1930s monkey ad for Ethyl,

Long before there was a "tiger in your tank," Ethyl wanted to assure you that this delightful simian would speed your jalopy along.

Knock! Knock! Who's there?


  1. There’s something utterly disturbing about the history of tetraethyl lead. The manufacturers knew it was poison when they introduced it, they killed several refinery workers within the first year of making it, and they continued to cover up research on it for several decades.

    1. I used to tear up their headquarter’s grass with my mountain bike.  It was atop a hill above the James River and had a fantastic jump halfway down their smooth, manicured grass that I was shreding.  A fat security guy would chase me with his truck but was too inept to catch me.  I hate that corporation.

  2.  Isn’t the slang term for gasoline in France whatever the French word for benzene is ? “Benzin” as far as I can tell from how my West African fried says it. I have read that benzene rather  than tetra ethyl lead was a common antiknock compound in France and Germany in the early years of the automobile and that in spite of benzene’s risks, it was a better choice than ethyl.

  3. From Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything: following the removal of lead from petrol in the United States in 1986 “Almost immediately lead levels in the blood of Americans fell by 80 per cent. But because lead is for ever (i.e. stored in bones and blood), Americans alive today each have about 625 times more lead in their blood than people did a century ago”.

    That is scary shit.

  4. What’s scary is the idea that by adding lead to gasoline (and paint), on average we knocked a couple of IQ points off the baby boomer generation.  And then there is the unsettling correlation between criminality and lead exposure.  Combine that the the knowledge that lead poisoning causes frontal lobe damage and that typical levels in children during the 50-80’s were on average barely below levels known to cause measurable changes in intelligence and behavior.

  5. You know what’s scary? The guy who invented the lead anti-knock additive is also the guy who developed CFCs for refrigeration and air-conditioning. Makes you wonder.

  6. Old joke from the 50’s. “Did you hear the guy down at the gas station got arrested?” “No, what happened?” “The cops caught him pumping Ethyl right on Main Street.” You have to remember that back the Ethel was a common name for women–See Ethel Mertz on Lucy. 

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