Author: TURGUT NEFER
*M.A. student, 19 Mayis University, Samsun, Turkey
In Samsun gas and kerosene were used both by the Municipality and the households mainly for illumination. Kerosene is a petroleum derivative and fuel obtained from gasoline in the refineries. It does not burn directly, so it is necessary to pour it on a fabric to burn. With the deforestation of the 18th century, due to the extreme usage of wood, experts discovered the lighting capacity of ignitable gas by producing tar obtained from fractioned coals. It is well-known that the big fire of 1869 which devastated almost the entire old city centre, as well as burning down the Russian gas warehouse located close to the Suleyman Pasha medresa (pious school), stemmed from the flames fuelled by the gas barrels, which were stored there. In the following year, trade of gas barrels was carried out by the Australian steam agency Lloyd. However, Russian oil extracted in Batumi and Baku offered the best price due to its proximity.
There were gasworks to meet the local needs of gas, as well as a gas pier to transfer the kerosene brought by ships to the internal market in the Canik region. This gas pier was one out of the eight piers situated at the Samsun port in the beginning of the 20th century. There were two gasworks in total, one belonging to the Municipality and the other to the Customs Office. The gas pier was assigned exclusively to the gas business. When the gas arrived at the port, it was carried to the pier by galleys and transferred to storage from there. If the gas was stored in the ship tanks, it was carried with hoses which ran from the storage houses to the steamships. The Samsun gas pier was located in front of the new gasworks. A Russian tradesman named Anderey Ivanovic Merkoliyev founded the gas house. Mösye Samoil Salvayeski, Merkoliyev’s representative, applied for permission to store kerosene in tin and to build a tin manufacture plant. This permission was granted with the help of the Russian consul and a contract was signed with Merkoliyev.According to the contract signed between the Samsun Municipality and the Russian tradesman in 1909 and which consisted of 17 articles, Merkoliyev would buy a land extending to 3,000 ells in the marshy areas which polluted the city’s air (an ell costing 15 Ottoman silver coins (kuruş or piastre) each, where he would build his storage house and gas tin factory; the land tax would be paid by transferring gas tins to the Municipality every day. The kerosene which was not delivered to the Municipality could not be sold elsewhere, as tax was paid depending on the rate of kerosene which was delivered. If he did not pay the land and pier taxes, the Municipality Office retained the right to cancel the contract. Besides, the gas tin which had increased to 20 Ottoman silver coins decreased to 8 silver coins and the cost of gas was controlled by this contract.
After this, the businessmen who controlled the cost of kerosene voluntaritly lost the right to do so. Hundreds of people found employment during the building of the storage house and the tin manufacture plant. In the newspaper Aks-ı Seda, dating from 1 April 1326 (1910), we read: “Those gas containers, which were destined for export and were kept in the gas pier should be charged 30 silver Ottoman coins each. Those gas containers, which were kept in the warehouses for domestic consumption should be charged 2 silver Ottoman coins for the benefit of municipality affairs”. According to these news, gas traders inflicted damages to the Municipality by displaying gas freights supposedly in the form of transit to Samsun and the neighboring villages. There were traders who sold kerosene, gasoline, grease and diesel. These traders, who were non-Muslim, were the following in the 19th century: M.Missiyan Shabakizyan, his partner P. Sitiva-Tomaoghlu, and the S. Turabyan brothers. Gas was brought either in tins or stored openly in the tanks of the ships and was transferred to the gas pier with hoses. The tradesmen of Samsun sold gas to the public by filling tins, drums or bottles.
Apart from the production of the local gas works, gas was imported in the Samsun quays from Batumi. This gas, brought directly by Dervishzade Ali Bey, was soft and odorless. The ship emblem was engraved on the gas tins. The gas of Batumi was sold in the square of Saathane (Watch-Tower Square), in the shop of Chubukcuzade Suphi Efendi, in the shop of Arpacızade Aziz Efendi in the Hancherli District and in the shop of Seyit Kazızade Aziz Efendi in Subashı. One of the tradesmen who brought gas from Batumi was Hacızade and his family. The gas steamboats named “Gafur Reis” belonged to the Hacızade Mesut Family and carried out transfers between Samsun and Batumi. The cost of kerosene in 1913 was as such: the Russian kerosene produced for the towns cost 16 paras (copper coins), the Russian kerosene transferred to the inland cost 15-16 paras, while the cost of kerosene sold in liquid form without tins was between 13-20 paras per 11 kıyye .
 Naziye Özdemir, Türkiye’de Elektriğin Tarihsel Gelişimi(1900-1938), Yüksek Lisans Tezi (M.A. thesis) , Ankara Üniversitesi, Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü, 2011, s.1.
 Mehmet Yavuz Erler, “Karadenizde Avrupai Bir Kent: Samsun (1865-1875)”, Karadeniz Tarihi Sempozyumu, Karadeniz Teknik Üniversitesi Yayınları, Vol.I, Trabzon 2007, p. 552.
 Zeki Çevik, Milli Mücadelede Samsun Limanının İşlevi, Tarih Boyunca Karadeniz Ticareti ve Canik 1, Samsun, 2013, s. 267.
 An ell is a unit of measurement, an arm's length. Its exact length varies according to various countries. In England, the ell was usually 45 in (1.143 m), or a yard and a quarter.
 Baki Sarısakal, Samsun Belediye Tarihi, Samsun, Samsun Büyükşehir Belediyesi Yayınları-2-, 2007, p.212, 214, 217, 269.
 Baki Sarısakal, Samsun Belediye Tarihi, Samsun, Samsun Büyükşehir Belediyesi Yayınları-2-, 2007, p.217-219.