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Sign: Phillips 66

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Sign: Phillips 66


This object appears in the following sections:

The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s–1940s
The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s–1940s — The People's Highway

Phillips 66 sign
Catalog #: 1996.0387.01, Accession #: 1996.0387
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
In 1927 the Phillips Petroleum Company of Bartlesville, Oklahoma named its gasoline Phillips 66, reflecting public excitement over construction of Route 66 through the company's production and retail territory. Three years later, the company adopted a logo resembling a U.S. highway shield for its service station signs and advertisements. Marking the 66th anniversary of the shield logo in 1996, the company noted, "Although one of the initial suggestions for a Phillips trademark was 66, based on the approximate gravity of the fuel.. and the location of Phillips' first refinery (near U.S. highway 66), company officials could not reach a consensus. And time was running out. On the eve of a special executive committee session to settle the trademark question, a Phillips official was riding in a car being used to road-test the new Phillips gasoline. The car zoomed 66 miles per hour down Route 66-a coincidence the official reported the next day. That did it. The committee's vote was unanimous. Phillips 66 was born."
Physical Description
Shield-shaped sign. Porcelain enameled steel. Orange and black. Same lettering on both sides. Grommets for hanging. 30" x 30"
Date Made:
Gift of the Phillips Petroleum Company

During the 20th century, the U.S. oil industry began to improve its refining techniques, it began to refine different kinds of products, and it also began to market crude as fuel oil. In the U.S., people moved away from kerosene lighting toward gas and electric, and gasoline, previously an unwanted by-product, became the industry's cash cow. Refiners still made kerosene and sold it for illuminating rural and poor American homes, but they began to export more of it overseas.

The numbers of cars in the U.S. was a critical factor in the reshaping of the oil industry in the early 20th century. Petroleum was made into a number of car-related products. Petroleum was made into oil, i.e. lubricant, for cars, and petroleum asphalt, which was used to pave some of the nation's roads. By far the largest and most important car use was gasoline. A natural product of the distilling process, most gasoline was used as cleaning fluid, if it was used at all, before the car. As Americans took to the auto in greater numbers-far higher than in other countries-the gasoline fuel part of the industry became bigger and bigger business. The industry produced 85 million barrels (with 42 gallons in them) of gasoline in 1918 and nearly 417 million in 1934.

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