With the autumn chill beginning to nip at our heels, we left western New York and headed south to Pennsylvania. We passed farmland and fields preparing the fall harvest. We arrived in western Pennsylvania for a 4 night stay at Buckaloons Recreation Area in the Allegheny National Forest outside of Warren. The French were here in 1749.
On Tuesday we drove twenty miles north to Jamestown, New York right over the Pennsylvania border. I had been looking forward to this all summer because Jamestown is the birthplace of my favorite television personality of all time, Lucille Ball. For as far back in time as I can remember, I have loved Lucy! In Jamestown is Desilu Studios, a re-creation of the studio soundstage where “I Love Lucy” was filmed. In a separate building is the Lucy-Desi Museum detailing the lives and careers of Lucy (Lucille Désirée Ball) and Desi (Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, better known as Desi Arnaz).
First we went to the Desilu Studios where they had re-creations of the living room and kitchen sets from “I Love Lucy” as well as the Hollywood hotel suite from the show. Memorabilia and costumes from the show were on display, along with information on Fred and Ethel (William Frawley and Vivian Vance).
The Lucy-Desi Museum had eight galleries with displays, gowns and costumes, photographs and personal memorabilia for both Lucy and Ricky, including Lucy’s 1972 gold Mercedes-Benz and her grade-school piano.
For twenty five years the town of Jamestown has had a Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, giving new comedians a stage to showcase their talent. Famous comedians have traveled to Jamestown to support the festival with their performances, including Joan Rivers, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, the Smothers Brothers, Bob Newhart and more than 100 others.
While in Jamestown we also drove by Lucy’s birthplace,
Throughout the town are four Lucy murals.
On Wednesday we drove to Titusville, Pennsylvania to tour the Drake Well Museum. We were surprised to find another Titusville in the United States since we were familiar with Titusville, Florida. We discovered that Titusville, Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the American oil industry. In 1859 crude oil was found from the world’s first successful commercial well by Edwin L. Drake. Drake came to Titusville as an agent for the Seneca Oil Company. Oil naturally seeped along Oil Creek, but Drake and his driller, Uncle Billy Smith, adapted existing soft well technology and struck oil. This sweet crude oil (Pennsylvania Grade Crude Oil) is a type of petroleum with less than 0.42% sulfur. The Drake Well Museum has a comprehensive display of over 500 artifacts detailing the history of oil production in the United States. We watched a film called “The Valley That Changed the World” telling the story of oil discovery in Titusville.
On the museum grounds they had replicas of various buildings from the 1800’s as well as drilling rigs and derricks. In one building they had a full size replica of Edwin Drake’s engine house and derrick that encloses the famous well that struck oil in 1859. Also included were working reproductions of the wood-fired boiler and steam engine that Drake used to drill and pump oil. The museum guide turned on the engine to show us how it worked. We enjoyed talking with him about the history of Titusville. After Drake’s discovery of oil, people poured into the town to buy oil leases and work in the new businesses that sprang up. Churches, schools and banks were built and refineries grew throughout the region. Oil related machinery was designed and produced in Titusville.
Here is the how the steam-powered engine drilled then pumped the oil https://youtu.be/SlGsukrneLg
The town became known as “Queen City” because of its rich cultural opportunities including the first opera house in the area. Main Street was lined with beautiful mansions from money made by oil. Today those mansions still stand as evidence of the town’s past wealth, though the population and wealth has steadily declined over the years.
And this sign talked about how many men made money and then loss their money it also suggests that Lincoln may have lived.
The museum certainly exceeded our expectations and we easily spent a couple hours there touring the museum and grounds.
During the early years of oil drilling “torpedoes” were used to increase the yield. These torpedoes consisted of nitroglycerin dropped into the drill hole. Nitroglycerin was carried by horse and wagon and then to motorized vehicles like this dodge truck.
John Heisman, for whom the Heisman Trophy is named, grew up in Titusville and played a rugby style version of football here in the 1880’s.
The next blog will continue our Pennsylvania travels.