For as long as there have been cars, people have complained about the price of gas. In fact, the very first complaint probably happened at the intersection of Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, the site of the world’s first drive-in gas station. It was November 30, 1913, and the Gulf Oil station sold 30 gallons of gas at $0.27 per gallon, a small sum in this economy but equivalent to over $7 per gallon today after adjusting for inflation!
Located on Pittsburgh’s “automobile row,” the location made sense since Gulf Oil’s headquarters were in Pittsburgh at the time and was a short drive from Titusville, the site of one of the country’s first oil wells. The station offered free water, air, and road maps to customers open 24 hours a day, setting the standard for how we would come to rely on gas stations as the country shifted to an automotive-based society in post-war America.
Before the Gulf station, primitive modes of acquiring fuel existed. One could purchase a few gallons from the pharmacist or blacksmith who stored fuel in old shacks with converted water heaters and barrels. But by 1920, 15,000 gas stations could be found across the country. True to form, Pittsburghers can be proud to say, “It all started here – gas stations AND complaining about gas prices.”