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Tacony Oil Company collection, 1860-1896

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Finding aid prepared by Processed by Beth Eifler; machine-readable finding aid created by Beth Eifler


Tacony Oil Company collection




University of Kentucky Special Collections


Collection is in original order.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation Note

[Identification of item], Tacony Oil Company collection, 1860-1896, 2007MS082, Special Collections and Digital Programs, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington


0.25 Cubic feet


These materials relate to the Tacony Oil Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and its exploration for oil in Lawrence County, Kentucky and Burning Springs, West Virginia. The materials were previously arranged together as a scrapbook, but have been disassembled with the papers left in their original order. The collection is mostly comprised of correspondence, much of which has been transcribed, but there are also some legal, financial, and business papers.


In 1859, Burning Springs, West Virginia experienced an oil boom after the Rathbone family inadvertently struck oil while drilling for salt. The Tacony Oil Company of Frankford, Pennsylvania was among many companies to come to Burning Springs in search of oil. When they arrived there in April 1865, however, they discovered that much of what they had heard about oil discovery had been greatly exaggerated. One well, which had been reported in Philadelphia as producing 100 barrels a day, actually only produced an average of 3 barrels and had never produced more than 25 in one day. The company also explored the possibility of oil drilling in Louisa and Peach Orchard in Lawrence County, Kentucky, but met little success after drilling two wells. They eventually suspended operations in the region in January 1866.

Scope and Content

These materials relating to the Tacony Oil Company were previously arranged together as a scrapbook. The scrapbook has been disassembled with the papers left in their original order. The collection is mostly comprised of correspondence, much of which has been transcribed, but there are also some legal, financial, and business papers.

Most of the correspondence is addressed to or from Daniel Hallowell, secretary of the Tacony Oil Company. Many of the letters are from Hallowell's brother, J.T. (Jesse T. Hallowell), who was involved in the Oil Company's exploration of sites in West Virginia and Kentucky in order to determine where they might set up operations for oil excavation. Letters tell of the party's experiences traveling down the Ohio River and through West Virginia and Kentucky. Much of their time was spent in Parkersburg, West Virginia and Peach Orchard and Louisa, Kentucky.

The correspondence also discusses the exploratory party's progress in Lawrence County: determining if the land has any oil value; the depth and success of their drilling (or lack thereof); general living conditions; news of oil struck at Paintsville in Johnson County; the health and well-being of the men; tales of other oil companies successes and a questioning of their validity. Later reports describe the oil company's failure to strike oil, declining spirits among the men, and the eventual halting of work on Jan 15, 1866.

The letters contain many references to the Civil War, including a report of "bells and whistles" sounding throughout Pittsburgh at the news of Richmond [Va.] being captured (letter dated April 5, 1865). There are also references to traveling through "rebel country" and seeing Confederate soldiers come down the Ohio river for the purpose of giving up and swearing an oath of allegiance to the Union. Moreover, there are reports of speaking with Confederate soldiers, hearing tales of their battles, and obtaining Confederate money from them.

Also included is description of Lawrence County, which lies in the eastern Kentucky Appalachian Region, depicting harsh living conditions and calling the intelligence of its residents "limited." The letters describe seeing an abundance of blackberries, apples, peaches, game, and coal in the region; climbing up to the highest point and seeing nothing but tree tops for miles; and experiencing the "hottest kind of weather."


  • Frankford Oil Company.
  • Tacony Oil Company.
  • Tacony Oil, Mining, and Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, PA.
  • Burning Springs (W. Va.)--History.
  • Lawrence County (Ky.)--History.
  • Hallowell, Daniel.
  • Hallowell, J.T. (Jesse T.)
  • Quicksall, Harvey.
  • Quicksall, Jeremiah.
  • Parkersburg (W. Va.)
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Kentucky--History.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Correspondence.

User Restrictions

Copyright has not been assigned to the University of Kentucky.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Content Note:

Includes some financial and business related papers.

October 31, 1864 - June 20, 1865
[Box: 1, Folder: 1] browse
July 7 - June 27, 1865
[Box: 1, Folder: 2] browse
September 5, 1865 - March 16, 1896
[Box: 1, Folder: 3] browse
Scope and Content Note:

Included are expenditure reports for Tacony Oil, shares in the National Oil Refining Company of Philadelphia, Report of the Committee on Territory of the Florence Oil Company, and a sketch of the Property of the Lynn Camp Creek Oil Company, Wift and Wood Counties, West Virgina.

June 8, 1860 - December 21, 1866
[Box: 1, Folder: 4] browse