About This Place
Oil City is a city in Venango County, Pennsylvania, United States that is noted especially in the instrumental exploration and development of the petroleum industry. After the first oil wells were drilled nearby in the 1850s, Oil City became central in the petroleum industry while hosting headquarters for the Pennzoil, Quaker State, and Wolf's Head motor oil companies. Tourism plays a prominent role in the region by promoting oil heritage sites, nature trails, and Victorian architecture. The population was 10,557 at the 2010 census.
In the early 17th century, the Seneca nation first settled in the region; by, the late 18th century Chief Cornplanter was given three tracts of land as a "gift" from the State of Pennsylvania. In 1818, local prospectors purchased the land and built a blast furnace, which closed in the early 1850s. As population in the area began to decline, Colonel Edwin L. Drake drilled the first commercially successful oil well on August 27, 1859, in nearby Titusville. A number of boomtowns came to life in the region, including Oil City, Titusville, Petroleum Center, Pithole, and Rynd Farm.
Barges were used to transport the oil down Oil Creek and into Oil City, where it was transported to steamboats or bulk barges to continue on to Pittsburgh and other locations. Oil City was founded in 1860, incorporated as a borough in 1868, and chartered as a city in 1874. The Borough of Oil City was incorporated as a city in 1871. The city was partially destroyed by flood in 1865 and by both flood and fire in 1866 and again in 1882; on this last occasion, several oil tanks that were struck by lightning gave way, and Oil Creek carried a mass of burning oil into the city, where some 60 lives were lost and property valued at more than $1 million was destroyed. Oil City grew into a thriving community through the later half of the 19th century and into the 20th century. By the 1990s, Pennzoil, Quaker State, and Wolf's Head had all relocated their headquarters elsewhere. However, some oil wells continue to produce a steady supply of quality petroleum.