Tag Archives: mecca oil

Dawn of petroleum

I love old city directories — they have the coolest ads revealing the zeitgeist of the age. In this 1864 Cleveland directory, I snapped a photo of a page about the oil industry of Civil War days.
1864 Baker's Directory, Cleveland

Okay, first, Neat’s Foot Oil? Apparently, it comes from the bones of cattle, used to soften leather. (Wikipedia) While we grieve for the cow’s shin bones and feet, from which the oil is extracted, in fact for millenia, most oil was derived from animals. In the Morehouse and Meriam add it lists the following:
Sperm, seal, whale, elephant, and lard oils.

But topping the Morehouse and Meriam list in 1864 are the dawn of the new petroleum age, that is, Carbon and Mecca oils. Carbon oil was no doubt kerosene, refined from the newly discovered petroleum. But Mecca oil? That one leaves me mystified. Here’s one reference that might offer a clue. A write-up in this Oil and Gas Fields of Ohio Map by the DNR. It starts out by stating:

Ohio has a rich history of oil-and-gas production that began nearly 150 years ago. The first well drilled in the state for the specific purpose of producing petroleum was completed in Mecca Township of Trumbull County in late 1859, just a few months after Colonel Edwin Drake’s famous oil well was completed near Titusville, Pennsylvania. Within a few years, several hundred wells had been “dug” in and around Mecca. This new industry attracted thousands of tourists to Mecca as well as many prospectors hoping to strike it rich.