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The Drake Chapters
Introduction to the Drake Chapters
The Beginning of the Petroleum Industry
Oil Creek Before Drake's Well
Refining Seep Oil
Chemical Report of Seep Oil
Pinched Noses
Other Predicaments
Drake's First Visit to Titusville
Drake Commences Work at the Seep
Drake's Well
First Production
Petroleum Geology of the Drake Sand
Drake's Other Wells
Dismantling of the Derrick
The Deepening of the Drake Well
Among the First Players
Drake's Tomb

The Beginning Of The Petroleum Industry

As John Wesley Owen wrote in 1975 in his massive volume "Trek of the Oil Finders"...."the inception of the modern petroleum industry can be fairly said to have occurred at Oil Creek, near Titusville, Pennsylvania..." Owen also states that "some 5000 years of experience and tradition elsewhere had anticipated the event." Oil seeps were used in ancient times and production of oil took place in a number of countries long before Drake. Several oil wells were brought in at about the time of Drake's well in the United States, such as in Canada and Europe. Some of them became oil centers in their own right. However, the boom and industrial advance that began near Titusville on August 27, 1859, (Drake Day) gathered momentum so quickly and enlarged so greatly that a veritable industrial explosion took place. As Owen put it, "the oilmen were here. They were in oil country, and the time had come." Parke Dickey in his 1959 great paper "The First Oil Well" doesn't dispute other claims to be the first well (that isn't the point). He felt that "no one is likely to question the fact that it was the Drake Well at Titusville which started the industry on its spectacular career." The other centers boomed as well.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contains one of the early oil belts of the Appalachian Basin. Other oil regions quickly developed in the basin.

The first shallow oil belt was Oil Creek in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Drilling soon spread away from the banks of Oil Creek to sites along the Allegheny River and in valleys of other tributaries such as Pithole Creek.

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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