In our continuing quest to visit undervalued sites, we swung through Titusville, PA to see the one—and, indeed, the only—Drake Well, the world’s first oil well. Sure, native Americans had been collecting oil from oil seeps for thousands of years before the Drake Well, but this was the first time that oil was collected by means of digging a well and attempting to pump the oil out of the ground. People already recognized the value of oil if only it could be collected in large amounts but Drake was the one the hit upon a process. While petroleum and its myriad of refined products may not be considered an environmentally friendly energy source today, at the time it was discovered, it was the answer to the dwindling number of whales, who were being hunted to make lamp oil and other products. Thus, my hat goes off to Drake and his whale saving enterprise.
On the other end of the spectrum is a town named Pithole, which has neither much in the way of pits nor holes to mark its passing. This tree studded hill top experienced a dizzying boom and bust bust cycle: from farm land to a population of 20,000 followed by relative abandonment in a period of less than two years. Speculators had discovered oil and the only thing to rival the rise of a town around oil speculation is its subsequent decline as limited equipment, water, and transportation along with an abundance of destructive fires and alternative drilling sites spurred oil men to find greener pastures. Yet, while the museum boasts some archeological evidence of the town as well as a scale model of its hayday, walking around the former oil hub leaves everything to the imagination.