Following my letter in the October, 1970, issue regarding Pratts petrol cans and the replies it has brought forth, I have recently been in touch by letter with a charming old gentleman of 82 who, as a young man before World War I, drove a horse-drawn fuel oil delivery tank cart for the Anglo-American Oil Co. Ltd.; the tanker had “White Rose & Royal Daylight Lamp Oil” emblazoned upon its sides. John Gilmour, of Newbury, has restored one of these tank carts and often takes it to local gatherings and shows in this area.
Now, the tanker also carried on racks along each of its sides two-gallon cans of Pratts Motor Spirit and, according to my correspondent, these cans were painted green all over for “Pratts Perfection Spirit” and were charged at 2s. each, refundable on return of the empty can in good and clean order. During the 1914/18 War, when prices rose, the deposit on the cans was raised to 3s. each, at which it stayed after the war and which figure we mostly see today on the top of these cans. Could be, therefore, that really old 2s. cans may be found and/or “2s.” overstamped “3s.” cans would coincide with the Great War years.
Further, my correspondent writes that pre-1914/18 “Pratts No. 2 Motor Spirit” was carried and sold in cans painted half-green and half-aluminium colours, vertically divided, while “Pratts Taxibus Motor Spirit”, their lowest grade, was in totally aluminium-coloured cans. Later, when “Benzol” was bought by Anglo-American from Messrs. Carliss, Capel and Leanard (another story), this fuel was sold in orange-coloured cans while “Benzol Mixture” was in half-orange and half-green cans, again colour-divided vertically. All painting was done by Anglo-American staff at their depots.
Incidentally, to further the story, motor spirit was 1d. per gallon cheaper if bought in bulk in 40- or 50-gallon drums, deposit £3 pre-World War I, and £5 later. Both cans and drums were, after filling, sealed by wiring and lead seals, closed with special pliers. No can with a broken seal would be accepted and the wire was applied in such a way that the screw cap could not be partly unscrewed and spirit taken, without breaking the seal.
Reverting to the third paragraph, I believe the matter of the use of the word “petrol” was dealt with at some length in earlier letters (perhaps the Editor will confirm and expand on this point?), suffice to say that “petrol” was a registered name of Carliss, Capel & Leanard and could not be used by other fuel companies, hence their description “motor spirit”.
Peter F. G. Wright.
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