Focus on OIl

LIKE STONE, BRONZE, AND OTHER fundamental materials that defined the ancient ages of human industry, oil defines these times. No other raw material has such a reach into our technologies and the products that we consume. How this came to be should be the story of our age, told and retold like myth. The places of oil production, conveyance, storage, and processing are the physical landmarks of the petroleum age. Understanding how this system works, on a national level, creates a picture of who we are as a people.


150 years ago, Edwin L. Drake was in Pennsylvania, hammering a hole into the ground, hoping to find rock oil. He was using a steam powered cantilevered walking beam that lifted, then dropped, a steel bit, attached to the end of a rope, onto the rocky ground, over and over, slowly making a hole. Finally, on a Saturday in August, 1859, oil appeared in the 69-foot deep hole. The first successful commercial oil well had been completed.

If one considers this act as its origin, 2009 is the sesquicentennial of the oil industry. To acknowledge the importance of this industry to the creation of contemporary landscape and culture, the Center for Land Use Interpretation is presenting a number of regional exhibits about oil in the American land.