ThinkStock
ThinkStock

The Early Lives and Times of 7 Oil Barons

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

Want to become fabulously wealthy overnight and open the door to starting your own eccentric dynasty? We suggest striking oil.

1. John D. Rockefeller

Rockefeller was so rich, he spent the last 40 years of his life in retirement. But the beginning of his life wasn’t as glamorous. His dad was a vagabond snake oil salesman, a self described “botanic physician,” who once said, “I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ‘em sharp.” And his boy was. Before he struck oil, young John made money by raising turkeys and selling potatoes. By 1870, his company was refining 90 percent the country’s oil.

2. H.L. Hunt

Although Hunt worked on a cotton plantation, he was known as a math whiz. One day in the early 20th century, with only $100 to his name, he booked it to New Orleans and bet it all on a poker game. Thanks to his mathematical chops and some good luck, Hunt turned that $100 into $100,000. He used his winnings to buy the East Texas Oil Field, which went on to earn him millions.

3. J. Paul Getty

Getty was lucky enough to grow up in an oil family. He made his first million two years after graduating college in 1914. After that, he decided to retire and become a Los Angeles playboy. He eventually got tired of the high life and returned to the oil biz, making millions more. But that didn’t stop him from being a penny-pincher: Getty made guests at his home use a payphone.

4. Edwin L. Drake

In 1858, the Seneca Oil Company sent Edwin Drake to Titusville, PA. It wasn’t because he was a revered oil baron. Instead he drew the assignment because, as a retired train conductor, Drake could travel on the railroad for free. And so Drake looked for oil the way everybody else did—by digging trenches. But then he had a wild idea. He tried drilling for oil instead. It was a first. People called him crazy, and Seneca Oil backed out. But then he struck black gold, initially collecting it all in a bathtub.

5. Anthony Francis Lucas

Born into a Croatian family of shipbuilders in 1855, Lucas became a mechanical engineer, moved to the US, and switched careers to become a gold prospector. Later on, he worked as a salt explorer for a New Orleans company. Later working in Texas, as he became more acquainted with the landscape, he guessed there was oil underfoot. Geologists called him nuts. Everyone stopped laughing when he hit a gusher that spewed oil for nine days.

6. Columbus Marion Joiner

Who needs education? Joiner went to school for a total of seven weeks! He taught himself how to read using the Bible and learned to write by copying Genesis. In the 1920s, he started drilling for oil in Texas with dilapidated, rusty equipment. After three years of pulling up nothing but dirt, Joiner hit a gusher. At that time, it was the largest oil field in the world.

7. George Bissell

When Bissell entered the business in Pennsylvania in the 1850s, most people collected oil by soaking blankets in surface deposits and then squeezing it into barrels. Bissell was a bit smarter than that. Actually, he spoke eight languages—including Sanskrit. But when he suggested people could pump oil out of the ground, one critic said, “Oil coming out of the ground, pumping oil out of the earth as you pump water? Nonsense! You’re crazy.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios