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Oil Culture$
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Ross Barrett and Daniel Worden

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780816689682

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816689682.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MINNESOTA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.minnesota.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MNSO for personal use.date: 21 May 2022

The Wizard of Oil

The Wizard of Oil

Abraham James, the Harmonial Wells, and the Psychometric History of the Oil Industry

(p.19) 2 The Wizard of Oil
Oil Culture

Rochelle Raineri Zuck

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines how early publicity appropriated spiritualist themes to legitimize the fledgling oil industry by focusing on the exploits of the medium-turned-oilman Abraham James. It shows that American spiritualism and the oil industry had more in common than just temporal and geographic proximity; they were both invested in a belief in the unseen, whether in the form of deceased loved ones or underground oil reserves. Drawing on biographical accounts of James and accounts of his work in Chicago (1863–1864) and Pleasantville, Pennsylvania (1866–1868), it considers how spiritualism shaped and was shaped by nineteenth-century oil culture. James and his Harmonial wells remind us of the practical applications of spiritualism and the psychometrics of the oil industry and force us to rethink widely held distinctions between the spiritual and scientific.

Keywords:   Abraham James, oil industry, spiritualism, psychometrics, Chicago, Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, oil culture, Harmonial wells

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