On August 27, 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake struck oil with the first oil well. Max Schulz notes:
By the summer of 1859, people had already begun to realize that “rock oil,” as it was known, could serve two very useful purposes. One, it could be refined to provide kerosene, an illuminant that might light up homes and businesses. Up to that time people used wicks dipped in fat, or dirty “town gas” produced from coal, or the oil extracted from the heads of sperm whales. But the global supply of whales was dwindling, and the price of sperm oil was increasing, so Drake’s discovery was welcome news in helping bring people’s lives into the modern era.