Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/843

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821
CURIOSITIES OF NATURAL GAS.

CURIOSITIES OF NATURAL GAS.
By Prof. JOSEPH F. JAMES, M. S.

IT is but little more than four years since there appeared, among the economical products of Ohio and Indiana, a new force, which has worked a sort of revolution among manufactures. The geographies used to say Ohio was noted for wheat, corn, and pork; now they must add petroleum and natural gas.

Rock-oil, or petroleum, has long been known to the world at large. So, too, has natural gas. The former was the early pioneer's panacea. So precious was it that it was soaked up from the ground by blankets, and was then wrung out and preserved for times of need. The latter was and is still dreaded by miners as the deadly "fire-damp." It was known to the Chinese long years ago, and wells three thousand feet deep, giving off great volumes of the material, were not uncommon. Burning springs had been found in Virginia in 1775, and were well known in the valley of the Kanawha River in the early part of this century. Fredonia, in New York State, was lighted by natural gas in 1824; while immense quantities of the precious fuel were at a later period, and before its great value had become recognized, wasted in the oil regions of Pennsylvania.

Notwithstanding these facts, no one suspected that there lay, concealed a thousand feet deep in the soil of Ohio and Indiana, such a wonderful source of power as has been discovered. Those who first sought for it were designated by the usual and familiar appellations of fools and cranks, just as the originators of the telephone, the telegraph, the locomotive, and the steam-engine had been before them. Recent events have proved the wisdom of the pioneers in the new field, and now portions of Ohio and Indiana are famous the world over as reservoirs of that wonderful product of Nature's laboratory, natural gas.

The excitement which followed the announcement of the discovery of natural gas at Findlay, Ohio, was like that following the discovery of gold in California—with this exception, that whereas the gold-fields were to be sought for in a far-away country, the gas was to be had at our very doors. The earth had but to be penetrated a few hundred or a thousand feet, and there was the equivalent of a gold-mine; at least, so it was imagined, and, with this idea firmly implanted, every little town within a radius of a hundred miles of Findlay, and even further away, determined to have some of the precious fuel. Experience has demonstrated that the thing can not be had for the asking in every locality. It has been shown that only where certain conditions of the rocky