Monday, November 14, 2016

MotorMonday: Pan-Gas Filling Station

When automobiles started to appear on American streets, so did businesses needed to fuel them. Today's photo shows a filling station from one of the largest oil companies in America at the time. Sadly, portions of our print were devoured by a hungry rodent at some point, obscuring the view of the pumps.

Pan-Am oil products on display in the window.
In the early teens, automobile sales started to rise and the "horseless carriages" became more than just a curiosity, they became a practicality. They also presented a demand for fuel, and businesses were quick to respond. Initially, all sorts of stores and other businesses installed pumps and sold gasoline. In 1914, though Standard Oil of California took a different approach and sought to streamline the marketing and distribution of gasoline, opening a chain of 34 gasoline stations up and down the west coast. Other chains quicky copied the idea and opened their own "filling stations".

Oil baron Edward L. Doheny had made his fortunes drilling for and finding gushers down in Mexico, and in 1916, incorporated Pan American Petroleum as a parent company for his Mexican interests. The company promoted its gasoline initially as Pan-Gas, and its motor oil products under the Pan-Am name. Later gas stations dropped "Pan-Gas" and settled on Pan American.

Hughes Ice Cream may be a clue as to the photo's location:
The only references I could find were to a company
by that name based in Lexington, KY.
Doheny expanded his empire into Central America, and by 1921, Pan American was the largest petroleum company in the United States. In 1922, however, Doheny and Pan American became embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal, wherein Interior Secretary Albert Fall was accused of taking bribes from oil barons in exchange for granting leases outside of the competitive bidding process. Fall went to prison and the debacle was considered the most sensational political scandal until it was overshadowed by Waterdate a half-century later. Eventually, Doheny was cleared of all wrongdoing.

Over the next several decades, Doheny continued to build his empire, buying and selling properties, often dealing with Standard Oil of Indiana. Eventually, in 1954, Pan American and Standard of Indiana decided to merge and formed Amoco.

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