January 2021 Vol. 76 No. 1


LATE 1940S: Founding, Early Years

75th Anniversary

In 1946, Ellis Dunn and Red Collier of Dunn Brothers Pipeline Stringing, in Dallas, made the bold decision to transition their employee newsletter, Bullplug, into a full-scale, external magazine. First published in November 1946, Pipeliner focused on pipeline construction, which was evolving into a full-blown industry of its own, versus being considered a smaller sibling of oil and gas. 

That’s when pipeline construction was booming. Buoyed by post-World War II growth of American industry, the number of miles of pipelines built in the 1940s – mostly in the second half – more than tripled compared to the entire, previous decade. 

Despite – or because of – all this activity, the magazine took a highly personal approach. The publishers wanted readers – “companies, contractors, supply houses and pipeliners” – to view Pipeliner “like getting a letter from home.” 

This was reflected in the magazine’s simple, straight-forward look and feel. The page-one banner was built out of pipe, just a smattering of spot color spruced up advertisements, and the only photos – black-and-white, of course – were part of ads. Still, it was a huge step up from the mimeographed Bullplug employee newsletter Ellis and Dunn began publishing Feb. 15, 1944. 

Personal touch 

Guiding the magazine’s content, its primary mission was about as personal as it gets: helping to locate pipeline workers throughout the country as soon as a job was contracted. This translated into listing details about where the jobs were for hands and the job openings for pipeline companies. Named “Contracts Let,” the department acted essentially as a free employment service. The publishers only asked for an $8 annual subscription to Pipeliner. 

With a consistently large number of listings from the start, “Contracts Let” took up most of the magazine’s 28 pages. True to its personal, homey nature, however, no issue of Pipeliner was complete without a couple of pages of jokes, limericks and personal ads. 

And the industry’s colorful personalities came through all the names of who was building what and where, and who to apply to or be interviewed by: “Fat” Churchill and “Cotton” Whitehead, paint foremen; “Race Horse” Miller, raising foreman; “Pappy” Johnson, ditch foreman; Frank (“Brushy Creek”) Hampton, pipe foreman; and “Romance” Collins, welding foreman, who apparently was quite a legend in his day. Another edition of Pipeliner announced “Mugs” Mulligan was back in town after a long hiatus. 

But it wasn’t just the quantity that was growing at a rapid rate, the types and methods of pipeline construction were advancing, too. 

Due to technological improvements in metals, welding and pipe-making during WWII, pipeline construction was more economically attractive. Technology also enabled long-distance, large-diameter pipeline systems to be built, instead of the maze of small-diameter pipes that prevailed before the war. 

Evolving with the industry, Pipeliner’s March 5, 1947 issue increased from 28 to 32 pages – then, later to 36 pages – and ran its first news photos taken at a banquet at Houston’s Rice Hotel. 

That same issue was also the start of more in-depth stories about the larger pipeline construction projects. These included Texas Pipe Line Co. and Shell Pipe Line Co. plans for a 500-mile, $100-million pipeline, from New Mexico to Oklahoma – the largest crude oil line ever to be constructed with private money. Another story covered the challenges facing an 855-mile, $74 million, 30-inch natural gas line from Texas to Iowa. 

Early 1947 also marked a major boost to pipeline coatings with the introduction of cathodic protection systems to mitigate corrosion. A year later, increased activity was reflected in news about Gulf Coast Pipe Coating Inc. of Houston creating a cathodic protection division. 

Solidifying the industry’s maturity, Pipeliner reported that the Pipeline Contractors Association (PLCA) was created in February 1948 to handle labor relations and safety. 


The November 1948, third-anniversary, issue was 48 pages in length and included its first-ever feature story – four pages about Jim Cummings, the legendary Kansas farmer, who invented numerous machines, including the bulldozer, that streamlined pipeline construction and co-founded Houston-based Crutcher-Rolls-Cummings (CRC) Inc., in 1933. 

The issue also carried Pipeliner’s first-ever illustration: a map of the nation’s longest 30-inch gas line, to be built by Transcontinental Pipe Line Corporation, stretching 1,832 miles from McAllen, Texas, to New York City. 

Ownership changed in March 1949, as veteran energy-industry publisher Oliver Klinger purchased the magazine. 

With construction activity continuing to increase, one of Klinger’s first moves was to start a companion newsletter, Mid-Monthly Bulletin, to replace all the “Contracts Let” pages of Pipeliner. Today, the bulletin is published monthly as Pipeline News. 

Other changes helped elevate the magazine to another level of professionalism and growth. It contained at least 60 pages, was printed on glossy paper and followed a specific format each month. While maintaining the ever-popular jokes page – now pushed toward the back – Klinger filled each issue with feature and news stories, and many more photographs, especially about new products. 

For example, technology was enabling the industry to coat and wrap pipe up to 34 inches, and it was common practice to install pipe from the underside of a bridge. In addition, radiographic inspection of girth welds was becoming a universal tool for inspecting a portion of all field girth welds. 

Most noteworthy were inventions that dramatically improved pipeline construction time and cost efficiencies. In late 1948, the first all-hydraulic backhoe became commercially available and in 1949 it was the first service-line trencher, Charles Machine Works’ Ditch Witch Power. Both machines were not only critical to the industry’s growth, but important parts of the history of American industry. 

For all the construction and technological activity during the 1940s, the decade actually marked the beginning of the boom. At the close of the century, the industry was on a precipice of historical proportions. In the 1950s, it would experience the highest activity of any decade – ever.

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