Cash register from Threatt Filling Station to be part of Smithsonian exhibition

The original cash register used in the historic Threatt Filling Station on Route 66 near Luther, Oklahoma, is on display as part of the Smithsonian’s “The Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

According to The Luther Register, the cash register is on loan during a three-year national tour that starts at the museum, formerly the Lorraine Motel, one of many businesses listed in the publication by Victor Green that helped African Americans travel safely during the Jim Crow era. 

The Lorraine Motel also is the site where civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

The exhibition will remain at the Memphis museum through Jan. 3.

“The Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with Candacy Taylor, who recently wrote the seminal volume about the Green Book, “Overground Railroad.” (Our review of “Overground Railroad” is here.)

Notably, Exxon Mobil Corp. also gave financial support to the exhibition. Exxon’s network of Esso service stations was instrumental in distributing the “Green Book” during the Jim Crow era. Esso stations also served African Americans during that segregated time.

The Smithsonian stated in a news release:

“The Negro Motorist Green Book” offers an immersive look at the reality of travel for African Americans in mid-century America and how the guide, first published in 1936, served as an indispensable resource for the nation’s rising African American middle class. It includes a variety of objects ranging from business signs and postcards to an original “Green Book.” Historical footage, images and firsthand accounts convey not only the apprehension felt by African American travelers, but also the resilience, innovation and elegance of people choosing to live a full American existence. The exhibition will highlight the success of many African American-owned businesses that made these journeys possible.
“We applaud the Smithsonian and Candacy Taylor for developing such a thoughtful and moving exhibition,” said Darren Woods, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. “We owe a tribute to the men and women who have bravely stood for civil rights throughout our nation’s history. Discrimination has no place in our society, and we hope the ‘Green Book’ exhibition will be a source of learning and inspiration.”

Built by Allen Threatt in 1915, the gas station remains one of the few surviving African American-owned businesses along Route 66. The bungalow-style station made of rock from the Threatt farm’s quarry was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

The Threatt Filling Station operated until the early 1960s, when it was converted into living quarters.

The Threatt family seeks to repair the long-closed station and reopen it as a historical and Route 66 museum. A recent fundraiser by Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell raised $15,000 for that effort.

Here’s a good video about the station:

Ironically, the Threatt station never was listed in the Green Book, despite it being black-owned for many years.

(Screen-capture image from video of Allen Threatt inside the Threatt Filling Station, where the cash register can be seen in the background)

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