• Steven Heller

The Daily Heller: Bedtime Data for the Chronic Designer-Insomniac

For anyone like me who suffers from chronic insomnia, the publications below are filled with the stuff that dreams are made of. At least, the text will put you right to sleep.


These manuals were produced by the Vacuum Oil Company during the late 1920s. Vacuum Oil was founded in 1866 in Rochester, NY. Lubrication oil was an accidental discovery while attempting to distill kerosene, states its history. "The residue from the extraction was a perfect lubricant for use in steam engines and internal-combustion engines." Vacuum was bought by John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil in 1879.


Standard Oil originated the Mobil brand in 1899. When the Standard Oil monopoly was broken up in 1911, Vacuum became an independent company again. In 1931, Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of New York merged. By 1955, the company was called Socony Mobil Oil Co., and in '66 became Mobil.


The original lubrication system that started this whole engine maintenance process was outlined in these booklets and provided mechanics and engineers with all the necessary charts and graphs. But practicality aside, in the years before corporate identity and branding, these are examples of beautiful design and illustration, from an era when computers were barely a twinkle in the eye and the hand was the best drafting tool around.


While you are enjoying the craft that went into these quotidian graphics, take the opportunity to allow your eyes grow heavy, your mind to go blank and the sandman lubricate your weary engine.


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