Oil companies carefully cultivated the brand loyalty of motorists by offering them a number of services. For a brief period in the 1930s, several oil companies posted maps at their stations - in special installations - displaying weekly updates of road conditions and detours . One of Shell's maps from 1931 advertised this service . It shows one of its stations with a traveler consulting the weekly update at the "Travelaide"; it also provides an explanation of the symbols used for impassable roads and for roads under construction; its slogans and the presence of the sheriff suggest that this weekly update is based on local knowledge and is completely trustworthy! Gulf Oil called its weekly updates the "Tourgide" [see 12]. Another service provided by oil companies was that of the travel bureau. For years, these distributed free maps. If the traveler wanted, his or her planned route could also be highlighted in marker pen .
By the mid-1930s, Continental Oil Company (CONOCO) had achieved the ultimate in route planning with the provision of personalized booklets of maps and travel information. The CONOCO Touraide compiled for Mary Field in 1939 details a trip around the USA that includes stops at the New York World's Fair and the Golden Gate Exhibition with the best routes highlighted [13, in case at left]. It contains nearly 200 large format spiral bound pages of maps and travel information and it came free of charge! Mary obliged us by diligently completing the travel log while covering 10,779 miles in 39 days. Her meals cost a total of only $40.68. Such books were available to any members of CONOCO's Travel Club . Oil companies enticed customers by cultivating an image of friendly and helpful service. And nothing was as friendly or as helpful as providing free road maps! The traveler who lacks a map, as suggested by a 1929 Standard Oil map, will inevitably get lost; but the hassle could easily be avoided by picking up a free map at the next friendly, obliging Standard Oil station . With a map, navigating the roads was as easy as child's play . A persistent theme of road map cover art was therefore the image of the solicitous attendant dispensing instructions and maps along with the oil companies' products [9, 10, 11]. All the services and products offered by gas stations were succinctly brought together in a 1931 advertisement from Gulf Oil .
1929 "Standard" Road Map of New Jersey.
New York: General Drafting Company, Inc. for Standard Oil Company, 1929.