- There's a story...or at least in inspired idea...behind every logo, including these familiar gas signs. All images: Rick Tate

10 Fun Facts About Random Gas & Other Mascots

18w ago


I love taking the road trips anytime of year, but unfortunately my and my husband’s work schedules more often than not makes this a summertime luxury.

As much as we can, we make sure we take some of the older, less traveled roads or swing through the main drags of the Small Town America. In many of these towns the, storefronts, gas stations or municipal buildings concentrated as much on the aesthetic value of a place, rather than just its utilitarian purposes.

There was a sense of artistic pride in how some stations were set up, and still today one of the ways we can enjoy the creative side of the necessity of keeping one’s car filled and working is in logos and mascots, much like the ones I’ve been looking at over the past three weeks. There are some that are no longer a familiar part of the landscape, while others from simple dinosaurs to shining red neon stars, are still immediately associated with a brand.

In anticipation of the coming summer (aka “road trip” season), I’m finishing up my look at the some of fun…and completely random…facts behind the artistic side of some favorite familiar symbols and mascots of gas stations, oil companies or other roadside businesses of the past and present.

1. The Mobil Pegasus first appeared in 1911, a symbol of “power and speed,” and became the company’s official “mascot” in 1931, when the company Socony-Vacuum was formed. The original horse faced right instead of left, and he didn’t get his signature red color until it was given to him by an artist at Mobil Sekiyu, the company’s Japanese division.

2. Long before it merged with Socony and Pegasus flew on the MobilOil products, the symbol of Vacuum Oil was another mystical creature, a red gargoyle dating back as far as 1869 used on their petroleum-based lubricants for steam engines and horse drawn carriages. Good luck finding a can of that.

3. The red star for Texaco is very much a celebration of the state the company started in, Texas. Texas Fuel Company was founded in 1901, and its red star is a reference to Texas’s nickname, “The Lone Star State.”

3. Is should be no surprise that Sinclair Motor Oil’s popular logo is a dinosaur, in reference to fossil fuels, but several different types of dinosaurs were considered for the brand. Its popular green Apatosaurus, named “Dino,” was chosen since this particular dinosaur (originally called a Brontosaurus) is considered a friendlier and more appealing “gentle giant.” Pixar animation’s imaginary gas brand “Dinoco,” which pops up in several of its films, is a parody of Sinclair.

Some of the photos and reproductions of classic signs collected we've collected on our journeys.

4. According to the official HAMB (Hokey Ass Message Board) of JalopyJournal.com, there are several conflicting sources as to the origin of Polly Gas, known for its familiar green parrot logo. Some say they started as far back as 2010. These signs for the “mom and pop” gas stations were common sights along the West coast from the 1920s to 1950s. Today, the signs are rare and sought after by collectors.

5. Although the company now has stations worldwide, Phillips 66’s shield and name is designed after the famous Route 66 signs. Originally Phillips Petroleum Company of ConocoPhillips, the first Phillips 66 was built in Kansas, one of the states along well-traveled route.

6. The Phillips 66-owned gas stations. 76 (formerly called Union 76), were easily recognizable by the rotating orange and blue orbs designed by Ray Pedersen for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. The 76 gas itself was introduced in 1932. It not only refers to 1776, the year the American Declaration of Independence was signed, but to the octane rating of gas that year.

7. Royal Dutch Shell, which owns the Shell Oil, is one of the largest oil producers in the world and its stylized red and yellow shell logo is instantly recognizable. According to the brand’s history, the name a logo dates back to 1891 when the shell was used a trademark for kerosene shipped by Shell Transport and Trading Company. Decorative shells were popular imports at the time. When it merged with Royal Dutch Petroleum Company in 1907, it kept the shell symbol, but changed it from a realistic mussel shell to a scallop, which slowly evolved over the years to the "Shell" we recognize today.

8. In 1999, MobilOil merged with Exxon, but long before these two got together Exxon was a parent company to Norway’s Esso, who had been using a tiger mascot since the turn of the century. It caught on in the 1950s in the United States, with the launch of the now well-known catchphrase, “Put a Tiger in Your Tank,” for its Enco brand. According to Exxon history, This ad campaign was so well-received, in the 50s and 60s, "Time Magazine" dubbed 1964 “The Year of The Tiger Along Madison Avenue.”

Esso also introduced “Happy, the Oil Drop Man,” used in during World War II and after, but he probably didn’t have the bite of the tiger.

9. The Exxon Company appreciated its tiger mascot so much, they helped establish the “Save The Tiger” fund in 1995. The company still contributes about $1 million per year for the Asian wild tiger conservation.

10. The Michelin Man may be easily recognizable, but can you spot a “Muffler Man?” The first of these 20-foot-tall roadside statues was designed in 1962 by Bob Prewitt for the Paul Bunyan Café along Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona. Although his hands were designed to hold an axe, the huge fiberglass statues' shape lent itself to also selling car parts such as full-sized mufflers or tires. Muffler Men can still be seen across the country modified to look like everything from pirates to cowboys.

The right mascot or logo, like this Muffler Man reimagined as Robin Hood, Dino the Sinclair Gas Dinosaur, and a restored historic Phillips 66, make for favorite roadside attractions.

I hope this summer, or any season after that, affords you the opportunity to hit the road and enjoy some roadside attractions and nostalgia, but make sure to fill up that tank.

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