Reuben Carlton Baker
It was the gilded age, the Victorians were in vogue, and while business titans
such as Astor, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie were cementing America’s place in the
industrial world, it was the inventors, men like Edison, Bell, and Ford who were
literally changing how people lived. And out of the fertile fields of Shasta County,
California, another inventor, R.C. Baker was ready to make his move. Mr. Baker
left his family farm to seek his fortune. He headed north to Alaska to mine gold.
He got a job in a stone quarry earning $2 a day in Redding, California, saving
$25, enough for a ticket to Alaska, when one evening, everything he owned was
stolen. He heard that oil had been discovered in Los Angeles. It was 1894.
Young Mr. Baker arrived in the City of Angels wearing a new suit with 95 cents in
his pocket. He didn’t know anybody. He didn’t know anything about oil but Baker
got a job in the oil fields that first day. He hauled oil, drilled oil, and sold oil with
the zeal of a missionary. “I realized for the first time that there was something in
the world to pay wages with other than potatoes, pigs, and chickens, for I got
paid every two weeks with a check. That was something I never seen before. I
soon learned that I could take the pay check to the bank and get real money for
it… and also that I could start a bank account and save part of my check.”
Within two years, Baker formed a partnership with one Irving Carl and began
buying up wells. By 1897, things were looking up, and R.C. returned home to
marry his childhood sweetheart, Minnie Zumwalt. They would have two children,
Thelma and Carlton. In 1899, Mr. Baker was diagnosed with asthma, He took a
contract to drill a wildcat well in Coalinga, a driller climate. “We arrived in
Coalinga on December 6, 1899 and immediately hauled lumber and a drilling rig
out to the site, three miles west of town, in the rough hills. I built the derrick, set
up the drilling rig, and built a house. My wife did the cooking for two crews—five
men all told. My health improved so much I decided to stay in the San Joaquin
Valley.” Coalinga was every inch a boom town and Mr. Baker would become a
major player in the town’s growth. In 1900, he drilled 20 wells in the Kern River
Oil Fields. In 1901 saw him going into business for himself. In 1903, Mr. Baker
founded the Coalinga Oil Co. He helped to establish the first National Bank of
Coalinga in 1906, and assisted in creating the Power and Gas Co. Over the next
50 yrs, R.C. Baker would serve Coalinga as Mayor, City Trustee, a member of
the Board of Education, and would help establish the Coalinga High School and
the Public Library. In 1918 Mr. Baker opened his first manufacturing plant in
Coalinga as the Baker Casing Shoe Company, which in turn would become the
Baker Oil Tools—the building which now houses the Baker Museum. That .95c
young R.C. came to L.A. with has gone a long way.
“I conceive practically all of my inventions while I lie in bed at night. I do not get
up to make notes or sketches at the time. Instead, I work out all the details of the
inventions mentally and it may be a day or even several weeks before I make a
sketch of the device.” R.C. Baker speaking on the Fiftieth Anniversary of his
Though Mr. Baker never advanced beyond the third grade, he possessed and
incredible understanding of mechanical and hydraulic systems. One of his early
inventions, the Baker Casing Shoe, revolutionized the oil drilling industry.
Reuben Carlton Baker
R.C. Baker Memorial Museum, Inc.
297 W. Elm St. Coalinga, Ca 93210
(559) 935-1914 Fax: (559) 935-2339
All Rights Reserved © 2007-2012
July 12, 1872-September 29, 1957
Born in West Virginia
Died in Whittier, CA at the age 0f 85 yrs
He came to California in 1876, to
Pittville, Shasta County.
Mrs. Baker died in 1946.