Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Gasoline Pump from the Past

by Nancy DeWitt

The first automobiles arrived in Fairbanks in 1908, but it would be another eight years before the first gasoline pump was installed in the town. Until that point, motorists had to buy their gasoline at a hardware store, or, as this ad from a June 1910 issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner shows, the local gun store. One could buy gasoline by the case--the Northern Commercial (N.C.) Company charged $5.25 to $6.50/case in 1915, which was about the price of a case of Carnation canned milk. One also had the option of bringing their own bucket to the store and having gasoline ladled into it from a barrel.

On July 10, 1916, the Alaska Citizen described the wonder of the new "gasoline pumping device" that had just been installed at the N.C. Company. "And from the tank from which the gasoline is taken quantities of the fluid ranging from one pint to one gallon can be secured. The pump brings the gasoline from the tank and puts it directly in the gasoline tank of the automobile by the hose. The tank holds 300 gallons. Therefore, all an automobilist needs to do when he wants to secure some gasoline is to drive his machine up, make his wants known and pay his money, turn a crank and watch the machine do the work of filling up the tank of his automobile." The device was likely what is called a curb pump.

In the 1920s, "visible" gas pumps became popular. Gas was hand pumped into a transparent, graduated glass cylinder at the top of the unit, allowing the customer to see the quality and the color of the fuel (dirty gas was a problem then). The desired amount of fuel was then transferred to the customer's tank by gravity. The visible gas pump on display in our Alaska gallery is a Tokheim 620 model from the late 1920s. John J. Tokheim patented a number of gasoline pump devices and is credited with inventing the first known gasoline curb service for automobiles.

This pump came from the historic Miller House at mile 114 of the Steese Highway. Miller House operated as a combination roadhouse, general store and post office from 1896 until 1970. Known for its wonderful food, the roadhouse catered to miners, freighters and stage drivers operating between Fairbanks and Circle on the Yukon River. The trail was upgraded for automobiles in 1927, and that September a Studebaker Big Six touring car driven by Archie Broxon of the Midnight Sun Transportation Company became the first large auto to reach Miller House over the new "Yukon Highway."

Do you remember seeing this pump at the Miller House? We'd love to find a photo of it when it stood there. 

Postscript from Willy: We would also like to thank the volunteers that helped with the restoration project of this historic gas pump. We would have a  hard time getting done the things we do without the help of a group of our "Pit Crew" that comes in every Tuesday to help with projects, so when you see them, give them a big thanks, they deserve it. Ron Allen, Rod Benson, Paul Tekin, Mike Lecorchick, Ed McLaughlin, Terry Whitledge, Johny Newman, and Jerry and Donna Krier for the fuel pump, thanks to them this piece of history stands tall in the museum for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Behind the Ropes" Tours Planned

by Nancy DeWitt

Have you always wanted to step over the ropes at the museum and take a closer look at some of our cars? Here's your chance!

On December 11, you can join museum manager Willy Vinton for an in-depth tour of the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum’s signature automobiles. We’ll look under the hoods, open the doors and tour the shop to learn what makes these cars significant.

Tour 1 - 11:00 am
Tour 2 - 1:00 pm

Each tour is limited to 20 people and reservations are required by calling 450-2100. The tours are free with museum admission ($8) and to season-pass holders.

I'll be at the museum from noon to 2 pm that day to sign copies of the museum's new book, Alaska's Fountainhead Collection: Vintage Treads and Threads. These books are only $19.95 and make great gifts. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Puttin' on the Ritz

by Nancy DeWitt

If you're blue and you don't know where to go to,
Why don't you go where fashion sits,
Puttin' on the Ritz.

Winter has arrived in Fairbanks, which means that one can find a fundraiser or gala to attend just about every weekend in this busy town. We've noticed that several upcoming events, including a few booked in the museum, have a Roaring Twenties or Art Deco theme. If you're looking to be stylish, here are a few tips.

In general, women's fashion in the 1920s was characterized by loose, drop-waist dresses, short hair, cloche hats, nude hose and Mary Janes or t-strap shoes. What we call the Flapper style actually only lasted from around 1926 to 1928. During the Flapper period, some dress hemlines reached above the knees, but just barely. The ultra-short, fringe-laden 20s dresses found in today's costume shops would likely have been frowned upon, even by the most rebellious of flappers. The Art Deco era is said to have started as early as 1910, but is more typically thought of as the period of 1920-1939. This gives anyone attending an Art Deco-themed party a lot of options, including beaded, calf-length dresses, colorful chemises, or slinky gowns reminiscent of Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich.

Men wore 3-piece suits with narrow lapels throughout the 1920s. High waisted-jackets and tail coats were popular for formal wear. Trousers were straight-legged and often short enough so that socks were visible. Sportswear included knickers and sweaters (or sweater vests), while hats ranged from newsboy caps and boater hats to fedoras and top hats. During the 1930s, double-breasted suits with wide lapels, white dinner jackets (worn with black pants & bow ties) and blazers became popular, as did "Palm Beach" suits made from linen, silk or seersucker. Boldly colored and patterned "gangster" or "zoot" suits also appeared in the 1930s. These had pronounced shoulders, narrow waists and wide trouser bottoms and were usually topped by a colorful felt hat. Oxford and two-toned shoes were worn throughout the 1920s and 30s. More on 1930s fashion can be found here.

We've listed some websites below to help you dress the part. If you know of other resources for 1920s-1930s reproduction or vintage clothing, please add them in the Comments section.

Reproduction and vintage-inspired clothing
Leluxe Clothing Co. (Art Deco dresses)
The Vintage Dancer (men's suits, knickers & Oxford bag pants; ladies' dresses; shoes, hats, accessories for both)
Unique Vintage (flapper dresses and accessories)
Blue Velvet Vintage (beaded 20s-style dresses)
Revamp Vintage (men's and women's 1920s and 30s outfits)
Recollections (1920s dresses)
Men's zoot suits, zoot pants - pricey and less so

Wearable Vintage 
Adeline's Attic (women's dresses and shoes - Etsy)
Adored Vintage (women's dresses, hats & shoes)
Dorothea's Closet (women's dresses, mostly priced for the serious collector)

Harper House (1920s dress patterns)
Eva Dress (1920s-30s dress patterns)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Checking Out the Hartung Auction in Chicago

by Willy Vinton

Well, if you have been looking to score a Ford Model A of nearly any configuration, the Lee Roy Hartung auction held in Chicago last week would have been a good place to start. There were 79 automobiles here, none in running order, most complete and restorable. Some had been submerged under water up to two feet deep for extended periods of time, with rust lines showing the damage that could have been prevented with a little care.                      

As you exited the main tent and walked by tables and piles of parts, these were the first cars outside that you saw. They had all been sitting out in the rain for the last couple of months, so sadly the interior on most had gotten a good chance to sprout some mold.

After seeing these cars, you turned to the right and looked down a long line of more cars. As you can see, there were some good-looking projects, but oh, so much cost to freight them home to Alaska! The row of items in front of the cars was just the beginning of some of the parts available at the auction. They continued down to the fence at the far end, and then turned right. There were a lot of hit-and-miss engines, and everything else that you could imagine. I will post some more pictures later that will cover some of the more interesting parts and such. Wind and rain made for few people outside looking that day, but bids were high on a lot of the stuff. But, if you wanted NOS (new old stock) Model A or T fenders, they were cheap--groups of a dozen or so sold in the $250 range. Auction results are posted here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside...For Toyota

by Nancy DeWitt and Willy Vinton

Interior Alaska is a land of extremes, especially when it comes to temperatures. Ranging from bone-chilling lows of -50º F (-45º C) or colder in winter to surprising highs over 90º F (32º C) in the summer, Fairbanks has one the largest seasonal temperature differentials of any city in the world.

Surprisingly, many people visit Fairbanks in the winter despite-or even because--of our cold temperatures. These include tourists who come to see the northern lights, spectacular ice carvings, sled dog races and a whole host of other winter events. We have also become a hub for cold-weather testing for clothing, snowmobiles, automobiles, and airplanes ranging from the Concord to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. So it was no surprise this week when a crew from Toyota showed up at the museum recently and told us they were in town to cold-weather test the company's latest electric cars.

This group of Japanese engineers came to visit the museum on Sunday, and Willy was fortunate to be able to spend some time with them. He writes: I think they left having learned a lot about the history of the American automobile, and the engineering genious of some of the pioneers of the time.

The Toyota crew enjoyed seeing unusual cars like the Compound, Hertel and Hay, before checking out our electric cars. Pictured is our 1903 Columbia Mark XIX Surrey that they spent some time studying. 

After spending additional time examining the 1913 Argo electric limousine in the shop, I had to ask the question,"Your new electric car, under summer conditions, will travel how far"? After some discussion among themselves, the reply was "about 120 kilometers."  So, if they keep up the good work they should soon be able to match our1912 Rauch-Lang, which could run 70 miles on a charge! However, their car will have a little more creature comforts as well as travel a lot faster. Time will tell.

The 1903 Columbia is now on display, so come in and see it.