162: Pennsylvania Oil Rush of 1859

An early oil field in Pennsylvania. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

An early oil field in Pennsylvania. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1859, the first large-scale oil well began operating in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Here are some things you may not have known about the early days of oil.

Oil naturally seeps from the ground in large parts of western Pennsylvania. Native Americans had used the oil for centuries as an insect repellant, and for medicinal and religious purposes. When white settlers reached the area in the 1700s, the oil was regarded more as a nuisance than a benefit, as it made farming difficult.

In the 1850s, Samuel Kier developed a way to distill kerosene from crude oil, creating the first marketable product to be made from the substance. Previously kerosene was made from coal, a process that was not economical.

Encouraged by the new market for crude oil, the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company sent Edwin Drake to the Oil Creek Valley to begin digging exploratory wells. Just as his funding was about to dry up, Drake struck oil on August 27, 1859, triggering an oil rush. In 1859 the United States produced 2,000 barrels of crude oil. Ten years later the total output increased to 4 million barrels a year. The towns of Titusville, Oil City and the redundantly named Pithole quickly sprung up to support the industry. The population of Titusville increased from 250 residents to more than 10,000 in five years time. At the time, Pennsylvania produced one-third of the worlds’ crude oil.

In 1895, the state of Ohio surpassed Pennsylvania as the largest oil producer in the United States. Pennsylvania’s share further declined with discoveries in Texas, Wyoming and California in the early 20th century.

Our question: What two major brands of oil products are named after the state of Pennsylvania?

Today is also: Independence Day in Moldova. In the United States, it is unofficially National Pots du Creme Day, and National Just Because Day. It is the birthday of artist Man Ray, former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and actor Paul Reubens, better known as Pee Wee Herman.

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Sources

http://www.enopetroleum.com/earlyoilpennsylvania.html

http://www.petroleumhistory.org/OilHistory/pages/drake/drakewell.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titusville,_Pennsylvania

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_oil_rush

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