Stories from PA History
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Striking Oil
In 1859, when Edwin L. Drake drilled an oil well in Titusville, he launched the country's modern petroleum industry. During the 1860s and 1870s, an exciting cast of characters in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania supplied the world with petroleum and dominated the industry, as the region itself underwent dramatic and lasting change.

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Overview: Striking Oil
Chapter One: Discovery and Early Development
Chapter Two: Boom and Bust
Chapter Three: Growth and Organization
Chapter Four: Natural Gas

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon LP-Gas Industry (Erie) marker icon Leidy Natural Gas Boom (Clinton)
marker icon Murrysville Gas Well (Westmoreland) marker icon Speechley Gas Pool Well (Venango)

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Story Bibliography

1850 Samuel Kier used a whiskey still for refining crude oil and in 1854 opens the first commercial refinery.
1859 On August 27, Edwin Drake and "Uncle Billy" Smith strike oil along Oil Creek, just south of Titusville, Venango County.
1860 Pennsylvania's first gas field is discovered in Erie County at shallow depths along Lake Erie.
1861 First oil refineries open in oil regions.
1861 - 1865 Experiments are carried out to move petroleum through pipelines.
1861 By the end of the year, over 2-1/2 million barrels of oil have been removed from the ground.
1862 Gas is used to fire the boilers to pump the oil wells along Oil Creek.
1865 First experiments with the use of underground torpedoes in oil wells.
1865 First pipeline functions effectively from Pithole to Miller Farm.
1865 The oil boomtown of Pithole is incorporated.
1867 D. G. Stillwell drills a gas well within what is now the limits of Oil City and pipes gas to a number of homes where it is used for cooking and heating purposes.
1868 By this date Pithole has lost the majority of its residents; a series of fires furthers its desertion.
1870 By 1870, most of the oil fields of Venango County have been discovered.
1870 - 1879 Oil producers battle Rockefeller's efforts at price control during what is referred to as the "OIL WAR".
1871 Titusville Oil Exchange is established.
1871 Development of the Bradford oil field in McKean County begins.
1878 The Haymaker well at Murrysville "blew in" at 34 million cubic feet of gas per day, and is the largest gas well ever drilled up to that time.
1879 The Tidewater pipeline from the Bradford oil field to Williamsport is completed - a distance of over 100 miles - to compete with Standard Oil.
1883 Gas piped about 11 miles from the Murrysville gas field into Pittsburgh is used for manufacturing.
1884 Gantz Oil Well opens up Washington County oil fields.
1885 Speechley Gas Pool Well opens up deep sand development.
1902 Ida Tarbell begins publishing articles about John D. Rockefeller, in McClure's Magazine, that are later published as a book, History of the Standard Oil Company.
1911 U.S. Supreme Court breaks up Standard Oil Trust.
1912 Development of LP gas (propane) begins.
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