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Gasoline Station Images From Around the Globe

Today’s four featured offbeat but interesting gasoline station photos begin with a James Blair Murdoch newspaper advertisement photograph taken on March 13, 1939, in the Milwaukee, WI metropolitan area.

The backdrop in the picture is a Streamline Moderne Standard Oil Company filling station building with bold Art Deco lettering. Even though the gasoline selling for fifteen cents a gallon appears to be a bargain today, with inflation factored in it is the equivalent to two dollars and seventy-five cents today.

This image of a refueling rig and those that follow originate from the American Geographical Society Library. This circa-1920 photo was taken in New Zealand of a man at a country store using a lightweight and portable Australian-made fuel tin funnel rig with a rubber hose that directs the gasoline into the tank filler.

Refueling some early touring cars and sedans without spilling any gas can be an awkward experience at times. If you have filled up a number of these vehicles with a rear-mounted spare tire, taillight and license plate and holder positioned in front of the tank filler neck you might not grasp just how significant this contraption is.

This photo taken in Jerusalem, Israel in the 1930s demonstrates how empty fuel tins were moved around in the City before modern methods were adopted.

And to finish up here this photo shows a small circa 1930 sports car being filled up and serviced by children in front of a store in Vietnam while it was under the control of the French. The car may be a Salmson manufactured in either France or the UK.

Share with us what you find of interest in these photos courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Libraries.

23 responses to “Gasoline Station Images From Around the Globe

  1. The image featuring the Standard station is part of the James Murdoch Collection at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (accessible online). There a several other pictures of this station in the collection, at least one of which offers a clue to the stations location. Out of view on the left side of the instant picture is a Milwaukee Public Library branch, so it’s clear the place is within city limits. Long story short, the location may likely be between 3rd and 4th Streets on West Madison Street. Both sides of the street are now parking lots.

    • Hi Robert, the image of the gas station is the same place that was in an OM thread dated Nov. 28, 2015. If you go to that piece, a better clue as to where this was may be clear. In that group, is a picture of the service truck on the street, but I can’t quite make out the address on the door.

      • The picture you refer to is also in the UW-M Murdoch collection and I studied the truck signage as well as that on the building across the street to no avail. Since Milwaukee reorganized it’s street naming system in the mid twenties, if the station were on Madison it would appear in a city directory there in 1939. I spent a bit of time trying to find a directory online for that period, but drew a blank there too.

        • Madison Street is in the “Walker Square” district, north of Greenfield Ave. near I-94. I could see this station being located there.

    • More likely Caltex, a joint venture of Texaco and Standard Oil of California. That company sold gas and oil throughout the mid East and far East.

  2. The 1st pic looks exactly like the Standard gas station my folks got gas at when I was a kid. Wally Copelands Standard on Roosevelt and Keefe in Milwaukee. Different background, and Wally never looked this clean on his wedding day, but the station design was the same with that curved front. Someone made it into a retro coffee shop, but the building looks the same.

    • Hah! That’s exactly what I thought he was doing until I read your post, and then realized that, of course, such things did not exist then or for the next 4-5 decades. How much we take for granted things that are a regular part of our lives now, but were unheard of not that long ago.

  3. The 3rd photo, while interesting, is labelled a bit erroneously. There was not Israel in 1930, there was only the British run Mandate of Palestine. Israel was declared in 1948. Probably a lot of BP gas sold there…

  4. Second photo appears to have captured an era motorcycle parked on the loading dock? Can’t make out what it is, but the fuel tank could be Harley-Davidson.
    Great Pictures as always. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  5. The photo that most grabbed me was the second one. I like the nifty funnel stand.
    In the early days, automobiles mostly were small, and a certain amount of inconvenience was expected. Gasoline tanks were stashed in all sorts of odd places. As designs progressed, cars got larger, and under the front seat became a common location. Still, a certain amount of inconvenience was expected. However, people began becoming annoyed by that particular inconvenience. “There must be a better way!” Pressurized tanks were bothersome for most. However, the chauffeur still didn’t complain. So, while many large expensive cars used hand pumps, most people didn’t like them. And mechanical pumps were too expensive for competitively priced cars.
    Quite a number of mid-priced automobiles between 1910 and 1916 put the gasoline tank in the cowl, ahead of the driver and passenger area. The gravity fed fuel system worked well here. That seemed okay for awhile. Until after one bent over holding a large tin can with a few gallons of gasoline and trying to pour into that small opening into the tank!

    We must remember that from the beginning of the automobile well into the mid to late ’10s, most gasoline was purchased from any of many drug stores, hardware stores, feed and farm supplies, and even blacksmith shops. Curbside pumps were only beginning by 1910. The first real “gasoline stations” opened shortly after 1910. In many outlying areas, gasoline was still sold “in the tin” well into the 1920s (and still is in remote parts of the world). Around 1912, and continuing for several years, some automobiles put the filler neck through the dashboard, usually in front of the front passenger’s seat. Oh what a convenience that was! One could sit comfortably on the front seat, brace one’s arm or help support with one knee to pour that gasoline into the tank.

    I had a 1915/’16 Studebaker touring car, and filled the gasoline tank from a can many times. I can tell you from experience that it was MUCH easier sitting on that seat than bending over to pour gasoline into a friend’s model A Ford!

    Alas, that pleasant experience was to be short lived as Stewart was perfecting one of the most Rube Goldberg devices ever to become a real successful feat of engineering. The Stewart Vacuum Tank hit the market running about 1914. Within a few years, nearly half the automobile makes being manufactured were using the vacuum tank with the gasoline tank tucked neatly away at the rear of the car. No more inconveniencing the passenger to move out of the way. The Stewart Vacuum Tank, in spite of its apparently complex set of springs and valves, was fairly reliable under most driving conditions, and generally worked very well for many years. Other types of fuel pumps were experimented with over the years. But it wouldn’t be until the late ’20s before materials technology would provide a gasoline-proof soft material that could make a reliable mechanical diaphragm gasoline pump.

    As an aside, I have had a few antique automobiles with Stewart Vacuum Tanks. I like them! Nearing a hundred years of age, and some pieces may fail due to that age. But once a few pieces are scavenged, and a Stewart tank sorted out? They usually click along just fine year after year. But I digress.

    Such an interesting picture! One can get lost in all the history surrounding a simple solution to a simple problem.

    So much of interest in all of those pictures! But I will leave it at that for now.

  6. I’m more inclined to believe that’s an Indian motorcycle on the loading dock. The Indian was very popular in Australia and had more in production at that time.

  7. The Vietnamese one is likely Hanoi, circa 1940, which makes a French-built car more likely. The Texaco gas pump may be independent of the art supply store with the wonderful font for its signs – there’s a circular sign mostly obscured by the tree on the left that reads something like”Gasoline – Huile – Moteur”.

    Digression: Funny, in the 1990s there were few gas pumps in Saigon or any of southern Vietnam (can’t vouch for Hanoi); standard means of getting gas was to stop and buy it by the liter from the vendors selling gas out of plastic jerry cans on the sidewalk. But back then there were relatively few cars – mostly scooters and bicycles – so buying in such small amounts wasn’t a problem. Also, any bike over – was it 125cc or 175cc? can’t remember – required a special permit. The locals were amazed that I had a “huge” 200cc motorcyle back in the States. Almost no traffic lights in the city…they were mostly ignored anyway.

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