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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Nu-Blue Xmas: 1940

Nu-Blue Xmas: 1940

December 1940. "Christmas trees for sale at a gas station. Woonsocket, Rhode Island." Medium format negative by Jack Delano. View full size.

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Let Us Winterize Your Car NOW!


I believe this is the Woonsocket General Tire Company, incorporated in 1932 at 247 South Main Street. It was run by William F. Garrahan from 1932 to 1943. Prior to working here Garrahan had been a tool maker and the vice-president and manager of the local Studebaker dealer known as Kilcline & Normandin.

In about 1944 he opened up Garrahan's Tire Service at 18 Blackstone Street, where he also sold gasoline. He continued operating this business until 1953. This location is still a tire dealer.

The Woonsocket General Tire Company appears to have closed sometime between 1945 and 1949. Garrahan also opened a real estate and insurance business circa 1951, and served as a tax assessor for the city for many years. He died in 1960.

The gas pump sightglass

Re: FixIt's comment: Dave is right about the globe atop the pump, which was just a light-up advertisement. The color-tinted gasoline could be viewed in the sightglass, which was located on the face of the pump just above the price meter. I remember a few older pumps still had these when I started driving in the 1970s, but they seemed to disappear soon after. There was usually a little vane in the glass which spun when the gas flowed. Cool!

Accurate at any rate of flow and all temperatures

Inside the window of the gas pump there is a view glass that shows the fuel being dispensed. Some of the pumps had a multi-petal 'vane' that rotated as the fuel flowed. It was there to reassure people that only liquid was being pumped, and they were getting what they paid for.

I don't know much beyond being a pump jockey back in the 1960s (Sunoco with the new "190" -- lower octane than regular at a lower price), at which time the pumps were so equipped.

I didn't do windshields unless the purchase was $2 or more, about 6 gallons.

Dear Santa

I'd like all the signs, the gas pumps and one of those fresh cut trees for you to put it all under.

p.s. Give the man on the roof one of your nice fancy ladders.

Your choice

Which is worse, rolling off the roof or stepping through the second floor door?

Top Tier?

As an automobile mechanic (I dislike technician), I have corrected many driveability issues by cleaning dirty fuel injectors. The injectors are like miniature valves that spray in a conical pattern into the intake manifold or combustion chamber. Inferior fuel causes these deposits, and greatly affects how the engine performs. The fuel must spray in a conical pattern for optimum atomization. Fuel droplets don't burn as fast, causing a loss of power and economy.

Sunoco was able to introduce premium fuel without lead, a common additive to reduce cylinder pre ignition/knocking/pinging. Its Blue Fuel (I found no reference to Nu Blue) was dyed so motorists could see the color in the globe over the pump, which differentiated it from other fuels. The globe on this pump is not transparent so it would be difficult to notice the slight bluish tint.

[These "globes" light up at night. There's never any fuel in them. - Dave]

Math is wrong

9.6 + 4.1 = 13.7 not 14.1.

Where did the extra 4 tenths of a cent come from.

[You're adding wrong. 4½ = 4.5, not 4.1 - Dave]

I'm so used to prices in tenths that I didn't notice. Of course, today all gas prices end in .9 .

Adjusted for Inflation

14 cents per gallon computes to $2.53 today. They were paying essentially the same for gas as we do today.

[Although the gas tax in the photo is a steep 50 percent. - Dave]

When tenths mattered

The gas price illustrates a time when tenths of cents mattered. Not so any longer. That's one thing from olden times I wouldn't mind seeing gone.

Way Ahead of Their Time

Did a little quick research and apparently Sunoco had a deal in the early 1940s to use Disney characters such as Mickey and Donald in its advertising.

14.1¢ a gallon!

Well, I guess they have to charge those exorbitant prices just to cover the cost of Mickey's endorsement.

"Up on the Roof"

Someone's up there doing last minute repairs before winter arrives!

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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