A Photographic Journey Through Two Early Ohio Oil Booms
Jeff A. Spencer 675 Piney Creek Rd. Bellville, TX. 77418
Photographs and postcards have helped to illustrate the history, geography, and industrial growth of the United States. This is evident in their depiction of the early “boom days” of the oil industry. Two of Ohio’s oil booms, the oil boom of northwest Ohio and the Bremen-New Straitsville boom of south-central Ohio, are well-represented by photographs and postcards of oil derricks, oilfield fires, storage tanks, and refineries.
The first giant oil field in the United States was discovered in northwestern Ohio near the city of Lima in 1885, a year after natural gas was discovered near the town of Findlay. The discovery of the Lima-Indiana oil field set off the “oil boom of northwest Ohio”, a period of land speculation and rapid oil field development that lasted over 20 years. The field propelled Ohio into the leading oil-producing state from 1895-1903. As the field was extended to the south, the nation’s first “over water” wells were drilled in Grand Lake St. Marys, then the largest man-made lake in the world. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Cleveland, soon to monopolize the oil refining industry, built storage tanks, pipelines, and a refinery near Lima. The Ohio Oil Company, now Marathon Oil, was organized in the state in 1887 and still maintains an office in Findlay.
South-central Ohio’s Bremen oil field was discovered in 1907 in Fairfield County, which led to the discovery of the New Straitsville oil field in adjoining Perry County two years later. The villages of Bremen and New Straitsville saw the oil fields extended to town lots. Wells were often so close together that a person could jump from one derrick floor to another. The Bremen-New Straitsville oil boom lasted until the early 1920s and was the last significant Ohio oil boom in the early 1900s.