One of the identifying icons of the 20th century is surely the gas pump. There are a million of them across the country and we use them without much thought to their evolution. However, gas pumps and gas station memorabilia are treasured by thousands of collectors.
When the automobile came into use, owners had to buy gasoline in cans from the hardware store. In the 1880s, a young man had an idea for a new kind of pump which utilized a plunger below the surface of the liquid in a barrel and which would be used to push the liquid up through a pipe. Since gasoline was a lot more combustible than kerosene, and presented many fire and safety hazards when dispensed inside a store, another merchant began to develop a pump that was better suited for gasoline. He built a pump in 1898 which lifted the fuel from an underground tank and dispensed it through a hose into a tank or car. Thus the gas pump was born.
In the earliest days of the auto age, gas pumps were located at curb side on the street, just like fire hydrants. With more and more cars on the road the congestion at the gas pumps became so great that cities passed laws regulating the sale of gasoline. This problem was solved in 1913, when Gulf Oil opened the first “Filling Station” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
From about 1912 to the mid 1950s, gas pumps were crowned by illuminated globes which identified the brand of fuel dispensed. These globes varied from the simplest circular white glass with black lettering to the most colorful and unique of shapes. Over time more than 4,000 different globes were manufactured.
Gilday Station, formerly a White Eagle station, in Osage City, Kansas, was built in the 1920s. After its heyday, the building and grounds became the property of Ed Gilday who founded the Gilday Truck Line in 1943 and who used the station as a place to park and fuel company vehicles. When he moved his company to Kansas City, the service station sat abandoned until 1998 when the Osage City Historical Preservation Society acquired the building to save and rehabilitate. Now, a White Eagle gas pump adorns the front of the station and the white eagle statuette has returned to its concrete perch, as well. With continuing work, the Society envisions a reasonable authentic, small town Kansas gasoline station from the 1920s that may serve as a combination petroleum museum and community visitors center.
The Osage City Historical Preservation Society welcomes petroleum related items of historical value or cash contributions.