Sunday, February 2, 2003

First Ethyl gasoline sold at Dayton station

Ohio Moments

This insignia on a gas pump promised antiknock Ethyl gas.

On Feb. 2, 1923, the first Ethyl gasoline went on sale at a roadside station in Dayton.

In those days, gasoline caused car engines to knock or ping. It was not only annoying, but potentially harmful to the engine.

Thomas Midgely and Charles Kettering, researchers for General Motors in Dayton, discovered that adding tetraethyl lead to the gas eliminated the problem. Kettering coined the resulting mixture "ethyl gasoline," which was dyed red to distinguish it from regular gas.

It was first made available to motorists at a Dayton gas station owned by Willard Talbott, a friend of Kettering. Of course, leaded gasoline was toxic to the environment and to people.

By the mid-1930s a collaboration among General Motors, DuPont and Standard Oil produced Ethyl gas. They managed to suppress government reports about the danger of the product and tetraethyl lead was added to 90 percent of the gasoline used in the United States. Leaded gas was phased out in the 1970s.

Rebecca Goodman

Ohio Moments will appear here daily during 2003. Have a suggestion? Contact Rebecca Goodman at or (513) 768-8361.

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