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Albert (Ben Israel) Isenstein

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Death: August 17, 1987 (79)
Torrance, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Jacob ("Jack") Isenstein and Mollie Isen
Husband of Sara Isen
Father of Private User
Brother of Julian Isen and Josephine Ness

Occupation: Lawyer, Mayor of Torrance
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Albert Isen

California Oil Days

The Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Co., a subsidiary of Santa Fe Railroad, drilled

the first Torrance, Calif., gusher in December 1921. Soon, wooden derricks would

appear all over the city – with each ambitious owner trying to get a share of the

bubbling crude. Oil, that is. Black gold. Torrance tea.

Janet Payne, a vice president of the Torrance Historical Society, said the discovery

of an ample oil supply brought on the first big economic boom for Torrance. It

didn’t hurt that the Union Tool Co., which made oil-drilling equipment, was already

here. “Oil really did make the city,” Payne said. “It did spur new prosperity and it

brought new people and businesses.”

Indeed, the population in Torrance leaped from about 1,000 in 1920 to 2,750 in

1922, according to early census figures. There were 7,250 residents by 1930. And it

seemed like there were just as many wooden oil derricks in those early years. By

June 1925, there were 582 producing wells in the Torrance field, according to

Historic Torrance, A Pictorial History of Torrance, California by Dennis F. Shanahan and

Charles Elliott Jr. “As late as 1938, you could build a wooden oil derrick in

Torrance for $2,500. It took 54,000 square feet of lumber and 700 pounds of nails.”

The ubiquitous derricks stretched about 130 feet high, with a square base measuring

24 feet by 24 feet. They tapered to 5 feet, 8 inches square. “Most anywhere you

looked in Torrance would be a group of oil wells,” said Lucille McComas, who

moved to the South Bay from Dallas in 1941.

By the 1950s, 255 wooden towers and countless steel derricks stood over the city’s

615 wells, according to published reports. But the oil supply was far from limitless.

While the first well in 1921 produced 900 barrels a day, daily production in the early

1960s was down to an average of five barrels per well. The hundreds of wooden

and steel oil derricks that once stood as symbols of prosperity were disappearing by

then, a result of both the diminishing supply and the high demand for local homes.

Ultimately, an edict was sent out calling for the removal of all wooden derricks by

July 1, 1961. The final steel tower came down in 1963. Earlier that year, Mayor

Albert Isen reportedly said oil production had become a nuisance in a progressive

city like Torrance. He put the wells in the same category as pig farms and dairies,

and insisted they were hazards to the general welfare.

But the black stuff had no doubt left a lasting mark on the city. “Oil helped build

the community,” a reporter wrote in a 1963, article. “Now families who live where

derricks stood have taken over the job.” – By Ian Hanigan, Daily Breeze, Torrance

Trivia contest from Torrance High School:

7. 1. What was the name of our THS school newspaper? (1)

              The Torrance News Torch
      2. When it was first published, what was it initially named and why? (2)
              The Torrance News Tentacle.  Tentacle for "reaching out" and the acronym 
              TNT for "explosiveness"
      3. What month and year was the first publication? (2)
             February 1922
      4. Who were the first three editors? (3) What did one of them go on to become in the city
          of Torrance? (1)
            George Hannon, Frank Perkin, and Albert Isen, who went on to become Mayor of Torrance
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Albert Isen's Timeline

October 19, 1907
Los Angeles, California, United States
August 17, 1987
Age 79
Torrance, California, United States