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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • STAY ONE JUMP AHEAD OF TROUBLE, 1945

Q Street Gas: 1920

Q Street Gas: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Penn Oil, Q Street, Georgetown." View full size. National Photo Company Collection glass negative, Library of Congress.

 

Gas on the cheap

In the early sixties, I worked at an independent gas station that closed its bays and installed a dozen double pumps, then they offered gas for 30 cents a gallon, about half price. The place was mobbed all day, plus they gave out colored chips with each purchase that could be redeemed for dishes, lighters and bric-a-brac. My friend Bob and I spent a whole blazing summer out there wearing aprons full of chips and pumping like a tornado was coming. Those two fellows probably prayed for business like that.

Visible Gas

The old system of filling your tank used a hand pump to pull the gas out of an underground tank and into the glass beaker on top of the pump. That beaker had painted lines on the side which told you how much gas you were paying for.

You can see both the hand pump and the glass beaker. Notice the chicken wire around the beaker to ward off rock throwers.

I wonder

If that's the site of the selfsame station that was in Georgetown when I went to school there--it was a really old-fashioned one that may have been closed.

Bleak Station; Free Air

This enterprise presents a bleak vision, with its blank sign on our left, the stakes dancing around the small evergreens out front, the bare limbed tree, and the near-desperate appearing proprietor.

Gas Prices Over the Ages

Thirty cent gas in 1920 is equal to $3.10 a gallon today. I'd be happy to pay that, and so would my poor Flapper gal.

Washington Monument

You can see the top of the Washington Monument on the right. That must mean this was on the south side of Q. Probably near Kew Gardens, which I think was already built around then.

A Gallon of Gas

In current dollars the price of gas in 1920 was $ 2.75 per gallon - almost the highest price on the graph. About ~5 years later when flappers drove up to the filling stations and stepped out of their Ford roadsters wearing high heels, the station was (hopefully) paved and the price had significantly dropped. So there was spending money left for make-up, cigarettes and filling the hip flasks.

[It's interesting to note that for 50 years the absolute price of a gallon of gas stayed pretty much the same -- 20 to 25 cents from 1920 to 1970. - Dave]


Chart: New York Times (Click to enlarge)

Wow, Shorpy Shrinks The World!

I grew up in Warren, Michigan (11 mile & Mound) and also remember the "Gas Wars." My mother had a fit when she moved me into MSU. Gas was 69 cents a gallon just off campus. My going to college was going to send her "to the poorhouse."

Tiger in Your Tank

Don't forget the 1960s Esso "Tiger in Your Tank" Tail to hang from your gas cap. That was worth a fill-up.

Gas 30-Cents a Gallon in 1920?

Gas cost too much in 1920. Thirty cents a gallon?

Heck, on the corner of 13 Mile Road and Ryan Road in Warren, Michigan, during the late 1960's, we could get gas for 19-cents a gallon during the "Gas Wars".

Not only that - we could get an inflatable Dino the Dinosaur (Sinclair), a full set of Detroit Tigers Glasses (Marathon) and other stuff I've forgotten from Standard (Amoco) and Gulf.

Those 1960's "Gas Wars" - those were the good ole days. Forget that 1920's nonsense. How could a poor Flapper gal get about with the cost of gas?

Visible Gasoline

Good to see that they're selling "Visible Gasoline." It's so hard to fill up with the invisible kind.

27th and Q, NW

Ads from 1920 indicate a Penn Oil station located at 27th and Q streets NW.

I've added this photo to my growing Google Map Mashup of Shorpy's D.C. area photos.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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