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Publication Details

The Petroleum Centre daily record.

More information about this newspaper title may be available on the source website.

Source: Chronicling America [US Library of Congress]

Country: United States

State: Pennsylvania

City: Petroleum Center, Pa.

Issues of this title available in Elephind: 1,219

Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 4,914

Earliest Date: 2 January 1869

Latest Date: 17 November 1873

Description

The Petroleum Centre Daily Record

The world’s first commercially successful oil well struck black gold on August 27, 1859, in Titusville in Venango County. Within weeks, oil derricks and boom towns sprouted. Petroleum Centre, a company town of the Central Petroleum Company, was staked out in spring 1864 on Oil Creek between Titusville and Oil City. (Petroleum Centre is spelled as “Center” in some writings, obeying the 1891 edict of the United States Board on Geographical Names.)

Without government, public services, or law enforcement, “Vice in every form flourished and acts of violence were of frequent occurrence,” Herbert C. Bell wrote in his 1890 History of Venango County, Pennsylvania, Its Past and Present. He added that Petroleum Centre was not “without moral balance. When the objectionable elements went too far they were promptly attended to, by mob law.” Petroleum Centre supported a bank (the only brick building in town), three churches, an opera house, stores, many saloons and houses of ill repute, and one newspaper. William Howard Longwell started the Pithole Daily Record in September 1865 with partners Charles C. Wicker and Warren C. Plummer. Oil was found in January 1865 in what quickly became Pithole City. By September, the population was 15,000, plummeting by November when the wells failed.

Longwell moved his newspaper to Petroleum Centre in May 1868, renaming it the Petroleum Centre Daily Record, subtitled “continuation of the Pithole Daily Record,” with Plummer as editor. The four-page newspaper was published every evening except Sunday. Its contents reflected the town’s sole purpose of oil exploitation, focusing on business advertisements (boilers, engines, well tools), railroad schedules (oil was shipped mainly by rail), and petroleum market reports from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, London, Liverpool, and Antwerp. In October 1871, Longwell sold out to Wicker, who had accompanied the newspaper from Pithole City. Wicker promised readers that the paper would “be independent in all things and neutral in nothing – except petroleum which is king.” Wicker presided over the Record’s most exciting period: the episode that history books call “the Oil War of 1872.” The South (sometimes called Southern) Improvement Company (SIC) was formed in fall 1871 as an oil transportation monopoly benefiting the major eastern railroads and oil refiners controlled by John D. Rockefeller’s interests. The SIC’s plans were leaked, and by mid-February 1872 the Daily Record published enraged editorials about the “gigantic swindle” leading to mass meetings planning retaliation. In a meeting in late March between a local committee and railroad representatives, the latter backed down on the plan to raise railroad rates. The oil region had mobilized and triumphed.

Wicker’s editorial on November 12, 1873, titled “Hard Times,” noted that oil was selling for a dollar a barrel, and “The sooner the bottom is reached the better.” The bottom for the Daily Record was reached on November 17. Announcing the newspaper’s end, Wicker cited the “low and ruinous price of oil, and the moving of a large percentage of the population of this place.”

The site of Petroleum Centre, again grass and forest, is now part of the Oil Creek State Park.

Provided by: Penn State University Libraries; University Park, PA

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