George Henry Bissell

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George Henry Bissell

Birthdate: (63)
Birthplace: Hanover, Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States
Death: November 19, 1884 (63)
New York, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Isaac Bissell, Jr. and Nancy Bissell
Husband of Ophelia Louise Bissell
Father of Pelham St. George Bissell and Florence Wemple Platt
Brother of Amelia Maria Bissell; Sarah Ann Sturtevant; George Bissell; Caroline Elizabeth Bissell; Amelia Maria Davis and 1 other

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About George Henry Bissell

George Henry Bissell (November 8, 1821 – November 19, 1884) is often considered the father of the American oil industry. He was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, the son of Isaac Bissell and Nancy Wemple.

In 1853 he observed by chance the primitive oil-gathering industry in western Pennsylvania, although his interest in what was then known as "rock oil" had been piqued by seeing samples while a student at Dartmouth College. At the time, oil was gathered by such crude methods as soaking blankets in surface oil and then draining the blankets over barrels. The oil was used mainly for medicinal purposes.

Bissell had the innovative idea of using this oil to produce kerosene, then in high demand. After getting confirmation of the usefulness of the product from Yale chemist Benjamin Silliman Jr., he and his partner, Jonathan Eveleth, formed the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company for this purpose. In 1856, after seeing pictures of derrick drilling for salt, Bissell conceived of the idea of drilling for oil, rather than mining it. This was widely considered ludicrous at the time but on August 27, 1859, the company first succeeded in striking oil, on a farm in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Bissell invested heavily in the surrounding region and ended up becoming a wealthy business man.

The company's agent, Edwin Drake, is sometimes credited with the "discovery" of oil.

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George Henry Bissell's Timeline

November 8, 1821
Hanover, Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States
Age 36
November 19, 1884
Age 63
New York, New York, United States