Oil Drilling on Java - Photographs circa 1910

A rare early 20th-century photo album of oil drilling sites in Java. This set of 123 original antique photographs documents the very beginnings of oil drilling in the Netherlands Indies, offering a rare look at the workings of early oil extraction in Indonesia. These photographs taken around the year 1910 have never been made public before. The set contains scenes of the oil derricks, oil workers, overseers, the surrounding countryside, and many more.

Oil was first discovered in 1885 in the Netherlands Indies and the industry soon found sites in Sumatra, Java, the Arafura Sea, and Papua. Extraction of oil in Indonesia began around the year 1907 with the founding of the BPM, Bataafse Petroleum Maatschappij (Batavia Petroleum Company), one of the subsidiaries of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Petroleum Maatschappij nowadays Royal Dutch Shell. BPM was nationalized and became Pertamina.

Short descriptions on 6 of the 123 photographs. 

  1. Dutch overseers inspecting the oil derrick operating. Smoke can also be seen coming  out of the stack.
  2. In lieu of animal labor, workers were often tasked with manually transporting parts and machinery as seen here.
  3. Pipes are being transported via water-buffalo drawn carts, led by a team of native drivers.
  4. Local villagers, the man in white with the cane is likely the head of the kampung. Mostly women and children, possibly the families of the workers.
  5. Two oil derricks of the time, made of wood and metal as is characteristic of the period.
  6. Five Dutch overseers posed and seated for a photo.


  • 21cm x 29cm (1 photo)
  • 20,5cm x 14,5cm (13 photos)
  • 16,5cm x 11,5cm (70 photos)
  • 10cm x 12cm and 8cm x 11cm (39 photos)

To receive a document with all 123 photographs, or if you have any comments and questions, click HERE

Oil Drilling on Java - Set of 123 photo's
Publication Place / Date
Image Dimensions
Unknown / c.1910
VG - Spine of album is gone.
Product Price
Product Number
USD 3,900
SKU #P.0085