Burning Oil Well at Night, near Rouseville, Pennsylvania

Media - 1977.50 - SAAM-1977.50_1 - 4990
Copied James Hamilton, Burning Oil Well at Night, near Rouseville, Pennsylvania, ca. 1861, oil on paperboard, 2216 18 in. (55.940.9 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1977.50
Free to use

Artwork Details

Burning Oil Well at Night, near Rouseville, Pennsylvania
ca. 1861
Not on view
2216 18 in. (55.940.9 cm)
Credit Line
Museum purchase
Mediums Description
oil on paperboard
  • Figure group
  • Landscape — celestial — moon
  • Landscape — time — night
  • Disaster — fire
  • Landscape — Pennsylvania — Rouseville
Object Number

Artwork Description

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.