Saturday, December 4, 2004

Dino the Sinclair Oil Dinosaur

I don't know what was the first advertising icon to which I was exposed, but it could well have been Dino, the Sinclair Dinosaur. For those of you not familiar with Dino, he is the green apatosaurus (formerly "brontosaurus") that is prominently displayed on Sinclair Oil signs and absolutely tons of merchandise. For whatever reason, the green dinosaur struck a chord with me.

Dino grew out of an advertising campaign created by Sinclair advertising men in 1930 for Wellesville oils. The advertising men wanted to emphasise the idea that oldest crude oils make the best lubricants. They struck upon the idea of a series of advertisements, to be published in magazines and newspapers, featuring dinosaurs. The ads featured several different species of dinosaur, from the tricertops to the tyrannosaurus rex to the brontosaurus (as he was called then). For whatever reason, it was the brontosaurus that captured the public's imagination. The public soon named the critter Dino and Sinclair adopted him as their company mascot. Sinclair Oil Corporation registered the brontosaurus as a trademark in 1932. He appeared as part of the Sinclair logo, as he still does today. Sinclair gas stations, then as now, sometimes had figures of Dino on display (the station in Salisbury still does). The Sinclair exhibit at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair featured life sized replicas of dinosaurs, with Dino the star attraction.

The popularity of Sinclair's trademark resulted in the creation of tons of merchandise over the years. Among the earliest was a dinosaur stamp album distributed in 1935, with the stamps being filled once a week at gas stations. The image of Dino also adorned magnets, clocks, t-shirts, caps, and various other sundry things over the years. Naturally there were many toys. Over the years there have been plastic Dino figures, inflatable Dino toys, plush Dino toys, and many others. I remember having a tiny, green, plastic Dino as a child. Among the stranger bits of merchandise was Dino Soap--soap in the shape of the lovable apatosaurus.

Television brought a new era of advertising for Sinclair, and Dino was featured prominently in their commercials. I can remember them from a child. In fact, it may explain why I am fascinated with Sinclair's advertising mascot. I have only vague memories of the commercials, although I have read of one in which Dino curled up, died, and became crude oil...

The Sixties may well have been Dino's hey day. Sinclair had an exhibit at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. The exhibit once more featured a display of life sized replicas of dinosaurs. Featured were a brontosaurus (naturally), an ankylosaurus, a corythosaurus, an ornitholestes, a struthiomimus, a stegosaurus, a trachodon, triceratops, and a tyrannosaurus rex. At least three of the models were animated. Dino greeted people from the top of Sinclair's pavillion. To promote the World Fair, Dino even received a balloon in the 1963 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Dino remained a part of the parade until the late Seventies. I am not sure, but he may have been the first advertising icon to be turned into a Macy's Day balloon...

While I still see Sinclair signs all over the place and there is still a model of Dino in front of Salisbury's Sinclair station, I do not think I have seen an ad for Sinclair Oil on television for a long time. Maybe it is because I remember the commercials from the Sixties, but in some ways I do miss them. It is odd, but there is something comforting about Dino, the big green apatosaurus. I suppose it could be just that it is a fond memory from my childhood.

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