Vintage Gas Pumps: Fueling the Past

July 24, 2021

After Henry Ford’s revolutionary assembly line made the automobile affordable to most American families, the world rapidly changed. The freedom of mobility meant that families were on the go. It quickly became clear that road trippers needed new businesses to keep them moving forward. Drive-thru restaurants, motels, and roadside attractions sprang up. But none of these new business endeavors were more important than the gas station. 

Colorized photograph from Ray Ford gas station Cucamonga (

Gas stations of the past were quite different from today’s convenience stores. First of all, the gas pumps themselves, shown here in a colorized photograph, were works of art. With art deco designs and graphic motifs, the pumps were made to appeal to road weary travelers. Let’s take a look at some of the coolest vintage gas pumps. 

The First U.S. Filling Station

A filling station in Orofino Idaho circa July 1941 (Library of Congress-Colorized)

The first business that was expressly built to be a gas station was constructed in 1905 in St. Louis, Missouri, not far from Route 66. At the time, some other area businessmen scoffed at the idea as a mere trend, yet more entrepreneurs soon followed suit. In 1907, the Standard Oil of California company, which is not called Chevron, built a gas station in Seattle, Washington. Two years later, Reighard’s Gas Station in Altoona, Pennsylvania opened. These early gas stations were called filling stations because, duh, that’s where motorists went to fill up.