Various kinds of oil have been burned in lamps for thousands of years. Whale oil was once widely used for lighting, and so was kerosene, an oil produced from coal.
But the only petroleum available in earlier times was the small amounts that leaked naturally from the ground, or came from wells dug by hand.
Then in 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake, a retired railroad conductor, set up a drill near the town of Titusville, Pennsylvania. He struck oil after drilling down only about 70 feet. Soon, that well was pumping 20 barrels of petroleum a day.
The most productive oil wells in the United States were those at Spindletop, in Texas. One well at Spindletop produced 800,000 barrels of oil in just nine days. The oil field eventually yielded more than 140 million barrels!
The world’s largest oil field, in Saudi Arabia, covers more than 3,300 square miles!