Skip to page content
+ Menu

Famous people

Drake (1819)

Edwin Laurentine Drake (1819)

image of Edwin Laurentine Drake

Source: Ohio Dept.of Natural Resources, Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Edwin Laurentine Drake was born in 1819 in Greenville, New York. Drake is considered the petroleum entrepreneur of the oil industry. A former railroad conductor, his success was based on his belief that drilling was the best way to obtain petroleum from the earth. He organized Seneca Oil Co., leased land, and on August 27, 1859, struck oil at a depth of 69 feet near Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Most historians trace the start of the oil industry on a large scale to this first venture. Drake used an old steam engine to power the drill. After his well began to produce oil, other prospectors drilled wells nearby. Oil created riches for many people and for many countries, but not for Drake. His poor business sense eventually impoverished him. In 1876, he was granted an annuity by the State of Pennsylvania, where he remained until his death in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

image of Drake's oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania

An industry which brought great riches to so many, finally honored him by bringing his body back to Titusville and interring it in a fine tomb replete with symbolic bronze sculpture. The oil industry honors its birthplace with a museum and memorial park at the site where Drake struck oil in his pioneer well.