When a young chemist distills paraffin from Pennsylvania oil fields into petroleum jelly – Vaseline – its leads to a new mascara and the Maybelline Company.
Few associate 1860s oil wells with women’s smiling faces, but they are fashionably related.
This is the story of how the goop that accumulated around the sucker rods of America’s earliest oil wells made its way to the eyelashes of American women.
In 1865, a 22-year-old chemist left the prolific oil fields of Titusville, Pennsylvania, to return to his Brooklyn laboratory and experiment with a waxy substance that clogged oil field well heads.
Within a few years Robert Augustus Chesebrough would patent a method that turned the paraffin-like goop into a balm he called “petroleum jelly.”
On June 4, 1872, Chesebrough patented “a new and useful product from petroleum,” which he names “Vaseline.”
Even before America’s first commercial oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, Chesebrough was in the “coal oil” business in Brooklyn, New York. His expertise was in the reduction of cannel coal into kerosene – an illuminant in high demand among consumers.
Chesebrough knew of the process for refining oil into kerosene, so when Edwin L. Drake’s August 27, 1859, discovery launched the American petroleum industry, he was one of many who rushed to the Titusville oil fields to make his fortune. Read the rest of this entry »