November 8, 1880 – Death of Edwin L. Drake, Father of U.S. Petroleum Industry

Edwin Laurentine Drake, the former railroad conductor who drilled America’s first commercial oil well, died in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at the age of 61. Drake drilled just three wells – but his first – which produced oil  on August 27, 1859 – launched the U.S. petroleum industry.

Although his discovery brought prosperity to many, by 1863 Drake had lost all his money in speculative ventures. A decade later he was so ill and destitute the Pennsylvania legislature voted him a $1,500 pension in recognition of his historic contribution.

After America’s first independent oil producer died in 1880 in relative obscurity, Standard Oil executive Henry Rogers anonymously commissioned a monument for Drake (Rogers also was the financial savior of Mark Twain). Drake was re-interred in 1902 in Woodlawn Cemetery at Titusville. It was long overdue recognition in the valley where he launched the U.S. oil industry.

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