It’s been over 130 years since the invention of the gas pump by S.F. Bowser. Interestingly, it preceded the automobile! Even during the early days of the automobile, folks would get their gas from local hardware and grocery stores. Today, Antique and Vintage gas pumps typically form the core of a petroliana enthusiasts collection. These forerunners to the modern gasoline pump went through several changes and improvements. From the visible gas pump that displayed how much gas you’re getting, to the electric pump that automatically cuts off the gas. Finally, you have the computerized gas pump, which resembles its modern variant much more closely.
The boom in car ownership in the 1900’s spurred a litany of companies, new and old, to build their own oil and gasoline brands. As market competition stiffened, gas companies utilized striking, colorful, and bold advertisements to bring in more customers and increase customer loyalty. The fuel advertisements were often printed on a form of paper. They were either published in local and national newspapers or hung as posters. There are few things that are both nostalgic and anachronistic than vintage fuel advertisements that spoke volumes of the era it came from. Need to step back into the 19-teens?
In the 19-teens, vintage signs would serve two primary purposes: present a positive idea of a brand or product and indicate where that brand is located or where the product can be purchased. Like a sentinel of self-advertisement, oil and gas companies utilized neon signs to broadcast their products and its superiority, as well as to cement their brand and logo into public consciousness. Signs would also bring relief to motorists when services stations were mostly based in big cities or busy thoroughfares. Today, signs form an integral, and often symbolic (nostalgic too!) role in the collections of Route 32 petroliana and automobilia enthusiasts.
The standard quart can, as well as its many variants, occupy a special place in the hearts of collectors. It harkens back to a time when bow-tie wearing gas boys would come running to attend to you and your thirsty automobile. Now, over 100 years later, both enthusiasts and hobbyists have decided that the once unappreciated oil can is here to stay. Whether you prefer to keep mint condition oil cans unopened or free of oil, a petroliana collection without them would be incomplete.
You’d be mistaken if you think road maps were merely a byproduct of cars on paved roads. Road maps have been in use since the 16th century and most likely beyond. The first maps specifically designed for travel via automobiles would not appear until the end of the 19th century. One of the very first regions to be covered by an automobile road map was New York City. Today, the ubiquity of GPS and digital maps have not dampened the desire and appreciation of automobilia and petroliana enthusiasts for these highly coveted, and aesthetic paper ephemera.
With the oil can aside, no other gas station memorabilia is as symbolic of the golden age of gasoline than the much-coveted gas pump globe. A favorite of many collectors and restoration experts, the gas pump globe (or gas globe) is also easily the most distinct, rare, and aesthetically pleasing among the petroliana antiques. Around the middle of the 20th century, these spherical glass signs were placed on top of gas pumps and served as additional signage for customers especially during low-light conditions.