Tuesday, August 27, 2013
August 27 - Drake's Oil Well, Titusville
The first commercially successful oil well was drilled on August 27, 1859, in Titusville, in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, by Colonel Edwin Drake, who worked for an early oil company. He had hired a salt well driller named William Smith. Oil was known to exist in the region, often as oil springs, but no practical means of extracting it was known. Petroleum’s primary use had been as a medicine for both animals and humans; later it became useful for asphalt, machine oil, lubricants and kerosene. At first the Titusville oil was transported in containers by teamsters, but by 1862 a new rail line connected with larger, east-west railroads. Pipelines were laid in 1865. Eight oil refineries were built in the area by 1868, and several iron works rose up to make drilling tools. Titusville’s population exploded from 250 to 10,000 virtually overnight. The first U.S. oil millionaire was Jonathan Watson, who owned the land on which Drake's well was drilled. At one point, Titusville was believed to have more millionaires per 1,000 people than any other place in the world.