No future in petroleum, 1857 edition

I’m a little behind on my reading, but I couldn’t resist sharing this nugget of prognostication from the May 1857 issue of Scientific American:

We believe that no particular use is made of the fluid petroleum, from the ‘tar springs’ of California, except as a lotion for bruises and rheumatic affections. It has a pungent odor, and although it can be made to burn with a pretty good light, its smell is offensive. This, perhaps, may be obviated by distilling it with some acid; we believe that this is not impossible in this age of advanced chemistry. If the offensive odor could be removed, a valuable and profitable business might be carried on in manufacturing burning fluid from it.

This quote was published earlier this year in Scientific American‘s monthly “50, 100 & 150 Years Ago” feature, where they reprint snippets of interesting stories from back issues of “the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S.” Pungent, offensive, and the basis of the modern world. Seems about right.

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