I am reading The Great Gatsby, and came to wonder how the oil tank looked like in Wilson's garage.

With an effort Wilson left the shade and support of the doorway and, breathing hard, unscrewed the cap of the tank. In the sunlight his face was green.
"I didn't mean to interrupt your lunch," he said. "But I need money pretty bad, and I was wondering what you were going to do with your old car."
"How do you like this one?" inquired Tom. "I bought it last week."
"It's a nice yellow one," said Wilson, as he strained at the handle.

In this part, Gatsby and Daisy were driving to the town in Tom's blue car, and Tom, Nick and Jordan in Gatsby's yellow car. Because the gasoline was not enough in the yellow one, the latter group stopped at Wilson's garage to fill it up. At their order, Wilson screwed open the cap of the tank, which had the handle. Later in the text, it is found out that the tank also had a pump.

What I first imagined was a small, handy oil tank, which you could pick up and tilt. But later I found out that it also had a pump, so I was confused as to how the oil tank looked like in the 1920s.


1 Answer 1


I think you are attributing the handle to the wrong object.

The cap covers the entry hole to the gasoline tank in the car. The handle is used to dispense the gasoline from the pump. In this context Pump means the above ground parts of the Gas Stations fuel tank. This image from The American Oil & Gas Historical Society should make it clearer.

an S.F. Bowser Model 102 “Chief Sentry” gas pump shown in old black and white image, with attendant working handle while hose snakes into car's gas tank

Manufactured in 1911, an S.F. Bowser Model 102 “Chief Sentry” pumped gas on North Capitol Street in Washington D.C., in 1920. The Penn Oil Company’s pump’s topmost globe, today prized by collectors, survived only as a bulb. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

  • Thank you very much for the clear explanation, Spagirl. So the tank was inside the car, and the handle was attached to the pump! So—I just want to make sure—in this context, does the "gas" mean the liquid gasoline, rather than the airy gas? Mar 27, 2018 at 12:28
  • 3
    @PastaAddict liquid gasoline. What a British-English speaker like myself would call ‘petrol’.
    – Spagirl
    Mar 27, 2018 at 12:30

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