Book & Quotes

Coal Oil Johnny – His Book and Quotes from his book

The newly reprinted “Coal Oil Johnny His Book” is available here. You will also find quotes taken from the book on a variety of subjects. Scroll down the page and find your favorite Coal Oil Johnny quote.


Coal Oil Johnny – His BookAutobiography of John Washington Steele (1843-1921), more commonly known as “Coal Oil Johnny”, Petrolia’s prodigal prince.Price: $25 including shipping and handling

Coal Oil Johnny On Liquor: 

  • intoxication develops strange characteristics in individuals.
  • Liquor can make a man sell his soul to the devil quicker than anything else on earth, and certainly at this time mine was going devil-ward as fast as it could.
  • Prospectors came and went, waded in mud, slept in mud, ate mud, and drank — well, everything and anything except water.
  • I was so much elated over it that I invited him to a continuous performance at the bar.
  • Johnny’s advice: Drink Water!

On Rattlesnakes: 

  • I do not recommend rattlesnakes as fit playmates for Children.

On Music: 

  • As a member of the choir I did my best, sang way down low while others sang high or half-way between, and in some way escaped punishment for the crimes I committed in the name of music.
  • It is said that the wooden blinds so common upon the houses in Philadelphia were put there during this period of my musical madness.

On Money: 

  • as it seemed to be the custom of the people along the creek to lose their money, I intended to have some fun with mine before it all got away. And I did; although, to be truthful, I closely resembled a shorn lamb when I had finished.
  • no one in the oil regions was transacting business to benefit his health.
  • I found it was a good deal easier to lend money than to get it back.
  • No fortune ever comes easier to a man than the income from royalties on oil.
  • many hundreds of people, believing I was animated with a sincere desire to part from my money, offered their services as separators, and I received enough proposals of marriage to have caused the most pronounced Mormon to drop dead from joy.
  • It is true that I did not destroy money for fun, but I literally threw it away, and had what I thought was fun as a recompense.
  • They must have charged me for the air I breathed and then read the meter wrong.

On Marriage: 

  • A kind Providence is good to those to whom He gives a faithful and loving helpmate, and in this respect I was especially favored. Through all my hardship and trial, in good and ill repute, through sunshine and shadow my wife never lost faith in me, and to her alone is due mainly the credit for all that I am to-day. 

On Responsiblity: 

  • Providence seemed kindly disposed to me certainly during the early part of my life, and possibly would have been as devoted to me during my whole career had I not taken the bit in my teeth and pulled away on my own responsibility, cheerfully assisted at times by others, and leaving Providence, figuratively speaking, to go one way, while I traversed a path which to a large extent was wholly and entirely my own.
  • Every man is to a large extent what he makes of himself, and, therefore, to a large extent should be held responsible.

On Regret: 

  • In these later years my memory has often gone back to them (Uncle Culbertson and Aunt Sarah), and always with a heart full of gratitude, although not unmixed with regret, because of the fact that I did not always so conduct myself as to better pay the honest tribute due their memorv.
  • Everyone at some period of his life becomes imbued with an idea that he is cut out for something which is totally different from what Nature really intended, and makes a “try” at it.

On Negative Influences:

  • There were also adventurers hanging-around, who looked upon me at all times as a lamb well worth shearing.
  • I was not sufficiently acute to detect the reason or to pick out the sycophants.
  • A devil always creeps into every man’s life in some way or other.
  • Troubles, they say, never come singly, and when they started on me they seemed to flock.

On Reputation: 

  • While the original role of “Coal-Oil Johnny” was played by me, to have acted it in all the comedies, and possibly tragedies, in which that was the star part, would have required me to project myself into a dozen or more places at the same time.
  • I was never accused of laziness, not even in spending money in later years.
  • And so I might have always lived a quiet, homely life, and been always a respected tiller of the soil, had not a Yankee by the name of Drake drilled a hole in the ground up near Titusville, and released such a fountain of oily wealth that it started excursions of fortune-seekers from all over Christendom to our quiet and peaceful valley.

On Death: 

  • As time rolls on, they say we forget to a great extent such things as the passing away of those who have been near to us: but I can-not believe this is strictly true. I think that rather one learns to better conceal the grief from others as time rolls around, though the scar is always there.

On Sport:

  • In fact, men have been known to swear while playing billiards who would not swear at their wives.
  • in one of our fits of idiocy we decided that two young men of our tendencies should branch out into the horse-racing business.

On Balance:

  • Too much sweetness, as well as too much sourness, in this life, I concluded was not a good thing.

On Negotiating: 

  • I do not believe I was cut out for a merchant, for bargain-making never seemed to be my forte.

On Seneca Oil: 

  • And use it the white man did, especially if he were a resident along the creek, for all the ills that flesh is heir to, and took the fluid internally, externally, and eternally. 

On Success:

  • To succeed when the world is with you is one thing; to succeed when it is against you is a different matter.

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