|Herman Haupt and the Great Oil Pipeline|
|You have heard of the Trans-Alaskan Oil Pipeline or perhaps even the Trans-Siberian Pipeline. Well, it was Herman Haupt who engineered the first oil pipeline to show oil could be transported this way over long distances at a fraction of the cost.
The demand for oil prior to the 1900's was primarily for kerosene lamp oil. It would be later, with the development of the automobile, that the refining would shift to gasoline.
Prior to the late 1870's, the method of transporting oil from the oil fields to the ship yards was by way of railroad tank cars. This was controlled by a powerful conglomerate of the railroads and Standard Oil called the Pennsylvania Transport Company. Standard Oil was controlled by none other than John D. Rockefeller. In the 1870's, 80% of the world's oil consumption was supplied by Pennsylvania.
In April 1876, Henry Harley of the Pennsylvania Transportation Company, with connections to Standard Oil, presented his idea of an oil pipeline over the Allegheny Mountains to his old chief in the Hoosac Tunnel General Herman Haupt. While many thought the idea ridiculous, trained civil engineers thought otherwise. General Benjamin Butler would handle the legal aspects and Haupt the engineering.
The original proposal was to go from the oil fields near Brady's Bend on the Allegheny River to Baltimore, MD a distance of 235 miles. Haupt set out to survey the path. Haupt envisioned the line ultimately to be 500 miles long and controlled by thirty or more tremendous pumps.
Though there were supporters of the idea, there were also its detractors among which was Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller. The opponents were fearful as to how it would impact their conglomerate - The Pennsylvania Transport Company - and their price fixing schemes. Rockefeller was successful at discrediting Haupt and the initial plans were thrown out.
The Tidewater Company formed as an independent oil company on November 13, 1878 in Titusville, PA. Tidewater employed Herman Haupt to follow through with the construction of the pipeline. It would consist of wrought iron pipe 6" in diameter. The pipeline would travel uphill 2,600 feet over the Allegheny Mountains as well as span 300 feet across the Allegheny River. Each section of pipe would be 17.5 feet long and transported individually on wagons into the rugged mountain terrain. The path would be from the oil fields near Coryville, PA to the terminal tanks at Williamsport, PA - a distance of 109 miles. This was a change from Haupt's original plan to Baltimore. At Williamsport, the oil would be transported by the Reading Railroad to New York and New Jersey. The Reading Iron Company shipped the first iron in January of 1879 and by May 28, 1879 the Tidewater Company began to pump their first oil. Standard Oil did all it could to block its progress.
Within two years, through secret stock investments made by Rockefeller, this pipeline and the Tidewater Company would be under the control of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil.
At the time, the pipeline ranked in its importance alongside other great engineering feats as the laying of the Atlantic Cable and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
This pipeline is still being used today - though it no longer transports oil. The pipeline was drained and cleaned and now the pipeline is used for fiber optic telephone communication lines.
|"The Miracle of 1879"|