1865 Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Co Stock Certificate. Beautiful scripophily item with vignettes of early oil rigs and a Roberts torpedo exploding in a well. Prior to the invention of the oil well torpedo, oil wells produced only small quantities of oil for a short time. They had to be redrilled due to the build-up of paraffin and clay deposits. It was not until January 28, 1865 when Col. E.A.L. Roberts successfully discharged his eight pound torpedo, that oil production could be increased significantly. The torpedoes, which were lowered into the drilled wells, were filled with gunpowder, and ignited by a weight dropped along a suspension wire onto percussion caps in the torpedo. In later models, the gunpowder was replaced by nitroglycerin. Oil well production increased over 40 fold as a result of Roberts' invention. Modern torpedoes are still used today. In February, 1865 E.A.L. Roberts and his brother Walter formed the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company. Roberts was granted a patent that gave his company a virtual monopoly on all types of torpedo used in the oil industry. This patent was vigorously fought by both oil exploration companies and other would-be torpedo producers. In August 1866, the United States Supreme Court confirmed the Roberts' sole right to the patent. (Source: The Early Days of Petroleum, Theodore B. Robinson, Journal of the International Bond & Share Society, November 1997).
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