TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: From our Archives: History of Standard Oil and Bell System

Re: From our Archives: History of Standard Oil and Bell System
6 Jun 2005 14:12:42 -0700

TELECOM Digest Editor wrote:

> Mark Cuccia prepared an interesting history of Standard Oil and some
> In 1882, the New Jersey branch of Standard Oil was started. A trust
> was formed as Standard Oil began to buy out or took control of other
> smaller "independent" oil companies. A reorganization of the trust in
> 1889 made Standard Oil of New Jersey the holding or parent company of
> the entire Standard Oil organization.

Misc observations ...

As I understand it, the massive Rockefeller Standard Oil fortune was
made on mostly kerosene, which was sold for lighting. I think they
even threw gasoline away since there was so little use for it.
Natural gas, of great value today, was thrown away for years.

I don't think in those days there was much demand for heating oil as
coal was cheaper and used in most applications.

There's a great book, based on a PBS special "The Prize" which is an
excellent history of the oil industry until around 1980.

I understand today, based on the roads newsgroup, that it's very hard
to tell what gasoline you are buying. Apparently there are many
layers of owners between getting the oil from the ground, transporting
it, refining it, and delivering it to your local gas station.

People say all gasoline is the same. All I know is my car will knock
from certain gas stations but not on others (on regular gas). I can't
help but suspect certain stations use cheaper grades of gas than
others. I don't know if there's any audit of gasoline quality. Govt
agents check pump volumes very carefully, but do they check octane and

I don't know understand why one gas station will be boarded up but a
new built a block or two away.

Many service stations had only a pay telephone as their service. I
believe that was called "semi-public" coin service and the property
owner had to pay up if the coin box failed to meet a minimum amount.
Sometimes those pay phones had non-dial extensions in a back room; if
so the pay phone would have a flip sign over the coin slot warning to
listen first. I last saw such an installation about 3 years ago, I
don't know if it is offered today. There are fewer gas stations with
service bays these days, many have either nothing at all or a
convenience store instead. These places also had those LOUD outdoor

Of course today you can buy gas self service sticking your debit card
in the slot without any human intervention. Obviously there's a data
link a little fancier than a payphone. Some brands have a keychain
device for even faster purchases. Some gas stations have a satellite
dish on the roof, again, fancier than the payphone.

In WW II the govt naturally wanted to simplify shipping goods to the
front as much as possible. But there were two types of gasoline
required: Leaded gas was needed for motor vehicles, but unleaded was
needed for heaters and field cooking stoves (lead would clog the

Apparently gasoline was used as a heating fuel way back when but not

I know of one gas station that still has phone booths and they have
the Verizon name on them. Will have to get a picture. Most gas
station public phones are pedestal mounted and COCOTS.

In some cities, coal was used for school building heater much later
than normal (oil had taken over). I believe pressure from the coal
miners forced the city to stick with coal. I wonder if they still use
coal or since converted.

My parents somehow converted their home from coal to oil during WW II
(I would've thought it'd be rationed and not permitted). My mother
said coal heat was miserable and oil was a huge blessing. When the
1970s energy crises came and some people thought about coal to save
money, my mother thought they were crazy.

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