Category Archives: Gasoline stations
Born in 1850 near Millersburg, Illinois, Arthur Fremont Gilmore, was a dairyman turned oil and gas merchant after he struck oil in California while drilling for water for his livestock. Starting in 1918 his son, Earl Bell Gilmore, took over the family business and presided over it while it became the biggest independent oil company on the West Coast. Our photos date from that period of explosive growth.
E.B.’s flair for promotion is well known. He sponsored auto and air racers, land and water speed record attempts, a radio show and built the Gilmore Stadium in West Hollywood. Gilmore gas stations were among the cleanest and most modern. Their bright cream and red colors made them stand out from the rest and the Gilmore Lion logo became well known nationally. You can find more interesting Gilmore Oil Company photos on The Old Motor. Photos courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection at USC Libraries.
This series of photos was taken by the Dick Whittington Studio for the Pennzoil Oil Company. The images were taken for the company to help in promoting its engine oils, chassis grease, and equipment in 1931. A circa 1928 Packard Roadster is seen above up on a hydraulic lift being greased, at the same time the engine oil is being drained into a fifty-five gallon drum on wheels. The location was the Biltmore Garage in the Los Angeles.
The operator in the above left photo, is showing the Pennzoil “Master Lubrication Guide” to the Packard owner to assure him that his car will be correctly lubricated. The center photo shows all of the equipment necessary, and in the right photo the Packard gets a fresh supply of engine oil. Just below is a Pennzoil sign and a rack carrying glass oil bottles topped with metal pouring spouts, it demonstrated the company’s setup on the gas pump island at the Biltmore. This time another Packard on the right, a 1929 is used for a backdrop.
Pennzoil describes the early history and the start of the company as follows: “It was 1889. The world’s first billion-barrel oil field was discovered in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and South Penn was born. One of John D. Rockefeller’s original companies under Standard Oil, South Penn developed Bradford field and by 1908, around the time Henry Ford’s Model T hit the road, began producing their flagship line of motor oils. They named the oils “Penn’s Oil” in 1913 and soon thereafter renamed them Pennzoil, with the distinctive image of the Liberty Bell to reinforce their Pennsylvania heritage”.
The enjoyable thing about many of the gas station photos posted on The Old Motor is how the once commonplace cars seen in them would be welcome at almost any car show these days. It looks like Ford products were very popular at this Shell station located on Massachusetts Avenue off Central Square, with one from each of the company divisions on the lot. We do see one lonely Plymouth in front of the service bays. The iconic scallop shell logo has been around since 1904 is one of the most recognizable trademarks in the world; you can learn the history behind the Shell Oil Company here.
This giant camera in the bed of yet another Ford product was parked at Ralph B. Cooke Square at Charles and Mt. Vernon Streets in 1955. It continues a tradition of signage that goes back to the days when a large portion of the population was unable to read, and oversized symbols were used to represent a business establishment and attract customers. Note the big brake light in the camera “lens”. You can see earlier parts of this series here. Send us a comment if you have any knowledge about what is seen in either photo. Images by Nishan Bichajian courtesy of the MIT Libraries.