For most of us that grew up in and around Walt Disney World, the first time we linked dinosaurs to petroleum probably had something to do with the Universe of Energy at EPCOT Center. It’s also possible that the first time we heard about a World’s Fair was in correlation with Walt Disney’s efforts at the 1964 World’s Fair, which also happened to feature a few famous dinosaurs. However, the Universe of Energy wasn’t the first time that the myth of dinosaurs as a form of fossil fuel was employed; the Sinclair Gas & Oil company had been utilizing them for years. In fact, they even took their dinos to the World’s Fair.
Actually, Sinclair dinosaurs were present at multiple World’s Fairs, including the New York edition in 1964. However, Chester and Hester seem to be interested in an earlier appearance, at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Sinclair had been trying to come up with an iconic image for their logo that would be immediately recognizable to passing motorists when they hit upon the dinosaurs. By the time they reached the World’s Fair in 1933, their exhibit featured a brontosaurus that could move its neck and tail, along with a selection of other, static, dinosaurs. According to the guidebook from the World’s Fair:
“Giant prehistoric monsters. On the heaped up reddish brownstone hillside of the age of reptiles the forty-ton brontosaurus swings his long next, jerks his huge tail, clashes his jaws and emits life-like screeching grunts. In a pool a glaring-eyed trachodon, bigger than a hippopotamus, splashes with his huge clawed foot. He is watching a fight between a three-horned triceratops and a tyrannosaurus, most ferocious creature that ever lived, with crocodile haws and hind legs like a kangaroo. Near them a stegosaurus, large as an elephant, browses on prehistoric vegetation.”
That may be the first time I’ve ever read of a t-rex being compared to a kangaroo.
The dinosaurs were featured in Big News, a special edition newspaper publication created especially for the Chicago World’s Fair by Sinclair. Chester and Hester were able to located one of these issues to place up on their walls amongst the photos and comic books featuring their favorite creatures. This makes sense, considering that the Sinclair dinosaurs were so popular that the giant figures began popping up at fueling stations around the country. Additionally, the dinosaurs spawned multiple toy lines, including the petroleum-based injector models of a number of dinosaurs.
Sinclair would be the inspiration for Pixar’s Dinoco, the gas stations and company that can be seen in everything from Toy Story to Cars. Eventually the dinosaurs of Sinclair would stop showing up around gas stations and the touring exhibit became extinct. Sinclair still has stations far and wide, although those of us on the east coast would have to travel a fair distance to find one. Regardless, Chester and Hester seem to have a soft spot for the gas company that seems to love dinosaurs as much as they do.