December 10, 1844 – “Coal Oil Johnny” adopted
The future “Coal Oil Johnny” is adopted as an infant by Culbertson and Sarah McClintock. John Steels is adopted along with his sister, Permelia, and brought home to the McClintock farm on the banks of Oil Creek in Venango County, Pennsylvania.
The petroleum boom prompted by Edwin Drake’s discovery 15 years later – America’s first commercial oil well – will lead to the widow McClintock making a fortune in royalties. She leaves the money to her only surviving child, Johnny, when she dies in a kitchen fire in 1864. At age 20, he inherits $24,500 – and $2,800 a day in royalties.
“Coal Oil Johnny” Steele will earn his name in 1865 after such a legendary year of extravagance that years later the New York Times will report: “In his day, Steele was the greatest spender the world had ever known…he threw away $3,000,000 in less than a year.”