In 1910 Dr. Walter O. Snelling, a chemist and explosives expert for the U.S. Bureau of Mines, was contacted to investigate vapors coming from a gasoline tank vent of a newly purchased Ford Model T. Dr. Snelling filled a glass jug with the gasoline from the Ford Model T and discovered on his way back to the lab that volatile vapors were forming in the jug, causing its cork to repeatedly pop out. He began experimenting with these vaporous gases to find methods to control and hold them. After dividing the gas into its liquid and gaseous components, he learned that propane was one component of the liquefied gas mixture. He soon learned that this propane component could be used for lighting, metal cutting and cooking.
That discovery marked the birth of the propane industry.
1912 Dr. Snelling and some colleagues established the American Gasol Co., the first commercial marketer of propane.
1913 Dr. Snelling sold his propane patent (#1,056,845, issued Mar. 25, 1913) for $50,000 to Frank Phillips, the founder of Phillips Petroleum Company.
1918 Propane was primarily used for cutting metals. J. B. Anderson of Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania developed the first propane-fueled pumpless blowtorch.
1927 Phillips Petroleum Co. began the research and development of domestic appliances and gas equipment. The Tappan Stove Company began producing gas ranges.
1928 The first bobtail truck was built, and Servel produced the first propane refrigerator.
1932 At the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, all the cooking and water heating at the Olympic Village was done with propane.
1933 A propane odorant was developed to promote easy leak detection.
1936 Twenty pound cylinders were first introduced to enhance portability.
1945 The end of World War II brought great industrial development. The propane industry enjoyed its so-called Golden Years, and sales reached 1 billion gallons.
1947 Sixty-two percent of all U.S. homes were equipped with either natural gas or propane ranges. Water heater sales rose 261 percent, and the first propane-fueled clothes dryer entered the marketplace. The first oceangoing tanker built for propane, the SS Natalie Warren owned by Warren Petroleum Corp., was also launched; total capacity was 1.4 million gallons.
1950 The Chicago Transit Authority ordered 1,000 propane-fueled buses, and Milwaukee converted 270 taxi cabs to run on propane. In addition, an estimated 7.5 million propane installations occurred on farms and in suburbs.
1961 Propane installations in the United States totaled 13 million.
1962 The propane industry celebrated its 50th anniversary at its national convention in May at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago.
1990 Propane was listed as an approved, alternative clean fuel in the 1990 Clean Air Act and two years later was listed again in the National Energy Policy Act of 1992.
1996 The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Propane Education & Research Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source.
2000 Propane gas is an $30 billion industry in the United States and is still growing. The United States consumes more than 15 billion gallons of propane annually for home, agricultural, industrial and commercial uses.
2002 NPGA moves its headquarters from Lisle, Ill. to Washington, DC to better represent its members to Congress and federal regulatory agencies.
Propane continues it’s rich history in the 21st century, and its use as an alternative engine fuel by the lawn and landscape industry continues to rise.