When was oil first used as fuel?
Crude oil is called petroleum. The rocks in which petroleum is found lie deep underground. The oil is reached by drilling below the earth's surface.
In some places, petroleum seeps to the surface of the ground through cracks. These seepages, or oil springs, were easy for men to locate. And this crude oil from surface seepages was known to most ancient peoples. Some oil was burned in lamps and torches.
The real history of oil began in the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution brought a need for better lamp fuels to light the new factories. In the United States, oil lay close to the surface in many regions and it was often used as medicine.
The first man who thought of drilling for oil was a New York lawyer named George Bissell. He sent a sample of Pennsylvania crude oil to a scientist at Yale University, Benjamin Silliman. Silliman reported that petroleum yielded many useful products: lamp oils, lubricating oils, illuminating gas, paraffin wax for candles, and others. Silliman's report convinced businessmen that there was money to be made in oil.
Bissell hired a man named Edwin Drake to drill for oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania. On August 27, 1859, they struck oil. The news spread quickly. Men rushed to buy or lease land where oil might be found, and the oil rush was on. Oil fever spread to other parts of the United States, to Canada, and to Europe. New uses for petroleum products were found, including its use as fuel, and the demand for oil increased. Today, the search for new oil fields is still going on all over the world.