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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


Drake was prepared to drill to 1000 feet (328 m) and drew up a stringent drilling contract which included the hole specifications. He clearly put the burden on the driller. He wouldn't tolerate a crooked hole like what had happened with some of the salt wells when the driller was in his cups. Whisky was out of the question at his well site. In any case, striking oil at 69 1/2 feet (21.18 m) undoubtedly avoided pitfalls that possibly would have occurred at greater depth.

The first oil well fire started on October 6, 1859. Yes -- it was the Drake Well. Smith, the driller, accidentally touched it off with an open lamp. He intended to inspect the level of oil in the vat, but the collected gases flashed and the oil burst into flames. All of the stored oil, derrick and even the driller's house went up in smoke. Drake took the so called disaster with his usual equanimity, figuring that the hole itself couldn't burn (actually the oil in the hole could, but didn't).

Drake liked cigars. In Pittsburgh, Drake and George Mowbray, an influential chemist with a New York firm, puffed their way through a box of Habanas while conferring about oil. The big "smoke" ended with a 300 barrel sale of oil and a contract to sell more oil to the New York firm (Schieffelin Brothers).

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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