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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

The Professional

Up to 1865 the results of experimental shooting were, in most cases, expressed by barely figurative descriptions such as "a smell of oil", "sent out oil" (how much?), etc. The first shots helped in a few wells, did nothing in a few, and totally messed things up in others.

Colonel E.A.L. Roberts, a dental technician, arrived in Titusville early in 1865, bringing six torpedoes of his own design which he had constructed in New York City. In the previous year he had applied for a patent describing his device and intellectual property as "a process of increasing the productiveness of oil-wells by causing an explosion of gunpowder or its equivalent at or near the oil-bearing point, in connection with superincumbent fluid-tamping." He had observed (or heard about) artillery shells exploding under water and came up with the notion of using gun powder to bring in or improve oil wells. Although other parties had been blasting oil wells on and off for five years around Titusville and had invented devices, Roberts was the first to apply for a patent and to couch the process in scientific language.

The application of the Roberts’ device (it kept the powder dry) depended on the tamping which consisted of 50 feet or more of water held in the hole. This weight would deflect the blast laterally instead of allowing it to dissipate vertically (R. Smith, in Oilfield Barker, Fall, 1995). As mentioned earlier in this chapter, charges were set off previously in wells having a column of water in the hole, but Roberts gave a scientific basis to the tamping effect and promoted it as part of his patented shooting process.

The Colonel and his brother, Walter B. Roberts, formed the Roberts Torpedo Petroleum Co., New York, in 1865.

Walter B. Roberts, 1823-1889, older brother of E.A.L. Roberts. He was a dental technician with parlors in New York City. He received the first medal from the American Institute of New York awarded for making the best artificial teeth. He was engaged in mercantile ventures in Central America 1853 and onwards, delegated to U.S. military missions in 1863 and in 1864 served on the Common Council of New York. He published The New York Dental Journal and served as editor. In 1865 he joined his brother E.A.L. Roberts in the torpedo business and in 1866 was appointed Secretary and Business Manager of the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company, having already had half-ownership of the company. In 1872 with his brother he organized the banking firm of Roberts and Company. He also earlier organized a firm in Bradford, Pa., by the name of W.B. Roberts & Son which did Roberts torpedo business. W.B. Roberts remained fully engaged in the torpedo and nitroglycerin business until his death. Photo by Pach Bro’s. 1886.

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