(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 was drilled near Titusville, Pennsylvania.
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.