The Way It Was: George Bissell

By February 24, 2008Energy, The Way It Was

The%20Way%20It%20Was.jpgThere is something about the name Bissell that prevents people from getting credit for their contributions. There was a man named Israel Bissell who rode much farther than Paul Revere rode on that fateful night long ago, and warned more people about the British movement, but his name didn’t sound poetic.

Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of…Israel Bissell? Just didn’t work.

Not many years later there was another important man named George Bissell who founded the nation’s first petroleum company and financed the first substantial oil well.

Bissell actually started out life as a scholar. He came from humble beginnings but somehow worked his way through Dartmouth College, graduating in 1845. He went on to write for newspapers and later served as superintendent of public schools in New Orleans. He learned other languages and studied law and by 1853 was practicing law in New York City.

In those days, there was growing demand for lighting materials – mainly whale oil and candles. Bissell saw the potential in petroleum because it burned. He rounded up some investors and founded the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company.

He hit on the idea of using derricks to drill for oil, as was then being done to extract salt. It was Bissell’s group that funded the famous Drake Well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859.

So make a note of it. The real pioneer in oil was not named Rockefeller, he was named Bissell, George Bissell.

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