The town sprang up nearly overnight in 1912, after wildcatter Tom Slick struck oil on the farm of Frank Wheeler, causing a rush of speculators, oilfield workers, and merchants into the area. A post office was established in the community on December 28, 1912. Local landowners James W. Fulkerson and Aaron Drumright platted a townsite, which was initially called Fulkerson, The town was renamed for Aaron Drumright, a farmer and later local businessman whose farm was part of the townsite.
Oil workers flooded into town so quickly that they lived in tents or shacks made from box cars, causing the community to be known locally as "Ragtown." Hotels and boarding houses were constructed next, as well as amenities like gambling dens, dance halls, and roadhouses, where the workers could spend their money. Drumright incorporated as a town on May 27, 1913. In 1914, the city built a two-story building of stone to serve as an elementary and high school. It was called Washington School, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRIS 81000462). Two banks opened in the town during 1914. Drumright was designated a first-class city after an election on April 18, 1916. The 1920 census reported a population of 6,460.
In 1919 a riot broke out in Drumright during a strike by telephone workers. The town's mayor and chief of police were locked in the town jail by rioters. The Governor of Oklahoma sent six militia units to town to restore order.