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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Filling Stations

Filling Stations

GRHC - February 17th, 2010

Glance at the Past turns an eye to the early days of transportation.



Harry A. Winter, treasurer of the Sintz Gas Engine Co., was the owner of the only motor vehicle in the city in 1896. When Mr. Winter purchased the car its appearance in the city caused quite a stir, especially among the local horses.

It was a two-seated, four wheeled carriage, driven by a six horse-power double-cylinder Sintz Gasoline engine. It could reach a speed of twelve miles per hour, and was able to climb Michigan St. Hill.

Like horses, who need hay, Winter’s automobile needed gas and oil. In the early days gasoline had to be obtained at “bulk depots” located outside of cities. Wholesalers using horse-drawn tank trucks transported gasoline to towns. Motorists purchased oil and gasoline from retail stores, general stores, hardware stores, automobile dealers, grocery stores, drug stores, and even bicycle repairs shops. There were also tank wagons that traveled from house to house. Gasoline was usually kept in barrels, and customers filled their tanks from cans kept in the car.

As automobile sales increased, the demand for fuel led to a more systematic way of delivering it. The Triangle Service Station in Grand Rapids was one of the earliest and operated at the intersection of Fulton, Louis, and Commerce beginning in 1914. Their advertising boasted of “Two Bowser pumps to put Crystal Gasoline into your tank at the rate of 5 gallons to each turn of the lever – a great time saver.” A third Bowser is used exclusively for Excelsior High Test.  Triangle was open daily from 7 AM to 9 PM, including Sunday, thus taking advantage of family outings in the new automobile.

Full Details

TitleFilling Stations
KeywordsGlance at the Past, filling stations, gas, car, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission,Podcast
Pubdate StringFebruary 17th, 2010

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