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Gasoline credit cards precede use of general credit cards for gasoline purchases

Though I am not generally a great football fan, I did happen to watch part of a University of Wisconsin game a while back and was a bit surprised that the lead sponsor was a gasoline company. Not only that, but the company was from my hometown area in Ohio.

Findlay, Ohio to be clear – not far from Dayton. The company is Marathon. While I am not sure whether I ever bought much gasoline from Marathon, I did have a sort of connection in that my future brother-in-law had worked as a mechanic and attendant for a Marathon Station. Incidentally, Marathon has the world’s largest refining system. Marathon supports the Big Ten.

It did take me back to the 1950s and my first experience with a credit card which was solely to purchase gasoline.

So I was from Ohio, so what else was there but SOHIO and subsidiaries of Standard Oil?

Having left Ohio and having lived in New England for a couple of years, then Nebraska and Missouri, I eventually made it to Marshall in 1969. By that time, I had acquired other gasoline credit cards including a DX card that I used here at Lyman Gay’s station on College Drive. That was a natural in that I came here pulling a U-Haul trailer and Lyman was the contact for U-Haul at that time.

It was sort of the end of the time of the prominence of DX stations — (the D was for diamond if you remember the signage and the X was for a special, secret lubricating factor of the gasoline and oil.) DX eventually merged with SUNOCO.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a certain loyalty that was exemplified by the particular credit card used for a particular gasoline brand. There were lots of brands, many of which were started after the Supreme Court in 1911 essentially dismantled Standard Oil requiring a breakup into 34 smaller oil/gasoline/energy businesses. That dismantling actually made John D. Rockefeller the wealthiest person in the world as the total value of all the companies was much higher than it was as a single entity. Even before 1911, John D. had shifted most of his work to philanthropy.

So as the 1970s rolled in, credit cards became more universal rather than being required at specific gasoline stations. Today it is not unusual to buy gasoline using a general credit card and also using a “rewards” or “loyalty” card to generate certain discounts: Buy coffee, get a discount on gas. Buy groceries for gas discount. Etc. Of course there are still specific cards, for example BP where a discount can be applied at BP stations.

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In just a couple of minutes, I jotted down about twenty different gasoline stations, but most of those were essentially off-shoots of some of the companies from the 1911 breakup of the monopoly of Standard Oil. However, there is one gasoline that had an early development away from Standard Oil.

At the risk of causing some readers to repeat in their minds a popular phrase from the era of the gasoline name brands, I present: “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the big, bright Texaco Star.”

Texaco as you would surmise, was founded in Texas versus the Standard Oil Company that was primarily from Ohio, New York, and New Jersey. It was unique in that it was available in all 50 states and Canada as early as 1902. It sponsored the Huntley/Brinkley (“Goodnight David,” “Goodnight, Chet”) newscast popular in 1959 as well as some other TV shows. Texaco eventually had a connetion with Standard Oil by being bought by parent Chevron in 2000 for $45 billion.

A side note about the, “You can trust your car …”: That jingle (1960-1962) was developed by a black, classical pianist, Roy Eaton, who at age seven (in 1937) played the piano at Carnegie Hall winning a gold medal in a Music Education League competition. He later performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but at the same time worked for an Ad Agency, being one of the first to use jazz music as a base. He worked on Jello, Cheer Detergent, J&J products, General Electric, Mr. Potato Head, and other ads while also pursuing his concert performances of classical music.

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Many of us Americans probably think about the largest gasoline companies as being “all-American.” Exxon-Mobil has the largest world revenue for American companies, but is well down the list for world companies according to Forbes Global 2000.

Petro China has world revenue of $280.7 billion U.S. dollars

Sinopec (also China) has revenue of $271.1 billion.

Saudi Aramco has revenue of $229.7 billion.

BP (British) has revenue of $180.0 billion.

Then comes Exxon-Mobil at $178.2 billion.

Further down the list is Marathon with revenue of $75.0.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!

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