From The Grayslake Historical Society Archives: The Old Kerosene Wagon

The Grayslake Historical Society gives Patch a look at an old kerosene wagon that was used to provide kerosene to homes throughout central Lake County.

It's back to the annex to visit the old kerosene wagon that provided kerosene to homes throughout central Lake County to fuel lamps and stoves in the late 1800's and early 1900's. 

The horse-drawn wagon in the museum's annex was used by the Skokie Valley Asphalt Co. Inc. of Grayslake until two historic events occurred--electricity, which provided the needed lighting in homes, and the motor vehicle, which provided tanker trucks for the delivery and collection of various liquids.   

Richard Frederick, who owned Skokie Valley Asphalt Co. with his father Edwin and brother Larry, recalled the history of the kerosene wagon on display in the museum.

He said the kerosene wagon was originally owned by Liberty Oil Company with facilities in Waukegan and Grayslake. Edwin Frederick bought Liberty Oil in 1918 and changed the name to Liberty Petroleum and later to Skokie Valley Asphalt Co.

The wagon sat in the company's yard at Lake Street and the railroad tracks where the raw petroleum products were delivered by train in tank cars and were pumped into storage tanks on the site. The wagon and its team of horses made the rounds in Avon, Warren and Fremont townships and other nearby homes delivering the coveted kerosene.

Soon, as technology advanced, kerosene became less in demand and the use of the wagon waned. However, Frederick recalled, the horse drawn wagon was a major attraction in parades throughout the county. He said the wagon's first appearance was in a 1950 parade in Libertyville. It was a regular participant in Grayslake and other community parades being driven by the late Dewey Schreck.

In 1973, the Fredericks took the kerosene wagon to the Amish community in Arcola, Ill., where it was restored during a project that took two years. The wooden wheels, frame and hitch were restored.

The metal tank is the original, said Frederick. "It is a good piece of Grayslake history."

The original wagon was made in the early 1900's by the Columbian Steel Tank Co. and the Beggs Wagon Co., both in Kansas City, Mo. The brass fittings were made by Morrison Bros. of Dubuque, Iowa. One of the pioneers in the oil industry, Louis Blaustein of Baltimore, is credited with developing the innovative tin, or metal, wagon.

In the 1890's kerosene was sold from wooden barrels, which tended to leak on hot days. Blaustein thought of using a tin tank with a spigot on a wagon. This was the first use of a tank wagon to deliver kerosene, and later, gasoline.

In 1910, with one tank wagon and a horse, Blaustein founded the American Oil Company that developed into one of America's major oil companies. The tank wagons were usually pulled by one horse, but sometimes two or three horses were needed to pull the larger tanks. Capacity of the wagon ranged from 300 to 500 gallons for one and two horse wagons and 900 gallons for the three-horse wagon.

According to the history of Standard Oil (New Jersey), usual daily sales and delivery radius for the wagons from the station was about 12 to 15 miles. There were overnight or team relays that could cover greater distances.

The use of tank wagons lasted for about 30 years with the development of motorized commercial tank trucks. There was one horse-drawn tank wagon that was used by the Atlantic Refining Company in Philadelphia until 1936. Most items in the Annex are owned by the Grayslake Historical Society and are part of the society's permanent collection.

The museum's annex is available for tours during the open hours of the museum.

The , 164 Hawley St., in Grayslake, is open noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and during downtown community events.

Contributed by the Grayslake Historical Society.


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