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Department of Chemistry
State University of New York
March 20, 1997
It just doesn't have the same ring. In 1946 when Bobby Troup wrote his song "Get Your Kicks On Route 66," the alliteration of "route six six" gave the song its charm. But twenty years earlier when the US Highway system was laid out, the proponents of what was to become the "Mother Road", campaigned for the US 60 designator. The divisible by ten numbers were to be the primary east west highways. The proponents argued that the Chicago to LA route was clearly destined to be the primary route from the east to California and as a primary route it deserved the US 60 designator. Competitors for the Route 60 designator correctly pointed out that the divisible by ten numbers were supposed to be true cross country routes. And although Lake Michigan is Great Lake indeed, it is not the Atlantic Ocean. The competitors won and the eastern end of Route 60 began in Virginia. The Chicago to LA route received the now famous "US 66" designator instead.
This led to a slight problem for Rand McNally as they planned drew their maps in 1926. As a Chicago company they were well aware of the controversy. Unfortunately the outcome was not settled in time and Rand McNally placed their bets with the losing side. When the 1926 maps and atlases went to print their version of US 60 left Chicago and headed for LA. Show here are two examples.
The first example is a 1926 Rand McNally map of the state of Illinois issued by Standard Oil of Indiana. The cover shows a gentleman and a lady in their sporty car stopped to ask a local for directions. Billed as "showing the main trunk and highways", the map included the new US highway designators. Most of the new US highways followed existing Illinois state routes. For example the major east-west routes, US 20 followed Illinois 5; US 30, the Lincoln Highway, followed Illinois 6; US 40, the National Old Trails Road, followed Illinois 11 and US 50 followed Illinois 12. The major north-south route US 51 followed Illinois 2. State route Illinois 4, the diagonal route from Chicago to St. Louis, received the US 60 designator. Shown below are the map cover and selected portions of the map itself.
The second example is the 1926 Rand McNally Auto Road Atlas of the United States. This atlas contained a complete set of junior Auto Road Maps. The entire US 60 route from Chicago to LA can be traced in this atlas. The atlas cover is shown below. The portion of the highway from Santa Fe to Gallup, New Mexico is shown in the introductory graphic. Along this stretch, only the portions of the road near Albuquerque are marked as paved.
Some of the most beautiful maps ever issued came from Shell. Our first map was issued in 1928. It pictures a Shell Station, several powerful automobiles, a speed boat in the foreground, and a biplane flying overhead. We must assume that all are powered by Shell gasoline and lubricated by Shell Motor Oil.
The 1931 Shell map promoted Shell's Travelaide service. While one motorist is getting his information from the local sheriff, a second motorist is checking the Travelaide sign at the Shell Station.
The next two maps were issued in 1932 and 1933. They feature the license plate paintings of artist Robert E. Lee. In the 1932 map a glamorous lady is driving a fast convertible with her well dressed husband in the right hand seat. Overhead are the colorful license plates of the 48 American states, the District of Columbia and a few of the Canadian provinces. In the 1933 the lady has traded in her husband for a dog and looks the painter in the eye.
In 1934 Shell abandoned such artistic efforts and brought in a new simple, but bold look, that was to kept for the remainder of the 30s. The Shell maps of the 1940s and 1950s were not so bold and were much less interesting
In 1960s and 70s Shell introduced new maps with individual designs matching the respective region, state or city. These maps, while not exactly inspired, were an improvement over the simple designs of the previous decades.
Chevron maps of the 1950s and 1960s featured water colors scenes characteristic of the location covered by each map.
Here is a selection of these beautiful maps.
The Continental Oil Company was one of the many companies that made up the original Standard Oil trust. When Standard Oil was broken up in 1911, Continental Oil was a regional company based in Colorado and the surrounding mountain states. They were one of the earliest oil companies to distribute maps to the motoring public.
One of the earlier examples of a Continental Oil Map, a 1924 Rand McNally Blazed Trail Map of the state of Idaho, is shown below. In 1924 the US Highway system was still two years away, the Rand McNally map showed a system of "Blazed Trails". These were a series of named routes, named and marked by Rand McNally in the absence of an official numbering scheme. The list of Blazed Trails shown on the Idaho map is pictured below.
As a former member of the Standard Oil Trust, Continental Oil marketed products manufactured by sister Standard Oil companies. Show below is a ad from the 1924 map for Polarine (Standard Oil of Indiana) and MobilOil.
Our second Continental Oil Company map is a Colorado map of 1928. The cover is a wonderful one showing oil derricks and a refinery above a gas station located next to a waterfall. What could be more beautiful? The Continental Oil company ran the gas stations in Yellowstone National Park and boasted of this special relationship on its maps.
In 1929 Continental Oil was purchased by Marland Oil. The new company adopted the Conoco name, and added it to the now familiar red triangle trademark formerly used by Marland Oil. Shown below is one of the first maps, a 1930 Utah map, issued by the new Conoco. The map cover shows a delightful mountain scene. A family parks by a mountain stream for a picnic. One look and almost anyone would want to hit the road and buy Conono gasoline?
The ties to the former Standard Oil were completely cut. Polarine and
MobileOil were dropped. A new Germ-Processed Motor Oil was marketed. I
don't know what "germ-processed" means, but it must have been good. The
oil was said to have extra "oiliness".
The Colonial Beacon Oil Company was formed in 1928 through the merger of the Colonial Oil Company and the Beacon Oil Company. The company was located in Boston and had a extensive network of stations through out New England, Long Island and the eastern edge of upstate New York. The classic map shown here was issued in 1930. It included a salute to the Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary (1630-1930). In 1931 the still new Colonial Beacon Oil Company was purchased by the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and used as their New England outlet for Esso gasoline.
In these days of self-service gasoline filling stations it is getting difficult to remember the concept of a service station. For those of you who don't remember or who have never seen a service station, here is a primer taken from a 1933 map from the Gulf Refining Company.
Put Knix-Knox in your Tank
The problem with gasoline is that everyone has essentially the same product. How do you differentiate your product from that of your competitor? How about a catchy name and a good slogan? Knix-Knox from the Lion Oil Refining Company of Eldorado, Arkansas is a good example.
"Knix-Knox gives more miles yet costs no more than ordinary gasoline... the extra miles are free"
The map shown below is a 1942 map from the H. M. Gousha Company. The cover features a line of marching Lion service station attendants with a Lion flag and grease guns. Such dedication!
Joseph W. Lauher
Department of Chemistry
State University of New York