Sylvanus Bowser

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1917 advertisement of S. F. Bowser & Co.

Sylvanus Freelove Bowser (8 August 1854 – 3 October 1938) was an American inventor who is widely credited with inventing the automobile fuel pump. Bowser Avenue in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana is named after him.[1]

Bowser marketed his patented kerosene pump starting in 1885. The introduction of automobiles, mainly powered by gasoline, led him to develop it into the "Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump", launched in 1905.[2]

Bowser's invention operated with a manual suction pump, which dispensed the gasoline into the car through a flexible hose. The 50-gallon metal storage tank, housed in a wooden cabinet, could be set up at the curbside in front of a store.

Under the banner of his company, S. F. Bowser & Company, this activity expanded to the measurement and handling of many commercial liquids. Bowser opened branches around the world, and bowser became a generic term for fuel dispensers, then fuel tankers (especially on airfields),[3] then finally for any kind of self-propelled liquid tanker with the ability to dispense direct to consumers.

In New Zealand and Australia it is still a generic term for consumer fuel pumps, while in the United Kingdom it refers to wheeled water tankers (either automotive or towed) used to supply fresh water to areas where normal supplies have been interrupted.

The Bowser company was acquired in 1960[4] by Keene Corporation in Greenville, Tennessee. The vacuum oil purification side of the business was divested by Keene in 1978, subsequently trading under the name Enervac.[5] Keene filed for bankruptcy in 1993 due to a large number of asbestos-related lawsuits.


  1. ^ Zuber, Connie Haas (2000-10-25). "Then - Bowser Avenue in the 1920s was the center of the universe to many". The News-Sentinel. Archived from the original on April 21, 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-29.
  2. ^ Alfred, Randy (2008-10-01). "Sept. 5, 1885: Pay at the Pump". Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  3. ^ ""Bowser - definition of bowser", The Free Dictionary". Farlex, Inc. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  4. ^ Jack Sim, Gas Pumps, Krause publications, 2008
  5. ^ "Enervac Corporation". Archived from the original on 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2006-08-29.