Category Archives: Gas/ Petroleum

We’ve Lost The Spark: Auto-Lite Service Parts Toolbox, ca. 1950s

Utilitarian items like vintage toolboxes are always a joy to unearth. Sure, in the case of this example, the box’s purpose was to also act as an advertising piece, but fundamentally, this steel cabinet sat in a workshop to hold — and keep separated — spark plugs and related parts.

Auto-Lite (Toledo, Ohio) originated in 1911 when a couple of small parts companies began producing buggy lamps. By the 1930s it had become a prosperous automotive-components business, and in 1935 Auto-Lite undertook an endeavor to create its own ceramic spark plug. In no time, leading carmakers such as Chrysler, Willys, Packard and Studebaker were adopting the brand’s spark plugs. (Interestingly, Auto-Lite carries on today, outlasting all of these once-promising automotive manufacturing heavyweights, with the exception of Chrysler.) Aside from spark plugs, the company also made radiator grills, door handles and hubcaps.

The blue toolbox pictured is in very good shape structurally, and the graphics, though distressed in points, are still clear and clean. Inside the drawers are several metal dividers used to partition sections for various small components. Also present are two boxed, dead-stock,  ball-bearing gears.

Yes We Can: Gulf Grease Tin, ca. 1940s

I make no apologies for my love of things that proudly show their age. Wear and tear give an object warmth while also helping to creating a narrative. Who used this item? How was it used? Did it stand up to the treatment it received? All of this adds up over time and makes the piece more than it was when it was fresh and unused.

While in Toronto recently I happened across this Gulf grease can and was immediately struck by its exterior patina. At first glance it may not seem worthy of investigation but on closer look, seeing past the dents and chips, there really is something special about the faded paint. The orange and dark blue graphics are shadowed and scratched yet still clear enough to make out. The rim, particularly on one side shows old damage where it was repeatedly hit with a grease stick, presumably when it was a fixture in a workshop or garage.

This one I’ve decided is staying with me and has been repurposed as a pen holder.