Colonel Edwin Laurentine Drake

Edwin Laurentine Drake (1819 - 1880). Born in Greenville, New York, Drake is considered the petroleum entrepreneur of the oil industry. A former railroad conductor, his success in hitting oil was based on his belief that drilling would be 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. This first oil well (pictured in the photo with Drake standing on the right) was drilled near Titusville, Pennsylvania. The well was drilled by Drake, a retired railroad conductor. 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. The world's first oil well was in operation. 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.