of the Americans on the crew could speak German."

Frank Roukemu, a semi-mythical party chief of the pioneer era who was legendary for both his intellect and his eccentricities: “I think the stories about his behavior were exaggerated by the people who didn’t like him. There were a lot of them because he absolutely ran the crew and ran it the way he thought was right-he was very sure of himself and, therefore, feelings got hurt. I doubt seriously that he was eccentric. But I don’t doubt that he was a genius, or practically a genius. He was probably the inventor of the correlation method, the idea that reflections on isolated profiles can be linked, which was the dominant technique at the time. He was an exceptional interpreter and many times found oil where everybody else had given up.”

Elisabeth Stiles, the only woman among SEG’s Founding Members and subsequently SEG’s first business manager: “She was an outstanding geophysicist, one of the very best of the time. She did everything, including managing crews in the field. In fact, the first time that I met her was in the field. She was digging shot holes. She was an original partner in Independent Exploration, at one time the second largest contractor, and it was always my feeling that she was one of the real brains of that outfit.”

On the evolution of geophysical instruments: “I personally made the first instruments for Hoard Exploration. I was working for Shell during the day and building the instruments at night. This was about a year before the bank holiday. The instruments were very crude and not particularly well built, but they found a lot of oil because the targets were shallow. Later on my clients would insist that I use better instruments, so I had to buy them from suppliers. They were much more advanced than what I started with, but they didn’t find nearly as much oil because the targets were getting smaller and deeper even then.”

On the pioneer age in general: “Even when doing some very early work, in the mid-2Os, for Mintrop and Karcher, I never had a sense that I was involved in something vital or of historic importance. I had the same attitude as just about everybody else-1 was holding a job and working awfully hard at it because I real- ly needed a job. If we had known it at the time, which we didn’t of course, we’d probably have done a better job of keeping track of events. I’m pretty sure there are others out there with better in- formation than I’ve got. I hope they come forward to tell their stories or correct any errors in my memories because it turned out, in retrospect, to be quite an important time.


  1. Dean Clark (1991). ”A founder and a Jack of all (geophysical) trades.” The Leading Edge, 10(12), 31-32. doi: 10.1190/1.1436799