Oil 150--It's Not Over Yet!

Many thanks to the staff at Drake Well for their contributions to this post.

What do you give an oil well for its 150th birthday? A gift card seemed too impersonal, so folks in Pennsylvania’s Oil Region planned a 17-month-long party of programs and events for the birth of the modern oil industry that began when Edwin Drake’s well struck oil outside Titusville on August 27, 1859.

OIL150 is the combined effort of businesses, government entities, museums, and tourist attractions to promote and coordinate a wide array of commemorative events and public programs that will culminate in December 2009.

Since Drake Well Museum is the place to go for all things oil on the PHMC’s Trails of History, museum staff and volunteers have worked closely with Oil 150 and supported regional efforts to make this series of celebrations a not-to-be-missed occasion. One of THE high spots was a day-long event at Drake Well on August 27 that featured music, demonstrations of geologic stuff related to oil-drilling, and a special edition of the explosively popular Nitro Show.

While focusing on the birth of the petroleum industry, museum staff didn’t overlook more recent times. Noting that the museum collection included examples of oil-company advertising, they set out to find the models who appeared in Pennzoil ads back in the 1960s, portraying Penny Pennzoil. With the help of good publicity and a resourceful newspaper reporter, they located Nancy DeCelle in Florida. DeCelle, one of several women who appeared in Pennzoil ads, traveled to Titusville for the anniversary festivities at Drake Well and rode in the Titusville Oil 150 parade.

While some of the celebratory hubbub has subsided, the anniversary and the attention it drew to the region will have a lasting legacy. WQED Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry and Tourism, produced a documentary on the history of oil, The Valley That Changed the World (available from Drake Well Museum Store online).

As winter settles in, Drake Well will begin an extensive, multi-year renovation of the museum building, creating more and better space for programs, collections storage, and the research library and installing an exciting new exhibit about the drop of oil and gas in your life every day. Stay tuned for the next episodes in the continuing story of the oil industry.


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