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He tried a steam engine but the soft sand in the stream continually collapsed around his shaft. With each grim report dispatched to Bissell's office in New Haven, Connecticut the investors clenched the purse strings a little tighter. But what Edwin Drake lacked in technical expertise he more than made up for in the quintessential American trait - stick-to-itiveness.
Drake overcame the obstacle of the collapsing oil seeps by driving an iron pipe down into the earth and drilling inside it - a technique that the modern petrochemical industry uses today. When he reached bedrock and still no oil was found Drake borrowed money from his friends to keep drilling when funds from Seneca Oil was slow to arrive. Finally, on August 27, 1859, at a depth of 69 feet, history's first oil well came in.<ref>American Chemical Society,
''The Development of the Pennsylvania Oil Industry, '' 2009.</ref>
The world had never seen anything like what happened next. Derricks sprouted along Oil Creek within days. The word "boomtown" was coined to describe the settlements that swelled to over 10,000 residents in weeks. Bissell sped towards Titusville and bought up every farm he could find for Seneca Oil. Within a year there were more than 75 wells producing oil in western Pennsylvania - enough crude to spark the construction of full-blown refineries.