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Gas Station Series: That Good Gulf – Supreme Auto Oil – Vacuum Cup Tires

Today’s installment of the “Gasoline Station Series” takes us to the Corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Bloomfield Bridge on July 10, 1921, for a view of this substantial Gulf Oil Company filling station. Bloomfield is a neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, located three miles north of the downtown area. The building has not survived.

The gas station has a total of seven up-to-date fuel pumps powered by electric motors, and at least three gas pump attendants (one sitting on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle) are clearly visible in the image.

On the far-right is a salesroom for “Vacuum Cup” tires produced by the Pennsylvania Rubber Works located in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. Note the extensive signage on the building lit by electric light bulbs and the McFarlan Service Station sign on the far-left offering “Generel Repairs (sic).”

The photograph is courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh. View over two-hundred and fifty other images in the Gasoline Station Series here.

19 responses to “Gas Station Series: That Good Gulf – Supreme Auto Oil – Vacuum Cup Tires

  1. I wonder what the “Sound Proof” billboard painted on the tower refers to. It looks considerably older than the rest of the establishment.

    Also, did all seven pumps dispense the same grade of gasoline ? Were there different grades at that point?

    • Being as that was probably a busy intersecton, the two-story part may have been a second-class hotel at one time which touted “sound-proof” rooms to weary customers. The tower was possibly an elevator shaft. The even spacing of the windows tends to eliminate any kind of residential use, but looks more commercial. Later, the big selling point for hotels was “fire-proof” rooms.

  2. What a beautiful structure. I envision a neat apt. up on the second floor for the owner. Look at the detail in the bricks! And a turret on the end? Too bad an historical society couldn’t have saved it. Think of the cool restaurant it could be today! (surf `n turf, anyone?)

  3. Not being from Pennsylvania, I’ve never heard of Vacuum Cup Tires so I looked them up. They had a unique tread design that looked like rows of Cheerios stuck the the casing that formed the “suction cups”. They had the general appearance of knobby tires used today on dirt bikes and ATV’s. “These cups exert a suction grip on the road and thus tend to keep the car from skidding,” proclaimed an ad from 1915. Another ad claimed a tread life of a whopping 6,000 miles.

  4. The station must have had some commercial customers for their tires judging by the size of those tires in photo number two behind the fellow wearing the tire. They appear to be about four feet tall which would make them either truck or bus tires. Great clarity for a photo from that era.

  5. Regarding the spelling of Generel Repairs, uniform spelling is a modern thing. Before dictionaries, and way before spell checkers, there was a wide variation in how things were spelled. Sometims I turn off mi speel cheker.

  6. Just a hunch that building was a street car-trolley-interurban station and perhaps company office. In addition to the turret, there is a small bay window midway on the side where tickets and passes could have been purchased. Those companies began to fade immediately after WWI as the private passenger car preference took over.

    • I totally agree that it was once a trolley station. In upstate New York was had a trolley that ran between Rochester and Syracuse in 1906 to 1931. Many of their abandoned ticket stations became gas stations. A few still exist. The trolley was surely missed during gas rationing in WWll.

  7. Re: Vacuum Cup Tires: They may have had SOME advantage Only when new , but not when worn!!! They remind me of the earier: “NON-SKID tires that had that PHRASE as their tread pattern! That is not why they worked!!! Perhaps that suction cup “tread pattern idea” came from old Movie cartoons that showed a cartoon character walking up a wall — like a fly — with suction cup shoes ON!!! The major problem with the design was not the tire, — it was the variety of surfaces . a Suction cup cannot function unless it is new, — flexible, and have a smooth surface to sit on, only !!!, — to create a holding vacuum. Roads do not do that, — and Iced smooth roads cause suction cup rubber to become hard and lose its ability to grasp . Mud soaked roads although smoother, also can have Dirt grit, —which is not conducive to grasping or “longevity of the tread” — with suction cups. (A n answer to a question that nobody asked!!!) Edwin W.

  8. Motorcycle is definitely an H-D. Should be a 1925-27, as there is no front brake which didn’t happen until 1928.

  9. My guess on the Harley-Davidson is, 1924. In 1925 H-D went to the streamliner look, so it can’t be later than 1924. There is not enough detail to be sure, so the fullness of the front fender, and lightness of color are the only real clues. 1922-23 H-Ds were painted Brewster Green as standard, which is a dark green. 1924 went back to Olive Green as standard which this bike looks to have.

  10. On further inspection, the gas tank on the bike appears to be the long earlier tank, but it is difficult to tell!

  11. What is the structure sitting in the middle of the interesection? It looks like there is a furled flag on the pole.

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