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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Self-Service: 1920

Self-Service: 1920

Washington, D.C., 1920. "Nation's Business." Back at the filling station seen here yesterday. 8x10 inch glass negative by Harris & Ewing. View full size.

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Not same dates in 1920

It seems that not only did the brand name change, but the sign touting clean gas moved from the wall behind the station to the other side of the station.

[The sign is suspended from a wire strung between the two gas pumps. -tterrace]

Innovation -- Not!

The post-'73 oil crisis tendency for US gasoline sales to become largely self-service (except for the handicapped, those willing to pay a hefty surcharge, and anyone purchasing fuel in New Jersey) apparently revives a much older practice, as the two photos in this series attest. My own memories date from the mid-1940s, and self-service was by then unknown in any place where I witnessed cars' being refueled.

One wonders not why the practice was revived but, rather, why it was abandoned for so long?


Do you think people actually bought the sign's message about dirt or water in the fuel? In my lifetime, most of the contamination of fuel occurred at the station's tanks, not before. Marketing-speak!


The wheels may be spiffy with those wire wheels, but the tires look like bicycle tires! They look like they might collapse at the first big pothole.

Two brands at the same station?

So the pump on the right had Texaco gas and the one on the left Standard gas? Maybe they were owned by the same company at one time; don't recall my oil company history the way I used to.

You too can pump your gas like that

If you have a hankering to have your gas put into your tank using the amazing force of _GRAVITY_, there is a resort (I forget the name) on road into Kings Canyon National Park in California that has not one, but two, working pumps just like the one in the picture.

That wall

Is screaming for the sign painter's touch.

You can trust your car --

Huh, I could've sworn this was a Texaco dealer just yesterday.

Cameo appearances

Turnbuckle star! Also, Dick Cheney.

Cars, and such

1920 Dodge, maybe a little earlier. Model T or TT in the background.

Interestingly, Wikipedia dates coveralls to the late 1920s but they seem to be fairly common in earlier-than-that Shorpy photos. Anyone know when they were really introduced?

Dodge Brothers

The old Dodge looks much spiffier with the optional wire wheels.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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