Petroleum through the ages: a 5,000-year preview
Within nine months after Colonel E. L. Drake drilled the first successful oil well near Titusville, Pennsylvania, in early fall, 1859, men began calling the new-born American petroleum industry the wonder of the nineteenth century.1 Like all genuine wonders of the nineteenth century, the infant American industry was something new under the sun. Drawing on petroleum for their heat and power as well as light and lubrication, men in the twentieth century have with even greater reason regarded the petroleum industry as a unique phenomenon of the modern industrial age.
Though basically true, this modern conception of petroleum history requires qualification. The American petroleum industry was not the first, but the second petroleum industry ever to materialize. A span of five thou-