It held 42 gallons and was designed to dispense, kerosene, burning fluid, and the light combustible products of petroleum.
This was to be the first commercially available fuel pump, invented in 1885 by S.F. (Sylvanus Freelove) Bowser and sold to Jake Gumper, owner of a Fort Wayne, Indiana grocery store. He later formed the S. F. Bowser & Company and patented his invention in 1887. Within a decade – as the automobile’s popularity grew – Bowser’s company became hugely successful.
By 1905, Bowser followed up his initial design with his “Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump”, the Model 102 “Chief Sentry”, which was known to motorists as a “filling station.” Often, these filling stations were merely curbside pumps installed along sidewalks and storefronts.
The original Bowser pump consisted of a square metal tank with a wooden cabinet equipped with a suction pump operated by hand-stroke lever action. Beginning in 1905, Bowser added a hose attachment for dispensing gasoline directly into the automobile fuel tank. Ultimately, he would add a secure “clam-shell” cover to the popular “Chief Sentry”
With the addition of competing businesses such as Wayne Pump Company and Tokheim Oil Tank & Pump Company, the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, became the fuel pump manufacturing capital of the world.
What we know as the “service station” would not come until 1913, and it was the decision by Gulf Refining Company to open one along Baum Boulevard in Pittsburgh, PA. That station dispensed 30 gallons of fuel on it’s opening day at a price of 27 cents per gallon. By the end of 1913 the boulevard had become known as “automobile row’” because of the high number of car dealerships. Unlike earlier simple curbside gasoline filling stations, the pagoda-style service station was a purposefully designed facility that offered free air, water, crankcase service, and tire and tube installation.
Today there are over 152,000 gas stations, of which over 123,000 have convenience stores. On average, each location sells about 4,000 gallons of fuel per day, which is quite an increase from the 30 gallons sold at the Gulf station in Pittsburgh in December of 1913.