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The Shot
Introduction and Rick Tallini
Uncle Gus
Augustus Pease
The Professional
Robert's First Shot
Composition of Roberts' Torpedo
The Suits and The War
The Accomplishment
Otto Cupler
Concluding Remarks and Erastus T. Robert

Robert’s First Shot

Oil operators fearing that their well might be damaged, and the news that was already out there not being very convincing to the contrary, were somewhat reluctant to engage a shooter. However, Col. Roberts, a very good promoter (lucky too), found a well near Titusville which had reached total depth and offered to shoot it free. He was practically betting everything on this one shot. The well was called the Ladies’ well and the agent was Captain Mills. It was shot at 465 feet depth. In spite of the wintry weather, a large crowd gathered at the well site on January 21, 1865, to witness the shot. Among the spectators were seven witnesses who signed an affidavit to the effect that the shot (actually two shots) successfully brought the well in. The results were described as gratifying and that the well flowed oil, paraffin and water (Prospectus of the Roberts Torpedo Co., New York, 1865). This demonstration turned operators’ eyes favorably toward Roberts and he began to get clients.

Later, in 1866, Roberts’ reputation really soared due to his device being used in the Woodin well on the Blood farm (Oil Creek) which had been abandoned as a dry hole. The shots (two) brought the well to life, and it produced 80 barrels per day on pump. This Lazarus-like event brought even more business to Robert’s company which besides shooting was spending a lot of time defending its patent.

An artist’s sketch of the Roberts powder torpedo before and after explosion. In the first drawing (left) the follower or go-devil sliding down on a wire is a fraction of a second away from striking the cap. The right-hand drawing is a conception of the instant of explosion. Illustration from Bacon and Hamor, 1916.

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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