Oil and Love

The Gusher
R: Mack Sennett. D: Ford Sterling, Mabel Normand, Charles Inslee. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1913

“This early Keystone short seems to have been built around some stock footage of a burning oil well. Mabel Normand is the classic girl next door, except that in this case she lives next door to an oil field. She is courted by both Charles Inslee (who had roles in Making a Living and His New Job) and Ford Sterling (Chaplin’s rival in Between Showers and Tango Tangles). (…) Tinting was used to give the effect of the red fireball against the black smoke and it is quite impressive, especially as Inslee stands in front of it twirling and rubbing his hand in glee. Someone calls in the Keystone Kops, including Mack Swain (later in The Gold Rush and Pay Day with Chaplin) and Edgar Kennedy, (from A Flirt’s Mistake and Mabel at the Wheel) but the real denouement is Sterling chasing off the baddy. The fire rages on in the closing shot.”
Century Film Project

“After the American Civil War, the petroleum industry made continual technological advances that allowed it to emerge as society’s major source of energy and lubrication during the twentieth century. The immense potential of petroleum resources and applications became evermore apparent, attracting the interest of one of the most effective businessmen in history, John D. Rockefeller. Working within the South Improvement Company for much of the late 1860s, Rockefeller laid the groundwork for his effort to gain absolute control of the industry, covering each phase of the process. Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Company of Ohio in 1870. In the early 1870s, oil exploration in Pennsylvania’s Oil Creek region grew significantly, and the effort would expand to other states and nations during the next decade. By 1879, Standard controlled 90 percent of U.S. refining capacity, as well as the majority of rail lines between urban centers in the northeastern U.S. and many leasing companies at various sites of oil speculation throughout the country. Due to Rockefeller’s efforts and developments, petroleum became the primary energy source not only in the U.S., but for societies around the world.

John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil first demonstrated the potential market domination available to those who controlled the flow of crude oil. Rockefeller’s system of refineries had grown immensely by the close of the nineteenth century, allowing him to demand lower rates and eventually even kickbacks from rail companies that transported his products. One by one, he drove his competitors out of business, making Standard Oil into what observers in the late 1800s called a ‘trust’ (today known as a monopoly). Standard Oil’s reach extended throughout the world, making it a prominent symbol of the ‘Gilded Age’, when businesses were allowed to grow unregulated, benefiting only a few wealthy parties; reformers vowed things would change.”
Brian Black
The Encyclopedia of Earth