Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gas Station Maps-The Early Days

According to Early Gulf Road Maps of Pennsylvania the Gulf Oil Corporation is usually credited with the first drive in gas station - on Baum Boulevard in Pittsburgh (where the company was headquartered) and the first freely distributed road maps.

Both of these credits are subject to debate - see footnote two from the article above, however the early oil company road maps were predominantly from Gulf. The first Gulf maps were made by W. B. Akins, a Pittsburgh advertising man. After a few years they switched to professional map making companies, first the American Blue Book Company, then Rand McNally and then H.M. Gousha after Harry Gousha left Rand McNally to start his own company.

Below are some details from a 1915 road map of Pennsylvania produced by the Automobile Blue Book Company and distributed by Gulf.

What is interesting (to me) about these maps is the importance of certain places (and lack of others) in the era before expressways.

The cover talks up "that good Gulf gasoline" and the "sterling qualities of this excellent petroleum product." It also advertises Supreme Auto Oil - "Its high viscosity renders it a perfect warm weather lubricant and its low cold test an Ideal Winter Oil, - as it flows freely at zero." 

In addition to road maps Gulf also distributed trip itinerary maps. Here are routes from Pittsburgh to Buffalo and Cleveland (marked in orange), with a listing of the places in between and the mileage. I like the quaint picture too.

Below is a 1917 "Half Day Tour" from Philadelphia to New Hope, Lambertville and Trenton. These tours list detailed routes but don't tell you what to see along the way or why you should go to places like Lambertville. They do tell you where to fill up your tank - in this case at the Gulf station at Broad and Hunting Park in North Philadelphia. Gulf only had seven stations in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey at the time.

Of course I chose this tour for my own personal history. We lived in this area and took many of these trips.

Here is a 1925 Gulf map of parking regulations in downtown Pittsburgh. By then there were 14 Gulf stations in Pittsburgh. The takeaway from this map is to either try to find a space near the Point or on Congress St if you don't want to keep moving your car.

I will finish up with a detailed itinerary for the often changing Lincoln Highway, renamed Quebec Route 366 briefly in summer 2011. I have had inquiries about the specific route of this road - here it was in 1925. Street by street directions are listed for Pennsylvania. The New Jersey route is listed by town only.

Thanks to Historical Maps of Pennsylvania for the content of this post.


Michael5000 said...

I don't think you've ever beheld the wonder of my collection of gas station maps of Portland and the Beaver State (and vicinity). Mrs.5000 made me two new boxes this Christmas (bringing the total up to three) to house the trove.

Dug said...

Next time I'm in Portland I'll definitely add it to my itinerary!