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September 12, 2009

Remembering Regional Gasoline Brands

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

So here we are in Sheridan, Wyoming. Two days and 965 or so miles into our journey through the cowboy part of flyover country.

Once we got nicely into Montana yesterday, I started noticing Sinclair gas stations with the little green dinosaur trademark. Brought back memories, that dino did.

I did a lot of coast-to-coast driving 1965-75 and experienced regional gasoline stations. Nowadays, thanks to mergers and marketing rearrangements, different gasoline brands still tend to cluster geographically, but it's not the same as it was.

Going back to the early 20th century, Standard Oil was broken into several regional oil companies. In the northeast was the Esso brand ("Esso" = "S" "O" for Standard Oil, get it?). There was Humble in Texas (an arm of Esso), Sohio and Marathon in Ohio and the Midwest, Standard of Indiana in the Midwest and in the West, Standard of California which sold gas in Standard stations and Chevron stations. There were other regional brands. Gulf in the east, along with Atlantic, Sunoco and Cities Service. Out west when I was young were Richfield, Associated ("Flying A") and Union 76. The Plains and Rocky Mountain West were served (in various subareas) by Phillips 66, DX, Conoco, Skelly and the aforementioned Sinclair.

There were a few brands that came close to or succeeded in being nationwide. These were Shell, Texaco and Mobil (actually, a Standard fragment -- the company was for a while known as Socony Vacuum, "Socony" short for Standard oil company of New York, but products were marketed under the "Mobil" name).

From the 1950s into the 1990s gasoline companies had their own credit cards for making purchases. This could create trouble for long-distance drivers not wanting to carry a lot of cash for buying gas. So some companies worked out deals with others for cross-honoring credit cards. As best I remember, I had cards for Shell, Texaco and California Standard, figuring that I could get reasonably good national coverage from those alone.

One nice byproduct of all those gasoline brands for a road map nut like me was having the opportunity to scoop up lots of maps from lots of different brands -- this was before oil companies stopped giving away road maps. For better or worse, I still have most of them.



posted by Donald at September 12, 2009


Chicagoland these days:

BP (ex-Amoco, formerly Standard)

Citgo (ex-Cities Service)



A few Union 76

Various independents

Recently a Valero station opened not far from me.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on September 13, 2009 1:50 AM

You can find tiny, exotic brands of petrol (gasoline) in rural East Anglia, a region very remote from London - being all of, oh, 60, 70 or 80 miles away.

Posted by: dearieme on September 13, 2009 4:38 AM

The "Flying A" brand you mention somehow ended up as Getty--at least, the Getty station in my neighborhood near Boston used to have some old Flying A paraphernalia still hanging around.

There's a Sinclair, Wyoming--it at least used to be a company town associated with a Sinclair refinery. Originally the town was called Parco, after Producers & Refiners Corporation, which owned the town and refinery; Sinclair picked them up during the Depression.

Posted by: Tim Anderson on September 13, 2009 1:52 PM

Not to mention the promotional stuff the regionals gave away. Well, the national brands did too, but I loved the locals better. I had the heavy plastic dinosaurs that Sinclair gave/sold for the longest time. Wish I still had them boys would love them.

Posted by: Chrees on September 14, 2009 11:05 AM

Memorably for me at least, Sinclair used to have a big green model of a dinosaur in front of some of their stores.

Posted by: Steve W on September 14, 2009 11:19 AM

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