Rules to live by: Never eat anything bigger than your head. Never shoot pool at a place called Pop’s. Never eat food at a place called Mom’s. To that list let me add: Never, ever, trust a doodlebug.

During the first half of the 20th century, pretty much everyone knew a doodlebug was a fellow who had a device that could supposedly find oil underground (it's also been the name for a motorscooter, a go kart-type midget race car and several different insects). Sometimes it was what they called the contraption instead, making the operator a doodlebugger.

Gentle Reader has already met a doodlebug: John W. Frank, the General Manager of the 1908-1910 attempts to strike oil near Petaluma. We don't know whether he tried to use an oil-finding gizmo here but after Frank left Sonoma County he went to Canada, where he said he had invented just such a device. A 1913 British Columbia mining newsletter described how he scammed two different groups of investors and then found himself pushed out when rival grifters made a better sales pitch...

The rest of this article can be read at the website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at

- Jeff Elliott


Newer Post Older Post Home