Special features about petrol company road maps

Index by title

Jump to summary in date order

2006 Road Maps from Petrol and Oil Companies
50 maps from 50 years of the EU
Adverts from Oil Companies on road maps
        Adverts from Oil Companies on British road maps
        Adverts from Oil Companies on German road maps
        Adverts from Oil Companies on Italian road maps
Bibliography of Gas Station and Petroleum History books (mainly US)
BP's 1926 Guide to Paris and its environs
Brussels World Fair (1958)
2000s road maps from Crimea
Dating Petrol Company Road maps and the frequency of issues
        Dating British Esso maps from ca1949 to 1958
        Dating US Gulf maps from before 1930
        How often did companies issue maps?
Diesel & Truck Facility Maps
        Pre-war diesel maps from Britain
Errors on maps (1)
        Errors on maps - two more examples
Esso Guides to London and Irish Airports from the 1960s
Fake & Reproduction Road Maps
Fuel Saving Tips for Motorists:
        The Mobilgas Economy Run
        The Shell Guide to Good Mileage
        Tiger Tips for Stretching Gasoline Mileage (Exxon)
        Our own Tips for saving Petrol
Freiburg im Breisgau - street maps
George Philip & Son Road Atlases for Shell, BP & National Benzole
Glossary of Gas Station Collectibles terms
Husbands Bosworth - comparing post-war Shell maps for accuracy
Interactive Map of Britain from the National Library of Scotland
Interactive Petrol & LPG Prices Map of Britain
The M1 on maps
Pratts and Esso Pictorial Plans from the UK
Promotional tools for maps
30 Maps from Scotland
Some special Shell maps from George Philip
Summer Olympic Games maps
        Winter Olympics
World's Fairs & Expos

Top of PageSummary in date order

Pre-war diesel maps from Britain
Diesel fuel was first used for lorries (trucks) in Germany in 1923, and before long the main petrol companies started adding supplies of the new diesel fuel at their filling stations or special supply depots accessible to commercial vehicles. As they were still few and far between in the 1930s, some firms produced maps showing where diesel fuel could be bought. This page shows five examples from Britain representing Pratts, Essodiesel and Shell-BP's Light Diesoleum, all using fairly basic locator maps (extracts from three of which are also shown). (Updated 23 November 2014)

30 Maps from Scotland
Although the Scots voted against independence in the September 2014 referendum, I decided to create a new country page for maps from Scotland. It is notable that with the partial exception of a pre-war ZIP map below and a Shell map that is reported to have had just 700 copies printed in 1939 that no-one has ever seen, all known petrol company maps of Scotland are part of a wider series of maps of the rest of the UK; no firms have issued a non-series map of the country. (Updated 21 September 2014)

Crimea was in the news in early 2014 with unrest leading to a referendum on independence and its rapid absorption into the Russian Federation. Whatever the rights or wrongs of this process it is interesting to see how Crimea has appeared on a few maps published by petrol companies since the break-up of the Soviet Union. (Updated 27 April 2014)

How often did companies issue maps?
This sounds like it should be an easy question to answer, as most maps have a copyright date. But it turns out to be a little more complex than it might seem at first. Some maps (though not generally from Europe) clearly show a speciifc season on them, as in two 1973 maps from Standard (Indiana). Others carry a date code that includes the month, revealing that there were as many as three versions produced in an 18 month peiod for a particular Texaco map of Wales and Central England, again in 1973-4. On the other hand, some issues were used for several years, as appears to have occurred with an undated Shell-BP map of Northern England, believed to have been printed in 1954 but given away to delegates at a conference in September 1959. And finally this page looks at the case of the 1905 Pratt's atlas of England and Wales, of which four distinct versions are known, making it highly unlikley that they were all actually printed in 1905. (Updated 21 December 2013)

Road atlases from George Philip & Sons
George Philip & Sons worked with the Shellmex & BP group in the early 1960s to repackage their successful sheet maps into a single volume covering Great Britain, but not Ireland, at the scale of 5 miles to the inch, with additional maps of London. Updated versions of this atlas were published as late as 1989. This new page charts the changes to the cartography over that period, with 21 map extracts - mainly of Bristol or London, as well as showing cover designs from 4 atlases not previously included on this website (including one from the clothing retailer C&A). A table identifies the content of representative atlases carrying the Shell, BP or National logos: National atlases often contained additional town plans not found in the versions for the sister brands. (Updated 14 January 2013)

An Interactive Petrol Map of Britain and Energy Saving Motoring
There is a second interactive map of Britain on this site; it shows petrol stations by brand and recent prices for petrol, diesel and LPG. Of course, finding low price fuel is only one way of saving money, so it also provides ten eco-driving tips. (Updated 31 January 2011)

An Interactive Map of Britain from the National Library of Scotland
This page embeds a composite map of Britain, drawn from out of copyright Ordnance Survey maps dating from 1919-1947 in the National Library of Scotland, that can be zoomed in at scales down to one inch to the mile. It's not a petrol map, but a superb resource if you are looking for pre-Second World War road alignments. Most parts of the map pre-date MoT road classification numbers. The OS Quarter Inch map view around Husbands Bosworth is compared with the equivalent 1956 Shell map (albeit originally printed at a smaller scale). (Updated 12 August 2010)

Pratts and Esso Pictorial Plans
As well as traditional road atlases, Standard Oil's UK subsidiary Pratts commissioned some 'pictorial plans' from the artist AE Taylor from 1930. These were issued in a number of formats, including as a bound volume after the Pratts branding had been replaced by Esso. In 1951, Esso sponsored a pictorial souvenir map for the Festival of Britain. (Updated 7 June 2010)

The M1's 50th Birthday
The M1 celebrated its 50th Birthday on 3rd November 2009; the initial stretch had run from North London to Crick, near Rugby. Petrol companies were keen to promote this new fast road, and Shell and BP both issued a simple strip map to mark its opening, which included DO's and DON'Ts for motorists unfamiliar with driving at high speed. This new page also shows extracts from Esso maps from 1957 and 1959 showing the Northern end of the route. Much later, in 1975, Shell and BP returned to a strip map format for booklets showing all British motorways, including the M1, and their slightly different ways of mapping its Southern end are shown. (Updated 8 November 2009)

50 maps from 50 years of the EU
25th March 2007 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the predecessor of the European Union. To commemorate this I created a page showing a map from each of the 50 years. All the maps are from companies based in the EU at the time the map was issued. (Updated 25 March 2007)

Special Shell maps from George Philip
In the 1960s Shell worked very closely with George Philip & Son Ltd, one of Britain's leading map companies. Among the special issues produced were an experimental wipe clean map using a "Shorko" plasticised map coating for a 1964 Geographical Congress, and later 1960s Shell maps in card covers produced for Philip's to sell into the map trade, rather than through Shell filling stations. (Created 17 October 2006)

Errors on maps
Many maps have errors; most are quite small and many are deliberate. This new page looks at some that appear to be of both types, ranging from a non-existent bypass to a village spelled wrongly; from a map with the cover photograph reversed to one pasted into completely the wrong cover. Others show production errors, such as an atlas with some pages missing whilst others were bound into it twice. (Created 9 April 2006)

Two maps with errors
Many maps contain small errors; sometimes deliberate to help protect copyright (and trap others who have made illegal copies) and sometimes inadvertent. This page looks in some depth at two examples - a Greek map of Britain that is riddled with small errors, and a deliberate error on an Exxon map of New York State. (Updated 19 February 2006)

Winter Olympics Maps
Maps from the Winter Olympic Games were rather hidden at the foot a page devoted to the summer games. Two maps are from Innsbruck in 1964, and two from Grenoble four years later. As it is 38 years ago today since the Grenoble Winter Games closed, with a choral concert featuring Olivier Messiaen at the Maison de la Culture, I have decided to promote them to their own page. (Updated 18 February 2006)

2006 Road Maps from Petrol and Oil Companies
Although relatively few maps and atlases are still being sold by petrol and oil companies, there are some with a 2006 date, and this page will attempt to pull together examples from some of the main markets. (Created 2 October 2005)

The Mobilgas Economy Run
With the ever increasing threat from Global Climate Change, it is interesting to look at the - relatively few - initiatives by petrol companies to promote fuel economy. One of the longest running was the Mobil Economy Run, and a 1959 booklet of Mobilgas locations in Britain offered some useful tips to motorists on how to conserve fuel. (Updated 25 September 2005)

Top of PageDiesel & Truck Facility Maps
Diesel fuel was first used to power lorries and other commercial vehicles in Europe in the 1920s. Dedicated maps for diesel fuel customers appear to have been produced only occasionally, starting in the 1950s. In more recent years, though, maps and directories with quite rudimentary maps have been produced for commercial vehicle drivers (truckers) as a way of showing where sites with truck facilities are located that will accept a particular payment system card. (Updated 24 July 2005)

Comparing maps of Husbands Bosworth
Motorists rely on maps to be accurate representations of the roads on the ground, taking into account the scale at which the map is drawn. Although cartographers occasionally introduce deliberate errors, most of the time even the cheapest (or free) maps made available have met this aim admirably. One map that allows us to test this - and how it has stood up to the test of time - is the 1974 Shell map series produced by George Philip & Son, notable for showing an aerial representation of part of the map on the cover. This page compares several maps, mainly from Shell, with the actual layout of the roads around the village. (Updated 6 December 2004)

Maps from World's Fairs & Expos
There have been almost 30 World's Fairs (or Expositions Universelles) since the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London's Hyde Park. Road maps or site plans have been produced by petrol companies for around a third of them, with the fairs held since the 1930s in North America well represented. This page shows some 20 map images, mainly from the USA, in an overview of the subject to complement the page dedicated to the 1958 Brussels Expo. (Updated 7 November 2004)

Tiger Hightest's Glossary of Gas Station Collectibles Terms
Tiger Hightest was a magazine published in the USA for collectors of items associated with service stations (including road maps). In 1999 Guy Kudlemyer, a regular contributor, put together a web glossary of interest to collectors and general historians or the downstream oil industry. The glossary has now been re-published on this website in an updated version, with slightly more emphasis given to European matters. (Updated 1 February 2003)
To help keep the page a reasonable size, the Bibliography has been moved to a new page.

Tiger Tips for Stretching Gasoline Mileage
Tiger Tips for Stretching Gasoline Mileage were included on the back of Exxon (USA) road maps in the 1970s - the panel from a 1974 edition has now been included as a comparison to the 1979 Shell Good Mileage Guide. (Updated 4 January 2003)

Promotional tools for maps
Petrol companies spent a lot of money developing map programmes, so would naturally wish to use them to encourage more customers. This page looks at some of the ways this was done, including advertising their road maps and point of sale marketing through map racks. (Updated 2 January 2003)

Esso Guides to London and Irish Airports from the 1960s
There are at least three versions of an Esso guide to London Airport (Heathrow) from the 1960s and one to Irish airports (Dublin, Cork and Shannon), which dates from around 1963-4. Each guide includes drawings of aeroplanes from each of the main airlines serving the airport, as well as information on Esso refuelling facilities and plans of the airport. (Updated 20 July 2002)

Street maps of Freiburg im Breisgau
Freiburg is a medium sized city in Southwest Germany which is large enough to have been included as an inset on several different petrol companies' road maps. A selection of these street plans are shown here, together with more images from the 1935 Shell map of the city.
Warning: This page has around 400K of graphics, so may be slow to load. (Updated 2 February 2002)

Top of PageFake & Reproduction Road Maps
Petrol and oil company road maps are not terribly valuable. As a result there is (luckily!) little incentive to produce fake or reproduction items, unlike for some other collectibles (eg. gasoline globes). However, I do know of one reproduction map and this web-site is not above a little deception.... (Updated 1 April 2001)

The 1926 Guide "BP" to Paris and its environs
Within 5 years of entering the French petrol market, BP commissioned a 400 page guide to Paris and its environs. The guide contains many pages of maps, black and white photographs and delightful pen and ink advertising images. This page looks at the guide in some detail; it also contains the earliest known petrol company maps of France (and the oldest known BP maps, as well). (Updated 13 January 2001)

The Shell Guide to Good Mileage
In 1979, Shell published a full colour leaflet advising motorists in the UK on ways to avoid wasting petrol. Although some of the information has been superseded by improvements to car technology, much of it is still valid, and I am grateful to have been permitted to convert it into a web page, which reproduces the complete text and original illustrations. (Updated 29 December 2000)

Maps for the 1958 Brussels World Fair
Michel Breugelmans has kindly helped me to compile this page showing five maps for the Brussels World Fair, from BP, Caltex, Esso, Mobil and Shell. (Updated 17 November 2000)

Oil Company adverts on road maps
Not all petrol & oil companies issued their own road maps; some of the smaller ones could not afford to and so it made sense to consider advertising on other, commercial map issues. However, it appears that most adverts found on maps are nonetheless from the major brands of petrol - especially Shell, Esso, BP and Mobil. This page looks at some of the other brands with adverts on maps, including examples from Belgium, Finland and Portugal and, on additional pages, from Britain, Germany and Italy. (Created 7 October 2000; last updated 10 April 2005)

Dating Petrol Company Road maps
Many road maps carry a clear copyright date on them. However a significant minority lack any clear date and there are some cartographers' codes that are worth discovering. Otherwise, it may be necessary to compare the road network with a map of the same area that is dated, or to fall back upon the general style of the map... (Updated 1 October 2000) I have also created a specific page looking at the sequence of British Esso maps from ca1949 to 1958. (Updated 1 October 2000)

Top of PageSpecial Maps for the Olympic Games
Eight summer and Eight winter Olympics have been held in Europe since 1930. For a few of these games, leading petrol companies produced special maps to help their customers get to the Olympic venues. This page includes examples from Berlin (1936), Helsinki (1952), Rome (1960), Munich (1972) and Barcelona (1992). (Updates 7 June 2000 to 29 July 2003)

Text, "special" icon and layout © Ian Byrne, 2000-14

All original copyrights in logos and map extracts and images are acknowledged and images are included on this site for identification purposes only.