GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 108-4
Presentation Time: 8:55 AM


BRICE, William R., Johnstown, PA 15904,

Prior to August 27, 1859, most maps of northwestern Pennsylvania were just a general overview of the towns, rivers, and roads, what roads there were then. But almost immediately after Edwin Drake and his driller, “Uncle Billy” Smith, discovered oil in their well on August 27, 1859, suddenly more detailed maps were necessary to keep track of who owned what tract of land and who had drilled what well and where the wells were located. The map scales changed so these details could be shown on reasonable sized reproductions. The name Charles C. Smith, a surveyor from Painesville, Ohio, is on several of the maps from the early 1860s which show detail information about the various wells and land ownership in the region, but little is known about him. The greatest of these, however, was published by Frederick W. Beers and Company in 1865. Frederick W. Beers (1839-1933) was a cartographer in New York City who specialized in large format atlases of regions mostly in the Northeastern United States. The Atlas of the Oil Region of Pennsylvania was based on surveys made in the region by several of his associates and the Atlas also included “Historical Facts,” “Scientific Facts,” “Commercial Facts,” as well as descriptions of the major oil producing wells in the area; making it more than just a collection of maps, but there are almost 40 pages of maps in the Atlas. The discovery of oil in Drake’s Well also prompted more detailed geological mapping of the surface and the seeking of knowledge of the subsurface. This work was led by John F. Carll (1828-1904), a geologist with the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, starting in the 1870s and 1880s. Thus the discovery of oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania, prompted the development of detailed maps that would not have been made if not for the commercial value of petroleum.