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On August 27, 1859, George Bissell and Edwin Drake pioneered the first successful use of a drilling rig on a well drilled especially to produce oil, at a site on Oil Creek near Titusville, P.A. The Drake partners were inspired by Benjamin Silliman, a chemistry professor at Yale, who tested a sample of the oil, and assured them that it could be distilled into useful products such as illuminating oil.

The Drake well is often referred to as the “first” commercial oil well, although it is alleged that wells were first established in other countries. However, before the Drake well, oil-producing wells in the United States were wells that were drilled for salt brine,and produced oil and gas only as accidental byproducts. Historians have noted that the importance of the Drake well was not in being the first well to produce oil, but in attracting the first great wave of investment in oil drilling, refining, and marketing: