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Vintage Gasoline Pump Marble Globes

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Red Wing, MN is a riverfront, bluff town known for it’s Red Wing boots and Red Wing Pottery. It also has a historic downtown that hosts a car show on Father's Day weekend. It’s a quaint setting with old storefronts, coffeehouses, boutique shops (Red Wing Confectionery has amazing fudge and chocolate!) and tons of vintage charm.

Near one small service station, there was a vintage Conoco pump. These are always appealing, but what caught the eye this time was a small glass globe with marbles.

Our first guess to why? To show that gas is flowing. Yes, but there is a little more to the story.

Gasoline pumps have changed as automobiles have changed. Previous to the marbles (which would have been made from Bakelite - plastic made from synthetic components - and not actually marbles), there was a turbine that would spin to show the gas moving through the globe. The globe was a ‘window’ to view what’s happening inside. This was fine until about 1923, because pure gas is clear. Pure gasoline is also not the greatest on lifetime wear of an engine, so Ethyl was introduced and gas was no longer clear and had a tendency to stain. The small globe would get muddied and the balls where added to clean this window into the tank.

Mystery solved!


Photos taken by Melissa Strait

Red Wing Visitor Site -

Red Wing Confectionary -

Extra credit - There is a really good post we stumbled upon on to read if you want more details about gas pumps and, in particular, the Dayton Pump.

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