Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company


SKU: 4196
Product Details

Intricately engraved antique stock certificate from the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company dating back to the 1860's. This document was printed by Major & Knapp, and measures approximately 10 1/4" (w) by 7" (h).


This certificate features a pair of vignettes. A detailed oil field scene appears at the top, while a cross cut view of the company's unigue drilling process appears down the left side.


Beautiful piece!!

The images presented are representative of the piece(s) you will receive. When representative images are presented for one of our offerings, you will receive a certificate in similar condition as the one pictured; however dating, denomination, certificate number and issuance details may vary.

    Historical Context

    The Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company’s history dates to the oil industry’s earliest years in northwestern Pennsylvania’s Oil Creek Valley and began with brothers Colonel E. A. L. and Walter B. Roberts, who established the company in 1865. Colonel Roberts had patented the use of a torpedo, black powder and the “super incombant water tamp” for shooting wells in 1864. The patents included three components: the use of a torpedo, or tin tube, propellant (initially black powder and changed to nitroglycerine two years later), and water. The water cushioned the torpedo as it was lowered into the oil well and provided weight to hold the explosive force down in the well so the oil-bearing sandstone would crack and release the oil. Workers hired by Roberts, known as “shooters,” would shoot the well by dropping a pointed weight into the well to detonate the torpedo.

    Roberts performed the first successful oil well shot on the Ladies Well on Oil Creek, near Titusville, on January 21, 1865. “The tremendous success of the process, and the resulting furor over the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company patent instigated thousands of lawsuits, arrests, and bloodshed,” says Tallini. “The company charged exorbitant fees to shoot a well and speculators and landowners balked. The term ‘moonlighting’ emerged from this struggle. Moonlighters mixed their batches of nitroglycerine with crude equipment during the day and illegally shot wells in the dark of night. Roberts hired Pinkerton National Detective Agency guards to protect his patent interests. The Roberts patent expired in 1883 and Congress refused to renew it because of the strife it caused.”

    The Roberts brothers sold their company to Adam Cupler Jr., a former employee, who died in a nitro explosion twenty years later, in 1903, at the age of fifty-six. The Cupler Torpedo Company was taken over by his son-in-law, Clarence Mosher. In 1927, the region’s well owners, dissatisfied with services offered by the shooting company, organized the rival Otto Torpedo Company in Bradford, McKean County. Ten years later, in 1937, the Otto Torpedo Company purchased the Cupler Torpedo Company, and the firm became the Otto Cupler Torpedo Company. Many other companies were formed, including DuPont™’s American Glycerin Company, and competition intensified. Of the nearly one hundred torpedo companies in operation in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, only two remain: the Otto Cupler Torpedo Company and the Otto Torpedo Company.

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