Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark

How a red Pegasus soared into Dallas petroleum history.


The Mobil Oil Pegasus perched atop the Magnolia Petroleum building in Dallas from 1934 until 1999, when rust and growing structural issues forced its removal. On the first day of 2000, a carefully crafted duplicate returned to the Dallas skyline.

Thanks to its widespread popularity, Mobil Oil’s high-flying trademark returned to its Texas home — one red Pegasus on each side of a sign painstakingly recreated by the American Porcelain Enamel Company. As 1999 drew to a close, the duplicated red Pegasus soared again. 

A Dallas hotel would later restore the original Mobil Oil Pegasus after finding its rusted remains in a city-owned shed. The Omni Dallas Hotel funded the restoration, and in 2015 the surviving red neon-edged symbol — a one-sided version — was re-lit in front of the Omni on Lamar Street.

Detail of Mobil trademark Pegasus neon sign.

The rotating 35-foot by 40-foot Pegasus sign first beamed its red neon glow above a Dallas hotel in 1934.

The Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil) trademark has been a feature of Dallas since first welcoming attendees to a 1934 convention of petroleum company executives.

The Magnolia building’s red Pegasus has remained one of the most recognizable corporate symbols in American history, and a marketing rival of the Sinclair dinosaur.

Magnolia Petroleum Company

When the 400-foot-tall Magnolia Petroleum building opened in 1922, it was the city’s first skyscraper — and tallest building west of the Mississippi River. With 29 floors and seven elevators, the Magnolia building towered over the nearby Adolphus Hotel, built in 1913.

The Magnolia building was designed in a “modified classical design” by an architect from the United Kingdom. A nearby 1978 historic marker by the Texas Historic Historical Commission noted:

Erected in 1921-22, this building housed the offices of Magnolia Petroleum Co., later Mobil Oil Co. It was designed by Sir Alfred C. Bossom (1881-1965), noted British architect, and built at a cost of $4 million. The tallest structure in Dallas for almost 20 years, it reflected the city’s increasing economic importance. In 1934 a revolving neon sign was placed atop the building. The “Flying Red Horse,” trademark for Magnolia products, quickly became a local landmark.

Postcard of Magnolia Building in Dallas with red Pegasus logo.

Vacuum Oil Company trademarked the Pegasus logo in 1911 and by the 1930s was marketing Pegasus Motor Spirits and Mobiloil. The Magnolia Petroleum building, completed in 1922, was “a great peg driven into the ground holding Dallas in its place.” Pegasus first perched atop the building in 1934 — in time for the first annual meeting of the American Petroleum Institute.

The Magnolia building also was the first high-rise in the United States to have air conditioning, according to the management company that acquired it in 1997. A fully restored lobby features a gold leaf decorative plaster and original elevator doors engraved with the Pegasus logo.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Much of the original architecture’s classical design has been restored, according to the Magnolia Dallas Downtown a boutique hotel blending the historic building’s past with modern amenities.

high-flying trademark

More than 80 years old (1939 to 2023), this 11-foot Pegasus dominates the lobby of the Old Red Museum of the Dallas County History and Culture. This winged logo originally was displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair and later atop a Mobil gas station in Casa Linda in East Dallas.

After the Magnolia building’s 1922 opening, a local reporter described the oil company headquarters building as “a great peg driven into the ground holding Dallas in its place.”

When Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) acquired the Magnolia Petroleum Company in 1925, the building was part of the deal. Nine years later, the two-sided Pegasus sign would land on its roof.

A circa 1935 postcard given to visitors of observatory tower of the Magnolia Building, courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, digital collections.

A circa 1935 postcard given to visitors of the observatory tower in the Magnolia Building, courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, digital collections.

Mobil Oil Pegasus takes Flight

The Mobil Oil Pegasus began its journey in 1911, when a Vacuum Oil Company subsidiary in Cape Town, South Africa, first trademarked the Pegasus logo. Based in Rochester, New York, Vacuum Oil had built a successful petroleum lubricants business around an 1869 patent by its founder, Hiram Everest, long before gasoline was even a branded product.

Vacuum Oil Company's products used this gargoyle Mobiloil logo.

Vacuum Oil Company’s products used a gargoyle prior to adopting the winged horse of mythology.

At first, a stylized red gargoyle advertised the company, which produced early petroleum-based lubricants for horse-drawn carriages and steam engines. The Pegasus trademark proved to be a more enduring image. In Greek mythology, Pegasus – a winged horse – carried thunderbolts for Zeus.

By 1931 growth of the automobile industry expanded the Vacuum Oil product lineup to include Pegasus Spirits and Mobilgas – later simplified to Mobil. When Standard Oil of New York and Vacuum Oil combined to form Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, the new company adopted the familiar winged trademark, as did an affiliate, Magnolia Petroleum.

Certificate from Cape Town, South Africa, for Vacuum Oil Company of South Africa Limited.

The certificate from Cape Town, South Africa, notes that the “Vacuum Oil Company of South Africa Limited” is named “as proprietor of the Trade Mark represented above.” Image courtesy ExxonMobil Historical Collection/Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin.

It took a year to build the rotating 35-foot by 40-foot Pegasus sign. It first beamed its red neon glow in 1934, welcoming the first annual meeting to be held in Dallas by the American Petroleum Institute (API). For decades the emblem slowly rotated above the growing city as corporate consolidations and mergers changed Socony-Vacuum ownership.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

In 1955, the name of the company changed to Socony Mobil Oil; in 1966 became just Mobil Oil. A neon Mobil Oil Pegasus displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair found its way to a Mobil gas station in Casa Linda, Texas, and later to the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture — where it would remain on exhibit.

New Mobil Oil Pegasus

In 1974 the petroleum icon’s motor ground to a halt. Mobile Oil moved out of the Magnolia building three years later and sold the aging skyscraper and glowing but unmoving sign to the city of Dallas. Twenty-years later, Pegasus’ neon lights finally went out.

As a Denver-based developer restored and transformed the deteriorating Magnolia building into a luxurious 330 room hotel in the late 1990s, a group of patrons and corporate partners joined in to bring the broken and rusty Pegasus sign back to life. They raised more than $600,000 for the project.

The Project Pegasus team targeted New Year’s Eve of 1999 and dawn of the new millennium to reintroduce Dallas citizens to their petroleum heritage landmark. Restoration of the 8,000-pound sign proved challenging.

The derrick-like tower structure was reparable and the old mechanical rotation system could be updated with new technology.

high-flying trademark

A view of Pegasus in photographer Carolyn Brown’s 2004 book, Dallas: Where Dreams Come True.

But time and weather had damaged the porcelain coated steel signage and neon tubing. New 16-gauge steel panels had to be cut, using the originals as templates.

Only two facilities in the United States were large enough to accommodate baking the emblematic red porcelain onto the new panels; fortunately, both were in Dallas. More than 1,000 feet of new neon tubing was required to trace the familiar outlines as craftsmen and technicians remained faithful to the original.

Oil history preservation efforts were rewarded at midnight on December 31, 1999, when millennium celebration welcomed the red Mobil Oil Pegasus back to the Dallas skyline.

“You can’t tell the new one from the old one except for the fact that the faces are now red and not rusty,” explained one of the restorers (see Sign Makers Restore Historical Flying Red Horse). “We replaced every old piece with a new piece that was exactly the same as it was before.”

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

The Pegasus sign “is a beloved icon of the city of Dallas,” proclaimed Kay Kallos, public art manager in the Office of Cultural Affairs, which manages its maintenance. Mobil Oil merged with Exxon in 1999, creating ExxonMobil, headquartered in Irving, Texas. Visit the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: March 9, 2023. Original Published Date: March 14, 2010.


Centennial Oil Stamp Issue

Petroleum commemorated with 120 million stamps in 1959.

A centennial oil stamp commemorating the birth of the U.S. petroleum industry was issued on August 27, 1959, by Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield, who proclaimed: “The American people have great reason to be indebted to this industry. It has supplied most of the power that has made the American standard of living possible.” 

As the sesquicentennial of the first U.S. well drilled to produce oil approached in 2009, a special committee sought U.S. Postal Service approval for a commemorative stamp. The committee and petroleum historians twice petitioned for a special stamp similar to one issued for the petroleum industry’s 1959 centennial of America’s first oil well. (more…)

Alley Oop’s Oil Roots

Caveman cartoonist Victor Hamlin once worked as an oilfield cartographer in Permian Basin.


The widely popular Depression Era newspaper comic strip character Alley Oop began in the imagination of a young Texas cartographer who drew Permian Basin oilfield maps.

The club-wielding Alley Oop caveman appeared for the first time in the summer of 1933 when Victor Hamlin, a former Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reporter, published fanciful tales about the Stone Age Kingdom of Moo. Hamlin began syndicating his daily cartoon in the Des Moines Register in Iowa. 

Oil in the Land of Oz

Did L. Frank Baum’s 1880s “Castorine” oil inspire the Tin Man?


The Tin Man’s oil can in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz perhaps can trace its roots to America’s earliest oilfields — where L. Frank Baum founded a lubricant business before becoming the famous children’s book author.

“Sometimes, when researching history, you find places where it’s still alive,” explained Evan Schwartz in his 2009 book, Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story.

Illustration from 1900 children's book Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum includes the Tim Man -- a petroleum-related character.

Before publishing his children’s book in 1900, L. Frank Baum sold a popular axle oil from a company he founded in Syracuse, New York.

Schwartz’s search for the oil can of the Tin Woodman led him to discovering that in the 1880s, L. Frank Baum and his brother started an petroleum products business in Syracuse, New York. The Baum’s Castorine business continues to this day.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

The future author of the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz once sold cans of buggy wheel and axle oils for a living. 

 Baum's Castorine Company axle oil ad, circa 1880s

L. Frank Baum — whose father found success in Pennsylvania oilfields — served as chief salesman for Baum’s Castorine Company, which he founded with his brother on July 9, 1883.

In 1883, Baum and his brother Benjamin launched their business venture offering lubricants, oils, greases — and “Baum’s Castorine, the great axle oil.”

Reporting on the July 9, 1883, opening, the Syracuse Daily Courier newspaper noted that Baum’s Castorine was a rust-resistant axle grease concoction for machinery, buggies, and wagons. The grease was advertised to be “so smooth it makes the horses laugh.”

Baum’s Castorine Company prospered with Frank serving as superintendent and chief sales representative for the next four years. The upstate New York business was less than 300 miles from Titusville, Pennsylvania, where first U.S. oil well had been drilled in 1859.

Tin Woodman

As the 20th century approached, L. Frank Baum spent much of his time visiting small towns to marketing the brothers’ oil products, according to a 2011 exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Michigan. The exhibit also noted, “On one of these trips, while installing a window display for a customer, the idea of the Tin Woodman came to him.”

Promotional illustration for L. Frank Baum's Castorine company axle grease.

L. Frank Baum’s sales trips may have influenced Oz. “On one of these trips, while installing a window display for a customer, the idea of the Tin Woodman came to him.”

The former exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum also explained that although Baum petroleum lubricating products enjoyed some success, the original business, “came to an end when the bookkeeper gambled away the profits.”

Baum wrote of his Baum’s Castorine Company, “I see no future in it to warrant my wasting any more years of my life in trying to boom it.”

The frustrated businessman sold the business, which by 1879 had new owners — and still doing business as Baum’s Castorine Company. In May 1900, the former oil products businessman published the first of his 14 Oz children’s books, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was followed by The Marvelous Land of Oz four years later.

Petroleum Producer’s Son

L. (Lyman) Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York, on May 15, 1856, the seventh of nine children of Cynthia Stanton and Benjamin Ward Baum — one of only five of the children to survive into adulthood.

Thanks to Benjamin Ward Baum’s financial success in the newly born Pennsylvania petroleum industry, the young Baum grew up in an environment where his imagination and love of reading flourished.

Baum's Castorine axle oil products tin advertising sign.

Baum’s Castorine products “are designed to extend machine life and reduce your maintenance costs.”

In 1860, just one year after America’s first commercial oil discovery, Benjamin Ward Baum closed the family barrel-making business to risk his fortunes in the western Pennsylvania oilfields. “Frankie” was then only four and a half years old. Productive oil wells drilled near Titusville and Cherry Tree Run would bring his enterprising father great wealth.

“Benjamin recognized a splendid opportunity and joined the crowds who moved in to exploit the oilfields and develop the area. A hundred new wells were drilled every month, ingenious mechanical contrivances were invented, towns and cities were built,” wrote Katharine M. Rogers in her 2002 book L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

“Benjamin began acquiring oilfields, including a particularly profitable one at Cherry Tree Run, a few miles south of Titusville,” Rogers reported. “He later bought property between Bradford, Pennsylvania, and Olean, New York, where he helped to develop the hamlet of Gilmour and built a hotel and an opera house.”

As U.S. consumer demand for kerosene lamps skyrocketed, Pennsylvania’s oil region produced the new industry’s earliest tycoons, long before Standard Oil Company (also see the cautionary tale of the Legend of “Coal Oil Johnny”).

By 1862, the elder Baum owned Carbon Oil Company and was a well-established independent oil producer. His success helped finance diversification into dry goods and other mercantile businesses. Son Frank found employment in several of these family ventures as a young man.

When his father purchased the Cynthia Oil Works in Bolivar, New York, Frank operated a retail outlet for awhile.

The Pioneer Oil Museum of New York, exterior, in 2005.

L. Frank Baum’s father once owned an oil company in Bolivar, New York, where a museum today exhibits the region’s extensive petroleum history. Photo by Bruce Wells.

“The Cynthia Oil Works, the first refinery in Bolivar Township, was erected on the Porter Cowles flats at the north end of Bolivar village in 1882,” according to historian Ronald G. Taylor.

“The plant, owned by B.W. Baum & Son, dealers in oil leases and managers of the first opera house at Richburg, was designed as a lubricating oil works and for the manufacture of ship oil of 300 fire test for illuminating on board ships,” Taylor explained.

Although there were nine daily and 18 weekly newspapers published in the oil regions, there no longer was unlimited free enterprise in oilfields. “John D. Rockefeller had moved in and was increasingly controlling distribution,” added Rogers in her book.

“In 1878, Benjamin organized a group of independent producers to break Rockefeller’s grip by building a pipeline from Bradford to Rochester, where the oil could be transferred to tank cars and shipped to refineries in New York and Buffalo.”

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company used its influence with the New York Central Railroad and the state legislature to block the planned pipeline. Despite the setback, Baum continued to find success with prolific oil wells in New York. 

After almost 30 years in the oil business, Benjamin Ward Baum (1821-1887) died in Syracuse, New York. His petroleum wealth had helped him acquire small theaters in New York and Pennsylvania and permitted his son to pursue writing, publishing journals, and writing for the stage — perhaps setting the stage for Frank’s future fame.

Finding Tin Man’s Oil Can

When historian Evan L. Schwartz researched his 2009 book, Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story, he was surprised to learn of the role petroleum played in Baum’s life — and that the Tin Woodman’s oil can trace its roots to Baum’s Castorine Company.

Detail of the Tin Man drawing by W.W, Denslow  from 1899 OZ series book by L. Frank Baum.

L. Frank Baum sold his Baum’s Castorine Company in 1888. His many Castorine sales trips may have led to the idea of a Tin Woodman character for his book, illustrated by W.W. Denslow.

“L. Frank Baum sold cans of buggy wheel oil for a living as the co-owner of Baum’s Castorine Company of Syracuse, New York,” Schwartz explained, noting the company’s troubles that led to Baum’s selling it in 1888. Schwartz also discovered the company still manufactured industrial oils and lubricants under the brand name, Baum’s Castorine Company.

“So I visited the current location in Rome, New York, and sat down for a peek into the archives with owner Charles Mowry, whose grandfather was one of the investors who bought the company from Frank Baum himself,” Schwartz wrote.

“The smells of fine lubricant wafted in the air as I perused the collection of historic oil cans and heard the legend of Baum’s magic balms,” he noted.

“What if Frank had never sold oil cans? Would we have never met the heartless Tin Man? And in 1939, why wasn’t Baum’s Castorine given the chance to pony up for some choice product placement?”

Learn about the historic Allegheny petroleum industry by visiting the Pioneer Oil Museum of New York in Bolivar.

Support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society


Recommended Reading: Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story (2009); L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography (2002); Empire Oil: The Story of Oil in New York State (1949). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Oil in the Land of Oz.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: July 1, 2023. Original Published Date: June 1, 2005.


Smithsonian’s Hall of Petroleum


The Smithsonian Institution’s “Hall of Petroleum” in Washington, D.C., opened in the summer of 1967 with an entire wing dedicated to the history of oilfield technology. The collection in the museum building’s west wing included cable-tool and rotary drilling rigs and many oilfield-related geology and engineering exhibits.

With a collection of more than three million artifacts, the National Museum of American History today features exhibits relating to the history of transportation, but offers few about the history or U.S. petroleum exploration and production — or the first U.S. well drilled for oil in 1859. It wasn’t always so.


Oil Art of Graham, Texas

Alexandre Hogue and other artists depicted America’s oilfields during the Great Depression.


Oil Fields of Graham, a 1939 mural by Alexandre Hogue, has been preserved in its original Texas oil patch community’s U.S. Postal Service building, now a museum.

When President Franklin Roosevelt created public relief projects, including the New Deal Federal Arts Program, Alexandre Hogue and other artists were commissioned to paint American history on the walls of public buildings.


Pin It on Pinterest