Gasoline pinwheels

As I child, I remember a glass globe on the side of the gas station pumps. Inside was filled with a liquid (I presume to be gasoline) and something like a colourful pinwheel or a couple of marbles that would spin or jump around while the gas was being pumped. Why do we not see them anymore? Did they ever serve a purpose to begin with?

With God as my witness, I thought turkey’s could fly.

I remember seeing those on old manually operated pumps (where you pumped gas up into a reservoir by hand which then flowed down through the hose by gravity.) I think the butterfly was to tell you that gas was flowing since there was no pump motor to listen to or guage to read.

Lex Non Favet Delicatorum Votis

Well, I would suspect that, because quantity gauge didn’t show less than tenths of gallons, and the flow was slow, that the “pinwheel” made the pumper readily aware when gasoline was flowing.

The pumps before that merely had cylindrical glass containers at their tops, with graduated vertical gallon scales on them – I think, down to a quarter of a gallon, but you could also see some fluid motion and maybe bubbles when the gas was being pumped.

People back then could also have buried gas tanks at their urban residences, with pumps and open vents. I remember us kids playing with these, in the '30s, in ways I don’t want to think about.

Ray (remembers the real self-service)

From the Tiger Hightest Magazine Gas Station Collectibles Glossary


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

Thanks to all, Especially TT!