Home Drake Well Foundation About OilHistory.com The Author Contact
Early Oil Pipelines, USA
Oil Pipeline Idea
Shippen's Promotion
An Oil Pipeline Proposal
Wood and Metal Pipes
The Need for Pipelines
An Oil Pipeline Scheme
Pipelines, Failure and Success
1865, The Van Syckel Pipeline
1865, The Big Year
Gathering Lines
The Pipeline War
The Teamsters, A Good Word
A Flurry of Pipelines
First Great Pipeline Company

First Great Pipeline Company

In December 1865 William H. Abbott acquired a part interest in the Van Syckel pipeline from Jonathan Watson, oil operator and officer of the First National Bank of Titusville. W.H. Abbott and Henry Harley formed an important company in 1866 by combining Harley's Benninghoff Run - Shaffer pipeline and Abbott's share of the Van Syckel pipeline. This was the beginning of the Abbott and Harley pipelines.

In 1867 Abbott and Harley made an astute move by buying the Western Transportation Company which had a defunct pipeline from the Noble well to Shaffer in Oil Creek Valley. It was one of the early pipeline failures. However, the jewel in this transaction was the charter which Western had. This 1864 charter from the Pennsylvania Legislature gave the pipeline company the right to carry oil to railroad yards. Now Abbott and Harley owned that important right, and they knew how to make the most of it. In 1867 having put together all of their lines, they formed a new company called the Allegheny Transportation Company and put Jay Gould, President of the Erie Railroad on the board. According to Giddens (1938) this was the first great pipeline company.

Through a series of negotiations this enterprise grew, and by 1871, then under the name of the Pennsylvania Transportation Company, it had 500 miles of pipelines to all of the producing fields at that time in Northwest Pennsylvania. This pipeline company was capitalized at two million dollars and had a strong connection with the railroads, particularly the Erie and the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. At that time the pipelines were laid with the purpose of connecting producing fields to the railroad terminals.

The growth and competition of pipeline companies surged in the 1870's. Company names like the Union Pipeline Co., Empire Pipeline, Mutual and the United Pipelines became landmarks in the commercial history of oil transportation. The first Standard Oil pipeline began to get a hold in the oil region under the name American Transfer Company. A vast network of lines were laid by many companies, and pipeline entrepreneurs began to think in terms of the Atlantic seaboard, heretofore an elusive distance away.

Tong gang, Warren County, PA, in the dead of winter, c. 1880's. The mess tent is in the upper center and one "tree trunk" is actually a stove pipe, the two cooks are at right. Some of the men have their tongs grasping the pipe. A jack with pegs is in use to the left of the big tree. This is a totally posed and retouched picture (too near the mess tent). Photo from the Pennsylvania Report of the Bureau of Statistics, 1892.

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
all rights reserved