The American Petroleum Industry: The Age of Illumination, 1859-1899

By Harold F. Williamson; Arnold R. Daum | Go to book overview

Preface

This book traces the story of American petroleum, from its inception as the medicinal by-product of salt well operations through the peak of its subsequent development as a source of illumination for a large portion of the world's population. It terminates with an account of the industry at the close of the nineteenth century, when signs of petroleum's future role as a major source of energy rather than illumination were already visible.

The domestic petroleum industry was an integral part of the impressive expansion of the American economy during the post Civil War decades. Its members shared with other business enterprises the impact of periodic booms and depressions and the long-run secular increases in population, physical production, and capital formation that were characteristic of this period of American history. Oilmen contributed to the changes during these years when the United States shifted from an agrarian to an industrial economy and from predominantly rural to urban patterns of living.

Although petroleum had much in common with other American industries that emerged in the latter nineteenth century, it soon developed un-

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