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Andrew Carnegie and the Columbia Oil Farm
William Story Farm
The New Pittsburgh Owners
Columbia Farm
Carnegie's First Visit to Oildom
Carnegie's Pond
The Columbia Oil Company
Brass Band
The Earnings
Wells and Operations
Carnegie's Departure
Trivia (?)
Concluding Remarks

Carnegie's Departure

Carnegie saw the Columbia Oil Company grow. While Columbia Farm’s oil production was nearing the point when it would reward Carnegie handsomely, the man was still busy with Pennsylvania Railroad matters. The Civil War had increased his duties in freight and other traffic. Additionally, he had looked into some other ventures. His health was failing. Too much pressure. His doctor had warned that he would permanently damage his health if he didn’t take a change and a rest.

In 1865 he resigned as superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad and proceeded to follow a quest which he had earlier expressed “to expand as my means do”. In 1865 he went into iron. What was the matter with oil? If you cupped the palm of your hand and held oil, it would slither through your fingers. His disenchantment grew, probably because he wanted it to. He needed new, yet familiar, targets for his attention. First iron bridges (Keystone Bridge Works) to replace wooden ones and then steel to replace iron. He was greatly impressed with the Bessemer steel process. He studied the process and erected the Edgar Thompson Steel Works on the bank of the Monongahela River and later acquired The Homestead Steel Company (first rail, 1881) nearby. He became undisputed king of iron and steel even when viewed on a worldwide basis.

Columbia Oil Company stock continued to pay him dividends, about $2000 per year as in 1868. Oil was now just a page in his immense portfolio. However, he pounced on natural gas from wells near Pittsburgh to fuel his iron and steel furnaces and laid pipelines from the gas fields to the factories.

Carnegie became somewhat philosophic about crude oil and left it with an interesting observation. SENECA OIL, the great remedy and panacea, fetched 75 cents to $2.00 for a small bottle before Drake. It was a coveted medicine obtained from seeps long before oil wells were drilled. Then when oil from wells went on the market “all its virtues fled” because the same little bottle was hardly worth a cent. That is how it was with materia medica of the day.

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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