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Russell Lee and Arthur Rothstein US Government Service Station Images

Today we feature a pair of gasoline station images taken by well-known photographers who worked for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. Later, the Office of War Information retained some of the same documentarians to capture interesting scenes in the US.

Russell Lee took the lead image one evening in April of 1942 of Mark C. Bloome’s service station and tire store in Hollywood, CA. The business sold fuel blended by both Macmillan and Conoco, Goodrich tires, and Kendall and Quaker State motor oils. Note the deluxe fuel pump with a merchandising cabinet on the gas pump island at the far-right of the photo.

Earlier in February of 1936, Arthur Rothstein snapped the image below in the City of Fitchburg, MA, a manufacturing and industrial center at the time. The United Co-Operative filling station was a small operation that sold Gulf Gasoline, Firestone tires, and had only one service bay.

You can also view over two-hundred other vintage service stations here in our earlier coverage.

Gasoline filling station new england model a fords circa 1930

14 responses to “Russell Lee and Arthur Rothstein US Government Service Station Images

  1. Beside the Fitchburg filling station is a Model A coupe of maybe 1930 vintage. Next to it, a Model A four door sedan and two delivery trucks. Both appear to be woodie’s.

  2. I worked at the United Co-op Society from 1958 to 1963 in this gas station. The building had an oil change pit but an addition was added to make room for a hydraulic lift and the pit was filled in. This made it an area to do general mechanical work. The building is still there but is now a children’s day care center.

  3. In the second photo … very interesting that such a tiny station would have three pumps. Maybe regular, higher octane, and kerosene or really low grade gas. My grandfather used to get “tractor gas” for the old two cylinder John Deere. It sort of smelled like gasoline. That fuel was not good enough for any car.

  4. In the second photo are ’28 or ’29 Model A’ Fords, I believe a Cabriolet and a Tudor sedan. It looks like there’s possibly a station wagon in front of the Tudor. To the right, in front of the garages is a panel truck with ICE painted on the side. It might be another early style Model A.

  5. Second Picture – A sign of the times. One tiny gas station with 3 pumps but their only service bay is dedicated to car lubrication. I checked a lubrication drawing for a Model A and there were at least 44 lubrication points shown. No wonder an entire bay was used. And how many lube points do we have on today’s cars?

  6. Years ago, shooting a night scene like this was a challenge because the bright lights prevented capturing much shadow detail. Instead of using a long exposure, this photographer used a higher-speed film, so the moving people in the image aren’t blurred, but the image is grainy.

    Hanging on my wall is a large (30×20″) and very sharp black-and-white photograph of Ted’s Place, a landmark gas station and store northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado, along the Cache le Poudre River. Shot on the night of July 4, 1940, and credited to Baker/Schneider Archives, it had recently been slightly enhanced via Photoshop and contains wonderful detail. David, I will send you an image.

  7. As another reminder of how well we have it today…
    In the first ,go to notice the Kendall Oil sign proclaiming that it’s the “2000 Mile Oil”!

    Also, the Anti Freeze sign in the bottom photo, fairly new stuff back then…

  8. 1st pic, California glitz. Like the “Vegas” of gas stations. This “Bloome” guy liked his name in bright lights. Car wash is .69cents( almost $12 today) and .6 cents extra for,, , can anyone read that? Also, an odd coincidence, the clock time is around 10:12, the approximate time President Lincoln was shot, and why all clocks with hands on display, had the hands at 10:10,,,or so I’m told. Think of the bigshots that got gas there. Jack Benny’s Maxwell, “Fill it with premium Mr. Benny”? “Nah, fifty cents of regular”. ( he was a well known cheapskate) The 2nd one, I too wonder what the center pump was for, it looks different than the others.

    • I went to an auction in New Berlin (WI) early this year where they sold a pump just like the one in the center of the second pic. It’s an early 1920’s Gilbert and Barker model T-65. It’s a style of pump that came before the tall “visible” style pumps which were made before clock-face pumps like the other two in the picture. The T-65 was hand pumped and dispensed smaller amounts than the later style pumps.

    • To be fair, the cheapskate role was one Benny played on the air but not in real life. Likewise he was an accomplished violinist, having started out in vaudeville as a solo violin act, despite playing so badly as a gag on radio.

  9. Station was at Sunset and El Centro and Mark C. Bloome was a fixture in the LA area for years, but know for his tire dealerships when I was growing up.

  10. I was told by a watch collector friend that watches, and typically clocks as well, are usually displayed with the hands at 10:10, 8:20, or some variation of that.

    That would display a nice look, but also allow for full viewing of any logos/trademarks/etc that were printed below the 12 or above the 6. Seems to make sense to me. Supposedly started by Bulova when they began putting pics of wristwatches in print media.

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