Category Archives: oil can

Time Travel

I was thrilled to add this 10# American grease can to my collection recently. ab13
I know it’s got condition problems, it’s not a collectible size can, and it’s really not all that desirable in any way. So you’re probably wondering why I’m so happy to own this can.

This can has a great story!

A couple months ago my nephew Joe and I had a conversation about one of the buildings where my Dad, brother and I all worked. Dad started there in the early 1960’s doing maintenance. The job grew from a part time maintenance of one 5 story office building to a full time gig maintaining and remodeling 20 commercial buildings and several houses. My brother worked with Dad for several years, and I spent a short time working there when I was a senior in high school and the summer after graduating from high school.
I’m getting ahead of myself……

I was only 3 or 4 years old when Dad started there. Unlike most kids, I got to tag along to work with my Dad. He always had something for me to do if I wanted. Things like filling nail holes, cleaning up the work site, etc. Or I could just watch him work. It was a great learning experience. I didn’t realize until much later how much knowledge I had absorbed from just watching Dad work. The 1st floor was mostly retail space, but the upper floors were all office space. Several of the tenants were very influential business and civic leaders. Not only did I learn about many aspects of construction from framing to finish carpentry, to electrical and some HVAC. I learned about maintenance of boilers, pumps, etc. And I also learned about how to deal with people and how to handle certain situations. My favorite part of the building was the basement with it’s boiler room, pump room, store rooms, Civil Defense Fallout Shelter, etc.

Joe relayed some of the stories he had heard from his dad and grandpa from their time working there. I told him about what I remembered from being there as a kid and later working there. Joe suggested that I contact the current owner to see if I could tour the basement. I figured a guy with several million dollars of commercial real estate had better things to do than be bothered by someone that worked in one of his buildings forty years ago. That night I thought about the conversation I had with Joe. Old memories that I thought were long gone started coming back. I sent Joe a long email detailing many memories. Everything from putting several boxes of legal documents in a store room in 1976, to cleaning a boiler, to the very early years when one of the boilers was still coal fired, etc, etc, etc.

Joe called a few days later to ask if I had a couple hours to meet with him. I asked what was up. He said he had called the owner of the building and got us a tour. I think Joe could sell ice to an Eskimo. So a few days later I found myself in the basement of the building where I worked forty years ago. The building was completely remodeled in 2004, but the basement hasn’t changed that much. The lawyer who gave me a couple bucks to put the boxes of legal documents in storage is long gone……but one of the boxes is still there! There’s still a fiber drum with a Civil Defense label in what was once the fallout shelter. The oil fired boiler that I maintained is still there, but no longer in use. The coal bin is still there. About the fortieth thing I pointed out to Joe, that was just as I had described in my email, Joe said this is unreal. In my email to Joe, I had told about accompanying my Dad to a Standard Oil Company (IND) bulk plant to get a can of grease when I was four years old. A dozen or so years later I was tasked with using grease from that very can to lube a pump. Now some forty years later I was back in the pump room holding that same grease can that I first saw around 1964!

And thanks to my nephew Joe, and a very kind building owner, that grease can that I first saw in my childhood is now in my collection. Yeah, it might not be much of a can, but it has a great story.

Thanks Joe, and thanks Buck! It means a lot to this sentimental old guy.

Also posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Sinclair Quarts

Ive added images of 54 Sinclair quarts in the Petroliana Cans Gallery I’ll add information about when those cans were used at a later date. As time permits I’ll be adding more images of Sinclair cans and collectibles of all types. Stay tuned!

Also posted in Collecting, quart oil can, Sinclair

Oil Can Lights…..Talk about hard to find!

There are many sub-categories of petroliana collectibles.

I’ve managed to find one of the more obscure categories to collect……Oil can lights.

They consist of a thin plastic cylinder that’s painted to look like an oil can. Most are “motion lights” where the heat from the bulb rises through louvers in the top causing the outer cylinder to spin. Collecting these lights has been a challenge. It’s not that they are terribly expensive. They’re just difficult to find. I doubt that many survived because they are so fragile.
My wife bought this Mobiloil motion light at an auction over twenty years ago.

Mobiloil motion light

This Sinclair light is the only stationary oil can light I have. This light uses paint can lids for the top and bottom.

Stationary oil can light. Circa 1950's

Stationary oil can light. Circa 1950’s

This Kendall Superb motion light is a recent acquisition and among my favorites.

Early 1950's motion light

Early 1950’s motion light

I’ve searched auction listings, and swap meets for over 20 years and I’ve only managed to collect six oil can lights!

You can see them in the Miscellaneous Petroliana Gallery. There are others out there somewhere. I know Conoco had one or two that looked like their oil cans from the 50’s. I suspect there’s a motion light version of my stationary Sinclair light, and Pennzoil used both stationary and motion lights. There are stationary and motion oil filter lights as well. I don’t have any of those…..yet.

Also posted in Auctions, Collecting, Swap Meets, Uncategorized Tagged , , , |


This will not be a Theological VS Darwinian discussion, but rather a narrative of how collectors’ preferences can evolve over time.
In my first blog post I told about how I obtained the first globe in my collection. That Conoco globe wasn’t only my first globe, it was the first item in my collection. Building my collection has been a slow process. A considerable amount of time elapsed between my first and second globe acquisitions, my second and third, etc. Even though I had a few globes I didn’t consider myself a collector. That was all about to change!

My (VERY understanding) wife bought an unopened can of Sinclair Extra Duty motor oil at a garage sale for 25 cents thinking I could use the oil. I thought the can looked cool and decided to keep it as a display item. That is the day I became a “Collector”.


Like many new collectors, I bought all kinds of petroliana. Quart cans, oil can banks, handy oilers, maps,etc. If it had an oil company logo on it, I wanted it. I met some veteran collectors and saw how they concentrated on collecting only a few brands, or they primarily collected certain types of cans such as quarts, five quarts, one pound grease cans, handy oilers, etc. After unpacking my purchases from the Iowa Gas swap meet in ’95 or ’96 I looked at the wide variety of items I had gotten at the show and what was already in my collection. There was no clear focus. I knew my collection needed direction.
I decided to collect anything from Standard Oil Company of Indiana, anti-freeze cans from any company, and one pound grease cans. And of course gas pump globes. My evolution as a collector had begun.

My collecting preferences evolved again in the summer of ’97. I switched from collecting Standard items to collecting Sinclair items. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

One day in early ’99 I got an eBay account. Not long after that I bought a Pan-Am globe on ebay.

Even though I already owned a dozen or so globes, the day I bought the Pan Am globe is the day I became a “Globe Collector”

pan am green band

My collecting preferences had evolved again. I concentrated mostly on collecting gas pump globes and Sinclair items. Notice I said “mostly”. Old habits are tough to break! I still collect ALL kinds of petroliana, but it’s gas pump globes that are the focus of my collection.
My evolution as a collector is not unusual. I’ll talk about some of the various sub categories of petroliana collecting in upcoming blog posts.

Also posted in Collecting, metal body globe Tagged , |