On June 4th, 1892, a week of heavy rainfall leads to massive flooding around the site of the Drake Oil Well in Pennsylvania. The first commercially viable oil well in the United States, Drake’s had spawned boom towns nearby, though much was still unknown regarding the uses and dangers of petroleum. The flood overruns refineries, filling the streets of nearby Titusville with oily runoff that catches fire as the flooding intensifies. Tanks from the International Oil Works explode and flames from the expanding conflagration reach 500 feet in the air. One hundred and thirty-two people die.
Pennsylvania led the nation in the production of petroleum at that point, used in the late nineteenth century in lamps and various lubricants. It was a nice, quiet industry with a limited production that substituted well for whale oil. Nobody got obscenely wealthy and no one went broke. Heavy combustion engines ran on coal. But changes in technology, including the automobile, were right around the corner. Within ten years the Pennsylvania oil rush is over, and exploration moves on to Texas sized deposits elsewhere, magnifying the cycles of boom and bust. Such cycles still govern the oil patch today where prices remain economically sensitive and extremely volatile.
Don't wait for history to happen...