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Burning Oil Well at Night, near Rouseville, Pennsylvania

ca. 1861 James Hamilton Born: Entrien, Ireland 1819 Died: San Francisco, California 1878 oil on paperboard 22 x 16 1/8 in. (55.9 x 40.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase 1977.50 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing


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Rouseville, Pennsylvania, lay within a few miles of Titusville and Pithole City, two of the most famous boomtowns in Pennsylvania ’s oil fields. From 1859 until after the Civil War, new gushers brought investors, cardsharps, saloons, and speculators into these rural settlements. As quickly as they grew, however, the towns collapsed, often from the effects of fires like the one shown here. In the 1860s, American industrialist John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) was in the thick of this oil boom, maneuvering to establish the Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller’s investments in railroads and refineries would make him one of America’s richest men, long after the wildcatters in the Pennsylvania fields had gone bust.

Keywords

Disaster - fire

Figure(s) in exterior - industry

Landscape - celestial - moon

Landscape - Pennsylvania - Rouseville

Landscape - time - night

painting

paint - oil

paperboard

About James Hamilton

Born: Entrien, Ireland 1819 Died: San Francisco, California 1878

More works in the collection by
James Hamilton