America at the turn of the twentieth century offered opportunity and solace to the immigrant populations finding their way to a new country. The business success of Louis Blaustein and his son, Jacob, achieved that promise, but it is more than their business acumen that distinguishes their lives. Jacob Blaustein often credited his father as a man of "recognized character," and always wanted it remembered that his father was the leader.
Louis Blaustein was born in Lithuania, January 16, 1868, and emigrated to the United States in 1884. His first job was in a tannery in Philadelphia, but he soon began calling on farmers in eastern Pennsylvania to sell merchandise to them. In 1891, he settled in Baltimore and opened a small wholesale grocery business where he was successful in the sale of coal oil (kerosene). Another happy result of his move to Baltimore was Louis's marriage to Henrietta Gittelsohn. They had three children: Jacob, b. 1892; Fannie, b. 1895; and Ruth, b. 1899.
In 1891, kerosene was sold from wooden barrels, which tended to leak on hot days. Louis soon thought of using a tin tank with an attached spigot placed on a dray wagon. This was the first use of a tank wagon to distribute kerosene, and later, gasoline.
In 1910, with one tank wagon and a horse (below left), Louis founded the American Oil Company, and from that modest beginning developed one of America's major oil companies. Jacob joined his father in the business at age 18. They rented a yard on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks which included a stable for the horses and a small warehouse that held the original Blaustein office (below right). The business was successful from the start, due to "a policy of honest values, honestly described, honestly sold." (Jacob Blaustein)
A leader in innovation, Louis Blaustein opened the first drive-in filling station, invented the first visible gasoline pump (collage right), and developed the first anti-knock fuel, Amoco. The new gas sold for five cents a gallon more than regular, and two cents more than competing premiums introduced later. To protect their customers, they dyed the regular gasoline orange and called it Orange American Gas (far right) to prevent the regular being substituted for premium.
Other innovations included using tankers to carry petroleum products from refineries to ocean terminals. The company entered the tanker business in 1936 with the launching of the tanker, Pan Amoco, the first of four new oil tankers being built for the American Oil Company. The christening is shown below left.
Hilda Blaustein Christens the Pan Amoco.
|The collection offers a broad record of all aspects of the petroleum industry in the first half of the 20th century: oil field acquisitions, advertising, sales reports, purchase of oil tankers, and the growth of filling stations. As the century progessed, competition among filling stations was intense, and Jacob Blaustein used advertising, both print (such as that shown on the left) and radio, to give Amoco an edge.|