The photos in this section were part of a collection of 304 images by Edwin Branch of Long Beach, California, who worked in the oilfields of western Venezuela in the late 1920's. These photos, plus the bottom photos of the Lagunillas fire of 1928, were part of a large collection of photographs acquired at an estate sale and offered up for auction on Ebay in October, 2007. They were originally purchased by the seller in Van Nuys, CA.

I did bid on this collection, which eventually sold for $556.80, but I dropped out of the bidding when it rose above $200. While it certainly would have been wonderful to have obtained the originals of this historical collection for sharing here, I had to draw the line somewhere, and $200 was the limit that I settled on.

The seller did a great job of listing a good quantity of the photos in the collection and included many scanned images as well as links to their enlargements on the auction page. Once the bidding got above my $200 limit, I decided to salvage what I could and decided to at least copy the enlarged auction image scans, as well as whatever descriptions of the photos that appeared, so as not to lose them to all of us forever.

So this page is the result of that effort. I thought that it was important to preserve them and post them here before they disappear forever.

I unfortunately have no further information about Edwin Branch nor of the time he spent in Venezuela during the interesting early years of the oil industry there. There's no indication how many years he spent in Venezuela. All of the photos are from the late 1920's although some of the caricature signatures are dated as late as 1932. His fascinating collection of photographs alone - as well as the short descriptions of those images in his own handwriting - will now have to speak for him instead and tell us his story.

I'm happy to have stumbled across these photos so that they can be preserved here in a location where their Venezuelan oilfield context can be fully understood and appreciated. Mr. Branch spent a considerable amount of time taking all these photos and worked hard to organize them into detailed photo albums. As the photographs here are 80+ years old, surely all of those shown in these images are now gone. I can't help but believe that, were he with us today, he'd be pleased to know that his work lives on. Through these images, Edwin Branch and all of his friends and acquaintances shown here in these photos - in the prime of their lives and participating in an adventure of a lifetime - shall remain, to all of us, “forever young”.


 
Edwin Branch enroute to Venezuela aboard the U.S.S. Maracaibo in October, 1926.
 
Aboard the U.S.S. Maracaibo in Curaçao harbor, October 1926.
 
Aboard the U.S.S. Maracaibo, in Curaçao, at the port of La Guaira, and somewhere in the interior of Zulia state.
 

“Yours truly and some of the gang in San Juan before we bought our light suits. The one marked with x is the radio operator aboard ship.”

“Native cop in La Guaira aboard ship to examine passports. ”

 
Baseball game, native wash day, payday at the La Rosa Camp.
 
“Don Cristino's” ranch somewhere in the state of Zulia.
 
Ed Branch, George Hunt (VOC), the skipper of the CPC (Creole Petroleum Corporation) oil tanker, who looks frightfully young, & George Crutz as a baseball player(VOC).
 
Shorty Lathe, Bill Deal, Ed Branch, a shot of the heavy undergrowth of the “monte” (misspelled as “monti”) around La Rosa, and “The Famous White Mule of Cabimas” - 1927 & 1928.
 
Moving a tank at Cabimas, La Rosa work crew, cactus, “Tulsa”, & Bill Deal.
 
Wonderful images, with good descriptions, of the Cabimas Camp in the late 1920's.
 
Additional Cabimas photos, including one with two very fashionably-dressed women on the Cabimas pier.
 
Cabimas, Bill Deal, & Creole Petroleum Co. tankers at La Rosa.
 
Cabimas & Ambrosia village beyond it.
 
New Years Day celebrations, 1927.
 
Horseplay at the Cabimas Bachelor Quarters (“Bull Pen”).
 
(Top Center) VOC Camp, Lagunillas, 1926, before the discovery well was brought in; (Top Right) Identified as “Looking west from company downtown office in Maracaibo”; (Center Middle) Believed to be the VOC Camp, Lagunillas - numbered buildings unfortunately not further identified; and (Bottom Right) Mene Grande Camp, Pump Station # 1.
 

Two views of the VOC Camp in Lagunillas.
 
Shots on this page were identified as follows: (Center)“Native pipe line crew working in the swamp around Shore Lagunillas”; (Top) “Native crews cleaning up after blowout of well # 110 at Mene Grande. Well sanded up in 24 hrs.
 
This page identified only as “Broadway, village of Lagunillas, on Lake Maracaibo”, before the fire.
 
“My old buddie 'Red Cavett', taken 5:30 am on his rig at Shore Lagunillas.”
This photo is unidentified, but the pose is priceless, and the mug reads “Cervezeria de Caracas - Caracas”.
 
El Señor Bueno de la Hacienda de la Agua Perdida.” He's quite a dude, very proud, with those great chaps decorated with the four suits of a deck of playing cards!
 

Caricature signed by Jim Fritz of Notre Dame, IN; C.E. Porter of IN; Jack Burke; John Bowers; Ray Bower; Edit Bower, wife of John Bower; Lou Palmer; Ollie May; Spike; Mark Florian of South Bend, IN., amongst others.

 

Caricature signed by “Poor Pitiful Tony” of the American Consul in Maracaibo; various crewmembers of the S.S. Maracaibo; T.A. Chubb of London; R. J. Nelson; A.G. Foreman of MO; Lola Chauterbert; Ricardo ? of Caracas; M.C. Thomas; John V. Saul, Ernesto Uhl of Tulsa, OK; William Deal; Gary Sparks II; Jim Raney of CA; and others.
 
Lagunillas Fire of 1928
 
Before:
 
 
During:
 
 
 
 

 

After: