November 1, 1865 – First Railroad Oil Tank Car arrives –  

The first of James and Amos Densmore’s innovative railroad oil tank cars arrived at the Miller Farm, four miles south of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The inventors would be awarded a U.S. patent on April 10, 1866, for their dual tank design.

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Amos and James Densmore designed the earliest practical railroad oil tank cars. Photo courtesy Drake Well Museum.

The crude oil for the iron-banded wooden tanks on a flatcar was delivered by Samuel Van Syckle’s two-inch iron pipeline (another oil industry first) from the oilfield boom town at Pithole Creek. Oil from large storage tanks on the farm filled the Densmore tanks for the Oil Creek Railroad, which connected to lines reaching Pittsburgh, New York City, and other markets.

Learn more in Densmore Brothers Oil Tank Car.

November 2, 1902 – First Gas-Powered Locomobile delivered 

Known for building luxury steam-powered automobiles, the Locomobile Company of America delivered its first gasoline-powered “Locomobile” to a buyer in New York City. The company had hired Andrew Riker, a self-taught engineer and racecar driver, to create the four-cylinder, 12-horsepower vehicle, which sold for $4,000.

1906 Locomobile "Old 16" gasoline-powered racing car.

Gasoline engine of Locomobile “Old 16” racing car on display in the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan.

In 1908, a Locomobile “Old 16,” a four-cylinder, 16-liter, two-seater, won America’s first international racing victory — the Vanderbilt Cup at the Long Island Motor Parkway, one of the first paved parkways. The Locomobile Company would “reign supreme in the niche category of luxury American cars for decades,” according to Today in Connecticut History.

November 3, 1878 – Haymaker Natural Gas Well lights Pittsburgh

While drilling for oil in 1878, a well drilled by Michael and Obediah Haymaker erupted with natural gas from a depth of almost 1,400 feet. “Every piece of rigging went sky high, whirling around like so much paper caught in a gust of wind. But instead of oil, we had struck gas,” Michael Haymaker later recalled.

Eighteen miles east of Pittsburgh, the out-of-control well in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, produced an estimated 34 million cubic feet of natural gas daily. It was considered the largest natural gas well ever drilled up to that time.

Harper’s Weekly 1885 illustration of burning natural gas well tourist attration,

“A sight that can be seen in no other city in the world,” noted Harper’s Weekly in 1885.

Given oilfield technologies of the late 1880s, there was no way to cap the well and no pipeline to exploit commercial possibilities. The Haymaker well drew thousands of curious onlookers to a flaming torch that burned for 18 months and was visible miles away.

“Outlet of a natural gas well near Pittsburgh — a sight that can be seen in no other city in the world,” noted Harper’s Weekly. When finally brought under control, the Haymaker well provided inexpensive gas light to Pittsburgh for many years. Learn more in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh.

November 3, 1900 – New York City hosts First U.S. Auto Show

America’s first gathering of the latest automotive technologies attracted thousands to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Manufacturers presented 160 different vehicles and conducted driving and maneuverability demonstrations on a 20-foot-wide wooden track that encircled the exhibits.

First U.S. auto ad, the Winton Motor Carriage of 1898.

The Winton Motor Carriage of 1898 was the first American automobile advertisement.

Almost 50,000 visitors paid 50 cents each to witness autos driving up a 200-foot ramp to test hill-climbing power. The most popular models proved to be electric, steam, and gasoline…in that order. New Yorkers welcomed the new models as a way to reduce the 450,000 tons of manure and 15,000 horse carcasses that had to be removed from city streets every year.

Of the 4,200 automobiles sold in 1900, less than a thousand were powered by gasoline. But within five years, consumer preference established the dominance of gasoline-powered autos. Learn more in Cantankerous Combustion — 1st U.S. Auto Show and First Gas Pump and Service Station.

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November 6, 1860 – First Multi-Still Oil Refinery started in Pennsylvania

As the Civil War neared, construction began on America’s first multiple-still oil refinery one mile south of Titusville, Pennsylvania. William Barnsdall, who drilled America’s second commercial oil well, would build six stills for refining kerosene. His $15,000 oil refinery used equipment purchased in Pittsburgh and shipped up the Allegheny River to Oil City, then up Oil Creek to the site near oilfields.

With construction finished in January 1861, the refinery produced two grades of kerosene for lamps — white and the less expensive yellow. Each barrel of oil yielded about 20 gallons of the kerosene.

November 7, 1965 – Jet Fuel powers New Speed Record

Using high-octane jet fuel, Ohio drag racer Art Arfons set the land-speed record at 576.553 miles per hour at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. His home-made Green Monster is powered by JP-4 fuel (a 50-50 kerosene-gasoline blend) in an afterburner-equipped F-104 Starfighter jet engine.

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A kerosene-gasoline blend powered the Green Monster’s F-104 jet engine.

Between 1964 and 1965, referred to as “The Bonneville Jet Wars,” Arfons set the world record three times. Another American racer, the Blue Flame — powered by liquefied natural gas — set a new speed record of 633 mph in October 1970. See The Blue Flame –– Natural Gas Rocket Car.

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Recommended Reading:  Around Titusville, Pa., Images of America (2004); Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank (2008);  The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia (2005); A History of the New York International Auto Show: 1900-2000 (2000). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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