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In 1859, “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake and the Seneca Oil Company struck oil in the Venango Oil Field near Titusville, PA. The Drake Well started producing about 40 barrels of oil a day. From such humble beginnings the petroleum industry developed. August 27, 2009 will mark the 150th anniversary of the Drake Well discovery. The Oil 150 Celebration commemorating this event will be a seventeen month celebration from August 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009.

The Drake Well near Titusville, Pennsylvania represents the start of the life-changing events that would not be possible without petroleum. From plastics to medicines, from kerosene to jet-fuel, from mascara to Vaseline, from the oils that lubricate our machines to the asphalt we drive on, most aspects of our lives are impacted by the petroleum industry. The refining of kerosene from oil dramatically changed the course of everyday life by providing an economical, safe, and widely available illuminant to light up the night throughout the world. The refining of gasoline from oil has dramatically changed the course of transportation, commerce, and warfare throughout the world. Achievements by the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, the Seneca Oil Company, and “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake at Drake Well ignited a triumph of American ingenuity, inventiveness, and diligence in developing new technologies, new business models, and new industries which remain an inspiration for Americans.

The celebration of Oil 150 creates a unique opportunity for the United States to focus on the historical significance of oil-related events leading up to and following August 27, 1859. The Celebration will recognize the important discoveries and innovations that span across America and around the globe. The Celebration will acknowledge achievements in all functions of the industry including exploration & production, refining, transportation & storage, marketing, and business organization. The Celebration will incorporate the very close parallel development of the natural gas industry. This Celebration is not about a single event, but rather a century and a half of oil and natural gas industry development.

Purposes of the Celebration

  • Increase worldwide awareness of the sesquicentennial of oil.
  • Increase national public knowledge and understanding of the significance of the early oil & natural gas industry developments in Pennsylvania.
  • Educate the public on the petroleum industry’s development.
  • Educate the public on the social & economic benefits the industry has brought to the nation.
  • Enhance interest in oil history & oil-related education fields.
  • Increase tourism at oil-related sites.

Responsibilities of the OIL 150 Steering Committee

  • Assemble financial resources
  • Create and lead partnerships
  • Coordinate an awareness campaign
  • Educate
  • Generate publicity
  • Encourage individuals and organizations to conduct commemorative activities
  • Maintain a web site and national calendar of events
  • Maintain a speakers bureau
  • Represent the Celebration nationally

Educational and Cultural Programs

Conferences and Symposia

The Committee will participate and exhibit at conferences, symposia, and seminars to promote national and international recognition of the sesquicentennial of oil and the oil & natural gas industry.

Public Speakers

The Committee will organize a cadre of speakers for use by public forums to promote oil history & oil industry themes.

Calendar of Events

The Events Calendar will host a wide-ranging list of events from across the nation related to the sesquicentennial of oil and the history of petroleum.

A Focus on Scholarship

Primary resource material available for scholarly research will be identified and located for new work in the field of petroleum history. A bibliography of published oil history will be compiled to enhance scholarship in this field.

Classroom Materials

The Oil 150 Committee will encourage development of educational components for use by schools and libraries. Partnerships with other groups to create curricula and learning opportunities will be pursued.

The Art & Music of Oil

The Committee will encourage works in all the arts that relate to the sesquicentennial of oil and oil history. These could include musical compositions, scripting and enactment of plays, paintings, prints, and sculptures. Photography or art exhibits with a sesquicentennial of oil or oil history theme would be supported.


The Committee will encourage and support sesquicentennial of oil and Oil 150 exhibits at museums, libraries, educational institutions, and other public settings.

Public Outreach

Public outreach will be of major importance to the success of the Celebration. The Celebration will create interest and inspire future generations of engineers, researchers, geologists, inventors, entrepreneurs, economists, and historians.

  • The Committee will endeavor to unify the efforts of all related organizations and promote the significance of the historic oil industry achievements with one voice.
  • The Committee will work with national media to create special sesquicentennial of oil programming and encourage corporate participation in telling the story of petroleum.
  • The Committee will increase awareness of educational resources through media relations, media tours, and Internet interaction.
  • The Committee will address the public by means of promotional literature, exhibits, web site, and radio & television.
  • The Oil 150 Committee will pursue federal legislation to create a US Petroleum Sesquicentennial Commission.


The Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism (ORA) administers the Oil 150. The ORA is the manager of the Oil Region National Heritage Area. The mission of ORA is to increase the prosperity and population of the Oil Region National Heritage Area, through the preservation, promotion, development and support of destinations within the Oil Region National Heritage Area. This project was financed in part by a Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, via Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism. Additional funding was furnished by the National Parks Service, the Oil Region Alliance, and the Petroleum History Institute.