Oil and Natural Gas History, Education Resources, Museum News, Exhibits and Events

 

America’s first auto show opened in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in November 1900. Gasoline proved to be the least popular source of engine power.

first auto show

In 1906, a “Stanley Steamer” (above) set the world land speed record at 127.7 m.p.h. – still officially recognized as the land speed record for a steam car.

first auto show

Gasoline engines will take time to catch on with consumers.

Charles Duryea claimed the first American patent for a gasoline automobile in 1895. One year later, Henry Ford sold his first “quadri-cycle,” creating the auto industry. Meanwhile, New York City public workers were removing 450,000 tons of horse manure from the streets every year.

Brothers Charles and Frank Duryea test drove their gasoline powered automobile – built in their Springfield, Massachusetts, workshop – on April 19, 1892.

Considered the first automobile regularly made for sale in the United States, a total of 13 of the model was manufactured by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. Other manufacturers quickly followed the Duryea example.

Although their company would last only three years, according to the Henry Ford Museum, “brothers Charles and Frank Duryea became the first Americans to attempt to build and sell automobiles at a profit.”

It was reported two months after the company’s first sale in 1896 that a New York City motorist driving a Duryea hit a bicyclist. This was recorded as the nation’s first automobile traffic accident.

A growing number of the new “infernal machines” soon shared unpaved U.S. roads with startled horses.

Of the 4,200 new automobiles sold in the United States at the turn of the century, gasoline powered less than 1,000. On November 3, 1900, America’s first national automobile show opened in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Read the rest of this entry »

 

As Pennsylvania petroleum production skyrocketed following the Civil War, Densmore oil tank cars – designed and fabricated by two inventive brothers – first successfully transported oil by rail from booming oilfields to refineries.

densmore oil tank car

Amos and James Densmore designed their first twin tanked railroad cars in 1865. Patented a year later and built by the thousands, their invention greatly improved bulk transportation of oil. Photo courtesy the Drake Well Museum.

densmore oil tank car

Although prone to leaks and top heavy, Densmore tank cars provided a vital service – but only briefly. A better railroad car replaced them.

Railroad oil tank cars became the latest of a growing number of oilfield innovations when two brothers received a U.S. patent on April 10, 1866.

James and Amos Densmore of Meadville, Pennsylvania, were granted the patent for their “Improved Car for Transporting Petroleum,” which they developed one year earlier in the booming oil region of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Using an Atlantic & Great Western Railroad flatcar, the brothers secured two tanks in order to ship oil in bulk. Patent no. 53,794 describes and illustrates the railroad car’s design.

The nature of our invention consists in combining two large, light tanks of iron or wood or other material with the platform of a common railway flat freight-car, making them practically part of the car, so as they carry the desired substance in bulk instead of in barrels, casks, or other vessels or packages, as is now universally done on railway cars.

The brothers described the use of special bolts at the top and bottom of the tanks to act as a braces and “to prevent any shock or jar to the tank from the swaying of the car while in motion.” 

An historical marker on U.S. 8 south of Titusville memorializes the Densmore brothers’ contribution to petroleum transportation technology.

The first functional railway oil tank car was invented and constructed in 1865 by James and Amos Densmore at nearby Miller Farm along Oil Creek. It consisted of two wooden tanks placed on a flat railway car; each tank held 40-45 barrels of crude oil.

 A successful test shipment was sent in September 1865 to New York City. By 1866, hundreds of tank cars were in use. The Densmore Tank Car revolutionized the bulk transportation of crude oil to market.

densmore oil tank car

Safer and stronger, riveted-iron horizontal tanks brought an end to Densmore oil tank cars.

According to an ExplorePAhistory.com article, the benefit of such cars to the oil industry was immense – it cost $170 less to ship eighty barrels of oil from Titusville to New York in a tank car than in individual barrels. But the Densmore cars had flaws.

They were unstable, top heavy, prone to leaks, and limited in capacity by the eight-foot width of the flatcar.

Within a year, oil haulers shifted from the Densmore vertical vats to larger, horizontal riveted iron cylindrical tanks, which also demonstrated greater structural integrity during derailments or collisions.

The same basic design for transporting petroleum is still used today as railroads have put  dozens of other products – from corn syrup to chemicals – in the versatile tank car.

densmore oil tank car

Riveted cylindrical iron tank cars replaced Densmore brothers’ wooden vat cars. Discarded Densmore tanks can be seen in the foreground. Photo courtesy Drake Well Museum.

From Oil to Typewiters

Although the Densmore brothers left the oil region by 1867 – their inventiveness was far from over.

densmore oil tank car

The Densmore brothers invent one of the first typewriters.

In 1875, Amos Densmore assisted Christopher L. Sholes to rearrange the “type writing machine” keyboard – so that commonly used letters no longer collided and got stuck. The “QWERTY” arrangement vastly improved Shole’s original 1868 invention.

Following his brother’s work with Sholes, inventor of the first practical typewriter, James Densmore’s oilfield financial success helped the brothers establish the Densmore Typewriter Company, which produced its first model in 1891.

The ExplorePAhistory.com article concludes:

“Biographies of the Densmores – and even their personal papers now residing at the Milwaukee Public Museum – all refer to their work on typewriters, but make no mention of their pioneering work in railroad tank car design.”

___________________________________________________________________________________

Help preserve petroleum history. Please support this website with a donation today. © 2016 AOGHS.