Appropriately the first use of steam power in oil well drilling in America was by Edwin L. Drake in his famous 1859 well near Titusville. Drake and his driller, Billy Smith, installed a 6 HP Long John engine and a stationary boiler in what became the engine house of the Drake cable-tool drilling operation. The engine is thought to have been made by the Erie City Iron Works, Erie, Pennsylvania. It cost $500.00 at the factory according to an August 16, 1858, letter by Drake.
This working reproduction of the type of steam engine used by Col. Drake is present in the replica of the engine house on the grounds of the Drake Well Museum.
An early 4 HP portable model by A.N. Wood of Eaton, New York, was the first steam engine to be used in the Franklin, Pennsylvania, field, probably 1860. That field was discovered in late 1859, a few months after Drake's first well on Oil Creek.
In 1865, F.W. Beers et al published the Atlas of the Oil Region of Pennsylvania. The Atlas contains four illustrated advertisements of portable steam engines and boilers for oil drilling purposes. One of the brands sold by agents was the Wood & Mann make. They mounted their engine directly on top of the boiler, a style which had become customary. This make of portable boiler and engine was used considerably in the first decade of the Pennsylvania boom.
Advertised as a "celebrated" make, the firm of Wood & Mann was located in Utica, New York, and it was Enos D. Wood who was the partner with Mann. His brother, Allen Nelson Wood, made steam engines in his own right (the A.N. Wood make) at Eaton, NY.
The Wood & Mann steam engine apparatus made in Utica, New York, was among the first to be used in the Appalachian shallow oil region. Unfortunately the company did not have the foresight to recognize that heavier capacity machines would eventually be needed and thus lost their initial advantage. The combination engine and boiler would sit close to the rig and was said to be a fire hazard due to flying sparks. Nevertheless, Wood & Mann enjoyed early popularity and many other companies made a similar model.
From Beers 1865 Atlas of the Oil Region of Pennsylvania
This posed (and contrived) photograph was taken by John A. Mather in the Pennsylvania oilfields, probably in 1866. It was the year of a bust, a phenomenon that visits the industry from time to time. The price of crude dipped too low for profits in 1866 and forced some operators to sell or even abandon their equipment. This combination steam engine and boiler was made by Wood & Mann (compare to the illustrated advertisement of that make).
In the early 1860's A.N. Wood in Eaton took on two business partners, Loyal C. Taber (engineer) and Walter Morse (business manager). By 1863 the company of Wood, Taber and Morse was making and quickly selling portable steam engines of 3 to 20 HP for $350 to $1500 (according to the 1995 Bicentennial booklet of Eaton) and turned out about three per day at the peak. Some of these made their way to the oil regions.
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