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When a young chemist distills paraffin from Pennsylvania oil fields into petroleum jelly – Vaseline – its leads to a new mascara and the Maybelline Company.

vaseline

New York chemist Robert Chesebrough will find a way to purify the waxy paraffin-like substance that clogged oil wells in early Pennsylvania petroleum fields.

vaseline

Robert Chesebrough consumed a spoonful of Vaseline each day and lived to be 96. Photo courtesy the Drake Well Museum, Titusville, Pennsylvania.

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 »

 

Powered by natural gas, the Blue Flame set a world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1970. The American Gas Association sponsored the rocket car.

Because driver now seek environmentally friendly but low-cost transportation fuels, today’s abundance of natural gas promises innovation. City buses, taxis and interstate trucks now burn it. But before these new clean-energy transporters, a speedy blue rocket car blazed the trail.

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The Blue Flame makes a spectacular debut at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on October 23, 1970. The natural gas powered rocket car sets a new world land speed record of 630.388 mph.

Today there reportedly are more than 120,000 vehicles on U.S. roads powered by natural gas. Experts say engine design advances promise greater natural gas use for transportation. Historic pursuit of the world land speed record is the heritage of this “fuel of the future.”

blue flame

The 38-foot Blue Flame’s natural gas-powered rocket motor could produce up to 58,000 horsepower.

Throughout the 20th century, land speed records were set with vehicles powered by steam, electricity, and all manner of petroleum distillates. National pride was often at stake as British, American, French, Belgian, German, and Italian teams fielded competing machines.

The first record was set by a Frenchman in 1898. Count Gaston De Chasseloup-Laubat, driving an electric-powered car, achieved 39.24 mph. Read the rest of this entry »