The Great Indiana Gas Boom

The history of Indiana’s gas boom is one of entrepreneurs, inventions, and squandered natural wealth. It is the story of the turning point that made Howard County, Kokomo, and many other communities in east-central Indiana what they are today.

When natural gas was discovered in 1886, the region underwent a massive economic change and explosive population growth as it went from an agricultural economy to one dominated by energy-intensive industries like paper products, rubber, and, especially, glass production. Real estate speculation fueled investment in heavy industries. It sparked commercial growth in Kokomo and other cities of the east-central Indiana “gas belt.” In just four years after the discovery of gas, Kokomo’s population more than doubled as these new factories attracted workers to the area.

By 1902, the gas reserve was all but gone, leaving behind empty factories and a hungry workforce that would be filled by other industries. Hoosier entrepreneurs and inventors filled the void fueled by America’s growing desire for auto ownership. The economic changes sparked by the gas boom were here to stay.

Natural Gas Well Drilled in Kokomo

The use of natural gas as fuel goes back to the 1820s, but its real value didn’t become apparent until the 1880s. The discovery of a gas reserve in Pennsylvania revolutionized the steel and glass manufacturing industries there in the 1870s and 1880s.…

Diamond Plate Glass Company

The Gas Boom brought about an economic revolution in Indiana during the late 1800s. The Diamond Plate Glass Company played a pivotal role in those changes. When a huge natural gas reservoir was discovered under east-central Indiana, local communities…

Kokomo’s Seiberling Mansion

Construction of the Mansion - 1889 Monroe Seiberling used the wealth earned from the Diamond Plate Glass Company to build himself a beautiful house. Construction of Seiberling’s spacious home began in 1889. The mansion reportedly cost $50,000 –…

Kokomo Opalescent Glass

Beautiful glass has an almost inexplicable magical quality whether it’s a bowl, a sculpture, or a window. The way glass seems to capture the sun holds our attention. Making it though is a dangerous, energy-intensive process. Commercial glass…

Greentown Glass

The gas boom was led by energy-intensive manufacturers including glass companies. Glass plants popped up by the dozens in the region, making everything from window glass to stained glass to dinnerware and art glass items. For a time in the 1890s,…

The Haynes Museum

The Gas Boom of the late 1800s kicked off a population explosion, bringing people of all skills, social backgrounds and educational levels into the area. They arrived with new ideas and ways of thinking. One such person was Elwood Haynes. Haynes was…

Kokomo's Historic Highland Park

The gas boom impacted not just the economy of east-central Indiana, but also the communities and even the landscape. People followed the jobs and money. As the city of Kokomo more than doubled in population, community leaders began to look for ways…