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*Includes Rockefeller's quotes about Standard Oil
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents
“The secret to success is to do the common things uncommonly well.” – John D. Rockefeller
The discovery of rich dark pools of oil residing in the pockets beneath humanity's feet remains one of the most pivotal revelations in all of history. Crude oil, a type of fossil fuel, is found swimming near the surface in tar sands and in the cracks of sedimentary rocks. These underground jackpots are used to create petroleum products across the globe, from gasoline and different fuels to heating oils, lubricating oils, and asphalt. For centuries, humans have been combing the lands in search of the lucrative resource; after all, there is a reason they call it “black gold.”
Historical records show that humanity has known the importance of oil since the beginning of time. Traces of natural bitumen (a crucial component of asphalt) were found on 40,000-year-old stone tools unearthed in Syrian Neanderthal sites. According to Greek historian, Herodotus, asphalt taken from ancient oil pits and river banks near Ardericca were utilized in the construction of the Babylon towers. Meanwhile, across the globe, bitumen was used as an embalming substance for Egyptian mummies.
The earliest oil drilled oil wells were found in the Sichuan Province of China in 347 CE. These primitive wells ran up to 800-ft deep, and were dug up by a manual rig still used in rural areas today. The apparatus was made of sturdy pipe bamboo and a sharp iron drill attached to it. A group of 2 or more men operated the machine. Some stood on the wooden lever, which activated the pulley system. The machine hoisted the drill stem off the ground and back into the ground repeatedly, slowly breaking through the earth. 10th century hand-dug wells were also stumbled upon in Oman, Yemen, Sicily, and surrounding territories.
Oil exploration eventually made its way to North America in the 17th century. Natural oil seeps found in New York attracted the attention of many beyond the seas, including a Franciscan missionary, Father Joseph De La Roche d'Aillon. Over a century later, Peter Kalm charted a map of the Pennsylvania oil seeps in 1753. Curious German missionaries recounted the oil wells prevalent in North America, which led to a boost in international trade.
In 1790, a man named Nathaniel Carey became one of the first to use the process of “oil skimming,” which is to extract oil floating on the surface of water. Carey capitalized on the skimmed oil from the seeps in Titusville, Pennsylvania, gathering the oil in small barrels and hopping on his horse to make the deliveries. The oil seeps in Titusville were later dubbed “Oil Creek.”
As the United States entered the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the thirst for oil was at its peak. In 1859, a man named Edwin Drake made history when he erected the first drilled oil well in the United States. His steam-powered rig bore a 69-ft hole in the ground, boasting production of 25 barrels a day. By the next year, 40 kerosene plants had cropped up across the nation. That year, plants in the United States saw production of 500,000 barrels. The next year, that number had skyrocketed to 2.1 million.
The oil boom revitalized the nation's people. Everyone wanted to dip their toes in the pools of black gold. It would not be long before a young man by the name of John D. Rockefeller got wind of the news, and like many others, he was intrigued. With the help of his brother and 2 other partners, Rockefeller created the legendary, and perhaps infamous, Standard Oil Company. Little did anyone know, this very corporation would soon hold the reins of the industry.
Standard Oil Company: The History and Legacy of America’s Most Famous Monopoly examines the history of Rockefeller’s infamous company.
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