Feature: In search of Shell

Shell Oil Display Cabinet on display at the museum

It’s not just the vehicles at Lakeland Motor Museum that take you on a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Shell oil cans in our 1950s garage recreation

As you wander through the museum, which is built on the site of a former mill, look out for fascinating pieces of history – like the bright yellow, conical, Shell Oil display cabinet with its distinctive Robot Man logo.

The rare shell oil cabinet and other items on display in the museum

Fewer than ten of these are thought to have survived steel shortages in the Second World War – when many were melted down for the war effort. This one dates back to 1937 and when it first came to the museum it was heavily painted in tar and badly faded. Thanks to help from the Grampian Transport Museum, who have an example in its original livery, we were able to restore it to its former glory – as it would have looked on a petrol station forecourt.

A glowing shell light on top of a petrol pump

The Robot Man logo was first introduced 1934 and appeared on many Shell products - there are other examples within the museum – but the most recognisable logo associated with Shell oil – is obviously – the famous shell.

This relates back to its origins – which involved seashells. The massive global company can trace its origins back to Marcus Samuel who sold antiques in London but decided in 1833 to expand into selling oriental seashells which were popular in the interior design industry at that time. Demand was so great they started importing shells from the Far East. That lay the foundations for the import-export business that would eventually move into oil and become one of the world’s leading energy companies.

An old shell sign on a wall of the museum

As you wander around the museum you will see many examples of the Shell logo as its advertising developed through the decades. In a world before television, mobile phones and the internet, companies relied on bold, instantly recognisable printed images and objects to make a name. And as our collection of objects, signs, cans and banners show - Shell certainly carved a place in the hearts and minds, petrol stations and garages of many a British motorist over the years.

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