1940: Shell Gas Share the Road club

I ran across an ad campaign from 1938 to 1940 for a “Share the Road Club” from Shell Gasoline. The gist of the message from this club: “I’m more important than you, so get out of my way!”

In 1937, Shell’s gasoline ads were inspired by industrial designer Normal Bel Geddes’ visionary ideas of free flowing traffic on futuristic limited access highways. Geddes’ later designed General Motors’ “Futurama” pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair.

The reality didn’t match the vision, however, with chaotic traffic jamming streets. In 1938, Shell began a “Share-The-Road Club” to encourage freer flowing traffic. Drivers who signed up for the club at their local Shell station affixed an emblem on their car to “warn the ‘screwdrivers’ and ‘screwjays’” to give way to traffic!

Shell Share the Road Club 1940 ad

Through 1940, the five million claimed members of the Share the Road Club “are on the war path” against “heedless drivers and pedestrians” who “are a hazard – yes!”

“Shell Research has discovered,” this 1940 version of the ad breathlessly proclaims, “that they take a lot out of the joy of motoring — add plenty to its cost — by causing 35% of Stop-and-Go driving!”

Share the Road Club SHELL GAS 1940

With aggressive language, name calling, and branding pedestrians as the evil “other,” this “Share the Road Club” was anything but.

Shell used a nascent culture of entitlement and road rage to promote their brand of gasoline. I love the extreme irony of co-opting this message to raise funds for cycling promotion.


Share the Road license plates

8 Comments

  • February 21, 2011 - 10:22 pm | Permalink

    as far as i can tell the meaning of the phrase hasn’t changed….

  • February 21, 2011 - 10:22 pm | Permalink

    as far as i can tell the meaning of the phrase hasn’t changed….

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  • Andy
    February 22, 2011 - 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Boy do I hate sleepwalking across the road!

  • February 22, 2011 - 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I wear pajamas that say “Share the Road” and I’m rarely woken by cars running me down.

  • February 23, 2011 - 12:12 am | Permalink

    I would like to see the method they used to determine that “your engine uses 3 times as much gasoline in low and second gears as in high”. Sounds like a lot of bullshit to anyone who understands how a car works.

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