Hancock Gasoline

Hancock Gasoline

In the heart of the burgeoning Californian oil industry, the Hancock Oil Company emerged not just as a producer of quality petroleum products but also as a cultural icon. The "Cock O' The Walk" mascot, a strutting rooster, became synonymous with the brand, embodying both the company's competitive spirit and its commitment to excellence. This emblem was not merely a marketing tool; it was a statement of identity during the golden era of American automotive history. Hancock Oil Company, with its roots deeply embedded in the Los Angeles oil boom, left an indelible mark on California’s landscape and American petroliana.

The Legal Beginnings and Prosperity of Hancock Oil

The origins of Hancock Oil Company are intertwined with the legal and oil-rich history of Rancho La Brea (a Mexican Land Grant of over 4,400 acres given to Antonio Jose Rocha in 1828) a name now almost synonymous with the La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles. It was Henry Hancock, a lawyer by profession, who helped the Rocha family secure their claim to this land in the 1850s. As payment for his legal services, Henry received part of the rancho, eventually acquiring the entirety with his brother in 1860. Little did he know that his involvement with Rancho La Brea's asphalt pits would lay the groundwork for one of California's future oil giants.

Tar Pits

Henry's son, George A. Hancock, would later capitalize on this foundation. In 1906, after learning the ropes with the Salt Lake Oil Company, George established his own operation. By February 1907, he had struck liquid gold; over 70 wells were churning out nearly 300 barrels a day. This lucrative venture not only cemented the Hancocks as one of California's wealthiest families but also set the stage for the Hancock Oil Company to become a household name in the West.

La Brea Oil Camp

George A. Hancock's vision for the company was clear – it was to be a beacon of progress and a testament to the industrious spirit of the Hancock family. Their operations expanded, their wealth grew, and Hancock Oil became a name that resonated with quality and reliability in the burgeoning market of the American West. The company's growth mirrored the explosive expansion of Los Angeles, with its fortunes rising in tandem with those of the city.

Hancock Station

The Strutting Rooster: A Mascot Comes to Life

In the bustling decade of the 1930s, Hancock Oil Company adopted a unique approach to branding that set it apart from its competitors. The "Cock O' The Walk," a spirited rooster, was not just a static image on a sign or a page; it was brought to life in the form of a costumed mascot that visited towns, partook in events, and interacted with the community. This marketing strategy was both innovative and personable, creating a sense of familiarity and trust in the brand. The rooster, embodying the company's confidence and forward-moving spirit, became a beloved figure, its appearances eagerly anticipated and its image synonymous with the Hancock brand.

Hancock Mascot

With a bold strut and an air of assurance, the personified mascot captivated the public's imagination. It was not just about selling gasoline; it was about selling an experience and a promise of quality. These promotional tours were not only successful in drawing attention but also in solidifying the company's commitment to being at the forefront of the industry. The "Cock O' The Walk" was more than a symbol; it was the embodiment of Hancock Oil's ethos and ambition.

Hancock Mascot

A Beacon of Progress: Hancock's Advertising and Marketing Prowess

During the 1930s, as the roar of the Great Depression echoed through America, Hancock Oil Company's marketing campaigns shone as a beacon of progress and prosperity. Their advertisements, emblazoned with the bold image of the "Cock O' The Walk," were a testament to the company's resilience and determination to not just survive but thrive.

Hancock Ad

The rooster became a familiar sight, crowing proudly from billboards and service stations, reinforcing the company's message of superiority and reliability.

Hancock Ad

Hancock's advertisements did more than just promote their products; they conveyed a narrative of innovation, quality, and American ingenuity. The branding efforts of the Hancock Oil Company during this era were a clear reflection of their understanding of the power of marketing. 

Hancock Ad

They didn't simply sell gasoline; they sold the very essence of the American dream – mobility, freedom, and success. It was this keen marketing acumen that allowed Hancock to maintain its market position during tough economic times and remain a cherished part of California's oil heritage.

Hancock Ad

Emblems of Endurance: Signage and Logos in the Public Eye

As Hancock Oil Company's reputation solidified in the 1930s, so did its visual identity. The company's signage and logos became emblems of endurance, beacons for consumers navigating the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. Each service station, with its vibrant depiction of the "Cock O' The Walk," was a reminder of the company's resilience and commitment to quality. These signs were not mere directions to a pit stop; they were symbols of a company that stood steadfast against the tide of uncertainty that the era brought.


Collectors of petroliana today treasure these artifacts, signs, and logos as relics of a bygone era. Each rusted edge and faded color tells a story of American industry and progress, with Hancock’s rooster leading the narrative. The company's attention to detail in their branding—ensuring visibility and recognition—has rendered these items more than just collectibles; they are pieces of history, narrating the tale of California's oil legacy through the lens of Hancock Oil.

Signal Hill Fire: A Blaze in Hancock's History

The year 1958 marked a dramatic chapter in the Hancock saga with the Signal Hill fire, an event that seared itself into the memory of Long Beach residents and the oil community. This disaster struck at the heart of oil operations in Southern California, showcasing both the dangers inherent in the industry and the resilience of those who worked within it. Hancock Oil, with its extensive operations in the area, was deeply affected by this catastrophe.

Hancock Fire

The fire at Signal Hill became a catalyst for change, prompting the company to reevaluate and reinforce safety measures, a move that demonstrated Hancock's adaptability and resolve. The aftermath of the fire saw not just the reconstruction of the physical structures but also a strengthening of community bonds, as Hancock Oil played a pivotal role in the recovery efforts. This event underscored the company's significance in the region—not just as an economic powerhouse but as a committed community member, enduring through adversity.

The Vanishing of the Rooster: The Merger and Disappearance of the Brand

In 1958, Hancock Oil Company's landscape changed irreversibly when it was sold to Signal Oil, which subsequently merged with Humble Oil in 1965. This acquisition marked the end of an era for the Hancock brand and its "Cock O' The Walk" mascot. The once-prominent logos and station signs began to disappear, and the red rooster, which had once proudly declared "Always Ahead!" became a nostalgic memory, a symbol of a past age of petroleum pioneers.

This transition into corporate amalgamation reflected the changing tides of the American oil industry, moving towards consolidation and away from regional identities. While the Hancock name ceased to adorn new stations and products, the brand lived on in the hearts of Californians and in the annals of oil history. It became a treasured chapter in the story of California's rise as an oil-rich state, remembered through collectibles and the stories passed down by those who witnessed the brand in its heyday.

George Allan Hancock: A Patron's Legacy Beyond Oil

George Allan Hancock, whose name was synonymous with the company, left a legacy that extended well beyond the oil fields and service stations. As a visionary businessman, Hancock foresaw the cultural and scientific potential of his family’s land. His donation of 23 acres to Los Angeles County in 1916, which included the La Brea Tar Pits, ensured the preservation of this natural wonder and facilitated the establishment of the George C. Page Museum.

G Allan Hancock

His business ventures were vast and varied. In banking, he founded the Los Angeles Hibernian Saving Bank in 1909 and the California Bank and its trust company in 1920, playing a central role in the financial growth of early 20th-century Los Angeles. His foresight and leadership were also instrumental in the founding of the Automobile Club of Southern California in 1900, serving as its president during a crucial period of automotive growth.

Hancock's passion extended beyond business into realms of scientific discovery and exploration. He was a trailblazer in marine science, reminiscent of an early-day Jacques Cousteau, with his profound interest in oceanography leading him to acquire a fleet of research vessels, named Valero I, II, III, and IV. These ships were floating laboratories, equipped for scientific exploration and marine biology research. Hancock's hands-on approach to his maritime endeavors saw him spending considerable time at sea, conducting studies and contributing to the understanding of marine ecosystems.

G. Allan Hancock's contributions to the early days of aviation were as groundbreaking as they were visionary. In 1928, he made a significant mark in aviation history by purchasing, outfitting, and financing the flight of the Southern Cross, the first airplane to traverse the Pacific Ocean. A year prior, in 1927, Hancock further solidified his role in aviation by opening The Hancock Foundation College of Aeronautics. Equipped with five airplanes, unpaved runways, hangars, mechanical shops, and barracks, the college was a comprehensive training ground for pilots in an era when aviation was still in its infancy. As World War II unfolded, Hancock College's significance grew exponentially. In 1939, it was selected by the U.S. War Department as one of eight civilian academies nationwide to train pilots for the U.S. Army Air Corps, which later became the Air Force. By the end of the war in 1945, the college had trained over 8,400 pilots.

In real estate, he developed the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, transforming it into a thriving transport line. His innovative farming techniques revolutionized agriculture in the Santa Maria Valley, transitioning it from sugar beets to a hub for refrigerated green vegetables. This shift had a profound impact on the region's agricultural landscape.

His contributions to Southern California also encompassed the development of the Hancock Park neighborhood, a testament to his commitment to community development and his multifaceted interests in real estate and urban planning. Moreover, his philanthropic efforts and patronage of the arts created cultural bedrocks in the region, such as the Hancock Foundation for Scientific Research and the Allan Hancock Foundation for the University of Southern California.

In many ways, George Allan Hancock helped to shape the financial, cultural, and physical landscape of Southern California. The impact of his endeavors in oil was matched by his dedication to business, science, education, and the arts, cementing his status as one of California's most influential figures of the early 20th century.

Remembering the Rooster and the Riches It Brought

As the chapters close on the story of Hancock Oil Company, what remains is a rich tapestry of history, innovation, and enduring legacy. The "Cock O' The Walk" mascot, a symbol of ambition and assurance, continues to captivate the imaginations of historians, collectors, and those who remember the golden age of California's oil industry. Though the Hancock brand has blended into the annals of petroleum history, its impact is indelible, resonating through the streets of Los Angeles and beyond.

The story of Hancock Oil is more than the tale of a company; it's a narrative of a family’s vision, a city’s growth, and an industry’s evolution. From the legal beginnings at Rancho La Brea to the iconic rooster that once crowned gas stations across the West, each element of Hancock's history contributes to a larger story of American entrepreneurship and ingenuity.

The legacy of George Allan Hancock and his oil empire serves as a reminder of the transformative power of industry and the importance of visionary leadership. As collectors cherish the rusted signs and faded logos, they preserve not just physical artifacts but memories of a time when a red rooster symbolized a company always ahead of its time.

In remembering Hancock Oil Company, we honor a past that shaped the present and continue to draw lessons and inspiration from its story. The red rooster, once a beacon for motorists across California, now stands as a symbol of a bygone era, a testament to the enduring spirit of innovation and progress that drives human endeavors forward.

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