Photo Gallery: 1973-74 United States Oil Shortage Crisis, Vol. 1

Ask anyone who was of driving age in the United States during the 1970s, and they likely remember well the two major oil shortage crises the country faced. The first oil shortage crisis, which lasted from October 1973 until March 1974, was set off when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, or the OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia), proclaimed an oil embargo. This was reportedly in response to the U.S. supplying Israel with arms following the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

On October 16, 1973, OPEC announced a decision to raise the posted price of oil by 70%, to $5.11 a barrel. In the United States, the retail price of a gallon of gasoline rose from a national average of 38.5 cents in May 1973 to 55.1 cents in June 1974. President Richard M. Nixon requested gasoline stations to voluntarily not sell gasoline on Saturday nights or Sundays — 90% of owners complied, which resulted in the now-infamous gas lines on weekdays.

The following photo gallery captures scenes from the crisis. Color photos are courtesy the U.S. National Archive’s Documerica project; black and white press wire photos were scoured from the internet by me.

1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Happy Motoring – Seattle, WA, 2/16/74
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Portland, Oregon gas line, December 1973.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Lines of cars waited for gasoline today at a station at Mercer Street and Westlake Avenue North. – Seattle, WA, 2/12/74.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
On this day in February 1974, only cars with license plates ending in an even number could get gas. Portland, OR.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Gasoline rationing coupon, December 1973.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Portland Texaco station sign warning of reduced gas and station hours, June 1973.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
A New Jersey man fills his car with gas from his own backyard pump, 3/2/74.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Portland Chevron attendants on the day before the requested Saturday closures, 11/73.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
A motorist waiting for gas shook his fist as another motorist sneaked in line ahead of him in Chicago yesterday. 2/10/74.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
A businessman hitch-hikes in Beaverton, OR due to the gas shortage, 12/73.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Despite using a limousine as a screen and ducking low while service a regular customer yesterday, a New York City service-station operator soon was noticed by motorists, who then formed long lines waiting for gasoline. 1/1974.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
An “Out of Gas” sign affixed to a parked car outside a Shell service station, 12/1973.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
A Chevron station at 18131 Bothell Way N.E. was forced to limit its sales to 10 gallons a customer. 7/8/73.
1973-74 United States Oil Crisis
Father and son show a sign and a gun warning potential gas thieves away. 4/1974.

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