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William R. Brice, Ph.D.

Earth and Oil Historian

  • "Toward the end of his life, Edwin Drake expressed concern that his role in history would be forgotten. His discovery along Oil Creek had ushered in a new industry…"

    Brent D. Glass, Ph.D., Director
    Smithsonian National Museum of American History
  • "Bill dug through the history related to Drake as no one has before, and the result is a much more complete picture of the man, his family, and his accomplishments."

    Kathy J. Flaherty, Esq.
    Geologist and Editor, Oilfield Journal
  • "This book is a well-written account of Edwin L. Drake and his times – and the history and significance of his 1859 discovery. Bill Brice provides the careful research needed to sort out the nonsense and brilliance of the man who established the American petroleum industry"

    Bruce Wells, Executive Director
    American Oil & Gas Historical Society
  • "This very readable and well-documented book will, without a doubt, instantly become the definitive source for those curious about the many facets of Drake’s life and his interactions among the early oil pioneers."

    Marilyn Black, Administrator
    Oil Region National Heritage Area

Myth, Legend, Reality - Edwin L. Drake and the Early Oil Industry
by William R. Brice

August 27, 1859, is one of those dates on which the world changed. On that day a drill bit broke into a thin sandstone layer sixty-nine and a half feet below the surface and a mixture of oil and water rose to the surface. Edwin Drake's quest to find oil by drilling was a success, and the modern oil and gas industry took a giant leap forward. Even though the use of petroleum dates back to the first human civilizations, the events of that Saturday afternoon along the banks of Oil Creek near Titusville, Pennsylvania, provided the spark that propelled the petroleum industry toward the future.

Today petroleum and natural gas, and the multitude of products derived from them, touch our lives everyday in more ways than we can imagine, but practically everything that we buy, touch, or consume is in some way connected to petroleum. The most obvious contribution of petroleum has been the revolution in transportation, a revolution that has brought our world, for better or worse, so much closer together than ever before in human history.

This well illustrated book tells the story of the early exploitation of petroleum and the lives of some of the men who were midwives at the birth of the modern oil industry. Prominent among them is Edwin Drake, who, to use a 21st century business term, was the project manager on the first successful attempt to find oil by drilling a well. It was Drake's personality, perseverance, and good old Yankee ingenuity, that kept the project alive in the face of public derision, failing finances, and even abandonment by the very company that sent him into the wilds of western Pennsylvania.

Woven in with the story of the early petroleum industry is the life of Edwin Drake, the man whose name is forever linked to the well that started the modern industry. As this volume clearly demonstrates, Edwin L. Drake's legacy is around us every day and we continue to remember the man, his family, and the sacrifices they made without realizing that they were creating a future that is ours today, 150 years later.

  • William R. Brice, Ph.D.
  • William R. Brice, Ph.D.
  • William R. Brice, Ph.D.
  • William R. Brice, Ph.D.

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