This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
This oil pump drew oil from the ground at one of North America’s oldest oil fields, the Fairbank field in Petrolia, Ontario. The field, still run today by the Fairbank family, was established by John Henry Fairbank, one of the entrepreneurs who, in the mid-nineteenth century, commercialized oil production in southwestern Ontario. Oil lies close to the surface in this part of the province, giving towns such as Oil Springs and Petrolia their names. Fairbank also invented a jerker line system, which allowed him to operate several oil pumps on his field with just one steam engine. This simple wooden pump was used between 1950 and 2011. For over 150 years, oil has been pumped from the Fairbank field, as well as at other wells near Oil Springs and Petrolia with the same jerker line technology.
Petrolia began producing oil in the early 1850s, before oil was pumped in the United States.
Operation of Charles Fairbank’s jerker line system. Source: Charles Fairbank