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August 27, 1859 – The first successful oil well in the US is drilled

On this day in 1859 Edwin Drake discovered what would become the first successful oil well in the United States. Drake Well, located in Cherry Township, Pennsylvania, is 69.5 feet deep, initiated the first oil boom in the US. While there are other wells that discovered oil first, most famously one one dug for water in Ontario a year before the Drake Well, the Drake Well is was dug specifically for oil and led directly to massive investment in oil drilling, refining and marketing. Native Americans had been using petroleum from the area that seeped up through natural vents for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. Early American settlers were aware of the existence of the substance as early as the 17th century. But it wasn’t until 1848 when Samuel Kier realized it had illumination potential and refined the oil to make it suitable for burning in lamps. Drake drilled the nearly 70 foot hole at 3 feet per day. Drake hit the 69.5 foot mark on this day in 1859 but initially there was no promising sign of oil. He left and returned the next day to find the hole he drilled was full of oil. The well began producing 12 to 20 barrels of oil per day, but due to the resulting boom and the massive drop in the price of oil, his well was never profitable. Today a replica of the original well stands at the site, along with a replica steam pump that brought the oil to the surface. The site is now a museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. PicsEdwin Drake, right, in front of the wellReplica engine house and derrick that stands today

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