Petroleum Collectibles Monthly

August 2004 - Scott Anderson - The Gas Pump Showcase #23


In 1923, the designers and engineers at the Wayne Tank and Pump Company introduced a new style of visible gas pump known as the 490. This new 490 pump was billed as Wayne’s newest, America’s finest and the world’s most beautiful visible gasoline pump. The 490 was the first version in a series of visible pumps known as the 490 series, which would eventually include the 491, 491-F, 492, and 492-F. We will address the various differences in these models later in this article, but for now I will concentrate on the first and rarest version – the 490.

Prior to 1923 most gasoline pump manufacturers (including Wayne) had placed more emphasis on the functional efficiency and safety of their gasoline pumps and less emphasis on their form, beauty and aesthetic appearance. Between 1918 and 1922 it seemed as though many pump manufacturers were producing various models that were very similar in appearance. Most of these models featured round or oval, tapered, straight sides while a few were square.

In an effort to create a better looking gasoline pump, Wayne decided to manufacture a more ornamental pump that would stand out from the competition. As affluent residential areas began to grow in most American cities during the early 1920’s, there became a need to build more modern filling stations to serve the motoring public in these areas. Wayne was quick to recognize that these new filling stations, and the gasoline pumps used at these new stations, should reflect the architectural beauty of the surrounding areas. In addition, many oil companies were expanding and remodeling existing filling stations to match the surrounding architecture and hopefully drawing the new motorist into a more sophisticated looking driveway.

While the most obvious innovations in the Wayne 490 involved its appearance, Wayne was also quick to point out that this new pump emphasized speed, accuracy, convenience, economy, efficiency, and safety. All of these attributes were tied to the fact that the Wayne 490 was operated by air pressure and not by hand lever or electric motor.

The following are a series of quotes from the text of some original Wayne 490 factory advertisements in my collection. They describe many of the positive features of the Wayne 490 and they are self-explanatory:

“This economical and efficient new Wayne pump marks a great
forward step in the dispensing of gasoline. Ten gallon, visible,
operated by compressed air on an auxiliary tank. Architectural
fluted columns beautifully simple in its lines, and the pump is as
efficient and accurate in operation as it is handsome in appearance.
Accurate to a nicety, as Wayne pumps always are, and a great deal
faster in delivery. All parts coming in contact with liquid are
galvenized iron or brass, thus completely eliminating all chances
of rust. Equipped with the famous and positive Wayne filter, which
assures gasoline that is absolutely free from all impurities. Built to
meet all requirements of safety engineers and weights and measures
officials. Backed by the positive Wayne guarantee. From every
stand point this handsome new pump lends fresh interest to the long
established Wayne leadership in the pump business.”

“They embody the very latest principles and set new standards of speed,
accuracy, convenience and economy. They are handsome and striking
in appearance, beautifully finished and because of their clean design and
lines they are much easier to repaint than the ordinary type of pumps.
Their speed of delivery is greatly in excess of any other pumps on the
market – a very practical advantage in busy stations. From every
viewpoint of beauty and service these new pumps add new lustre to
the long established prestige of Wayne equipment.”

“The striking appearance of this handsome new Wayne pump is but one of of its many superior features. It’s greater accuracy, speed and operating
economy are as far ahead of ordinary pumps as its beauty. It is a distinct
Wayne triumph – a worthy companion to the famous Wayne pumps that
have already held the approval of filling station operators and the
motoring public. Model 490 is a 10-gallon visible dispenser operated by
the new Wayne air pressure system which possesses many distinct
advantages over other methods of power operation.”

“1- Operates by air pressure from tire filling compressor tank.
2- Saves extra motor and pump.
3 – Continuous service is possible in spite of motor break-down or
current stoppage as the storage capacity of the average air compressor
tank will dispense over 200 gallons.
4- No motor in base of pump, avoiding all danger of fire from this
5- Uses less electric current than any other type of power operated pump.
Average cost less than 3 cents per 1000 gallons.”

“Thus you see that this newest Wayne Pump adds great economy to its
many other desirable qualities. Like all other Wayne pumps, model 490
is built to meet every requirement of Safety Engineers and Weights and
Measures officials. Fully guaranteed and backed by a company of
thirty years’ experience and world wide distribution. To oilmen: By all
means see this pump before you buy. It is the most economical to buy
and operate – besides being in a class by itself as a sales-getter. It is
logically destined for leadership of all visible pumps.”

Today the Wayne 490 is one of the rarest, most sought after gasoline pumps in the United States. Only a very small number (2000-3000?) of these visible pumps were produced between 1923 and 1924, and there are only three or four of these units known to exist in pump collections today. While it is almost impossible to put an exact dollar value on one of these surviving pumps, I would estimate that a complete unrestored Wayne 490 would be valued in the $10,000-$15,000 range and a professionally restored version could command a selling price between $20,000 and $25,000.

As you can probably tell from the Wayne 490 illustrations in this article, the Wayne 490 pump is very similar in design and style to the Wayne 491 and 492, yet totally different in size and detail. The most obvious difference is that the fluted column is much smaller in diameter that the “fatter” 491 and 492. In addition, all of the trim castings, light shades, etc. are similar but totally different on the 490 when compared to the 491 and 492. Even the gallon indicators are significantly different – the gallon indicators on the 490 (Wayne’s very first 10 gallon indicator) are made of cast iron and most of the gallon indicators on the 491 and 492 were constructed out of aluminum. Enough on the 490, let’s shift our attention to the 491 and 492.

By 1924 Wayne had discontinued the original 490 design in favor of the new larger 491 and 492 versions. Due to the early success of the 490, Wayne greatly expanded the production of the new 491 and 492 versions. They also began to promote the new versions as descendents of beautiful, ancient Greek architecture. Specifically, the Wayne 490 series sales bulletin often referred to the pumps beautiful Ionic column. I have always found these facts to be interesting and somewhat ironic since these 490 series pumps are so commonly referred to today as “Roman Column Pumps”, “Corinthian Pumps”, etc. While “Roman Column Pump” might sound better, as collectors, dealers, and restorers, we all should be referring to these great pumps as “Greek Column Pumps”, or “Ionic Pumps”. But just as you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I would guess that the incorrect title of “Roman Column Pump” is probably here to stay.

The following quotes from original Wayne advertising will shed some additional light on some of the architectural background and specific functions of the various models in the 490 series.

“The thought behind the design of Wayne’s 490 series of visible pumps is
architectural beauty. Wayne designers have gone back to ancient Greece
architecture for their inspiration.”

“In searching for the most practical as well as the most beautiful
architectural order to copy, Wayne designers decided upon the Ionic order.
The Ionic column is particularly applicable because of its broad base and
beautiful capital, the two being connected by a fluted column slightly
tapered toward the top. No architect of modern times has been able to
surpass the beauty of the Ionic column. What could be more appropriate
for the design of a visible pump? Such a column was selected by the
architect Callicicrates for the Temple of Wingless Victory on the
Acropolis at Athens, Greece.”

“490 Series – This series of pumps offers both the air pressure and hand
operated types, as well as ten-gallon and five-gallon capacities, all in the
same beautiful design, differing only in the method of operation and the
size of the glass container. The 490 series includes the following: 491-
10 gallon, air operated; 491-F – 5 gallon, air operated; 492 – 10 gallon,
hand operated; 492-F- 5 gallon, hand operated.”

One of the best features of the 491 and 492 models is the Wayne Interlocking Valve System. This system consists of two valves and two valve handles, one to serve the car and one to drain back extra gasoline to the storage tank. This valve system operates in conjunction with three Interlocking Valve Flow Indicators. This intricate system often poses the biggest challenge to collectors who are restoring these pumps today.

I could probably write ten more pages detailing the many specific functions, features and components of the 490 series, but its time to draw this article to a close. Before ending, I should mention that many of the various iron castings and trim pieces are available on the current reproduction parts market. Additionally, all of these great pumps use a 12 ½” x 26” glass cylinder and generally speaking, all of the 490 series pumps are very expensive and difficult to restore.

As for the dollar valuations, I would estimate that the 491 and 492 versions of the 490 series are worth approximately one half as much as the original 490 version that I valued in the first part of this article. While there are probably two to three hundred (?) of these pumps floating around the U.S.A., the 491-F and 492-F versions are more scarce. Just as there are only three or four of the original 490 pumps known to exist, I only know of three or four of the 492-F versions, and I have only heard of one 491-F that exists today. Interestingly, quite a few of these pumps were exported to Australia including several of the five-gallon versions. Now that I’m finished with this article, I think I’ll head “down under” and see if I can track down a nice, clean 491-F!

Stay tuned next month when The Gas Pump Showcase will examine the world of vintage French gasoline pumps – known in France as Pompes de Essence!

Note: for those readers who are interested, I currently offer a nice copy of the Wayne 490 series Factory Advertising Manual, with pictures, for $10.00. Our restoration parts catalog is $4.00 or free with a purchase. Please call 1-800-383-8888 for more information.

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