Petroleum Industry in Buffalo, NY

George V. Forman

The text below is an excerpt (pages 10-11) from
The Beginnings of Buffalo Industry
By Robert Holder
(online August 2013)

Buffalo and the Petroleum Industry - Refineries

Oil for lighting and lubrication in early Buffalo was a product manufactured from lard and other fats. Petroleum, at that time, could be purchased only in drug stores - Seneca Oil it was called locally and was used medicinally.  Tradition has it that, back in 1820, an old man on a white horse with two gallon kegs strapped to the saddle would come to Buffalo each spring. He sold petroleum which he had sopped up from "Oil Creek" by the ingenious process of laying a wool blanket on the surface of the spring from which gushed oil and water.

When oil was discovered at Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859, Buffalo businessmen were among the first to put their money into the development of this new industry. Although much of Buffalo's capital poured into the early petroleum ventures, it was not until 1873 that any attempt was made to refine crude oil in Buffalo.

Joseph D. Dudley started the Empire Oil Works, located on the Ohio Basin. The Standard Oil Company took over the Dudley plant in 1878. The Atlas Works, built by the Kalbfleisch Sons, was taken over by the Standard Oil Company in 1892.

Charles B. Matthews established the Buffalo Lubricating Oil Company in 1881 but sold it in 1887 to outside capitalists. A year later he organized a new company, the Buffalo Refining Company, but this time he had his refining done in Pennsylvania. Two other refineries, the Niagara and the Phoenix, both built in 1881 on the Tifft Farm, failed.
The Solar Oil Works were established in 1880 by Buffalo and Titusville interests. Three years later the Tidewater Pipe Line Company took over the Solar Oil Works, and this organization was then bought by Standard Oil to add to its fabulous oil empire. By 1892 the Standard Oil Company controlled most of the oil business in Buffalo.

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