1913 Seventy-five Years Ago

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The Gulf Refining Company opened the nation’s first drive-in service station on December 1 at the corner of Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street in Pittsburgh. The station was open twenty-four hours and offered free crankcase service, but despite these enticements the manager, Frank McLaughlin, pumped only thirty gallons of gas on the first business day.

Mack Sennett needed a comedian. The “Keystone Kops” director had just fired Harold Lloyd (soon to become one of the nation’s most famous screen comics) for not being funny, and his top man, Ford Sterling, had quit because $750 a week was not enough. Sennett remembered an English comedian from a vaudeville act in New York City. He made a few telephone calls and found out the man’s name was Charlie Chaplin.

Chaplin snapped up Sennett’s offer of $125 a week, more than three times his vaudeville salary, and reported to work on December 16. His first film, a one-reeler called Making a Living , was a flop, but Chaplin soon found his distinctive “Little Tramp” persona, and films such as The Gold Rush and Modern Times made him perhaps the most famous man in the world.