Historical Markers
Galena-Signal Oil Company Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Galena-Signal Oil Company

Lake Erie Region


Marker Location:
1140 Liberty Street, Franklin

Dedication Date:
August 7, 1999

Behind the Marker

Charles Miller discovered fortune through chemistry. In 1870, Miller discovered the value of Galena, a lead oxide, as a solid lubricant. He then patented a process for keeping it suspended in crude oil from the nearby Franklin oil fields. Why was such a change desirable? The additional lead oxide made the oil much less degradable, especially when used to lubricate metal. Galena oil proved to be one of the most durable lubricants in an era of increasing mechanization.

In the rapidly developing oil business, such a technological breakthrough meant incredible possibilities for expansion and fortune. In 1878, Standard Oil purchased Galena Oil. Through its wide network of influence, Standard made sure Galena oil was used in railroad cars traveling most of the total rail mileage in the U.S. Galena became one of Standard's most important tools to dominate the industry.

Beginning in the mid-1880s, Galena Oil began selling to railroads under annual contracts that guaranteed carriers a ten per cent saving off the previous year's costs of lubricating their equipment. Early in the 1890s these contracts were modified, by guaranteeing the railroads a specified average cost of lubricating its equipment for one thousand miles. If costs ran higher than the amounts specified, Galena supplied extra lubricants at no cost; if lower, the benefit went to the railroad. It was just this type of contract that pressed Standard Oil's competitors out of business.

Signal Oil Company and Galena merged in 1901.

Back to Top