Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to trace the historical development of gasoline service stations through to 1956, their quantitative importance, the principal types of stations in existence in 1956, and the nature of competition in the business. Design/methodology/approach – A synthesis of historical work on the development of gasoline retailing to 1956 is combined with detailed analysis of US Census statistics covering the period from 1929 through the early 1950s. Beckman was in charge of the Census of Wholesale Distribution for the US Department of Commerce in 1930. Findings – There was rapid and significant growth in the number of gasoline service stations from the early twentieth century through 1939. This, combined with the effects of the Depression and Second World War, led to intense competition, an increase in the lines of merchandise carried by service stations, and ultimately to a decline in the number of stations. Originality/value – Beckman combined a fresh interpretation of earlier published research on the history of the oil industry with extensive original historical analysis of US Census data. The article's value is heightened in that it is excerpted from a rare unpublished archival document written by one of the eminent marketing scholars of the twentieth century. This article is a slightly edited version of the first of two sections of the original manuscript written by Beckman in 1956 but never published (Theodore Beckman Collection, RG 40/35/C, Ohio State University Archives). The second section of the original manuscript (not included in this article) deals with changes in merchandise lines and services as well as the factors leading to those changes. The article published here is done so with permission of the Ohio State University Archives.
Journal of Historical Research in Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 3, 2011
Keywords: Gasoline; Retailing; Oil industry; United States of America
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