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Industrial Advances

First Oil Well
Society: ACSMain Category: ChemicalSub Category: Industrial AdvancesEra: 1850-1859DateCreated: 1859Drake Well MuseumTitusvilleState: PACountry: USAWebsite: Drake, Edwin

Long before Texas gushers and offshore drilling, and a century before oil wells dotted Arabian sands and rose out of Venezuelan waters, the center of petroleum production was western Pennsylvania. In the middle of the 19thcentury two developments occurred that guaranteed Pennsylvania’s dominance: The construction, in Pittsburgh, of the first still to refine crude oil into kerosene for use in lighting, and the drilling of the first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania.


Image Caption: A retouched photograph showing Edwin L. Drake, to the right, and the Drake Well in the background, in Titusville, Pennsylvania, where the first commercial well was drilled in 1859 to find oil
Charles Herty
Society: ACSMain Category: ChemicalSub Category: Industrial AdvancesEra: 1930sDateCreated: 1932Herty Advanced Materials Development CenterSavannahState: GACountry: USAWebsite: Herty, Charles Holmes

When Georgia chemist Charles Holmes Herty found a way to make quality paper from pine trees in 1932, he also founded an industry that brought much-needed jobs to the depression-crippled south. Paper producers had deemed the plentiful pine too gummy—until Herty's Savannah Pulp and Paper Laboratory wrote a new chapter in the ancient craft inspired by insects who built paper nests while dinosaurs roamed the earth. At its root, however, the papermaking process remained the same: the bonding of cellulose, a polymer whose long chains support plant cell walls.

Image Credit: Courtesy U.S. Library of Congress. Image Caption: Portrait of Charles Holmes Herty in 1925.
Society: ACSMain Category: ChemicalSub Category: Industrial AdvancesEra: 1980-1989DateCreated: 1984200 South Wilcox DriveKingsportState: TNZip: 37660Country: USAWebsite: Eastman Chemical Company

Chemicals from the Coal Facility of Eastman Chemical Company was the first in the United States to use coal rather than petroleum as a raw material in the commercial production of acetyl chemicals — important building blocks in the synthesis of a wide range of consumer products. The plant, located in Kingsport, Tennessee, began operation in 1983 after more than a decade of planning and construction, prompted by the oil embargoes of the 1970s.

Image Credit: Courtesy Eastman Chemical Company. Image Caption: Flow diagram for the chemicals from coal facility.
Herbert Dow in 1888 Photo courtesy of the Post Street Archives.
Society: ACSMain Category: ChemicalSub Category: Industrial AdvancesEra: 1900sDateCreated: 1891 Herbert H. Dow Historical MuseumMidlandState: MIZip: 48640Country: USAWebsite:, Herbert H. Dow

On January 4, 1891, Herbert H. Dow succeeded in producing bromine electrolytically from central Michigan’s rich brine resources. In the years that followed, this and other processes developed by Dow and the company he founded led to an increasing stream of chemicals from brines. The commercial success of these endeavors helped to promote the growth of the American chemical industry.


The plaque commemorating the event reads:

Image Credit: courtesy of the Post Street Archives.Image Caption: Herbert Dow in 1888
Commercial Process for Producing Calcium Carbide and Acetylene
Society: ACSMain Category: ChemicalSub Category: Industrial AdvancesEra: 1890-1899DateCreated: 1898Spray Cotton MillsEdenState: NCCountry: USAWebsite:, Willson, Thomas L.

In his search for a more economical way to make aluminum, Canadian inventor Thomas Leopold Willson accidentally discovered the first commercially viable process for making calcium carbide, which is used for production of acetylene gas, at a location in North Carolina. This chance discovery produced a series of products, from improved lighting in remote locations to the synthesis of a host of organic substances.

The plaque commemorating the event reads:

Image Caption: Photographed at the Den Hartogh Ford museum. Highest gas yield for carbide lamps. Sold by Union Carbide corporation, which was formed in 1898 to consolidate the interests of the Electrogas Company.
Discovery of Helium in Natural Gas
Society: ACSMain Category: ChemicalSub Category: Industrial AdvancesThe University of KansasLawrenceState: KSZip: 66045Country: USAWebsite:, Cady, Hamilton P., McFarland, David F.

Working in Bailey Hall on December 7, 1905, Hamilton P. Cady and David F. McFarland discovered significant amounts of helium in a natural gas sample from Dexter, Kansas. Cady and McFarland subsequently analyzed more than 40 other gas samples, showing that helium, previously thought to be rare on Earth but abundant in the Sun, was available in plentiful quantities from the Great Plains of the United States. Helium-filled blimps were vital to the United States in World War II, and helium is still considered a national strategic reserve material.


Image Credit: Courtesy ACSImage Caption: Hamilton P. Cady with the liquid air machine in Bailey Hall.
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