Historical Markers
Roberts Torpedo Historical Marker
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Roberts Torpedo


Marker Location:
Smock Blvd. (PA 8), Titusville

Dedication Date:
September 29, 1954

Behind the Marker

An inset photograph of a worker in a hat and overalls emptying a container into a large metal cylinder. Several other workers, surrounded by large machinery, are observing. The larger photograph shows a group of workers, women and children watching a gusher exploding from a tall derrick.
An inset photograph of a worker in a hat and overalls emptying a container into...
The development of technology to bring oil out of the ground and to market remained among the greatest challenges. Increasing profitability, not efficiency, was the task to which most technological innovation was applied.

Colonel E.A.L. Roberts, a Civil War veteran and explosives expert, came to Pennsylvania's oil region in 1865 and brought with him half a dozen torpedoes. The explosives were cast iron flasks, filled with gunpowder and ignited by a weight that dropped along a suspension wire onto percussion caps in the flask. On January 28 Roberts successfully discharged two of his 8-pound torpedoes into a well on Watson Flats, near Titusville. As Roberts cleared away debris the well emitted a steady flow. Roberts quickly set up a company and charged $100 to $200 per torpedo and a royalty of one-fifteenth of the increased flow of oil. By 1870, torpedo technology became commonplace.

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