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The History

In the 1850s, the oil boom in Pennsylvania paralleled in many ways the gold rush in California ten years earlier. Wildcatters were oil prospectors who speculatively drilled wildcat wells, and they came flocking from across the country. They invested time, money and effort into ventures that could be boom or bust. 


In 1900, Duncan McIntosh, manager of the Eclipse Lubricating Oil Works, built this mansion across the Allegheny River in Franklin, Pennsylvania. The house stands out among the homes in the Franklin area as a distinctive example of the Renaissance Revival style. It is locally important both for its architecture and its association with the oil industry.

McIntosh Mansion, 1905

Oil executive Duncan McIntosh built the mansion in 1900. His son, Franklin McIntosh, inherited the house in 1914 upon his father's death. He owned the house until 1935 when James Snyder, president of the Imperial Coal Company of Canada bought the property. In 1954 the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (the White Sisters) bought the home and added another section to the mansion in 1960. In 1971 Venango Human Services purchased the property, and the Easter Seals was headquartered there. In December, 2021, it was bought by Jon Bernstein and Wildcat was born. 

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The Carriage House, 1905

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As a young man Duncan McIntosh received his first business experience in the office of John D. Rockefeller. During the oil boom of 1874, when only 22 years of age, he was sent to Oil City, an oil town in the pioneer oil region of Western Pennsylvania, to take charge of the recently acquired Imperial Refinery and Barrel Works. In the fall of 1884, Duncan McIntosh moved to Franklin and became secretary and treasurer of the Eclipse Lubricating Oil Works.

Franklin Gray McIntosh, the only son of Duncan and Alice (Gray) McIntosh, was born in Oil City, Pennsylvania, September 30, 1875. He is credited with developing a new process in the manufacture of printing ink. He was fond of outdoor life and for a number of years was interested in the breeding and showing of thoroughbred dogs. He inherited the McIntosh house in 1914 upon his father's death.

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The Whann Lithia Spring Company was located at the bottom of the property by the river. Lithia is a strong alkaline mineral thought to have properties necessary to maintain physical and mental health. Around 1920, "Whistle" was the new orange-flavored soft drink that added to the line of root beer, birch beer, sarsaparilla and ginger ale. The thought at the time was that Franklin would be famous for "Whistle" just as Milwaukee was for beer.

After starring as Richard III in St. Louis in January 1864, John Wilkes Booth quit theater to seek his fortune in Franklin, Pennsylvania. He joined the oil rush, convincing two theatrical pals from Cleveland to join him. The wildcatters called their would-be gusher "Wilhelmina" after one partner's wife. The oil well is located just a few yards away from the mansion, and his Dramatic Oil Company was in the parking lot next door. The Wilhelmina scarcely delivered, and Booth spiraled into embitterment. He hatched the plan that ended Abraham Lincoln's life on April 14, 1865.

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