|Motto: “The Valley That Changed The World!”|
|Nickname: Birthplace of the Oil Industry|
To walk down the streets of Titusville, Pennsylvania (not to be confused with Titusville, Florida), you would hardly suspect the city was once the site of gold-feverish activity. That was back in 1859, after a way to extract oil from the ground economically was devised.
People knew oil was there, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. Lumber was the main economic engine at the time. Petroleum was known for its medicinal properties – good for burns, for example. Vaseline is a petroleum derivative.
The mid-nineteenth century was a fabulous time in the U.S., except for the Civil War, when almost all economic activity except that which fed the war machines on both, or should we say all, sides, since Europe took an interest in the U.S. war as well.
Before and after the war though – ah! that was an exciting time. Railroads and canals were springing forth, linking existing towns and used as the reason to found new towns. Agents for the big capitalists (J.P. Morgan, himself, and others) scoured Europe looking for immigrants to work in their factories and to settle the wide-open, empty spaces of the Mid-West.
Inventions abounded: sewing machines, steel mills, coal mines, oil wells, manufacturing and harvesting equipment… the list is nearly endless. The ferment was palpable. The Gold Rush of 1849 in California, and later, the Silver Boom in Nevada, added fuel to the economic fire.
And it all came together in Titusville at the beginning. Population peaked in 1880 at 9046, and has declined more or less steadily since then and now is estimated at 5419.
Edwin L. Drake invented the drilling method that started the boom, according to a brief biography of his life published by The Lampworks .
“In 1857, the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company was searching for an alternative to whale oil, which was becoming scarce and quite expensive. The company entertained the idea of digging for oil. Drake was sent to Pennsylvania in 1858 and got to work.”
Here is what it looked like in its heyday.
Many today would think it would remain an oil-polluted hell-hole, but is now quite lovely and well worth a visit.
Petroleum production pretty much ran out in a few decades, amid predictions of the death of the industry. But no. That was not to be. Our, and the world’s, appetite for energy has simply grown with its availability. And several thousand barrels a day of oil is still being pumped in Titusville.
What do we learn from this? That all dire predictions need to be taken with a grain of salt. or sand.