Sinclair Oil logo

Outside my motel window in Mitchell, South Dakota was a Sinclair Oil gas station, something I hadn’t seen for a long time since they don’t seem to have any presence in the Northwest.

Sinclair’s been around since 1916 and according to its web site, has used the dinosaur in marketing for more than seventy-five years.

Sinclair began development of the apatosaurus (brontosaurus) in its advertising, sales promotions, and product labels in 1930. The apatosaurus was registered as a Sinclair trademark in 1932. An exhibit at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair highlighted dinosaurs and established Sinclair as the company that featured the apatosaurus. Again in 1964 at the New York City Worlds Fair, Sinclair proudly displayed an exhibit featuring nine life-sized dinosaurs highlighting its unique association with the age of the dinosaur–an age representative of the beginning of the formation of crude oil.

It put me in mind of an animated cartoon ad that ran for years on TV in the ’70s — I believe it was one of Exxon’s — describing how biological material from long ago became oil through the intense heat and pressure of hundreds of millions of years (sorry, I can’t find it on YouTube). The sound the dinos made in that ad inspired me to do an imitation, variations of which I use for monster noises thirty years later.

But I wonder if in today’s anti-science climate in America whether a company would choose a dinosaur for its logo, or even whether a description of the process of how oil came to be would be possible in an ad. Or would any company that did something like that be attacked by religious conservatives for anti-Creationist views?

Girl holding Sinclair Oil blow-up dinosaur