Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DOWNER, Samuel, manufacturer, born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, 8 March 1807. He left school at the age of fourteen, and, after spending six years in a shipping house in Boston, was received into partnership by his father, a West India merchant. He afterward engaged in the manufacture of sperm oil and candles, and in 1854 directed a series of experiments in producing hydrocarbon oils by distillation from various substances. Prom a kind of bituminous coal known as Albertite he obtained what is now called kerosene. The demand for this oil increased rapidly, and it was obtained from the Albertite till the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania in 1861. Another result of these experiments, made principally by Mr. Joshua Merrill, superintendent of the Downer works, was the discovery in 1869 of "mineral sperm oil," and the company under Mr. Merrill's patents manufactures these and other products of the distillation of crude petroleum.
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