Just south of the attractive little town of Titusville, in northwestern Pennsylvania,

a state park extends for some 12 miles on either side of a clear stream much

frequented by fly fishers and, in high summer, by canoeists also. Traveling the cycle

and hiking trails of this beautiful and thickly wooded valley, which narrows and

steepens as the stream gets closer to its outfall in the Allegheny River, one could see

this as a landscape hardly touched by human hand. But the names in the valley tell

another story: the river is Oil Creek; it meets the Allegheny River at Oil City; and

the passenger halts on the railway line that hugs the riverbank are Petroleum

Center and Drake Well. For this is the birthplace of the U.S. oil industry and the

site of the first oil boom-indeed, of the first one or two, if we take into account

the busts caused by price collapses at intervals during the industry’s first decades,

the 1860s and 1870s.