Before disposable metal, paper, and plastic engine-oil containers became commonplace, drivers pulling into gas stations and asking for oil often had to watch and wait as the lubricant was hand pumped from a drum into a spouted glass bottle. Sometimes the oil would be waiting in quart bottles that sat in special racks. Either way, back in that golden full-service era, the attendant would pour the oil into the car's engine for the customer.

Assuring motorists that the oil in those drums was really as advertising and not just some inferior-quality substitute, oil companies embossed their names and logos on the sides of these clear bottles. Sometimes they were given distinctive shapes to make the customer feel better about the bulk-oil purchase. Mobil Oil went so far as to to make diamond-shaped “Filpruf” bottles, with embossed gargoyles on their sides. The metal spouts of these bottles were the Filpruf parts, because they could only be filled with a corresponding nozzle attached to a drum of Mobiloil.

Collectors look for these embossed bottles, the metal spouts, and even the racks they sat in. A side interest for serious petroliana fans are the salesmen samples and briefcases these bottles were carried in. Sample bottles are typically tall and narrow, almost like test tubes, so lots of them could fit into a portfolio. They were also clear, so prospective customers could see the differences in color between the different types of oil at a glance. Companies such as Illinois Glass made these bottles, which had paper labels on their sides and cork stoppers to keep the liquid inside.


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