The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Mark Simonson

March 17, 2012

News in 1912: Pay at the gas pump, street extension, slogan ideas

We're once again experiencing "pain at the pump" as we fill our gas tanks. If we're short on cash, we can always get out the charge card and pay at the pump. This form of technology is fairly recent in development, but believe it or not, you could do the same 100 years ago in Sharon Springs, although it wasn't with the plastic card. This was one of a few interesting bits of news in our region during the winter months of 1912.

The Oneonta Star of Tuesday, Jan. 16, 1912, reported that, "Much interest was recently aroused among motorists at Sharon Springs by the public demonstration at the Engle garage in that village of an automatic gasoline vending machine invented by Earl D. Engle of Sharon Center. The machine is so constructed that by dropping a silver coin into a slot and operating a couple of levers the proper amount of gasoline for the coin is accurately measured and delivered into the automobile tank by a flexible hose. An electric signal bell is so arranged that it gives notice when the proper amount has been measured and at the same time shuts off the flow. It is the opinion of those who have seen the machine in operation that is a success and well adapted to present conditions."

A Web search states that the first gasoline pump dates back to 1885, but it wasn't for automobiles, as they hadn't yet been invented. Once the auto came to be, a motorist purchased fuel from a variety of sources, such as pharmacies, until gasoline filling stations began to open around 1905. A search on the U.S. Patent Office database found no information about Engle's invention.


G. Theodore Yager appeared before Oneonta's Board of Public Works on Monday, Feb. 19, requesting that Linden Avenue, between Elm Street and Ford Avenue, be accepted as a city street, and a sewer constructed in that area. The board requested that Yager present a petition of property owners in that area for acceptance. No doubt Mr. Yager did. A somewhat shorter Linden Avenue existed at the time, and an Oneonta city directory in 1912 listed it having only four houses. A 1914 directory listed 11 houses, so it appears that section of the city was in a rapid growth pace.


The Oneonta Star reported that a Law and Order Union was formed in Otsego County on Monday, Feb. 12, at a meeting held at the Oneonta YMCA, then found on the former Broad Street. Peter VanWoert of Oneonta was elected as the first president of this Union, later called Alliance. Local organizations were also reported to be formed in Worcester, Unadilla and Laurens. Other cities and towns across upstate New York also formed these alliances. Press clippings found online, as well as that of the Oneonta Star, were quite vague about what these alliances did. The Leader-Herald of Gloversville of Feb. 9, 1912, in a letter to the editor, made it clear.

"The purpose of our organization is the enforcement of the excise law, suppression of the white slave traffic, opium joints, gambling machines, lotteries, obscene literature and pictures, closing houses of ill fame, dens of vice and gambling places," wrote George H. West.


Most everyone can recall the "Life Enjoyed" slogan and logo adoption for Oneonta in recent years, both in negative and positive reactions. There was also a call for a slogan to identify our young city in an editorial in The Oneonta Star in the early months of 1912.

Under the name of "G. Haw," a letter was shared with Star readers on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Haw claimed to be a former resident, but had a suggestion.

"My idea would be to have a design of a man beating a drum with this inscription on the head of the drum, 'Beat it for Oneonta, N.Y.' This would certainly attract attention to the city and exhort others to 'get there.' If this is not considered adaptable perhaps the simple slogan, 'Come Join our Circle, Oneonta, N.Y.' would be suitable."

Two other slogans were suggested, in a letter sent to the manager of the Oneonta Hotel, Mr. C.E. Young, who then shared the correspondence with the Star. The writer didn't wish to be identified, as "I do not like publicity," he wrote in his letter.

"The slogans enclosed are:

'In Oneonta, Life is good, better, best.'

'Oneonta is the place for you and for me; If you don't believe me, come and see.'"

On Monday: The new St. Mary's Church of Oneonta is dedicated.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at

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