Información en Español
Home Explore About Pittsburgh Pioneered in Pittsburgh First Commercially Successful Oil Well

First Commercially Successful Oil Well

Edwin Drake, Venango County, 1859

The modern oil industry was born near Titusville, Venango County, when Edwin Drake drilled the world's first commercially successful oil well in August 1859.

A former railroad conductor, Drake was hired by speculators to search for what was then known as “rock oil” which appeared naturally in fields and ditches in western Pennsylvania   Drake tried the usual method, digging trenches -- and failed. His intuition told him he should drill into the ground like salt miners did. From July 1858 to May 1859, he struggled to find a borer to do the work, spending his own money when his backers gave up. Through a long, cold winter, the merchants of Titusville extended credit to him while some began to call him “Crazy Drake.”  

Drake hit upon the idea of inserting piping into the boreholes, preventing the soil from collapsing around the hole or filling with groundwater. He drove a 32-foot iron pipe through the ground into the bedrock below, and 70 feet down he struck black gold.   Never a shrewd businessman, however, Drake failed to patent his invention, and would have died penniless had the state not provided him with an annuity.

--Source: PBS/WGBH Who Built America

Meet the Neighbors

Christi Saunders
Mascaro Construction

“You can pay off your student loans and still be able to do fun things."

First Commercially Successful Oil Well
202 Museum Lane
Titusville, PA 16354
Tags: history,  energy Home