Finding aid prepared by Greg Seltzer
Old American Well records
University of Kentucky Special Collections
Collection is arranged by format.
Collection is open to researchers by appointment.
61m273: [identification of item], Old American Well records, 1829-1959, University of Kentucky Special Collections.
0.23 Cubic feet
The Old American Well records contain information pertaining to the first commercially operated oil well in the United States. The materials were gathered by Mrs. Curtis McGee as part of an effort to commemorate the discovery of the well.
The Old American Well, as it came to be called, was the first commercially operated oil well in the United States, predating the establishment of the oil industry by some thirty years. The oil, which was discovered in Burkesville, Kentucky in 1829, was not refined or used to produce energy. Rather, it was dispensed as a medicine, to be swallowed as a remedy for many human ailments, such as rheumatism, burns, diseases and sprains. It was also used as a medicine for horses. The well produced this "medicinal" oil until about the time of the Civil War. Then salt makers took over the operation of the well, as salt water was replacing oil as the well's primary output.
The Old American Well records contain information documenting the first commercially operated oil well in the United States. The materials were gathered by Mrs. Curtis McGee as part of an effort to commemorate the discovery of the well. There are letters concerning the centennial celebration in 1929 and the installation of a historical marker in 1934, magazine articles on the history of the well, and some photographs of the area, some of which include handwritten dates and information relating to the photograph. Also included are short articles about the well and about Kentucky's geology; these articles were written by Willard Rouse Jillson, a geologist and engineer.