CORINTH INFORMATION DATABASE VERSION 1.3

(c) 1995 Milton Sandy, Jr.

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                           THE GILMORE OIL COMPANY
                                  1900-1945
                                One of 2,496
               A basic history of a very enthusiastic company
                                 by Alan Darr

          REMEMBER SLOGANS like "Blu-Green Gas," "Roar With Gilmore,"
  "Gilmore The Record Breaker?" Remember the "Gilmore Fun Circus" radio
  show and "That Funny Red Lion Gas Song?" In the 1920s and '30s these were
  the sounds of the Gilmore Oil Company of Los Angeles, California.  Up
  and down the West Coast, almost every kid wanted his mom and dad lo
  "fill-'er-up" at the cream and red service stations with the large
  impressive lion sign on top the building.  The kids were in for a real
  treat, and as far as they were concerned, it was all free.  Gilmore comic
  books, "Gilmore Cub" news-papers with interesting facts, last week's gas
  song winners, all the latest racing news, candy suckers in the shape of a
  lion and other promotional goodies always were available. If they were
  very lucky, they might see some live lions, clowns, and a special bodied
  speedster, known today as the "Gilmore Mystery' Car." All this was the
  genius of Earl B. Gilmore, President of the Company.

          The Gilmore Oil Company's inception was about 1900, when the A.
  F. Gilmore Company was organized as a producing company.  In 1923, the
  Gilmore Oil Company was incorporated under the laws of California as an
  amalgamation of the business and properties of A. F. Gilmore Company and
  Gilmore Petroleum Company, a refining and marketing company.  The Gilmore
  Oil Company, Limited refined and marketed oil products in California,
  Oregon, and Washington and asphalt in Arizona.  Later, asphalt operations
  were expanded to other western states as well.  Overseas, they marketed
  oil products in China and New Zealand.  Capital stock was 1,000,000
  shares.  By 1929, the company held approximately 2,345 acres of land in
  fee or under lease and had purchased the former property of Dominion Oil
  Company, consisting of 920 acres in Santa Maria Field.  The company
  operated four refineries and had interests in three others.  They had ten
  bulk plants distributing through approximately 875 independent dealers,
  most of which were in California plus a few in Oregon and Washington.
  Trade names were "Gilmore Blu-Green," "Gilcoat," "Road-amite,"
  "Lionhead," and "Gilmore Motor Oil."  The head office was on East 28th
  Street, Los Angeles, California.  By 1931, the company really started to
  expand its retail operations to include all of the West Coast.  By the
  mid 1930s, they owned developed property consisting of an additional 884
  acres in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Kern counties on which were
  located sixteen wells.  They also owned 50 bulk distributing plants lo-
  cated in California, Oregon, and Washington, and by this time had 3500
  independent dealers.  Tradenames were: "Gilmore Red Lion," "Gilmore
  Blu-Green," "Gilmore Fleet," "Gilcoat," "Roadamite," "Gilmore Motor Oil,"
  "Gilmore Lion Head Motor Oil," "Eastoil," "Weston," and "Smacko." Just
  before World War II, another product was introduced with the trade name
  "Golden Lion Motor Oil." In about 1934, they ceased marketing oil
  products overseas and the word "Limited" was dropped from the company
  name.  In 1936, they sold 97,860,144 gallons of gasoline; 1,776,948
  gallons of lubricating oil; 254,195 gallons of kerosene, which was five
  times greater than their 1930 sales.

          The 3500 independent Gilmore stations were among the cleanest and
  most modern of any company. Each month company representatives toured the
  stations and recommended ideas to make them better and to pass out the
  latest company advertising, giveaways, etc.  The stations were painted
  cream and red on a regular basis.  The buildings were decorated with
  checkered flags and large porcelain signs.  The company expected and
  received top notch dealers, and in retum gave the dealer all the help he
  needed to make his business a success.  The Gilmore Oil Company also
  absorbed any gasoline price war drop, even though no other oil company
  did this.  By the late 1930s, Gilmore dealers were selling "Gilmore
  Batteries," "Norwalk Tires," and offered "Gilmore Credit Cards."

          Through the years, Gilmore sold four grades of gasoline.  First,
  "Gilmore Blu-Green" was their non-leaded regular grade.  Second, "Gil-
  more Ethyl" was introduced in the late 1920s and was the premium grade
  sold through Gilmore dealers under the quality control of the Ethyl
  Gasoline Corporation.  Third, "Gilmore Red Lion," introduced in 1933,
  was a good quality regular grade blended with tetraethyl lead purchased
  from the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation for regular grade use without the
  trademark and the higher quality control requirements.  Fourth, "Gilmore
  Fleet," introduced by the mid 1930's, was a non-leaded very low octane
  grade intended for commercial use in freight trucks.  Gilmore used the
  normal industry color dyeing procedures, so the "Ethyl" grade was bronze,
  the leaded "Red Lion" was red, and the "Blu-Green" was blue-green.  To
  understand how all this came about, let's look into the background of
  the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation.

          The antiknock effectiveness of the pure compound tetraethyl lead
  was discovered in 1921.  The use patent was assigned to the General
  Motors Research Corporation.  By 1924, Standard Oil of New Jersey had a
  cheap process to produce tetraethyl lead. The Ethyl Gasoline Corporation
  was formed August 18, 1924 to marry the use patent of G.M. and the
  process patent of Standard Oil (N.J.). Sales of "Ethyl" had barely
  started when they were suddenly halted in May, 1925. The immediate cause
  was a report of 45 dases of lead poisoning with four fatalities, at
  Jersey Standard's pilot plant for the ethyl chloride process at its
  Bayway refinery.  The subsequent publication of findings by the Bureau Of
  Mines from extensive tests that no health hazard existed from the ex-
  haust of leaded gasoline did not curb the panic.  Investigations by a
  committee appointed by the Surgeon General finally cleared the way to
  resumption of sales a year later, after Ethyl Gasoline Corporation
  agreed to make sure that all leaded gasoline was dyed to serve as a
  warning against its use for cleaning purposes. With this out of the way,
  the new corporation sold tetraethyl lead to oil refiners (Gilmore
  included) under an agreement requiring each refiner to put enough
  tetraethyl lead additive in his "Ethyl" grade of fuel to meet a given
  antiknock quality, after 1930 expressed in octane numbers.  No
  additive was sold to those who were unwilling to maintain these specified
  quality levels.  The high quality fuels were displayed with the "Ethyl"
  trade mark (a white/black/yellow triangle within a circle) integrated
  into the oil company's own brand identification in a way spelled out in
  the early sales contracts.  A few years later, in 1933, premium fuel
  quality had risen so far above regular grade that tethaethyl lead fluid
  was made available for use in regular grade fuels as well, but with the
  provision in sales agreements that the "Ethyl" trade mark not be asso-
  ciated with the lower octane, and less-controlled fuels.  These arrange-
  ments ran from 1933 through the end of the patent coverage period, ap-
  proximately 1945.

          By 1940, Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, Inc. had acquired 75.56% of
  the Gilmore Oil Company stock and Gilmore became a subsidiary of
  Socony-Vacuum whose trade name was "Mobiloil." In 1945, the Gilmore Oil
  Company was merged into General Petroleum Corporation which was a
  solely-owned subsidiary of Socony-Vacuum since 1926.

          From 1940 to 1942, Gilmore dealers operated just as they always
  had in the past, selling Gilmore products even though the company was now
  owned by Socony-Vacuum.  In 1942, the company started the transition of
  stations from Gilmore to Mobil, and by 1945 the task was completed.  All
  leased stations and all 50 bulk plants, 3777 acres of oil property, and
  two remaining refineries became part of Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, Inc.,
  which is now Mobil Oil Corporation. The 3500 Gilmore dealers were of-
  tered Mobil dealerships.  Most dealers that were in leased stations
  stayed with Mobil as well as dealers that owned their stations and
  property. Some went with another independent company such as Hancock,
  Veltex, or Signal.  It was the end of Gilmore and the magic that went
  with the name.

          Now let's back up and have a look at some of that magic.  From
  the late 1920s to World War II, Gilmore was very much involved in
  promotion and advertising.  They sponsored racing, land and water speed
  records, toured the West Coast entertaining kids with live lions and
  clowns, had a lion farm, radio show, and built Gilmore Stadium in West
  Hollywood. The name Gilmore was literally in the daily news.  Because of
  this exposure, plus their clean stations and good service, their fine
  products becam very popular with young and old Mom liked the clean rest
  rooms and courteous attendants', Dad liked the products, service, latest
  racing news, and those snazzy looking windshield decals and license plate
  frames; The kids liked the lions and the giveaways.  For the
  competition, Gilmore Oil Company was hard to beat, but Socony-Vacuum
  managed to do it by 1940 as mentioned before.

          In the 1930s, Gilmore-sponsored cars, boats, motorcycles, and
  airplanes broke over 500 racing records.  In 1932, Gilmore raced
  their first cars at the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway.  They also
  raced at Indy in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, and 1941.  Drivers such as
  Howdy Wilcox, Stubby Stubblefield, Al Gordon, Mauri Rose, Kelly
  Petillo, Wilbur Shaw, Rex Mays, Freddie Winnai, Doc MacKenzie, Cliff
  Bergere, and George Robson all raced Gilmore cars at Indy.  In 1935,
  Kelly Petillo won the "Indy 500" driving the "Gilmore Speedway
  Special," a Wetteroth-Offenhauser, averaging 106.240 mph.  In 1937,
  Wilbur Shaw won his first "Indy 500" race driving the "Shaw-Gilmore
  Special," a Shaw-Offenhauser, averaging 113.580 mph. His previous
  attempt in a Gilmore car was in 1934, but the car lost oil in the 15th
  lap and was flagged.  He also won the "Indy 500" in 1939 and 1940, but
  not driving Gilmore cars.

          In February, 1934, the Gilmore-sponsored "Gilmore Gold Cup Clas-
  sic" stock car race was held at Mines Field, the present-day site of Los
  Angeles International Airport.  It was won by Stubby Stubblefield in a
  close decision over Al Gordon.  The first ten places went to Ford cars
  with Chrysler, Chevrolet, Plymouth, and Rockne trailing.  The hot little
  Ford V-8s were hard to beat.

          Also in 1934, Rex Mays won the Pacific Coast Championship at the
  Legion Ascot Speedway driving the "Gilmore Special." The 1931-1932
  Champion, Ernie Triplett, was killed in March of that year at a race at
  El Centro, California.  In May 1934, the currently built Gilmore Stadium
  opened to the fastest growing auto sport in Califomia: midget auto rac-
  ing.  Gilmore Stadium was open from 1934 through 1950.  Every major driv-
  er in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s raced at Gilmore.  Drivers such
  as Bill Betteridge, Bob Swanson, Curly Mills, Roy Russing, Sam Hanks,
  Danny Bakes, Fred Friday, Karl Young, Bill Vukovich, and Roger Ward drove
  there.  Some drivers were not so lucky racing at Gilmore, those killed
  over the years were Chet Mortemore, Speedy Lockwood, Frankie Lyons,
  Swede Lindskog, and Ed Haddad.  Midget racing was very popular and in the
  sixteen years of Gilmore Stadium's existence, and nearly 5,000,000 fans
  attended.  In the 1930s, Gilmore Stadium drew crowds of over 18,000 each
  race.  By the late 1940s, attendance had dropped to less than half unless
  it was a major race such as a Grand Prix.  Faced with the attendance
  drop, and the knowledge of how much the property had come to be worth in
  the glamour capital of West Hollywood, the Gilmore management announced
  the sale of the property to C.B.S. In 1951 the stadium was torn down.
  Today on the property stand the facilities of Columbia Broadcasting
  System's Television City.

          Gilmore also sponsored the breaking of land speed records on
  the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  Drivers such as John Cobb, Tony
  Goullatta, Sir Malcolm Campbell, and Ab Jenkins all broke records on
  the Flats, but not always for Gilmore.  One Gilmore record was
  established in 1939 when John Cobb ran through the measured mile at 368.8
  mph, driving the "Railton Red Lion." Throughout his career, John Cobb
  broke many speed records and was known as "The Fastest Man On Earth." In
  1952, he was killed on Loch Ness in Scotland when his jet-propelled
  speedboat broke into pieces at a speed of 205 mph during an attempt to
  break the world record on water.

          By 1930, Gilmore began sponsoring a radio show every Friday
  evening which aired for several years.  It was called the "Gilmore
  Circus Radio Program." Each week, several comedians were featured and
  they advertised Gilmore Oil, Gilmore Blu-Green, and after 1933, Red
  Lion gasoline. Each week verses were added to "Blu-Green The Longest Song
  In The World" and "That Funny Red Lion Gas Song." The verses were sent in
  by the radio listeners and the three winners selected each week were
  given a five dollar coupon book redeemable in oil products through any
  Gilmore dealer.  They also gave one monthly grand prize of one hundred
  dollars cash.  The winning verses were sung during the Gilmore Fun Circus
  program, and the names of the winners announced.  A sample of a few of
  the verses that were winners from "That Funny Red Lion Gas Song" are:

          I drive a very ancient bus
          Because of this depression
          It's full of squeaks and knocks and such
          Has really no compression
          But since I first heard Gilmore roar
          My bus developed class
          It speeds along and climbs all hills
          When filled with Red Lion Gas.
                  Gilman Gist
                  San Diego, Calif.

          The Gilmore Song is quite an ad
          I never knew before
          That lions in your gasoline
          Could make that mighty roar
          Now since I'm in the Gilmore class
          I'm almost in a trance
          Because that famed "Red Lion Gas"
          Just makes my old Ford prance.
                  Mrs. Leah Carroll
                  Auburn, Wash.

          Now in the days when "Blu-Green Gas"
          Had "Carbon" scared to death
          Repair bills dropped for motorist
          Garage men held their breath
          But since "Red Lion" has appeared
          The queen of motor fuels
          Mechanics everywhere by gum
          Have thrown away their tools.
                  Verrill Guiler
                  Mt. Vernon, Wash.

          Literally hundreds of verses such as the ones above were sent in
  over the years.  The listeners who sent verses that were not added to the
  song were sent a postcard telling them their verse was very clever, but
  not chosen as a winner, and to try again.  On the back of the postcard
  was a photo of a Gilmore lion sitting next to trainer Roy Kellogg.

          Each year during the 30s, Gilmore sponsored the "Gilmore Grand
  Canyon Mileage Run" and the "Gilmore Economy Run." Both started from
  Gilmore Stadium.  The Los Angeles area car dealers participated and used
  the results in their own advertising.  The "Gilmore Economy Run" which
  ran to Yosemite National Park was the most publicized.  The car dealers
  had their cars painted with special Gilmore advertising and the winners
  were flagged with Gilmore checkered flags for the cameramen.

          Another Gilmore publicity idea was the use of an open cockpit
  airplane, painted Gilmore colors (cream and red which flew the West Coast
  advertising Gilmore products.  It was piloted by Roscoe Turner, and he
  often flew with a live lion cub.  Although they were never needed, both
  wore parachutes.  The cub's parachute was requested by the Humane
  Society.

          Very popular during the 1930s was a special-built speedster and a
  truck with lions in cages and a number of clowns which toured the 3500
  independent Gilmore dealers in the three West Coast states.  They left
  Los Angeles early in the spring heading north, and returned late in the
  fall.  Every station couldn't be visited every year, but visits were
  staggered so just about every station was visited every few years.
  Each stop was highly advertised in the local newspapers in advance of
  their arrival.  Kids from all over were at the local Gilmore station to
  greet them.  While the clowns and lions performed, the kids were given
  Red Lion candy suckers and Gilmore comic books.  To kids growing up in
  the depression, the Gilmore traveling circus was the greatest and not
  much could compare.

          At least two custom-built publicity speedsters were in use by
  Gilmore. The first one in the early 1930s looked something like an
  Auburn.  The second one looked like a Cord but had a fin running down the
  back. It reminds one of what "Flash Gordon" might have driven.  The
  cars were used on tour, in parades, etc. Both cars were painted cream and
  trimmed in red with red leather upholstery which had to be replaced on
  a regular basis because the lion cubs liked to claw and chew it apart.
  A few years ago, the first speedster disappeared and has since been known
  as the "Gilmore Mystery Car."

          Today, all that remains of the Gilmore Oil Company is the
  memorabilia of their existence and the memories of former dealers,
  race car drivers, and the countless thousands who used their products.
  There still exists plenty of interest among collectors, Gilmore
  collectibles are constantly sought after.  For former Gilmore Stadium
  race car owners, drivers and mechanics, the annual "Gilmore Roars
  Again" party is held at Schroeder's Ranch in the Hollywood Hills.  Even
  the general public can reminisce while visiting the new Air and Space
  Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. They have on
  display in the main hall, next to one of Roscoe Turner's airplanes, a
  stuffed lion with a red Gilmore robe over its back.  The memory of
  Gilmore does indeed Roar Again.

  Reprinted from OLD CAR ILLUSTRATED


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