Test your knowledge of American gas stations with our quiz

Fuels |  4 min. read

The 100th anniversary of the “modern” gas station in America was just a few years ago (2013).  But a lot has happened in that hundred years — including some of the most memorable slogans and logos ever (Don Draper would have been proud).

So today, we’ve got a quiz to test your knowledge of that essential piece of any road trip, on any road:  the American gas station (with a few American gas station company questions tossed in too).

In case you’re wondering, by the way, the first drive-in station was a Gulf station in Pittsburgh, and it looked like this:

(Photo from the Library of Congress)

Yes, FOUR attendants and a manager.  (And if you’ve ever been to the ‘Burgh in winter, you’ll appreciate the overhangs.)

Ready?  Enjoy the ride.

Which gasoline promised to “put a tiger in your tank”?

That would be Esso gasoline, which eventually was folded into the company we know today as ExxonMobil.

Fill in the blank: “Never pick up a stranger, pick up ___________ Antifreeze.”

That would be Prestone Antifreeze.  They used to sing that line in their commercials, but no, we’re not going to do that here.  Trust us.

(Antifreeze, by the way, is made from petrochemicals like ethylene and propylene, which is how it ends up in this quiz.  Well, that, and gas stations sold it.)

In 1915, you could get Red Crown Gasoline and Pearl Oil delivered — by a horse-drawn wagon. What oil company was still keeping one hoof in the stable in 1915?

At the time, that company was Standard Oil Co. of California.  We know it today though as — Chevron.

(Photo from Chevron)

Which brand of gasoline had a dinosaur as its mascot?

DINO (pronounced DYE-noh) represented Sinclair Oil.  Still does too.  But back in the ‘30s, DINO was a Brontosaurus. Today, following the lead of the paleontological community, he’s an Apatosaurus.

Incidentally, if you’ve seen a Pixar movie like Toy Story, you might have noticed a “Dinoco” station.  That’s a shout-out to Sinclair and DINO.

(Photo from Sinclair)

If you saw the “flying red horse” when you were out driving, that didn’t mean you’d had too much to drink — it meant you were pulling up at an _________ station.

Mobil didn’t invent the flying horse logo (and yes, if you remember your mythology, that IS based on Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek myth) –a South African oil company did back in 1911.  But starting in the ‘30s, that red horse with wings was the sign of a Mobil station.

(John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

What company promised that its gas gave you “more gallop per gallon.”  Hint:  it was “the gasoline that won the West!”

There might some competition for who “won the West”, but Phillips 66 was the gasoline that laid claim to the title.

What oil company built Rockefeller Center?

That’s a little bit of a trick question, but only a little.  New York’s “city within a city” was the project of John D. Rockefeller — but Rockefeller made his money as the founder of Standard Oil.  Standard isn’t around anymore, but that’s where oil companies we know today like ExxonMobil and Chevron have their roots.  Rockefeller Center on the other hand, is still right there in midtown Manhattan where John D put it.

What oil company sponsored opera on the radio!  (Yes, really.)

For 73 years, the New York’s Metropolitan Opera Saturday matinee broadcasts were sponsored by Texaco.  Especially in the earlier days (its sponsorship began in 1940,) many an American opera lover who lived outside the big city, got their opera fix from those Saturday shows.  Texaco’s first opera?  Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.

What brand of gas was named for a star?

That would be our star — and the Sun Company.  We know it today as Sunoco.

(Photo form Sunoco)

For many years, the Gulf Building was the tallest skyscraper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  And on the very top was something very useful to every Pittsburgher.  What was it?

Back before you could check the weather app on your phone, every night, you could check the top of the Gulf Building.  For many years, if the top was lit red, the next day would be clear; if the light was blue, rain was coming.  And since the Gulf Building was the tallest in town (for many years), it was not hard to check the weather. Today, the building, and the weather beacon are still there — but Gulf Oil is part of Chevron now.

What oil company is named for an ancient race (not a race of people, a running race)?

The original Marathon goes back to the wars between the Greeks and the Persians (and the legendary messenger who ran from the battlefield to Athens, to announce the Greek victory).  Marathon Petroleum came a little later:  in 1930, it was a brand name for the Ohio Oil Company, and in 1962, Marathon became the company name too.  The original Marathon slogan?  “Best in the long run” (naturally).  Here’s a look at the logo when it was still just the brand name.

(Photo from Library of Congress)

“You can trust your car to the man who wears the star”

At whose gas stations would you find that star?

The star is actually older than the gas stations, because Texaco first adopted the star in 1903.  The Texaco slogan is also the title of a live (bootleg) album by Bruce Springsteen.  But Bruce came a little later;  that was recorded in 1975.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Over the years, the slogans, the signs, the names may have changed.  What hasn’t changed though — is that whenever you’re out on the road, you’re never far from a gas station with the fuel to keep you on the road.

And, we’re out.  Although if you have any favorites we’ve missed — send ‘em our way.  We like hearing your stories.


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