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The Gas Station in America (Creating the North American Landscape) Hardcover – August 1, 1994

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Product Details

  • Series: Creating the North American Landscape
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (August 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801847230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801847233
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.6 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,269,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The most significant features of our landscape are often invisible to us. For example: how often have you wondered about the evolution of the gas station? How many gas stations are there in the U.S.? Are gas stations increasing or decreasing in number? What do Bauhaus and feminism have to do with gas station architecture?

Whether or not these questions have kept you awake at night (or been asked of you during job interviews), this delightful hybrid between architectural history, economics, pop-culture studies, and geography will give you unexpected insights into one of the more important components of the American landscape. Illustrated with more than 150 maps, photos, and drawings, and highly recommended.


"Provides important information and insights for those who will explain more fully the American landscape of consumption." -- Thomas Hine, New York Times Book Review

"An exemplary exercise in scholarship... The authors' thorough account offers an interesting and wide-ranging history of the development of the forms of the gas station, the reason for their development, and the significance of these structures in the developed landscape." -- Bruce E. Seely, Design Book Review

"A valuable edition to landscape studies, and a fine book." -- Paul Shepheard, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Fascinating data and documentation... Gas stations have been around as long as automobiles, of course, but they've undergone almost as many transformations as the cars themselves... There are plenty of charts, tables, and maps, but also 150 nostalgic photographs of those old filling stations in all their individual glory." -- Parade Magazine

"Fans of Route 66 will be fascinated... Though this intriguing book is amply illustrated with photos and figures, it's a cultural and business study more than a picture book. What marketing strategies were behind the Bauhaus-inspired stations of the 1930s, the English-Cottage style stations of the 1940s? What's an octane rating, how did stations differ from one region to another? It's all here." -- Chicago Books in Review

"The whole history of the industry, the art of marketing and pumping down to today when, as we pump our own fuel, we must do so under a roof and frequently from the pump of a small 'supermarket,' is outlined in this sensible and informative book. Many a forgotten sight and smell is evoked. Lavishly illustrated." -- Ray Browne, Journal of Popular Culture

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I think that this book really is a great resource to people who are interested in American history and how an industry can evolve over the decades. The information regarding the retail petroleum industry itself was a little bit thin. I would have liked to see how the industry boomed when cars became a necessity to Americans and how the gas station industry handled that. The pictures in the book make the book very likable even to the everyday person picking up the book off of a coffee table. It takes older American's back to their younger days of $.05 gas and younger American's to a time when gas wasn't over $2.00 a gallon. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to a person who is interested in the industry of retail petroleum and the evolution of the gas station we all use!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lehigh History Student VINE VOICE on November 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book covers a wide range of issues related to the development of gas stations in America. Its primary focus is to show how the idea of the gas stationed developed and how it changed the cultural and physical landscape of America. There are wonderful pictures in here that show a wide range of gas stations and layouts around the city. It is also an excellent corporate history of oil companies and their role in serving as gas stations. It takes a look at the break up of Standard Oil and its subsidiaries to the mom and pop operations that ran across the country. The idea of product placement is loosely tied in throughout the book and I think the authors are forced to stretch to far to place it here. The book takes on a very academic quality with that discussion and for the general reader it will be a waste of time. As a historian I did not find it useful and I enjoyed the discussion of how these stations developed. Overall this is one of the best sources out there on how the gas station evolved and an excellent look at urban history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
THE GAS STATION IN AMERICA, by John A Jakle and Keith A. Sculle. 272 pages, illustrated. Johns Hopkins, $32.95

Do yourself a favor and skip the first 38 pages, which are 38 pages of the most tedious academese I have ever encountered.

There is a bit of a puzzle here. To no one's surprise, after the initial stage, in which gas pumps were stuck outside the doors of former livery stables, selling unbranded gasoline, the second stage involved branding and territorial conquests of markets. The competitors often tried to establish themselves by building attractive stations, fitted to existing neighborhoods.

A chapter is given to Pure Oil's distinctive "English cottage" style. The next stage was the "oblong box," indistinguishable from one owner to another, and all ugly. Pure was out of business by the time I was driving, but a few of its old stations were still around to show that gas stations could be attractive.

The building of gas stations was a very large business. Many chains developed prefab stations, some even that could be moved if traffic patterns moved. At one time there were over a quarter of a million active stations, and considering how many were abandoned, the total number built must have been around half a million at least.

Curiously, however, despite their enormous resources, no integrated company managed to go national. Texaco came closest but had to shrink.

What is surprising, perhaps, is that no chain ever thought of returning to stage 2 and trying to make inroads by design, especially since all gasoline was the same. The only possibilities of competing were price, location, possibly service, and attractiveness.

In the end, price prevailed.
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By Jadie on March 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since I grew up in the 50's and my father was a oil distributor this book not only is a great reference book but also a trip down memory lane.
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