Vintage Gas, Oil, and Service Signs

While some cities today have a gas station on every corner, complete with huge signs illuminating a variety of multinational oil giants’ slickly produced logos, the industry was a whole lot different when the car began its rise to prominence in the early 20th century.

Before automobiles were widespread, gas stations were extremely rare, generally doing business only in larger cities and on the busiest highways. Gas stations often performed service and repairs, while gasoline was also sold in drugstores and elsewhere. For awhile, lubricating oil and fuel oil were easier to find than gasoline.

In the 1910s, the market began growing, as did the competition, especially among lubricating oil companies. The first signs advertising lubricating oil appeared in grocery stores and were produced in a variety of materials: baked enamel, sheet steel, and tin. Designs on tin signs were printed using lithography while designs on sheet-steel signs were screen-printed.

These signs allowed a store to tell its customers which automotive products and brands it sold, which, in turn, lured customers inside. The signs were often clever and engaging. One particularly rare sign by Oilzum Motor Oils and Lubricants, for example, featured an attractive graphic of a man in a hat, along with this tongue-in-cheek slogan: “If Motors Could Speak we wouldn’t need to Advertise.”

In the 1920s, gas stations became more common, as did gas pumps, which spawned a new type of sign called the pump plate. Pump plates were affixed to the pumps that indicated and advertised the pump’s brand of gasoline. The plates came in a variety of shapes—round (or “hubcap”) and otherwise—and a wide range of sizes, from as small as five inches across to more than a foot wide.

Often created by the Burdick Sign Company of Chicago, these signs were generally made out of porcelain, which lent them both attractive visibility and impressive durability in almost any weather. Porcelain signs remained common through the 1950s, despite a decrease in production during World War II.

People collect signs bearing a variety of company names, though the most coveted are often the smaller, regional brands—Signal, Gilmore, and Wilshire, with its distinctive Polly ...

Aside from plate pumps, some people like to collect “lubesters,” which were the signs attached to oil and grease dispensers. Other collectible signs at gas-and-service stations were warnings—“No Smoking Stop Motor” signs, for example, are one popular niche within this category. Finally, some of the rarest gas-and-service signs are those used at marine and aviation stations.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Primarily Petroliana

Primarily Petroliana

Jim Potts’ site for petroliana collectors, featuring image galleries and community features such as a discussion … [read review or visit site]

Petroliana.co.uk

Petroliana.co.uk

Alan Chandler’s impressive collection of early British and European petroliana, including galleries with beautifu… [read review or visit site]

Historical Marker Database

Historical Marker Database

If you're the type who pulls over when you see a 'historic marker ahead' sign, you'll love this site. Orchestrated … [read review or visit site]

Pittsburgh Signs Project

Pittsburgh Signs Project

This group artistic effort to catalog the signs of Pittsburgh captures many vintage signs (porcelain, neon, wood, t… [read review or visit site]

Petromobilia Switzerland

Petromobilia Switzerland

Alex Wyler’s site is mostly in German, but the collection and images speak for themselves. You’ll find old gas … [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Vintage 1940 Phillips 66 Double Sided Porcelain Sign Dated VeribriteVintage 1920s Standard Zerolene Oil Motor 27" 2 Side Porcelain Metal Flange SignRare 1930s Vintage Ac Spark Plug Gasket 1 Cent Old Gas Station Tin Display SignOriginal Blue Sunoco 200 Porcelain Pump SignFederal Tires Metal Sign 1941- VintageLarge Vintage C.1940 Sinclair H-c Gasoline 2 Sided 48" Porcelain Metal SignMobilgas Ahead Sign Vintage Mobil Gas Advertising New Original1949 NosVintage 1940's Packard Battery Cable Tires Gas & Oil 20" Metal Display SignVintage Mobilgas Special Mobil Oil Porcelain Sign Gas Station Gas Pump PegasusRare Vintage C1915 Griffin Carburetor Ford Model T 16" Metal Gas Oil Curved SignPurol Porcelain 30 Inch Ethyl Sign With Lollipop Stand Antique Hi Speed Gas Porcelain Gas Station Oil Sign 60"x40"Vintage 1950's Trico Winter Windshield Wiper Blades 2 Sided Metal Gas Oil SignVintage 1947 Mobil Mobilgas Pegasus Gasoline Gas Pump 12" Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1950 Mobil Mobilgas Pegasus Gasoline Gas Pump 12" Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1940's Prestone Anti-freeze 36" Porcelain Metal Gas Oil Thermometer SignOriginal 1947 6ft Double Sided Texaco Gasoline Oil Porcelain Sign Will Ship!!Vintage 1940's Greyhound Bus Flag Stop Gas Oil 2 Sided 22" Metal Flange SignVintage 1920's Oldsmobile Service Gas & Oil 2 Sided 36" Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1950's Coca Cola Gumball Machine Bottle Cap Can Coke Cooler Rare Sign 66Old 1932 Mail Pouch Chew Tobacco Porcelain Service Sign Thermometer- 6ftVintage 1948 Standard Oil White Crown Gasoline Gas Pump 15" Porcelain Metal SignPolarine Original Vintage Porcelain Oil Thermometer 74" Tall Advertising SignRare Vintage C.1930 Duplex Outboard Boat Motor Oil 24" Embossed Metal SignRare Vintage Original Conoco Triangle Logo Porcelain Gas Oil Station SignVintage C.1950 Aaa Lodge Gas Oil 2 Sided 30" Porcelain Metal Sign W/bracketVintage C.1950 Sinclair Extra Duty Motor Oil 24" Porcelain Metal SignVintage Ww2 40s Mobil Oil Buy Defense Bonds Victory License Plate Topper SignOriginal Gargoyle Mobiloil Lollipop Gas Station Curb Porcelain Sign AdvertisingVintage 1950's Interlux Marine Boat Paint 12" Metal Pam Thermometer Gas Oil SignVintage Original Oil Gas Advertising Sign Atlas Windshield Wiper ThermometerLarge Vintage C.1960 Firestone Tires 71" Metal Gas & Oil SignRetro Texaco Gasoline Gas Pump Gumball Cent Machine Globe Mobil Sinclair Sign 661930's Magnolia Petroleum Company Oil / Gas Double Sided Porcelain SignVintage 1959 Texaco Fire Chief Gasoline Gas Pump Plate 18" Porcelain Metal Sign 1950 1960 Vintage Cast Aluminum Air Station Sign Eco Meter Tireflator Gas OilLarge Vintage 1937 Atlas Tires Accessories Batteries Gas & Oil 70" Metal SignGood-year Tires 1940's 8' Vertical Porcelain Sign. Gas Oil Hot-rod Burn Rubber!!Vintage 1950's Motorcycle Gumball Machine & Stand Indian Mobil Gas Oil Sign GumVintage 1958 Mobil Mobilgas Pegasus Gasoline Gas Pump 12" Porcelain Metal SignVintage Pennzoil Gas Pump Gumball Machine & Stand Petroleum Mobil Texaco SignsVintage C.1930 Champion Spark Plug Service Gas & Oil 28" Metal SignVintage 1920's A~c Brakes For Ford Installed Metal Gas & Oil SignVintage 1930's Iron Fireman Coal Furnace 2 Sided 19" Metal Flange Gas Oil SignOriginal Cities Service Porcelain Gas Oil Sign No Reserve!!1940s Vintage Cities Service Products Old Gas Station Dial Thermometer SignLarge Vintage 1950's Firestone Tires 71" Porcelain Metal Gas & Oil SignNice 1955 Vintage S&h Green Stamps Old Gas Station Porcelain SignOriginal Texaco Diesel Chief Embossed Metal Pump Sign Not PorcelainLarge Vintage 1930's Gmc Trucks 2 Sided 40" Porcelain Metal Gas Oil SignVintage 1960 Quaker State Motor Oil 24" Bubble Front Metal SignVintage ~ C1920 ~ Double Sided Enamel Sign ~ "shell Motor Spirit - Motor Oils"Vintage 1950's Tire Alignment Use Snap-on Tools Gas & Oil 18" Metal SignRare "stanocola" Standard Oil Company Of Louisiana Porcelain SignRare Vintage C.1930 Ford Fordson Tractor Farm 19" Embossed Metal Gas Oil SignVintage**rare**fram Oil Air Filter Gas Oil Advertising Thermometer SignLarge Vintage 1940's Oldsmobile Service 2 Sided 42" Porcelain Metal Gas Oil SignRare Vintage Tin Nehi Gas Today Oil Store Sign Not Porcelain AutomotiveVintage 1960 Texaco Sky Chief Gasoline Gas Pump Plate 18" Porcelain Metal Sign1930's Ol Vintage Porcelain 16" X 12" Castrol Wakefield Motot Oil Enamel Sign