About The Civil War

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION: The Home Front Map—Guide to Appalachia

By Louis Segesvary, Ph.D
Public Affairs Director • Appalachian Regional Commission
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Drake's Rock Oil

No one knew that oil could come from the ground until a bankrupt group of speculators hit pay dirt in northwestern Pennsylvania

By August 1859,   “Colonel” E. L. Drake and his small crew were disheartened. Few if any of the locals believed that oil—liquid called rock oil—could come out of the ground. In fact, they thought Drake was crazy. A small group of Connecticut investors had set Drake up in the small lumber town of Titusville in northwestern Pennsylvania to try this “lunatic” scheme. The work was slow, difficult, and continually dogged by disappointment and the specter of failure.Read more »

Running Out Of Oil

The problem is as old as the industry itself


Until hurricanes blew it off the front pages, the biggest economic story of the year was the rising price of oil. The media have been proclaiming gas prices to be the highest in history. In constant dollars, however, oil was more expensive as recently as 1980, when the price (in today’s money) reached almost $97 a barrel. Even Hurricane Katrina barely pushed the price above $70, and then only briefly.

Sitting On A Gusher

How gullible Edwin L. Drake, an ailing ex-railroad conductor, brought about America’s first and gaudiest oil boom

Perhaps the most bizarre of all the great mineral booms of the nineteenth century took place not in a remote western wilderness, but in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, within easy reach of such well-established centers of population as New York and Pittsburgh. In this case the sought-after prize was not gold or silver but an infinitely more valuable substance, petroleum.