Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HiStory, HerStory ... Our Story

Today, I thought I needed to know more about the Pre-Civil War US, and so I've been doing some reading.

I found this information:

1859 AD Oil Well Started - Until Edwin Drake drilled his well, oil had been collected from whatever had seeped out of the ground. This oil was used for medicinal purposes. Drake, who had been a railroad conductor, was convinced that large quantities of oil could be found by drilling. Just as his money dried up and investors called for an end to the drilling, Drake struck oil. Before long, the area around Titusville was full of oil wells and the commercial use of oil began.

I did not know that oil was so important so early in our history. I guess I always thought that it wasn't until the late 1800s, after the Civil War, that the Industrial Revolution began.

Boy, was I wrong, and I guess this falls into the category of things my teachers never told me.

American History, as presented to me in school, goes something like: America was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, and then the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and had Thanksgiving with the Indians. Then, the colonists got sick of the King of England and signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, when we won the War of Independence, or the American Revolution, and became a new nation.

Skip about 100 years to:

Abraham Lincoln was President, and the Civil War was fought to end slavery. Then, President Lincoln was shot while he was at the theatre, but the good news is that the North won, ending slavery and saving this great nation.

A few years later, the United States entered World War I after a German U-Boat sunk a passenger ship carrying some Americans. We won.

Which caused us all to celebrate through the Roaring Twenties, during which everyone was drunk on life, because alcohol was prohibited, which is why the Stock Market Crashed on Black Thursday in September 1929, causing the Great Depression of the 1930s, that ended when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese and we entered World War II, which we won in 1945.

The 50s were great, but we don't really learn all that much about them, because when I was in school, we could just watch Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days, or the movie Grease and learn all we needed to know. Right?

We usually skipped right over the twenty years following the end of World War II, and did a quick skim of the Vietnam War (a very quick skim).

And then it was summer time. This was in the late 70s/early 80s, and so there wasn't really much else to study, because we were still making that history.

Since I've left school, I've learned so much I had no idea had happened. The Industrial Revolution didn't start in the late 1800s. It actually started before the United States had even declared her Independence.

Which means we, as a nation, have no idea how to live without technology.

And we're completely dependent on a substance that wasn't even widely used until 1859.

And without electricity, our homes are too unsafe to be habitable.

It's amazing how far we've come.


  1. Oil seeped up out of the ground in Mesopotamia (= modern day Iraq) thousands of years ago. The Assyrians and Babylonians knew of it of course, and made small decorative and useful objects out of it by mixing it with sand and earth to form bitumen. (They didn't have a lot of good building materials back in Mesopotamia.) They also used more liquid pools of oily stuff as justice ordeals from time to time, kinda like the Europeans forced people to carry hot metal, or had people thrown in rivers to determine guilt or innocence. Don't know if they found medicinal uses for it or not, but it would surprise me if they didn't.

  2. Wow, you learned more in history than I ever did. Growing up in Virgina, we never made it past the civil war. Apparently nothing worth learning happened after that. And we always watched Roots in February, since it is black history month.

  3. Great Stuff Wendy!! The older I get the more I am interested in topics like this. America is so Great but yet so fragile. Great Topic!!