The Sinclair Dino

Retro Staff |  10 Comments

Sinclair Oil Corporation DinoSinclair Oil Corporation has one of the most recognizable mascots in the country – a large green Brontosaurus (Apatosaurus) dinosaur named Dino.  Dino has been the advertising character for Sinclair since the mid-1930s.

Dino was born out of a desire to express the fact that Sinclair oil came from Pennsylvania crude oil, which was millions of years old, and had been around since the age of the dinosaurs.  The company believed that the oldest crude oils make the best refined oils, and they felt that a dinosaur would get this point across to the public.

The only thing was – which dinosaur would be used?

The first round of advertisements showed a variety of dinosaurs from the frightening Tyrannosaurus Rex to the mild mannered Brontosaurus.  The campaign generated a lot of interest.  The peaceful giant Brontosaurus appealed to the public and garnered the most interest.  People thought that the Brontosaurus represented power, endurance, and stamina, which are the qualities that Sinclair Oil Corporation wanted people to associate with their products.

Sinclair Motor Oils Sign

Sinclair Motor Oil reproduction tin sign featuring Dino.

Dino the dinosaur became the mascot for Sinclair Oils in 1932 when he was registered as a corporate trademark.  He was extremely popular, and as Dino’s popularity grew, so did the number of places he was seen.  He appeared on the Sinclair gas station globes and signs, and even the name of the gasoline was called Dino or Dino Supreme.  Soon after, Dino started to appear on oilcans and maps, along with print advertisements.

In 1933, a popular dinosaur exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair was sponsored by Sinclair Oil Corporation.  And in 1935, Sinclair issued stamp books that could be filled with Dino stamps given out weekly at the Sinclair service stations.

The largest promotional event for Sinclair was in 1964.  The company sailed nine inflatable dinosaurs down the Hudson River to the New York World’s Fair.  Sinclair had 10 million visitors walk through the pavilion to see the exhibit.  A wax model of Dino that popped out of a machine was given as a souvenir.

Although in the present day most of Sinclair Oil Corporation’s promotional events take place in the Rocky Mountain and Plains States, he will forever be a part of American advertising history, and vintage signs and globes, as well as Dino-emblazoned merchandise, will remain collectible.  Like many popular oil brands, Sinclair produced merchandise such as coin banks, Dino inflatables, action figures, and even a green bar of soap shaped like the dinosaur.

Do you have any original Sinclair merchandise? We’d love to see pics and hear about your collection.


Last updated: Sep 18, 2008
Filed under: Retro Characters Tagged with: advertising, gas, gas stations