Thomas Bard: The political oil baron
Politics and commerce are traditional American handmaidens. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 19th century with the advent of the railroad and oil trusts -- Southern Pacific in the West with a stranglehold on California, and Standard Oil in the East. The story of the transcontinental railroad, the railroad kings and Rockefeller's Trust are well known. What has been largely ignored is California's starring role in the history of American oil development and production, becoming the largest producer of crude in the nation by the turn of the last century. The discovery of oil in America dates back to 1859, when Edward L. Drake drilled the first producing well in Titusville, Pa. That year Thomas Robert Bard graduated from Chambersburg Academy, a stone's throw from Titusville. He was 18 and could not have guessed what part oil would play in his life, or how his life would become inextricably entwined with the history of California.