Article by Sylvia J. Harnden

ASOLINE ALLEY MUSEUM, in Calgary’s Heritage Park Historical Village, is home to thousands of artifacts relating to the retail of petroleum products during the first half of the 20th century. Every vehicle, gas pump, globe, sign, and item of ephemera has its own special tale to tell, but literally standing above the rest is a restored vintage gasoline pump with a uniquely Canadian story.

Visible gasoline pumps were introduced towards the end of the First World War. They were operated by a service station attendant who used a hand lever to pump the required volume of gasoline from a storage tank up into a graduated glass cylinder. The gasoline was then gravity fed into a vehicle’s fuel tank. These pumps were popular with image-conscious retailers and with motorists, who could see exactly how much fuel they were purchasing. During the 1920s, visible gasoline pumps evolved into roadside beacons: tall stately pillars topped by illuminated globes bearing logos. Production of visible pumps ceased in the mid-1930s when they were banned for commercial use. While they were being phased out in favour of safer electric-metered pumps, many retailers gave the surplus visible pumps to local farmers.

A rare Maple Leaf Co-op dual visible gasoline pump was part of a major collection donated to Heritage Park by Calgary businessman Ron Carey. A knowledgeable collector, Carey has been acquiring and restoring vehicles and petromobilia for more than half a century. He was fourteen when he first saw this pump on the cattle ranch where he lived, near Irma, Alberta. Ranch owner Harry Long had used it to fuel his tractors, but after one of the glass cylinders cracked in the hot sun, he tore it down and stored the parts in a shed. Ten years later, Long gave the pieces to Ron, who then carefully restored the pump to its former glory.

Manufactured by the Wayne Company Limited, Toronto, in 1927, this model #636 was made solely for the Canadian market. The Toronto plant was a subsidiary of The Wayne Oil Tank & Pump Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The “Maple Leaf Co-op” brand on the pump signifies the petroleum marketing wing of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA), which began in 1909 as an advocacy group and co-operative association. As a political party, the UFA formed the Alberta provincial government for fourteen years beginning in 1921. In 1935 the UFA partnered with Maple Leaf Fuels, a subsidiary of Imperial Oil, to distribute fuel to its members. Retail stations bearing the Maple Leaf Co-op brand were soon a familiar sight across the province. In 1957 the UFA purchased the entire assets of Maple Leaf Petroleum from Imperial Oil and became a full-scale petroleum marketer.

From Spring/Summer 2015 Ornamentum. Click here to subscribe.

Sylvia J. Harnden is Curator, Heritage Park Historical Village, in Calgary, Alberta.

Rare Maple Leaf Co-op dual visible pump at Heritage Park, Calgary
Courtesy of Gasoline Alley Museum