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(un)Solved Mysteries

The Road Map Mystery (UPDATE: generic term)


While visiting a local flea market ‘fuel can’ Bas de Voogd found this very interesting road map of France. The more than 100 year old road map caught his attention because of the ‘Oriflamme’ can, but after buying it, the road map presented both a surprise and a mystery. The surprise was the picture of the 1895 Panhard-Levassor that is described as a ‘voiture a pétrole’. The mystery is the use of the French word ‘pétrole’. It means paraffin which has a specific gravity of 0.800. Okay to use for cooking but a Panhard needed a specific gravity of 0.700 as mentioned in their advert in the 1900 Guide Michelin (page 283). Paraffin was sold by the refinery Desmarais Frères under the brand name ‘Oriflamme’ while they sold petrol/gasoline under the name of Automobiline. So why advertise with a Panhard when it will not run on Oriflamme? Or, and this is also a possibility, Automobiline did not come on the market until the year 1900, which means the road map must have been published before that year. In that case it could be the oldest road map featuring an automobile? Share your thoughts with us!

Update: Matthieu Cuppens thinks that the French word ‘pétrole’ was used as a generic term for all kinds of fuel. (Editor: any French-speaking readers who can tell us?)

Comments 

 
#2 Bas de Voogd 2010-04-21 09:30
Quoting Ian Byrne:
In worrying about the use of the term "Petrole" vis-a-vis "Essence", the obvious has been overlooked - namely that the 1900 Panhard advert is also headed "Voitures a Petrole" - so this must have been a generic term. And the caption doesn't actually say that the car will run on Oriflamme, unlike the picture underneath which is captioned "Batteuse - moteur a petrole alimente a l'Oriflamme". (I have another copy of the same map in front of me). And of course it's not actually a road map - those are railway lines shown on it.

Thanks for your comments Ian. We are now used to the generic term Voiture a Petrole but the fact that its a railway map is new to me !
Bas
 
 
+1 #1 2010-04-21 08:59
In worrying about the use of the term "Petrole" vis-a-vis "Essence", the obvious has been overlooked - namely that the 1900 Panhard advert is also headed "Voitures a Petrole" - so this must have been a generic term. And the caption doesn't actually say that the car will run on Oriflamme, unlike the picture underneath which is captioned "Batteuse - moteur a petrole alimente a l'Oriflamme". (I have another copy of the same map in front of me). And of course it's not actually a road map - those are railway lines shown on it.
 

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