In both their design and marketing, gas stations promised adventure to new and exciting places where all would be, somehow, predictable and consistent. There were different strategies for communicating this paradoxical promise. Early on, gas station designers based their buildings on traditional home designs. This link to the past was meant to reassure customers by making the still novel structure of the gas station familiar. Designers also made the gas station familiar by limiting variation between stations as much as possible. While many stations were still locally owned, these owners contracted with specific oil companies to provide their product. As the decade progressed, evidence of local ownership faded and corporate identity of these stations became more visible through company logos, slogans colors and names. The prominence of corporate identity grew as tourists traveled further from home. The tourist's desire for predictability and consistency seemed proportionately to his or her distance from home. This need was understandable considering the large investment the tourist's car represented. Gasoline, unlike many other products, could not be judged by the senses, so a familiar brand name was especially reassuring to customers as they traveled.(Vieyra, 4-6 and Jakle and Sculle, 59-60).





Putting a familiar uniform on a service attendant also reinforced a gas station's corporate identity. A Texaco advertisement from the 1930s read: "You can trust your car to the man who wears the star." The traveler, hundreds of miles from home saw, not a stranger with a strange accent but "a uniformed representative of a familiar company"(Vieyra, 14). Oil companies offered additional goods and services as they competed to create and maintain brandname allegiance among consumers. By the start of the 30s, the patron could get oil changed and buy tires. A clean windshield and oil check were included in the price of a fill up. Most stations had restrooms for public use(Vieyra, 14).


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The credit card evolved out of this impulse toward customer service. Based on the common practice of charging purchases at the local store, the gasoline card made credit as "mobile as the consumer" and reinforced the sense of familiarity far from home and, even more importantly, developed an allegiance to a particular brand, whether that gas was pumped five miles or five hundred miles from home.In a similar attempt to gain goodwill and increase customer loyalty oil companies printed and distributed free road maps which typically marked the locations of affiliate stations (Vieryra, 14).


These trends toward corporatization and standardization are especially evident in the evolving architecture of the gas station during the 30s. The building itself functioned much as a billboard. For a gas station to be successful, its design needed to communicate a clear and appealing message to motorists as they sped along. Based on the increased standardization of most stations by the end of the 30s, it would seem that the tourist's need for uniformity was the strongest. Yet other desires were expressed along the way. In his work, Fill 'Er Up: An Architectural History of America's Gas Stations, Daniel I. Vieyra observes recurring themes in the architecture of gas stations and the desires they address. What follows is largely a synopsis of his book.