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First gas station fuels a celebration

Gulf Oil group puts a marker at the historical site

SHARE First gas station fuels a celebration

PITTSBURGH — Only 30 gallons of gasoline, costing 27 cents a gallon, were sold Dec. 1, 1913, when Gulf Refining Co. opened the nation's first "filling station" in a pagoda-style building it constructed on a lot in Pittsburgh.

But free crankcase service, air, water and installation of tires and tubes so impressed people driving $400 Model T Fords that sales jumped to 350 gallons several days after the opening.

Former Gulf Oil Corp. employees and history buffs dedicated a historical marker this week at the site of the first drive-in service station, now vacant and used for parking.

The idea for the yellow-and-blue marker was initiated by the Gulfoil Historical Society, an organization dedicated to "preserving the history, products, practices and friendships" of Gulf Oil Corp. The marker notes Gulf's success at the service station "led to construction of thousands of gas stations by different oil companies across the nation."

Although the Gulfoil Historical Society is less than 2 years old and numbers only 133 members, those who attended the unveiling of the marker came from as far away as Texas and New Jersey.

Society Vice President Buzz Houston drove from Oxford, Kan., towing a trailer carrying a 1919 Oldsmobile truck once used to deliver bulk Gulf gasoline — "Peerless Motor" and "Good Gulf" brands. The vintage truck, a predecessor of today's tankers used to transport 8,000 gallons at a time, carried five-gallon cans to measure the amount dumped into holding tanks by hand.

If the price of gas had kept up with inflation, a gallon of Good Gulf that cost 27 cents at the first drive-in station in 1913 would cost almost $21 a gallon today. And a 12-gallon fill-up that cost $3.24, or 30 percent of the average weekly earnings, would cost more than $250.

The station also was the first to pass out the free road maps produced by Gulf and used as a marketing tool. Making the employee restroom available to motorists contributed to the concept of public restrooms at stations elsewhere.