Oil company road maps from Germany
Germany made a rapid push towards re-industrialisation after the end of the First World War. The energy industries were a key component, and were soon dominated by 5 groups: BV-Aral, Rhenania Ossag (Shell), Deutsche Amerikanische Petroleum (Standard, later Esso), Olex (bought by BP at the end of the 1920s) and Leuna, part of the IG-Farben industrial grouping.
Amazingly descendants of these 5 groups still form the top four petrol brands in Germany: BP-Aral, Shell-DEA, Esso, and Total (which through Elf acquired the Leuna refinery in 1992 after re-unification). Despite a slump caused by hyperinflation, the first roadside filling stations were opened in the 1920s; many were of a simple design incorporating all facilities in a single large pump, known as a Zapfstelle.
1920s - The first filling stations - and maps
|1920s maps are, not unsurprisingly, very rare. The one shown left is a summer 1922 Deutsche-Amerikanische Petroleum map showing towns with petrol-depots: at that stage roadside filling stations were still a novelty and motorists had to go to depots. Inset maps showed the industrial areas of Saxony and city plans of Berlin and Munich.
Four years later, Shell-Stellin (Rhenania Ossag) issued the map on the right; both covered Germany on a single sheet and were probably not expected to be used for detailed tours.
1930s - Large map programmes from large companies
Around 1934 all the major petrol companies started to issue series of sheet maps, possibly as a result of Government encouragement. Some carry a "Deutschland ist schöne" logo, and there seems to be a positive encouragement of motoring as a leisure activity, despite Germany still having many fewer cars per capita than Britain, France or the USA.
|The maps from the five major brands above can be dated as 1936 Shell, ca1936 Standard, 1937 BV-Aral, 1938 Leuna and 1939 BP-Olex, showing the expansion of Germany to include Austria after the Anschluß. Standard took most sections to cover the country (30), Shell took 21 and the others 9 or 10. However this does not mean that Standard's were at a significantly larger scale; their maps were distinguished by being hatched relief maps called Luftbildkarten (aerial picture maps) on semi-gloss paper covering a fairly small area. All 5 firms identified towns with their filling stations present. The political influences of the time can be seen in the straight armed salute from a Standard attendant (right).
Shell also ran a series of almost 90 town plans - no. 34 was Braunschweig. These reveal how quickly major streets and squares were adorned with the names of Nazi leaders. The touring maps were designed to encourage motoring for pleasure: after an initial run of almost 200 titles was produced, probably in 1934-5, a second series of double-tours followed. No. 240/1 from this latter series was based on Chemnitz and called Zur Saaletalsperre / Ins Grenzland. A third unnumbered series of maps covered river valleys and tourist areas, such as the Saale (left).
|As well as the majors, independent firms also issued road maps. The most common were paper bound atlases produced to a common basic design for members of Uniti, the trade association of mid-sized oil companies. While larger Uniti members customised the atlas, smaller ones, such as Brennstoff AG of Leipzig - shown here, kept to the basic format. These atlases had 13 fold-out pages of maps, backed by plans of major cities.
1940s - War and Division
Due to the war and subsequent reconstruction, there are no maps of Germany known from the 1940s.
|However it appears that pre-war Esso maps, showing the old borders, were recycled with the post-war borders overprinted on the cover with the explanation "Kartenausgabe 1938" (1938 map edition). The bottom half of the section 10 map (shown right at 50% greater than normal scale) shows how this was done; this copy appears to have suffered some smoke damage, maybe from storage in a wartime warehouse. The map by Bruckmann appears not to have been edited following the war, but the gazetteer on the reverse includes several areas that have been overprinted by adverts for Esso motor oil, obliterating the original text, although it's not obvious why - they do not appear to have political or anti-Semitic links. Both the gazetteer and the outline map on the cover suggest that the map was printed well into 1939, and not in 1938 as stated on the overprint.
1950s - West Germany rebuilds
Both major and independent petrol companies in the West restarted operations in earnest in the 1950s. Indeed some, such as A May, were forced to relocate their Head Office from the East (Erfurt) to the West (Schweinfurt). New, larger tankstellen were built beside main roads, to replace the older on-street zapfstellen of the 1930s.
1960s - Rapid growth in numbers: Garages, Brands and Maps
The 1960s were the heyday for the petrol industry in much of Western Europe, and West Germany led the way. There were many new international entrants into the market: Total, OXY (buying Varol and Kirol), Amoco (through Adler), Gulf (buying Frisia), Chevron (splitting out from Caltex), Pam, Marathon, Elf and Conoco/Jet (buying Sopi and, in 1970, VK Georg von Opel). Many bought shares in oil refineries based on a flow of cheap oil from the Middle East and North Africa. Competition was keen for the best sites to build new service stations, although those on the autobahns were strictly regulated to ensure that independent German distributors could get a presence, too. The number of sites rose back to its pre-war total of over 46,500 outlets, although by the end of the decade some of the smaller names were already looking to withdraw.
|Esso's sectional maps started the decade with scenic covers, as in the 1960 example shown, but soon moved to a standard design with just an outline map of the country.
Amongst the newer entrants, Fina - which had bought its first German chain in 1955 - was one of the few to issue city plans, such as the München one here.
Sopi was a South German and Austrian chain bought by Conoco in the mid-1960s. The Conoco name proved unpopular, so it was soon replaced by the simpler Jet brand.
Finally Fanal was a domestic chain associated with the Hugo Stinnes group. The map shown dates from the very early 1960s: unlike all the others shown on this page so far it was merely a stock cartographer's issue (Falk-plan in this instance) with branded card covers pasted on. Fanal bought Gulf's operation in the 1970s, but was sold to BP a few years later.
1970s - Crisis and Consolidation
In 1972 the first oil price and supply crisis hit West Germany badly. The country lacked domestic oil supplies, yet was increasingly dependent on cars (and the motor industry). The oil industry reacted with a wave of consolidation, with many of the new players from the 1960s seeking buyers. Service station numbers fell from 45,850 to 27,000 over the decade - a 41% fall.
1980s - An uneasy decade
The 1980s were still not an easy decade for West German petrol retailers. Although fuel supplies (and prices) steadied, the decline in filling station numbers continued - dropping a further 8,750 to under 18,300, as new uses were found to be more profitable than selling fuel.
1990s - Return to the East and Reunification
With the rapid fall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s, West German petrol firms soon saw opportunities in the former DDR. For a couple of years it was only possible to do business there in joint ventures with Minol. Then in a surprise move, the old Leuna refinery and Minol distribution assets were sold to the French company Elf. Aral and the other majors were forced to build their own Eastern networks, competing with new entrants such as the Norwegian Statoil (who sold out to Shell in 1997). Back in the West, numbers continued to drift downwards, with most chains becoming 100% self service.
2000s - The story continues...
Section 9 covers the Ruhr & Münsterland.
|Shell, Esso and Aral continued with maps into the new century. Aral runs an extensive series of 28 large scale Freizeitkarten as well as sectional maps and a variety of atlases.
Esso appears to have abandoned sheet maps, but did issue a special value softback atlas in 2000.
There are over 200 German maps or images from German maps on this site. The largest selection are on the pages devoted to Aral, DEA, German Esso maps, the Esso Touring Service, Gasolin, Leuna & Nitag, and 1930s Shell maps of Germany. There is a page devoted to AVIA's predecessor brands - Boie, A May, Minera and Östol (Oest).
Other brands with German maps included on this site, but not shown on this page, include Adler, Autol, Caltex, Rheinpreussen, Esslin Tank, GD, Haltermann, Hettöl, Hinrich Stöhr, Homberg, Kraftstoff, Lotherol, Migrol, Montan Union, TS, Turbotank, Westfalen/Rückwarth, VK, Wiol and the Uniti members - Euco,Arenol, Paul Donath (Donizin), Alfrid Espig (Espinol), Hudolin, Olus, Oelvertrieb Nordhausen and VCG. There are also maps promoting 3 lubricant brands: Fuchs, Veedol & Viscobil.
East German maps from Minol, Intertank and Petrolchemisches Kombinat Schwedt are shown on a separate page devoted to maps from the former German Democratic Republic.
Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 2001-4
Thanks to Dave Leach, Jon Roma & Richard Horwitz for some of the images on the page.