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Gas Station Lighting of the Early 20th Century

Like many new inventions, the automobile was, at first, an expensive novelty accessible only to the wealthy. When production techniques improved, the automobile became more affordable for the masses in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The ability to travel, day or night, opened up a whole new era of freedom. As automobile sales increased, as did the subsequent demand for fuel, roadside filling stations began popping up offering not only fuel but service for those with a flat tire or mechanical difficulties.

Standard Oil of California was the first to open a chain of service stations on the West Coast. They probably looked something like this illustration from an old Goodrich Lighting Company catalog.

Lighting these service stations was critical. Motorists needed to easily see the station and signage from the road in order to navigate their way safely to the pumps. Many of the vintage and barn light styles we offer today have roots in these gas station lights of that period. Crafted from steel, these lights, according to our vintage catalog, were “originated by Goodrich to provide a modern, dignified fixture which would require less space, bring light nearer the ground for servicing, and provide greater efficiency with less glare.”

The Universal Industrial Guard Post Mount Light represents one of several Post Mount Lights that harken back to the early gas station lights. Hand crafted from commercial grade materials, this outdoor light can be customized with shade size, glass options, and one of 20 different finish colors to give it a look that’s either traditional or more retro.

Back in the day, gas station lights were often finished with layers of porcelain enamel glass in a process that sealed the glass to the steel shade creating a tough, yet high-gloss finish. Porcelain enamel would not fade in the sun and was easy to maintain. It’s possible to find old gas station lights still in service today with the porcelain enamel finish just as glossy as the day it was installed. We spotted these at a restaurant on the coast of South Carolina!

This Sky Chief Decorative Post Mount Light represents a classic RLM warehouse shade hand spun from steel then baked with a porcelain enamel glass finish in the time-honored tradition. Barn Light Electric is the only manufacturer in the United States crafting porcelain enamel lighting the old-fashioned way — with expert craftsmanship and the quality materials to offer years of service.

 

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