from; A Quick History of Water Wells
by Hanna Landis
Until the early 19th century, water wells were still dug by hand. In 1808 in the United States, mechanical drilling was invented by the Ruffner Brothers. The Ruffner Brothers successfully first used mechanical drilling in Charleston, West Virginia to access water and salt at Great Buffalo Lick. This invention allowed many more wells to be drilled efficiently all over America.
By the 1820s and 1830s, auger boring machines came on the scene. These machines allowed wells to be drilled deeper and for the water to remain uncontaminated as it came up through pipes made of the first iteration of steel. By the early 20th-century rotary drilling technology became standard after the invention of the roller cone drill bit in 1908 by Howard Hughes Sr. Hughes invention is still used today for many types of drilling.
The 1940s brought the invention of portable drilling tools – until then they were all platform-based. And that brings us to the technology that is still in use today.