Sunday, July 6, 2008

A little Bit of History

Gee Hello Ta Everyone,

Gram has been hoggin' the puter lately and so we haven't posted fer awhile. We really haven't had much to report lately either. But we have spent the past week at our cottage in the hills of Northwestern Pa. about 9 miles outside of Titusville. We love it here cause there is peace 'n quiet and lots of nature.

But Titusville is important for somethin' else....know what?

Well, I'm here ta tell ya what since we been readin' 'n studyin' this stuff fer awhile now.

In 1859 Colonel Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well in Titusville, Pa. Bet ya didn't know that, did ya? There is a park in Titusville where a replica of the first oil well is preserved and ya can take a trip down memory lane 'n see some of the stuff they used way back then ta get the oil outta the ground. Here is a replica of Colonel Drake's first oil well.

Inside there is a motor and pump that is working 'n ya can have a look see at how things were done so long ago. This pump is really only recirculating oil but it's fun ta look at.

Here's the oil goin' in the barrel from Colonel Drake's oil well. And the rest is a bit of history.......

The most important oil well ever drilled was in the middle of quiet farm country in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1859. For this was one of the first successful oil wells that was drilled for the sole purpose of finding oil. Known as the Drake Well, after "Colonel" Edwin Drake, the man responsible for the well, it began an international search for petroleum, and in many ways eventually changed the way we live.

The first oilmen
For hundreds of years, people had known about these seeps in western Pennsylvania. In fact, there is strong evidence that Native Americans, at least as far back as 1410 AD, had been harvesting the oil for medicinal purposes by digging small pits around active seeps and lining them with wood. European settlers had for years been skimming the oil from the seeps and using the petroleum as a source of lamp fuel and machinery lubrication.

Is there money in this?
In the early 1850's, George Bissell, a New York lawyer, conceived a plan to try and produce this oil commercially. Benjamin Silliman Jr, a chemist at Yale University, and one of America's leading chemists, was hired to analyze the properties of the "Seneca Oil" as an illuminant. He determined that the oil could be distilled into several fractions, one of which was a very high quality illuminant. With this positive information, Bissell was able to get together some financial backers, including James Townsend, president of a bank in New Haven, Connecticut, and formed the "Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company".

The idea to drill

They hoped that "rock oil" could be recovered from the ground in large enough quantities to be used commercially as a fuel for lamps. Oil had already been used and refined and sold commercially for one of its byproducts: kerosene. What made Bissell something of a visionary was that he would try to extract the rock oil from the ground by drilling, using the same techniques as had been used in salt wells. Bissell was simply looking for a better, more reliable and plentiful source.

Why Titusville?

Why did Drake choose this spot to drill for oil? Well, the number one beacon was the many active oil seeps in the region. As it turns out, there had already been wells drilled that had struck oil in the region. The only problem was, they weren't drilling for oil. Instead, they were looking for salt water or just plain drinking water. When they struck oil, they considered it a nuisance and abandoned the well. At the time, no one really knew what to do with the stuff if they found it...

Who was "Colonel" Drake?

The truth was, Edwin Drake was not a "Colonel" of anything. He and his financiers simply invented the title to impress the locals, many of whom laughed at what was, for a time, known as "Drake's Folly". With the financial backing of the newly formed Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company (soon to be renamed Seneca Oil Company), Drake set off to Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1857 to survey the situation. Drilling began in the summer of 1859. There were many problems with this well, and progress was slow and financially costly. The initial money the investors had fronted Drake ran out, and he had to borrow more to keep drilling.

"The Yankee's Struck Oil!"

On August 27, 1859, Drake and Smith drilled to a depth of 21.18 m (69 1/2 feet). It was not until the next morning, on August 28, when the driller, "Uncle Billy" Smith, noticed oil floating in the hole they had pulled the drilling tools from the night before. By today's standards, it was a pretty unremarkable hole, probably producing 20 barrels or less of oil per day.

.....and just in time

The timing could not have been better. Most of the financial backers had given up on the project, and James Townsend, after having financed the operation out of his own pocket, had sent Drake the order to pay the remaining bills and close up shop. Drake received this order on the very day that he struck oil.

The oil boom

Almost overnight, the quiet farming region changed in much the same manner as the gold rush towns of the Wild West. The flats in the narrow valley of Oil Creek, averaging only around 330 m (~1000 feet) wide were quickly leased, and hastily constructed derricks erected. Towns sprang up out of nowhere with people coming from all over looking to make their fortunes. This once quiet area suddenly became louder than anyone could have imagined, with steam engines and other types of machinery necessary to run the hundreds of wells that sprang up in the valley in the first couple of years. And the mud was fast becoming legendary. Horses were the main means of transporting machines and oil in these early days. As soon as a trail became too muddy to travel, the trail was simply widened. Soon, the width of the trails stretched from the stream to the foot of the hills, with the entire area having been transformed into mud. Horses, which were worked to beyond exhaustion, would often sink up to their bellies in the stuff.

The dangers of early oil

Due to the lack of geological knowledge of the rocks beneath which were actually producing the oil, wells were drilled almost at random in those first few years. Photographs show that derricks were built at extremely close proximity to one another in an attempt to get as much oil out of the ground as fast as one could. Frequent fires often raged out of control. In fact Drake's initial well only last a few months before it burned to the ground. A second well was erected shortly thereafter.

The birth of an industry

Still not convinced that the Oil Regions in Pennsylvania were important in the early days of oil? Consider this - Pennsylvania was responsible for 1/2 of the WORLD'S production of oil until the East Texas oil boom of 1901.

Now, me 'n Toby don't much care about the oil boom that started here....neither does my Mom. We just plain love it here cause we have room ta run and play.

But ya have ta wonder if what was started here so many years ago was a blessing or a curse considerin' what is goin' on taday, don't ya ????

Either way, we are in a place that is an important part of history......'n we love it...........

This is Dewey Dewster signin' off after reportin' on OIL.........


Girl Girl Hamster said...

Those are really interesting history. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

~ Girl girl

Molly the Airedale said...

You guys are sure smart! We never knew all that stuff before!

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

Abby said...

Hi, Dewey...

Wow...I didn't know oil drilling started in Pennsylvania...Very interesting...

Is it a blessing or a curse?...Good question...

Abby xxxooo

Toffee said...

oooh wow! How interesting and informative!!

Unknown said...

Very informative! Did you pick up some gallons at the gift shop?

The real inspiration for the Soup Nazi was Ali's Soup Kitchen International on West 55th Street in Midtown. Sadly, it closed in 2006.

We live downtown in the West Village. Sometimes just going north of 14th Street feels like visiting another city!

Your pal,


Koobuss said...

That was very interesting. My mom knew some of the stuff about oil, Edwin Drake, and Titusville, but not all those details. Thanks for sharing.

You guys are sure lucky to have such a nice place to play. No wonder you love it there. I would, too.

Love and Koobuss Kisses,

Oorvi said...

Hi Dewey,

Glad to see you back and posting:) The stuff about oil is interesting. I've asked Mercury to print it out for me so that I may ruminate upon it, at ease (both literally and figuratively:))

I was waiting for your return, so that I could thank you for the lovely poem! I am planning to add it to a post so that all my visitor's could read it and discover my wonderful poet friend. With your kind permission...of course!

BTW, I thought that the pink color in the playground was an easy clue to my being a girl:)

Do tell us about your other adventures too.

Licks and Wags,

Chef said...

That was a very interesting history lesson. Thanks! You are doggies with brains and we like that.


Eric said...

Well I never knew that Dewey, thanks for the lesson. Who would have believed that 1/2 the oil production at one time came from your neck of the woods. Tell me, do you three do a lot of digging in that area???? Might be worth your while....

And um while I'm here I have to ask... in the last photo . . . why have you all got some very strange neckwear on????

Wigging my wag at you. Eric x x

Clover said...

Hi Dewey!
Wow, you are a smart dog! Thanks for teaching us about that. I love learning about history, and my mom does too!
Love Clover xo

Scruffy, Lacie and Stanley's Place said...

Hey Dewey, handsome boy!!

We knew Titusville was famous for oil, but we had NO IDEA all of the rest of it! So why don't they run a pipeline right dahn here to the Burgh over to our neighborhood Sheetz so we can pay less than $4.00/gallon???? Fab idea, huh???

Wow...wonder if Texas hadn't found oil if we woulda been wearin' those big hats they wear out there???

You all get an A plus on that report!!! We learned a lot today!!

Let us know when ya want to go swimmin'? Lacie has to get her rabies shot...she's due...ya have to have all ur vacines up to date, kay???

Barkin' at ya!


Oorvi said...

Hi Dewey,

The clock is looking good:) Mercury creates the clocks, but look at it this way - If I hadn't stumbled into her life, she wouldn't be making those Oodgets at all! So, I am the one who's making all this happen:)

Licks and Wags,

Jackson's J1 and J2 said...

Hey pals, thanks for the little history lesson. I might add an honorary title to my name too, like Edwin Drake. Howsabout General Jackson? Oh, J1 tells me that it's already been taken. Maybe I should be Colonel Jackson instead.

Rudy said...

Hmmm... that first oil well building looks like it could hise a lot of rats! Let's you all and I go check it out sometime, OK?

Mom says the reason I was so bad at last weekend's agility trials is that I was still wired from doing Master Earthdog the weekend before. She's threatening not to let me do anymore Earthdog. She so mean!!!!!


NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! said...

Great history lesson!

My doggy nanny's previous next door neighbor's daughter and SIL had lived THERE for a bit!!

Thanks furry much fur visting - woo are a great looking bunch of khanines - fur non-Sibes that is!!!

Khome on Bakhk again!!!!

Hugs&Khysses from Central PA,

Asta said...

I sowt of don't cawe that much about oil eithew..,but it suwe was intewesting, to leawn all thatstuff..but I think I would love the lots of woom to play pawt the bestest..I loooved wunning awound in New Hamstew..boy awe you lucky to do it all the time
smoochie kisses

COL. Sam ASTA-fari Joe H. Pinkerton Peabody, Esq said...

That was quite the report, Dewey. You really did your research. Maybe you should be awarded with a Pawlister award for superior writing!

We had NO idea.

JB's Big and Small Worlds said...

I think you are a very good reporter. Oil is very important to all of us now. I like the photos of Parker too in your next post.