Anointed with Oil

How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America


By Darren Dochuk

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A groundbreaking new history of the United States, showing how Christian faith and the pursuit of petroleum fueled America’s rise to global power and shaped today’s political clashes

Anointed with Oil places religion and oil at the center of American history. As prize-winning historian Darren Dochuk reveals, from the earliest discovery of oil in America during the Civil War, citizens saw oil as the nation’s special blessing and its peculiar burden, the source of its prophetic mission in the world. Over the century that followed and down to the present day, the oil industry’s leaders and its ordinary workers together fundamentally transformed American religion, business, and politics — boosting America’s ascent as the preeminent global power, giving shape to modern evangelical Christianity, fueling the rise of the Republican Right, and setting the terms for today’s political and environmental debates.

Ranging from the Civil War to the present, from West Texas to Saudi Arabia to the Alberta Tar Sands, and from oil-patch boomtowns to the White House, this is a sweeping, magisterial book that transforms how we understand our nation’s history.


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The Strange Career of Patillo Higgins

Patillo Higgins sensed oil’s arrival before setting eyes on it. Tired after a day of trading timber and fighting a January wind, he prodded his old horse along, eager to settle into the ease of home. As the weary duo made their way through the Gulf Coast town of Beaumont, Texas, Patillo heard someone frantically calling his name. “Mr. Higgins!” Jim Collier, a former business partner, hollered from across the street. “Mr. Higgins—did you know you [are] the wisest man in the world?” Perplexed, the rider appealed for details. The “Lucas 1” oil well had come in—and spectacularly so—at Spindletop, a hill just south of town. It was the exact spot of soil Higgins had long predicted would someday spew liquid gold and make Beaumont forever rich.1

Higgins resumed his journey, anxious to get a look. As he drew closer he began to smell the noxious fumes wafting overhead; their pungency overpowered the wood smoke—especially dense this wintery day—fanning out of Beaumont’s chimneys. Then he heard the roar and finally caught a glimpse of the column rising in the distance, off the natural earth mound and high into the sky. Arriving at the heart of the action, he stood alongside Beaumont’s rapt denizens, tilted his head to take in the full view of the eruption, and froze, staggered by the scene, deafened by the sound. He had always believed Spindletop’s yield could be big—perhaps thousands of barrels per day—but Lucas 1 streamed at a rate of tens of thousands per day. Just as striking was the picture of black-faced men scrambling to bring the uncontrollable under control. A team of roughnecks, led by chief driller Anthony Lucas, worked feverishly to support a fragile derrick, out of which a deluge six inches in diameter jetted 180 feet into the air. Witnesses compared the geyser to a tornado; others said it was like “a giant black ostrich plume sticking out of the earth’s hatband.” The blinded toilers trapped under its downpour saw little other than the pool of ebony fluid at their feet, which was rapidly turning into a sea.2

Awed by the spectacle, Patillo Higgins nevertheless experienced a range of other emotions. The Lucas gusher of January 10, 1901, had proved him right: pools of oil did indeed rest beneath Beaumont. Yet his self-satisfaction dimmed as he saw the praise heaped upon Anthony Lucas, whose persistence would now yield riches. The multitudes who descended on Spindletop to witness history, Higgins thought, should have been there because of him.3

His jealousy must have been disorienting, for a sense of divine certainty had accompanied his every move for quite some time. Such assurance had not come easily, though. Born in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a rough coastal section of Southeast Texas, Higgins matched the tumult of his moment and place. When he was six, his family moved north to the lumber town of Beaumont, where townsfolk came to know him simply as “Bud,” a prankster who loved to gamble, drink, and brawl. Higgins’s delinquency culminated in a violent encounter with a sheriff, who had been called in to stop the armed ruffian from harassing a black church. In the ensuing gunfire, both hit their mark, but only Higgins survived, albeit with his left arm so mangled that it had to be amputated. A jury deemed the killing “self-defense.” Having narrowly escaped conviction for murder, Higgins soon changed his ways—dramatically.4

His new direction came by way of the cross. In 1885, the one-armed renegade attended a fire-and-brimstone revival at Beaumont’s opera house, conducted by Reverend William Penn. A towering, 250-pound Confederate veteran, Penn was a Christian warrior known for his black frock coat, tumbling gray beard, and imposing style. The burly evangelist convinced the twenty-two-year-old Higgins, consumed by guilt over his past transgressions, that only the Bible could help. Higgins committed to Jesus Christ. “I used to put my trust in pistols,” he confessed to Penn. “Now my trust is in God.” When Higgins walked the aisle toward the altar, his mother almost fainted from surprise; others shared her disbelief that Bud “done got religion.” Most doubted it would last. But after converting, Higgins set out to prove everyone wrong and make something of himself. He would become a businessman and use material wealth to build a spiritual kingdom in anticipation of Christ’s return.5

Higgins tried several vocations before discovering oil. He dabbled in lumber, then brick making. After forming the Higgins Manufacturing Company, he traveled north to gain expertise in his new trade. His visits to industrial compounds with brick-making activity took him to the tucked-away oil region of western Pennsylvania. There, in Titusville three decades earlier, another enterprising sojourner named Edwin Drake had first proved that subterranean crude could be summoned to the surface. Ingratiating himself with locals and embracing the exhilaration of an oil-flush region that journalists came to refer to as “Petrolia,” Higgins apprenticed himself in the art of reading the land. Once sure he knew how to survey any topography for signs of rich loam, Higgins returned to Southeast Texas and started seeking his fortune, with Jesus, he liked to think, by his side.6

The sequence of events that followed consecrated his marriage to God and black gold. Initially Higgins hunted oil as efficient fuel for his kilns, but it quickly became the endgame. Not for the last time, his Christian commitments complemented his evolving financial priorities. After resettling in Beaumont in 1891, he joined First Baptist, the town’s leading church. Deep conviction and desire for acceptance compelled him to serve this congregation in whatever capacity possible, even if it meant teaching a Sunday school class of unruly eight-year-old girls. On one fortuitous Sunday, Higgins took his charges out of town to show them an “everyday application of religion” in the appreciation of nature. With a dozen pupils in tow, he made his way to a quiet spot on Spindletop where springs of water bubbled enchantingly. Higgins had been to the springs before, but this time he noticed clouds of a gaseous substance and hints of an auspicious rock formation. Excited about the possibility of oil, he decided he had to purchase the plot on which the springs sat. For help with financing he contacted his church elder and mentor, George Carroll, the corporate leader who had sponsored the revival at which Higgins found release from his sin.7

Together the two formed in 1892 what Higgins insisted be titled the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company. The company’s namesake drew frowns of disapproval around Beaumont. Higgins, by then a thirty-year-old bachelor, had become infatuated with a Sunday school pupil, Gladys Bingham. He promised to marry her one day. For the time being, he placed her image on the company’s official emblem. Over the course of the next two years, with the backing of Carroll and local Methodist businessman George O’Brien, Higgins devised a bold plan. Based on its anticipated lucrative finds of oil and gas, the Gladys City corporation would construct a utopian town—a model “industrial city on the Texas Gulf Coast” replete with a refinery, pipelines, harbor, and thriving business sector and communal life. Higgins exclaimed that “zones [would be] designated for schools and churches, and provision… made for numerous city parks, a town hall, and a handsome public square.” Higgins did not simply want to find oil. Like an apostle, he wanted to channel it toward realization of human perfection and heavenly splendor.8

Higgins’s gut sense that something big simmered beneath Beaumont convinced Carroll and O’Brien but failed to attract other investors. Discouraged but undeterred, Higgins busied himself with prayer and study in geological and biblical texts. “If I read anything in the Bible, I know just what it means,” he liked to boast. His tiny kerosene lamp, which barely illumined his books, allowed him to study late into the night. The whistle of a nearby mill blew at four o’clock each morning, signaling the scholar to bed. But Higgins never rested fully. During the day he aggressively pursued financiers, courting local bankers at a barbershop one moment, pleading with faraway corporate czars the next. Even Standard Oil king John D. Rockefeller heard his plea. By then Standard’s US monopoly was absolute. Thanks to its grip on Pennsylvania, it saw little need to locate new sources west of the Mississippi River. Nor did it feel such a pursuit could succeed. Standard executive John D. Archbold bragged he would drink every gallon of crude produced west of the Mississippi, so sure was he that the West was dry. Unfazed, Higgins wrote Archbold’s boss directly. Rockefeller declined to invest in Gladys City, citing Archbold’s “adverse geological judgment.”9

Higgins pressed on, determined to prove the critics wrong. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, though, he found it harder to withstand his neighbors’ ridicule. Jokes about the “one-armed madman” hurt. More problematic was that his partners began to dismiss him as well. By 1896, his eccentricities had frayed his relationships with Gladys City’s other investors. O’Brien, highly respected in the community, could barely handle the embarrassment of his association with Higgins’s failing dream. Things only grew worse when a state geologist warned locals “not to fritter away their dollars in the vain outlook for oil in the Beaumont area.” Easing O’Brien’s stress, the perennially impatient Higgins sold his own interests in Gladys City to Carroll.10

But even as he turned his attention to ventures in lumber and real estate, Higgins remained obsessed with locating Beaumont’s hidden treasure. He forged a friendship with “Captain” Anthony Lucas, a mechanical engineer and veteran of the Austrian navy, who was exploring the Gulf Coast’s salt domes, convinced that minerals lay beneath. In 1899 Higgins and Lucas agreed to partner and lease Spindletop acreage from Gladys City: the captain contributed the capital; Higgins, the prospecting hunches. Promised 10 percent of the profits, Higgins interpreted the deal with his old company as redemptive, even retributive. Yet his good feelings did not last. While Lucas’s drilling operation on Spindletop proceeded at a fast pace (penetrating the salt dome was easy), it did not produce quick results; the team would have to drill much deeper, requiring expensive tools. In a quest for funds Lucas looked to industrialist and banker Andrew Mellon in Pittsburgh. Mellon agreed to invest but demanded that Lucas proceed on his own and cut off communications with the rube Higgins. Lucas did so, if regretfully. Hurt by his friend and bitter about how “big oil” people back east had stolen his opportunity, Higgins again found himself elbowed to the margins. On New Year’s Day 1901, the Lucas drill team punctured the earth in a new spot, a mere fifty feet away from one of Higgins’s original targets. Ten days later, Lucas hit the geyser that blackened the very ground on which Gladys Bingham had once walked.11

Spindletop was struck, announcing Texas’s oil age and America’s era of unrivaled power. Referencing an old hymn, Higgins marveled that “the rocks broke their silence.” Grappling with the stabbing truth that he had not been the one to coax the wonders out of the ground, yet never one to wallow in self-pity for long, he did what he would always do: started chasing the next thing, with Jesus by his side. He incorporated the Higgins Oil and Fuel Company and by day began drilling on land he had managed to retain. By night, he privately started work on a theological treatise he hoped would correct his church’s teachings on sin and salvation. Then, in April 1901, Higgins No. 1 came in, with a spectacular display that rivaled Lucas 1. Soon Higgins’s company became one of the largest in operation on Spindletop, a rival of the Gulf Oil Company, the Mellon-Lucas enterprise. The “Prophet of Spindletop,” as Higgins was branded, finally found acceptance in his own land.12


And the rock poured me out rivers of oil.

—JOB 29:6

The Prophet of Spindletop certainly thought he was special. When poking at the soil for subterranean riches, quoting scripture along the way, he fancied himself a mediator of sorts, connecting the grit of hard labor to a cosmic calling, primordial matter to fantasies of a new age. He also believed history had no hold on him—that his extrasensory perceptions and ability to command the future freed him from the usual constraints of time. With a complete lack of self-doubt, the Bible-toting driller deemed himself a blessing to his people, and with oil in his sights he determined to prove the point. Even when times got tough and biting criticisms of his character mounted, he pressed on, armed with an assurance that God and black gold favored him.

Cordoned off in his own mind as exceptional, Higgins had an unwavering faith in oil—and its role in his destiny—that was orthodox to the core. Higgins himself was as American as they came. Far from unusual, his seamless interchange of sacred and material goals, and his utter conviction that petroleum was his providence, evinced a convulsive combination that has long defined not only the personal lives and communities affected by crude but the United States’ very own identity.

Consider the generations of oil hunters who preceded Higgins in Pennsylvania’s Petrolia, the petroleum-rich zone nestled up against the Allegheny Mountains in the state’s remote northwest corner, and who subsequently followed his lead in the southwestern oil patch. Countless numbers of them chased the black stuff as if it was their divine calling and drew on their biblical studies and understandings of the spirit world to engineer better methods of tapping the earth’s bounty and claiming dominion over the soil. Driven by the same profit-mindedness of the Christian steward, they embraced a high-risk, high-reward entrepreneurialism in hopes of achieving a prosperity that could signal their blessedness and allow them to save society in anticipation of the end times. Like Higgins, they tenaciously weathered the manifold disruptions of a brutal corporate climate predicated on boom-bust cycles and the mercurial prerogatives of chance. And, also like him, they did so by drawing closer to Christ.

That same faith extended beyond individual oilers to the villages and towns they helped transform. As much as crude held sacred meaning for those who chased it, it was also deemed hallowed by residents of oil patches like Beaumont, Texas, where the chasing occurred. There, people like Higgins’s acquaintance Jim Collier waited prayerfully for liquid gold to appear and marveled at the utopian possibilities it would offer were it to actually do so. When oil was finally struck, stargazers and cynics alike reacted with awe at their cascading fortunes, rejoicing that God’s favor was now upon them. Enlivened by that notion, God-fearing citizens with the mind-set of George Carroll set out to make their boomtowns puritan “cities on a hill.” Oil’s attendant nightmares of booming immorality made them all the more determined to turn their communities into crucibles of celestial hope, their towns into models of industry and governance and harbingers of God’s kingdom.

Such strong belief in the sacred power of crude also enveloped American society itself. First discovered during the Civil War (1861–1865) in the very Pennsylvania hills Higgins would navigate decades later, petroleum registered as a mystical fount that might ease America out of bloodshed and into a new age of peace and prosperity. Oil was to be a healing balm for the body politic. Yet during the century and a half that unfolded after war’s end, it became a catalyst as well, a propellant of America’s coming of age. The crude extracted across time from South Texas and similar locales not only fired the economic engine of the United States as it pursued ever-widening markets at home and overseas but also greased the mechanisms of political and philanthropic empires set on imposing their moral imperatives. Seeing themselves much like Higgins saw himself—as anointed—and eager to act on oil’s seemingly transcendent potential, petroleum families such as the Rockefellers carved out creases of unrivaled authority through which they could sell their dreams (and dogmas) for modernity. Equipped with oil’s stunning wealth, pious citizens who attended churches like Beaumont’s First Baptist in turn constructed enormous ministries with boundless reach. There, as well as in Tulsa, Houston, and countless other nodes of the production nexus, petroleum bankrolled colossal cathedrals, schools, missionary organizations, and foundations, all determined to fashion the United States into a resplendent Christian commonwealth.

Far from an outlier in history, then, Patillo Higgins actually acted at the center of a perpetual fury that saw ideas and institutions of faith spark the discovery and appropriation of oil and the economic weight of crude stir up churchly devotion and cosmic expectations among oil country’s people of God. No mere liquid form, gushing petroleum was a life stream to the heavens; no mere escape from difficult times, oil-refined religion promised to turn the earth’s bounty into a better tomorrow. Such was the give-and-take that facilitated Higgins’s rise from obscurity and stoked America’s preponderance in an advancing age.

WHAT FOLLOWS IS the religious biography of a natural resource with outsized—and seemingly otherworldly—importance. Glimpsed from the vantage of the Prophet of Spindletop, it is the story of the dynamic reciprocity that Christianity and crude shared in the making of modern America. Just as importantly, it is a story about the making of America’s ascendant moment. The same unqualified confidence in the mastery of crude that drove Higgins and fellow oil hunters forward on domestic turf also furnished the United States with the indomitable spirit that made the century inaugurated by the Spindletop strike its epoch of supremacy. Such sanction was justified by this nation’s physical and fiscal control of oil, which for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries went unmatched. True, and as the chapters that follow will lightly sketch out, the development of the oil industry was global from the start, the impact of crude on the basic functions of daily life as well as the political and economic functions of nation-states universal in degree. Petroleum was never America’s to possess alone. Yet, in the decades immediately following oil’s discovery—first in Pennsylvania, then with emphasis after Spindletop—Americans could rightly assume that their nation enjoyed sovereignty over the black stuff and that this dominion placed it in an advantageous, even hegemonic position on an international stage. That power, real and imagined, was not simply a natural outgrowth of America’s fortuitous proximity to oil or prowess in its handling, however. It was also generated by the US oil industry’s ideological prerogatives and self-interests, as well as by its fierce internal clashes, all of which blended religious, economic, and political concerns into one combustive fuel for America’s global march.

As a whole, the business world that Higgins fought so hard to join was populated by corporate entities that projected his same faith in crude. Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company was far from the only petroleum firm to shroud itself in an apostolic aura. To a remarkable degree, many other oil companies—some exceptionally large, most modest and small—openly embraced the theological imperatives that informed their chief executives, aligned their boardrooms with biblical logics, and sacralized their operations as modes of witness and outreach. Once attached to US ambitions abroad, those enterprises provided vital energy and institutional structures for the nation’s imperial project. Partnered with visionary politicians and philanthropists, oil’s corporate giants articulated ownership of petroleum as the essence of American exceptionalism. The allegories of deistic favor they deployed, the manifest destiny in which they enveloped society: oil’s elite wielded these sacred discourses in a quest to conquer, but their words also stemmed from sincere conviction that America’s guardianship of crude meant it was responsible for elevating all humanity. Even when their vocabulary was drained of the explicit God talk of earlier generations, late twentieth-century oil’s prime movers remained tethered to a language that accentuated the oil-rich nation’s special moment in the sun.

Forty years after Spindletop, in February 1941, magazine publisher Henry Luce would give that moment an enduring name: the “American Century.” Luce, the son of foreign missionaries sponsored by the Rockefeller family, used the pages of his Life magazine to compel his fellow citizens to “create the first great American Century.” He had actually tested that charge a month earlier before the American Petroleum Institute in Oklahoma. In his keynote address, Luce heralded oilmen as the vanguard of pure American values, praising their “dynamic spirit of freedom and enterprise” and “sense of illimitable roundness of the world.” When harnessed by God-fearing patriots, he intimated, oil had the capacity to transform the world into something godlier and better. America’s special blessing was, in his mind, also its peculiar burden, the source of its prophetic mission. Like so many powerbrokers at the time, he drew on grand metaphors to underscore the need for the United States to use its oil to illumine the world, fuel progress, and power international advancement. Higgins could not have stated it better himself.1

These were inspiring sentiments, indeed; yet their open-ended nature made them grounds for fierce debate: Exactly who in the oil guild retained the rights and means to lead Luce’s charge? As taken as they were with Luce’s lofty vision, oilers only rarely spoke with one voice. Most often, they engaged in unabated cutthroat competition. Such was the by-product of the “rule of capture,” a legal canon unique in its application to US mineral rights that guaranteed the right of each driller who had access to a common pool to drain as much crude as he could, at dizzying rates and on his terms. That competition spilled over into the churchly realm, where oil’s constituents waged war for the right to define the core beliefs and moral composition of America at home and abroad. Far from presenting the united front imagined in Luce’s address, then, the oil fraternity was marked by bitter infighting and fits of righteous rage, which in turn raised the intensity and stakes of the industry’s—and, by extension, the nation’s—quest for dominance.

The most lasting and important of these contests—and the one that drives this book—was the rivalry between “major” and “independent” oil companies. Patillo Higgins’s bitterness toward the “big oil” people in the East—men like John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil executive John Archbold, who had elbowed him aside—and subsequent determination to make his fledgling oil company competitive against the likes of Andrew Mellon’s Gulf Oil were emblematic of the emotionally charged chasm that separated oil’s main combatants. At the heart of the rift were perennially opposed market principles and moral economies—in essence, two sparring spirits of capitalism.2

As manifested in the workings of Standard Oil and its subsidiaries—and of its founding clan, the Rockefellers—major oil’s prerogatives were transparent. It sought to dull the excesses of the rule of capture, centralize authority over its dizzying operational scales, and rationalize the industry. While he espoused oil’s core ideals of free enterprise, major oil’s architect John D. Rockefeller also saw them as wasteful; his was a bureaucratic outlook in keeping with the Protestant ethic Max Weber would famously write about, which assumed godly capitalists would honor the principles of efficiency and control. And so he proceeded to rein the industry in by conquering and consolidating. That ethic naturally fused with his efforts as a churchman. A refiner of the tallest order, Rockefeller was also a towering reformer who propagated a social gospel that called on Christians to construct a better society by way of their economic and political clout. Over time, that gospel inspired him and particularly his son to pursue a revamped philanthropy. Frustrated with charity that focused on personal matters of the soul, John D. Rockefeller Jr. built a foundation that stressed scientific modernization on a massive scale. Though not as outspokenly religious as their grandfather and father, the third-generation Rockefellers were every bit as eager to use the family’s petropower to enhance America’s Judeo-Christian values and ensure the nation’s place at the head of a new international order of capitalist and humanitarian exchange. These forerunners of major oil may not have worn biblical convictions on their sleeves, but they went about their business with an eye to a higher being and a higher sense of being. Oil’s global topographies in this way became their theological planes, on and through which they could envision human accord.3


  • "One of the most original and insightful accounts of recent American history to appear in many years...A major step forward in our understanding of the American past and of the ways that energy, business, faith and politics intertwined to shape the country we live in today."—Wall Street Journal
  • "[Dochuk] writes fluidly, and his lively volume traces the booms and busts of oil, taking us from the squalid boom towns and hellish drilling sites to the lavish executive suites...[He] makes a strong case that oil continues to shape American foreign policy and regulatory policy today."—Financial Times
  • "Anointed with Oil helps to clarify the twin passions for wealth and Jesus that have brought us to our current dependence on fossil fuels. But it also makes clear that to get beyond, we will need to stop treating oil as a sacred liquid-to turn away from the melodrama of religious faith, and to see our reliance on it with clear-eyed realism as a matter of social and political choices."—Boston Review
  • "In recent years, scholars have delved deeper than ever before into the longstanding synergies between American Christianity and American capitalism...Darren Dochuk's landmark book, Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America, at once builds on this important body of work and represents its most stunning achievement...[Dochuk] opens a breathtaking new window onto the making of the modern nation...Historians will be talking about Dochuk's book for a very long time to come."—Christianity Today
  • "Meticulously researched...A sobering study of the tightly interwoven forces of capitalism and Christianity that shape American life."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Fascinating...Anointed with Oil is a must-read for historians of the United States...By focusing on Christianity's relationship to oil, Dochuk unearths elements that diplomatic and economic historians have partly ignored or not yet combined...Oil and Christianity have never been separate threads of American history, and their synthesis gives clues about what we can expect in the future."—Energy Reporters
  • "Dochuk is a master storyteller...[His] geographical framing underpins the differences between the austere, disciplined Calvinist work ethic of Weber's Protestantism and the impractical, sometimes out-of-control approach of premillennial 'wildcat' oilers...Thoroughly engaging."—National Catholic Reporter
  • "In recent years, scholars have delved deeper than ever before into the longstanding synergies between American Christianity and American capitalism...Darren Dochuk's landmark book, Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America, at once builds on this important body of work and represents its most stunning achievement...[Dochuk] opens a breathtaking new window onto the making of the modern nation...Historians will be talking about Dochuk's book for a very long time to come."—Christianity Today
  • "Recent scholars have been shining light on the sometimes invisible oil industry and how it has affected society...Dochuk makes an important addition to this growing literature...A compelling and important narrative."—Christian Century
  • "Intriguing...A sweeping tale that uses both oil and faith to paint a panoramic portrait of post-Civil War American history."—Kirkus
  • "In this brilliant book, Darren Dochuk taps into the intertwined histories of oil and religion and comes away with fascinating new discoveries about the course of business, religion and politics in the United States. Grounded in deep research and bursting with soaring prose, Anointed with Oil is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the origins of modern America."—Kevin M. Kruse, co-author of Fault Lines: A History of the United States since 1974
  • "This is one of the best and most original books ever written about the marriage of capitalism and Christianity in America. In a thrilling narrative that stretches from John D. Rockefeller to the brothers Koch, Darren Dochuk reveals how oil producers, their workers, and their muckraking critics drew on their religious and spiritual creeds to justify or condemn this indispensable industry. Anointed With Oil is a scholarly masterpiece."—Michael Kazin, author of War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918 and professor of history, Georgetown University
  • "Anointed With Oil is a brilliant analysis of a subject that has played such an outsize role in U.S. history that we've been unable to grasp it: the deep and complex intertwining of Christianity and the oil industry and the global implications of this alliance over time. Meticulously detailed and yet sweeping in scope, the book recasts the historical relationship between religion and market capitalism more broadly to show the absolute centrality of oil to Americans' ongoing belief in the nation's exceptionalism. Darren Dochuk writes with the skill of a novelist to bring this fascinating story to light, proving once again that he is one of the preeminent historians of U.S. religion in our time."—R. Marie Griffith, author of Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics
  • "It is difficult to think of two things that have shaped American life more than God and black gold, yet they remain poorly understood, kept apart as separate topics. In this wonderfully crafted, highly original book, Darren Dochuk instead shows how religion and oil have always been closely related, how they have shaped each other --and how they have combined to create modern America itself. Beautifully written and deeply researched, Anointed with Oil is a remarkable work of history."—Andrew Preston, author of Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
  • "No other work has explored with such brilliance how independent oilmen and their wildcat Christianity shaped the highs and lows of the American century. A tour de force of historical writing."—Gary Gerstle, author of Liberty and Coercion

On Sale
Jun 4, 2019
Page Count
688 pages
Basic Books

Darren Dochuk

About the Author

Darren Dochuk is associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. He is author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt, which received the John H. Dunning Prize from the American Historical Association (best first or second book in American history) and the Ellis W. Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians (best book in post-Civil War political history), and was based on a dissertation that was awarded the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians (best dissertation in American history). He has also edited several other books in American religious history. Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta–Canada’s oil capital–he now lives in South Bend, Indiana.

Learn more about this author