The Drake Well Museum
is a museum
that interprets the birth of the oil industry
in 1859 by "Colonel" Edwin Drake
along the banks of Oil Creek
in Oilcreek Township
, Venango County
in the United States
. The museum collects and preserves related artifacts. Its Drake Oil Well
demonstrates the first practical use of salt drilling techniques for the extraction of petroleum through an oil well
. An historic site, the museum is located in Cherrytree Township
, south of Titusville, Pennsylvania
on Drake Well Road, situated between Pennsylvania Routes 8
Facilities and features
The site features the oil well drilled by "Colonel" Edwin Drake and working oil field equipment. The museum includes indoor and outdoor exhibits and houses a library of over 2,500 titles, over of manuscript material and a photographic collection with over 10,600 images. Programs include the Fall Gas-Up engine show, a spring Heritage Lecture Series, Heritage School Tours, Summer History Camps and the Nitroglycerine Show. Visitor services include orientation film, guided tours, a museum store and more.
Nearby attractions are Oil Creek State Park and the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad.
The State of Pennsylvania has alloted US$6 million for renovation of the museum in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the birth of the oil industry.
Drake Well Museum is administered by the Friends of Drake Well, Inc. and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
(PHMC). It was formerly a Pennsylvania state park
, but was transferred to the PHMC.
National historic landmark status
Since November 13 1966
, the museum has been listed as a National Historic Landmark
by the National Park Service
. The historic part of the property is less than , although the park is about 22 acres.
Development of oil drilling
Oil was known to exist in the Oil Creek Valley of northwestern Pennsylvania, but there was no practical way to extract it. Its main use to that time had been as a medicine for both animals and humans. In the late 1850s Seneca Oil Company
(formerly the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company
) sent its manager, Colonel Edwin L. Drake, to start drilling on a piece of leased land just south of Titusville, a slow-growing and peaceful community. Lumber
was the principal industry at the time, with at least 17 sawmills
in the area. Drake hired a salt well driller, William A. Smith, in the summer of 1859. After many difficulties, they finally drilled a commercially successful well on August 27
. Considered the birth of the oil industry, it was an event that changed the world.
Development of transportation
transported the oil to barges
, which were filled and sent down Oil Creek to Oil City on the Allegheny River
. There the oil was transferred to steamships and sent to Pittsburgh
. In 1862, transportation switched to rail with the completion of the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad
between Titusville and Corry
, where freight could be transferred to other, larger, east-west rail lines. In 1865, pipelines
were laid directly next to the rail line and the demand for teamsters practically ended. The next year the railroad line was extended south to Petroleum Centre
and Oil City. The Union City & Titusville Railroad
was built in 1865, which became part of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad
in 1871. That fall President Ulysses S. Grant
visited Titusville to view the booming oil industry.
Development of related business community
Other oil-related businesses quickly were built in the area. Eight refineries
were built between 1862 and 1868. Drilling tools were needed and several iron works were built. Titusville grew from 250 residents to 10,000 almost overnight and in 1866 it incorporated as a city
. The first oil millionaire
, a resident of Titusville, was Jonathan Watson who owned the land where Drake's well was drilled. The same land is now part of Oil Creek State Park
and the Drake Well Museum.
Fire was always a concern around oil and one of the worst fires was on June 11, 1880. What came to be known as "Black Friday" happened when almost of oil burned after an oil tank was hit by lightning
. The fire raged for three days until it finally was brought under control. Although the oil was valued at $2 million, there was no loss of life. Another fire occurred on June 5, 1892, when Oil Creek flooded and a tank of benzine
overturned. The benzine ignited and in the ensuing explosions 60 men, women, and children died. Another lightning strike in 1894 resulted in lost in a fire. Oil production peaked the late 1880s and has declined greatly since, although a few operating wells are still located in the park.