The American coal-oil industry
Coal-oil production, which began in America during the mid-1850's, had largely disappeared a half-dozen years later. Yet its influence on the history of American illumination was much more significant than its short life span would suggest. In adopting and modifying the techniques developed in connection with gas manufacture and lubricating oil production, coal-oil operators laid the essential basis for petroleum distillation and refining. No less important for the future petroleum industry were the commercial patterns developed during the coal-oil era.
Coal oil, derived from a mineral base, offered a significant new source for lamp illuminants, one that combined safety with the burning qualities of premium lard or sperm oils, yet could compete more effectively on a price basis with the highly dangerous camphene fluids. The marketing channels through which coal oil was distributed and lamps for its use developed and sold were a major part of petroleum's heritage.