While in the USA the civilization of the automobile had long since triumphed, on the old continent it was still an expensive toy reserved for the privileged few.
But something was changing, and these few would multiply rapidly. That success which in America was due to Henry Ford and his economical small cars was in Europe an effect of the First World War. Motor vehicles had performed honorably on the battlefield, demonstrating themselves to be useful and trustworthy, and thus they sparked the interest of the common folk.
Gas pumps existed in Europe before and during the war. By 1910 Bowser was selling a simple version of the self-measuring pump in France for installation with an underground tank; some years later, this and other models appeared in other parts of Europe.
In 1918 the Italian firm S. A. Bergomi introduced the cumbersome Securitas pump, which was used by some large garages and hotels; equally unwieldy pumps were put to the service of the Parisian Compagnie des Omnibus; the armed forces utilized gas pumps in massive numbers wherever there was a battle.
On the streets, nothing: groceries and pharmacies were more than up to the job of filling a dozen or so gas tanks a day. But as soon as the roads began to fill with automobiles, the colonnine or “little column,” as the gas pump came to be called‹made its appearance in Europe.
With the American experience behind, there was almost nothing left to invent.