The first commercial oil well
Many extraordinary things had to happen in almost every field of human endeavor for a modern petroleum industry to be born. In many ways the most extraordinary thing of all was the demonstration of the existence of underground reservoirs of petroleum large enough to sustain an industry in raw materials.
The story of the first successful commercial oil well began in 1851 with a medical graduate of Dartmouth College, who abandoned his professional practice in Vermont to enter the lumber business in the isolated, tiny frontier village of Titusville. It was in these timbered foothills of northwestern Pennsylvania, on a Sunday afternoon eight years later, that E. L. Drake, a former railroad conductor, struck oil.
The intervening years were filled with many implausible events. The spark of life that arose in the venture and often kept only a flickering ex-