Know Your History: The Largest Oil Producing Region in America

No, I’m not talking about Texas.


What, you say?

Did you ever wonder why there is “Quaker State Oil”? How about Pennzoil? Or Penn Oil? Or Oil City, Pennsylvania? Or Petronia, PA. Or even the humble village where I grew up – Great Belt, PA?

You may not realize it, but western Pennsylvania was, at one time, the largest oil producing region in the world.

It all started in 1859 with Drake’s Oil Well, which you can still visit today:

The successful extraction of oil by Drake was the beginning of the modern oil industry as we know it. Oil was refined into Kerosene which was highly sought after for burning lamps. The by-product of the refining process was a substance known as gasoline which was, if you can believe it, thrown away because there was no uses for it at the time.

Oil wells popped up all throughout western PA, even my hometown which some surveyors thought would be a “Great Belt” of oil. Alas, it was not to be. But our humble country village did several working oil wells when I was a kid.

Western PA was soon surpassed in oil production as the black gold was discovered throughout the country, especially in places like Texas. With the advent of the gas-powered engine, the waste product of petroleum – gasoline – suddenly took on a new significance, leading to greater discoveries of oil both at home and abroad.

But it doesn’t change the fact that the modern oil industry started humbly in my back yard. And that’s a fact of history.


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