There were 21 automobiles in 1905 Santa Rosa, and assuming you owned a gasoline model (instead of the steam variety), how and where did you get fuel to make the machine go? Most drivers probably had a 50-gallon barrel of gasoline tucked in the back of their carriage house garage where they dipped in a bucket and poured the smelly, dangerous gas into the car's tank via a funnel. By contrast, imagine the luxury of pulling your Oldsmobile up to a "pump" and having an attendant fill 'er up -- ah, sweet progress! I tell you, if they could somehow put one of these filling stations on every major street corner, that electric trolley would be doomed.

This item is rich in the sort of details that are loved by tech-y historians. It reveals much that Santa Rosa's auto shop had a pit allowing mechanics to repair the underside without the car needing to be hoisted into the air on a crane (!) and that the gas station was using the new-fangled "Bowser Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump" (misspelled here as "Bouser"), which had been introduced just months before. Other factoids here raise intriguing questions, such as the mention of the "rubberoid" floor. This was the name of a roofing material that became an issue in a trademark suit that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1911, which ruled that products with similar names such as "Ribbero" were not in violation (none of the products actually contained rubber, by the way). Also interesting is the prominent mention of separate waiting rooms for men and women, with "wash stand, toilet, and all conveniences." So you were supposed to hang out in the bathroom while they replaced your spark plugs and changed the oil?

Of particular local history note is that this gas station/garage/auto dealership/cyclery was owned by the remarkable Fred J. Wiseman, who would make the world's first airmail flight six years later (see background in this blog's first post on Wiseman, or review all tags that mention him).

Fred Wiseman Will Soon Have Best Equipped Place in This Part of the State

The new automobile garage which is being fitted up by Fred Wiseman of the Santa Rosa Cyclery, is to be one of the finest affairs of the kind to be found north of San Francisco. The garage is to be located in the new Overton building on Fifth street, and when completed will be made very convenient in every particular. It is to be both a bicycle shop and auto garage, the bicycle department being arranged on the east side of the building. At present the whole building is fitted with cement floor, but in the bicycle store, where there will also be a large stock of sporting goods, the floor will be covered with rubberoid, and the fixtures here will be the latest and most attractive obtainable.

In front and between the two departments is located the business office, and just to the rear of this there are both ladies' and gents' waiting rooms which are equipped with wash stand, toilet, and all conveniences.

Instead of equipping two machine shops, Mr. Wiseman has arranged so that he will unite both departments and one set of tools will do for both lines. It is the purpose of the proprietor to keep a place to store automobiles by the month, and also have on hand a number of new machines for sale. They have the agency of the Oldsmobile, the Winton, and the Reo, made by the Olds Company. There are now some nine or ten autos in the building.

At the present time everything is at a standstill on the building because of the strike which was declared Friday, and it was the intention to have the place ready for occupancy in a few days but it will now probably be the first of December before everything is ready for moving in.

The machine shop is especially well equipped, there being a good cement pit, so arranged that the machinist may get under the automobile to make repairs, without having to swing it in the air on a crane. There is also a wash rack constructed in the rear of the room where the machines may be cleaned easily, and the garage will be fitted with a Bouser gasoline pump for the filling of the gasoline tanks. This is the only gasoline pump which is recognized by the insurance companies as being absolutely safe. It is so constructed that when you want a certain amount of gasoline, the machine is set and the pump will only raise that much.

After everything is completed and the cyclery has been moved to the new quarters, Mr. Wiseman says he will keep open day and night, always having a man there to look after the wants of those who call. This is certainly a very interesting place and will be a great advance in the automobile and bicycle line in this county.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 5, 1905


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