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Oil History Timeline

1748Peter Kalm of Sweden published map showing oil springs of Oil Creek, PA
1767Sir William Johnson of New York recorded Native American practice of skimming oil
1778Moravian missionaries reported "oil wells, with the products of which the Seneca Indians carry on trade with Niagara" in Western New York
1785General William Irvine reported "Oil Creek, PA, has taken its name from an oil or bituminous matter floating on its surface"
1790Nathaniel Carey skimmed oil from springs near Titusville, PA, and delivered it to customers by horseback
1791Pennsylvania map showed stream named "OYL CREEK"
1795Joseph Scott, first U. S. gazetteer, reported about Oil Creek and Seneca Oil
1795-1800Crude oil quoted at $16.00 per gallon
1806David & Joseph Ruffner drilled first salt well using spring pole, drive pipe, casing & tubing near Kanawha River in western Virginia, well produced oil instead of salt water
1807Mr. F. Cuming described collecting oil by blanket dipping in "Sketches of a Tour of the Western Country"
Oil from spring in Oil Creek on the Hamilton McClintock farm sold for $1 - 2/gallon
1833Prof. Benjamin Silliman Sr. experimentally distilled crude petroleum
1840First recorded use of natural gas for manufacturing, used in brine evaporation at Centerville, PA
1846Abraham Gesner produced illuminating oil from Nova Scotia coal, distilling a product he named "Kerosene"
Nitroglycerine, invented by Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero, used by Swedish engineer Alfred Nobel
1849Samuel Kier marketed rock oil from his father's salt well as medicine
1850Samuel Kier devised a process to distill crude oil, producing "carbon oil"
1851Samuel Kier marketed carbon oil for use in lamps
Dr. Francis Brewer purchased first oil lease on land owned by J.O. Angier, Titusville, PA
1854George Bissell & Jonathan Eveleth paid $5000 for 105 acres of land (Hibbard Farm) in Venango County, PA, owned by Brewer, Watson & Co. to collect surface oil
Bissell & Eveleth organized Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company incorporated in NY - first U. S. oil company - and leased Hibbard Farm
1855Yale chemist Benjamin Silliman, Jr., filed favorable report on petroleum sample from Hibbard Farm
Bissell & Eveleth reorganized PA Rock Oil Co. as a corporation in CT
1856Abraham Gesner's North American Kerosene Gas Light Co. sold kerosene in New York lamp oil market
1857Samuel Downer & Joshua Merrill mastered multiple distillations, chemical treatments, and cracking of crude coal oil (applied to crude oil 3 years later)
Pennsylvania Rock Oil Co. of CT leased the Hibbard Farm to Edwin Bowditch & Edwin Drake of New Haven
1858Seneca Oil Company of New Haven Connecticut formed, purchased Bowditch & Drake lease, and sent Edwin Drake to drill
1859August 27 -Edwin L. Drake's well, drilled 69 ½ feet, struck oil near Titusville PA (first well deliberately drilled for oil) and launched the modern petroleum industry
August 30 - John Grandin & H. H. Dennis drilled in Tionesta,PA - first dry hole
October 7 - Drake's well ignited by gas and destroyed - first oil well fire on record,
well house rebuilt and oil equipment replaced
1860April - Steamboat "Venango" carried first load of petroleum to Pittsburgh
1861May - A. B. Funk's "Fountain Well" reached 460 feet & flowed 300 barrels per day Annual U. S. crude oil production increased from .5 million barrels in 1860 to 2.1 million barrels in 1861
October - Phillips Well #2 on Tarr Farm came in at 4000 barrels a day
November - First shipload of petroleum to cross the Atlantic shipped from Philadelphia to London
1862Humboldt Refinery established near Plumer, by John Burns & the Ludovici brothers.
Jacob Vandergrift and Daniel Bushnell shipped crude from Oil City to Pittsburgh by bulk barge tows, more than 20 Allegheny River shipping companies in Oil City.
Oil Creek Railroad reached Titusville from Corry, first railroad into PA Oil Region.
1863Pennsylvania legislature passed first anti-pollution bill preventing running of tar and distillery refuse into certain creeks
1864"Coal Oil Johnny" Steele began spending spree
1865Pithole Creek oil field discovered
Col. E.A.L. Roberts used explosives to increase "Ladies Well" flow near Titusville, PA
April 9 - Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse ended the Civil War.
April 14 - President Abraham Lincoln assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Six weeks later, well on Pithole Creek, in which Booth had a share, struck oil.
Van Syckle oil pipeline connected Miller Farm on the Oil Creek Railroad to the U. S. Well, a distance of approximately 6 miles.
1866Patent for exploding torpedoes in wells granted to E.A.L. Roberts - 2000 lawsuits filed involving patent, but it was said Roberts never lost a suit
Roberts exploded a torpedo in "dry hole" establishing oil flow in a non-producing well
Alfred Nobel invented dynamite.
1867E.A.L. Roberts licensed by Alfred Nobel to use dynamite in shooting wells.
1867Nikolaus Otto invented early internal combustion engine
1868John Benninghoff robbery near Petroleum Centre netted robbers half million dollars
1869Rockefeller, Andrews, and Flagler firm operated in Oil City, Cleveland, and New York
Oil exploration moved south to Armstrong, Clarion, and Butler Counties, PA
1870Crawford Well in Emlenton, PA produced 35 barrels of oil per day
Standard Oil Company organized as corporation in OH
1871Titusville Oil Exchange formed
1872Newton Gas Well, Titusville, produced gas for 250 customers.
1873Edwin L. Drake granted a $1500 annual pension by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
1874Bradford oil field boom
1877Pithole Borough Charter annulled
1878Standard Oil controlled 90% of nation's refining capacity
1879Thomas Alva Edison invented incandescent lamp
Tidewater Pipeline completed from Bradford to Williamsport - 100 miles
1880November 8 - Edwin Drake died in Bethlehem, PA, at age 61
1881Standard Oil organized the National Transit Company
1882Standard Oil Trust organized
1885German engineer Karl Benz built first internal combustion engine vehicle
1890Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act
1892First American car built by Duryea brothers
First steel derrick, 72 feet in height, constructed and made available through catalog
Standard Oil Trust passed formal resolution to dissolve
1893Thomas Edison introduced motion pictures
1895First U. S. automobile road race won by Duryea "motor wagon"
California produced 1.2 million barrels of crude oil
1896First reported U. S. automobile accident occurred in New York City - Henry Wells collided with bicycle rider Evylyn Thomas, breaking her leg. Wells went to jail
1899Standard Oil reorganized as holding company in NJ
19008000 automobiles owned in the United States, half sold this year
190114,800 automobiles registered in the U.S.
Spindletop well struck oil in TX
1902Ida Tarbell began publishing Standard Oil series in McClure's Magazine.
1903May 23-August 1 - First transcontinental automobile trip, San Francisco to New York
December 17 - Kittyhawk, North Carolina, Wright Brothers made their first heavier than air powered flight - flight lasted 59 seconds
1904First plant for extracting natural gasoline (Casinghead gasoline) from natural gas by the compression method built by Andrew Fasenmeyer near Drake Well at Titusville, PA.
1908October 1 - First Model T Ford built
First commercial natural gasoline plant built at Sistersville, W.VA.
1909Standard Oil of NJ found guilty of Sherman Act violations, company dissolved into 37 independent organizations in 1911
1911667,000 automobiles registered in the United States
1919Gasoline replaced kerosene as product leader of the American petroleum industry
19208,500,000 automobiles & trucks registered in the U.S.
1927Charles A. Lindberg made first successful trans-Atlantic flight

Compiled for Drake Well Museum with research by Neil McElwee, Susan Beates, and David Weber.

Taken from Oil Region Alliance