Historical Markers
Jacob J. Vandergrift Historical Marker
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Jacob J. Vandergrift

Lake Erie Region


Marker Location:
Justus Park, Oil City

Dedication Date:
August 3, 2001

Behind the Marker

Image of Capt. Jacob J. Vandergrift
Capt. Jacob J. Vandergrift
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, boat captains who had freely hauled cargo along waterways from north to south found themselves in need of safer passages on which they could ply their trade. Jacob J. Vandergrift was a boat captain who came to Pennsylvania's oil region in 1861 looking to help meet the demands of the growing industry.

With experience in moving cargo, Vandergrift saw a natural fit for himself in helping to transport oil. Originally he sought to make a profit by bringing into the region over 4,000 barrels that could be loaded with oil and shipped down the Allegheny River to the refineries in Pittsburgh.

Vandergrift soon learned of the newly invented bulk-boats, which could carry substantial quantities of oil directly in their hauls, and ordered several for his own use. Realizing what a profit he could make on the large quantities of oil that could now be transported to market, Vandergrift bought oil to fill his new vessels and then resold it in Pittsburgh, making as much as $70,000 on his first shipment.

Recognizing that the industry needed more efficient ways to move the ever-growing quantities of oil from the wells to shipping depots, and from there to the refineries, Vandergrift then seized on another new emerging technology: the oil pipeline. Vandergrift's company began laying pipelines throughout the oil region. Eventually, there was hardly a drop of oil that moved in Pennsylvania that did not pass through a pipeline, loading depot or barge that was controlled by Vandergrift.
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