|On Friday, January 16 2004, a crew from Signs by Crannie took down the
old torch and oval Amoco signs and put up new, gleaming BP signs with the
"Helios" logo which is what BP calls its sunburst (some call it a buzz saw
blade) emblem. In its final months, the Amoco signs had not been maintained
as one sign had half its fluorescent tubes out and the other, symbolically,
had its flame out. That gas station, located at the corner of Miller and
Lennon roads in Flint, has had its BP touches on its canopies and pumps for
several months. Last Summer, I decided to go to a Flint Township meeting
in which the RPF Oil Company, which operates the gas stations, and Signs
by Crannie which is replacing the Amoco signage with BP signage locally were
getting approval for the new BP signs. Flint Township had just started enforcing
its tough sign ordnance and RPF and Crannie were seeking variances for the
four Amoco stations located in Flint Township. They were successful getting
variances for three of the locations, getting approval for BP signs which
were shorter than the Amoco signs they replaced, but taller than the sign
ordinance's maximum height. The fourth location, on Corunna Road in a part
of the area with several compliant signs, had to be made compliant.
The history of the Standard Oil of Indiana/amoco torch and oval is a rich
one. It's a combination of elements from two emblems. The torch is from the
logo Standard Oil of Indiana adopted in 1926 which symbolized progress. It's
also the dominant feature of Indiana's state flag which represents liberty
and enlightenment. The oval (as well as the Amoco name) is from Indiana
Standard's American Oil Company subsidiary, based in Baltimore. The attractive
red oval with a black band saying AMOCO was adopted in 1932 and is a fine
example of art deco design. Amoco used this logo at its gas stations in the
Eastern USA throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1944, Standard of Indiana decided that it needed a new logo for after
World War II. While the above Indiana Standard logo was used on the gas station
buildings, the roadside sign was a plain-looking blue rectangle saying STANDARD
SERVICE in white lettering. More than 400 designs were considered and the
final design was a combination of Standard's torch and Amoco's oval. That
logo was introduced in 1946 and is the predecessor of the more familiar torch
and oval. This red, white and blue logo was universally adaptable and would
be used outside the Standard of Indiana territory (extending from Montana
to Michigan and south to Oklahoma) using other brands in the southeastern
USA with the Pan-Am name and in the southwestern USA with the Utoco name.
Amoco stayed with its oval.
The first use of the Amoco name on the torch and oval came when the Pan-Am
stations were re branded Amoco in 1956 and the new Amoco signs were of the
torch and oval design. The new logo was used alongside the original Amoco
logo as indicated on the Amoco road maps of that time.
At the end of 1960, Indiana Standard and its subsidiaries underwent a
reorganization in which American Oil took over all of Indiana Standard's
marketing assets throughout the USA. The torch and oval sign was given a
make over by flattening the oval and giving the classically designed torch
a more modern design. All the stations within Indiana Standard's territory
would bear the Standard name while stations outside the Indiana Standard
marketing area were identified as American stations, replacing the Amoco
and Utoco names. So for the first time, all the Standard/american stations
throughout the country had a common identity with the torch and oval.
By the end of the 1960s, Indiana Standard decided that with its expanding
global operations it needed a new bolder and more modern logo. The final
torch and oval design was introduced in 1971 and retained the shape of the
logo, while using brighter red and blue colors for greater visibility, a
bolder and slanted typeface to show a company on the move, and giving the
torch a more streamlined shape. Shortly afterwards in 1973, the American
Oil Company was renamed the Amoco Oil Company and the Amoco name replaced
the American name on stations outside the Indiana Standard marketing area.
In the late 1970s, the Amoco name started appearing very gradually on stations
within the Indiana Standard marketing area. I recall seeing the first Amoco
signs in Michigan in 1978 while in Saginaw. In 1985, Standard Oil Company
(Indiana) was renamed Amoco Corporation. While most Amoco stations in Michigan
bore the Amoco name in the 1990s, there were still some stations bearing
the Standard name with both the 1960s and the 1970s torch and oval signs.
The last of those are being replaced with BP signs. In 1998, BP merged with
Amoco with initial plans of allowing both BP and Amoco stations to coexist.
But that changed in 2000 when BP announced a phase out of the Amoco name
and the introduction of the new 'Helios' BP logo to be phased in on all BP
stations world wide. The Amoco name would remain only as the gasoline brand
name on the BP pumps. The changes finally started appearing in the Flint
area in 2003 as the stations were remodeled one by one in a gradual method.
There are several resources on the Internet which keeps the torch alive (sorry)
for the Indiana Standard/amoco signs. Check out these URLs;
This URL has a cartoon by Stacy Curtis which sums up our feelings toward
the loss of the torch and oval Amoco signs by showing a British chap representing
BP after he doused the flame on the Amoco sign.
gives the history of the various Standard Oil entities after the Standard
Oil Trust was split up in 1911 by the courts as a monopoly. Each "baby Standard"
was assigned the rights to use the Standard name or its variants (such as
Esso derived from S.O. for Standard Oil of New Jersey) in the states where
they had the rights.
is the URL for BP's own history of the Amoco torch and oval.
shows various Standard signs around the country. The home page of
http://www.gassigns.org lists other gas station signs.
has photos of Standard of Indiana signs throughout the old Indiana Standard
has an article on the history of the old Standard Oil "Red Crown" trademark
which was used by Standard of Indiana until 1961.
As a postscript, the BP brand on the Miller and Lennon station is the fourth
brand at this location. It began as a Phillips 66 station in the 1950s. In
the early 1970s, it switched to Total. It became Amoco in the 1980s. The
old building was torn down in two stages in the 1990s while a new building
was constructed with another island of pumps standing where the old building