In Tulsa, Oklahoma, there stands a 76-foot statue of a bare-chested golden man with a belt reading “TULSA” on the buckle. Known as the Golden Driller, it is a 60-year-old monument to honor the workers of the petroleum industry in the former “oil capital of the world.”
The International Petroleum Exposition, a fair exhibiting the latest innovations in oil technology, was held in Tulsa various times throughout the mid-20th century. The massive Golden Driller statue was created for the expo’s 1953 edition, wearing a tin helmet on his head and resting his right hand on an oil derrick relocated from a depleted oil field.
The statue became so popular among oil enthusiasts that it was temporarily recreated in 1959 and permanently erected seven years later after an anatomical redesign and a boost in height. But by 1979, the Golden Driller was abandoned by its manufacturer, the Mid-Continent Supply Company, and was slated for demolition as neglect and bullet holes destroyed what visual elegance it once had. The city of Tulsa came to save the day, preserving the Golden Driller and making it the official state monument of Oklahoma.
In addition to being the Oklahoma State Monument, the Golden Driller is also the fifth tallest statue in the United States and has been named one of the top 10 “quirkiest destinations” in the U.S. And it won’t be coming down soon. It is built to withstand the state’s vicious 200 mile-per-hour tornadoes, and its mustard paint is said to last 100 years.
In recent years, people began painting shirts on him to reflect local events. There is typically a snow cone stand by his feet in the summer.
Update May 2020: A large Tesla logo has been added to the Golden Driller’s chest, and his face has been painted to resemble Elon Musk. The changes are part of a bid to get Tesla to build a new factory in Tulsa.