Petroleum Collectibles Monthly

June 2005 - The Gas Pump Showcase by Scott Anderson


Hello again to all PCM readers and vintage gasoline pump collectors. Last month’s Gas Pump Showcase discussed the evolution of the gasoline pump hose and the many different styles of gasoline pump hoses that were used between 1910 and 1960.

This month we will shift our attention to the companion of the gasoline pump hose – the gasoline pump nozzle. Large, small, brass, bronze, aluminum, dry hose, wet hose, hand control, automatic, or vapor recovery; the gasoline pump nozzle has certainly evolved over the last one hundred years.

The first generation of gasoline (and kerosene) pumps (Circa 1900-1909) consisted primarily of very small, simple, hand operated pumps that closely resembled the hand water pumps of the same time period. Many of these early pumps were privately owned and used in the carriage houses of wealthy homeowners. Other pumps were made available to the public at hardware stores and auto repair garages. Most of these pumps discharged the gasoline product directly out of a brass or nickel-plated brass spigot or faucet while a few even offered the option of a small hose attachment. This spigot could be opened or closed by turning a horizontal handle lever. These spigots also featured one or two hooks that a bucket handle or gas can could be hung on. After the early motorist filled the bucket with gasoline, he or she would then carry the bucket to the auto fuel tank and pour the gasoline into a chamois lined funnel that had been placed into the fuel tanks filler tube. This process proved to be quite inconvenient and often dangerous.

By 1910, almost all gasoline pump manufacturers had added a portable hose and nozzle discharge systems to their pumps. Many of these pumps offered dual gasoline discharge through either the hose nozzle or a separate fixed spigot outlet. Interestingly, the nozzles used on these early gas pump hoses were also designed in the spigot or faucet style and they are very difficult to find in today’s collector markets. This dual outlet system was quite popular between 1910 and 1915 and was widely used on most of the cast iron enclosed curbside (sidewalk) pumps of the same time period.

During the late teens and early 1920s the spigot style stationary nozzle, with lever shut-off, began to be replaced by the first dry hose “banana” nozzles. These nickel- plated brass nozzles were often referred to as hose “tubes”. The following excerpt from a Wayne factory bulletin describes the technical aspects of the dry hose “banana” nozzle:

“The Type G hose tube is designed for use on end of hose for insertion
into automobile tank or special vessel of any kind. Has extra long tip,
preventing splashing or spilling of liquid when filling through curved
or special shape fill pipes. Made of brass throughout and heavily nickel-
plated. Equipped with female connection threaded for standard iron pipe.
Made in ¾”, 1”, 1 ¼” sizes. Order must specify size desired.”

Here is another great quote from a Fleckenstein sales manual describing specific aspects of their dry hose banana nozzle:

“Our gasoline hose nozzle has been designed to meet all the requirements
that a good nozzle should possess. The end that fastens to the hose has a
machined face and the female is threaded 1 ¼” pipe size to screw on 1 ¼”
hose. The outside of the end is hexagonal so that a wrench can be used on
it, if necessary. The nozzle is provided with hook for hanging up the hose,
as well as a retaining stop for holding the nozzle in the tank of the auto-
mobile. The nozzle is slightly curved on a 4 ¼” radius, but has a straight

The “banana” nozzle or hose tube proved to be quite popular with gasoline pump manufacturers and motorists throughout the late teens and 1920s. I should probably point out here that these nozzle tubes were referred to as dry hose nozzles because they were often used in conjunction with separate hose outlet valves that controlled the flow of gasoline before it reached the nozzle at the end of the hose. Perhaps the best example of this system can be found on the majority of the Fry “Mae West” visible pumps of the same time period.

By the early 1930s these simple nozzles were being phased out of production in favor of the newer, larger, visible and meter pump nozzles that had been successfully introduced in the late 1920s. These wet hose nozzles implemented an automatic self-closing feature and they were considered safer to operate. These nozzles were also constructed of brass, or nickel-plated brass, and they were made available with either rigid or flexible tube spouts. Many of these nozzles that were equipped with flexible tube spouts also featured a round, locking, flange adapter that could be placed into a hose nozzle return valve located on the lower, side of many visible pumps. The following is another excerpt from a Wayne factory bulletin describing the operating features of the self-closing nozzles:

“Automatic self-closing nozzle with flexible tube is designed for use
where regulation of the gasoline flow is desired at the reservoir of the
car. The spring actuated valve is opened by a pistol grip lever protected
by a guard cast in a piece with the nozzle. This prevents the lever from
opening the valve by accidental pressure. Available for 1” and 1 ¼”

The larger, brass, self-closing nozzles common to the 1920s and 1930s remain available in today’s collector markets for reasonable prices, but their supply and condition is diminishing and the selling prices for good examples are increasing.

Gasoline pump nozzles remained fairly similar between the 1930s and 1940s with the biggest change coming in their material composition. For the first time many nozzles that had formerly been manufactured only in brass or bronze were now being made in lighter, less expensive, bare, cast aluminum or chrome plated, die cast aluminum. Due to the fact that the improved gasoline pumps of this era were now powered by electric motors and were generally capable of much faster gasoline discharge, their nozzles had to also be improved to remain compatible with these more powerful pumps. Most major nozzle manufacturers found it necessary to develop new nozzle technologies that would allow for immediate shut off of the gasoline flow if the auto tank became full. By the late 1940s, nozzle manufacturing companies such as Buckeye and OPW were developing nozzles that would automatically shut off before a dangerous “overflow” could occur. The following quote from a 1952 Buckeye “Safety Fill” nozzle advertisement sheds some light on this important innovation in nozzle design.:

“Safety-Fills” build fill-up and service business by building customer
satisfaction! Give your customers a good example of the kind of service
you offer – show them your “Safety-Fills”. Explain how “Safety-Fill”
nozzles eliminate overflow waste and damage by shutting off auto-
matically when gas covers the spout end. Watch what happens! Those
customers will come back again and again.”

Another positive feature associated with the improvement in nozzle technology concerned the degree of power control or variability in gasoline discharge speed. Between 1930 and 1950, most gasoline pump and nozzle manufacturers had worked together to coordinate their pumping meters and nozzle control valves. This was due primarily to the fact that the motorist wanted to be able to quickly and accurately stop the flow of gasoline on a particular gallon increment and/or dollar value. The following quote from a Gilbert & Barker factory advertisement touches on this concept:

“You can fill a wine glass to the brim without spilling a drop, with the
new TRU-METER “non-chattering” nozzle. Instant, effortless control
throttles the flow of gas to a trickle – without a jump or jerk. You know,
too, that five gallons by the dial is five gallons served – exactly.”

Between the 1960s and 1970s, nozzles had become fairly standardized. Like the gasoline pump manufacturers, many nozzle manufacturers such as A.Y. McDonald, Buckeye, Emco, Morrison Bros., Powell, Williams, Wheaton, etc., had merged with other producers, limited their nozzle production, or gone out of business all together. Consolidation was the order of the day and the modern service station market had become dominated by such companies as OPW (Ohio Pattern Works) and Emco Wheaton.

This trend continued during the 1990s and into the new century and today’s gasoline pump nozzles feature unusual construction designs, vapor recovery capabilities and digital sensors. Many modern day service station nozzles more closely resemble 1950s vintage “Ray Guns” right out of a science fiction movie, than functioning gasoline pump nozzles.

To review, literally hundreds to thousands of different gasoline pump nozzles have been produced in America over the last one hundred years. Most of these nozzles were produced to be used on specific styles and brands of gasoline pumps. For this reason, it should be stressed that certain vintage gas pump restorations require that a certain, particular type of nozzle be used on that pump. For example, you should not use a brass, dry hose, “banana” nozzle on an Erie clockface pump restoration, and you should not use an aluminum hand control nozzle on a Fry visible pump restoration.

I could probably talk longer on this topic, but I’m sure you would rather examine all of the “cool” images in this month’s photo gallery anyway. I sure wish I would have kept at least one example of every old nozzle that I have owned over the years, as a collection like that would be great to see on display today. I hope you learned a little more about gas pump nozzles this month, and that you stay tuned next month when I plan to discuss National A-1, A-38, and A-62 electric, computer pumps.

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