The Sinclair dinosaur is one of the most popular icons in American petroliana.
But where did he come from?

4 antique Sinclair Oil signs

Sinclair’s advertising writers first had the idea to use dinosaurs in Sinclair marketing back in 1930. They were promoting lubricants refined from crude oil believed to have formed when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The original campaign included a dozen different dinosaurs, but it was the gentle giant, the Apatosaurus, that captured the hearts of Americans.

Dinosaurs near a lake

Apatosaurus or Brontosaurus?

DINO was called a Brontosaurus when he was first used in Sinclair advertising. So why do we call him an Apatosaurus now?

Dinosaur fossils are rare, which makes it difficult to study and classify them. Since 1903, paleontologists have had conflicting opinions about whether the Brontosaurus is its own unique genus, or whether it’s the same as the Apatosaurus. Sinclair has followed the prevailing opinions of the scientific community, which currently favors calling DINO an Apatosaurus – though new research may eventually change that.

Sinclair Oil motor oil cans

DINO (pronounced DYE-NO) became so popular that Sinclair registered him as a trademark in 1932.

Newspaper articles about Sinclair Oil's worlds fair exhibit

A life-size DINO appeared in the “Century of Progress” Chicago World’s Fair in 1933-1934, along with several other dinosaurs built by P.G. Alen, who was known for creating lifelike papier-mâché animals for motion pictures.

Sinclair Oil logo and dinoco logo

Sinclair and DINO are lovingly parodied as the fictional Dinoco brand in multiple Pixar movies, including Toy Story and Cars.

DINO first appeared as a balloon in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1963 and quickly became an annual fan favorite – so popular that in 1975, he was named an Honorary Member of the Museum of Natural History.

Sinclair Oil Macy's Parade balloon

Sinclair Oil Macy's Parade balloon facing left

Sinclair Oil Macy's Parade balloon with a globe

Sinclair Oil Macy's Parade balloon plans

Barge moving dinosaurs for the worlds fair

DINO returned to New York with eight more of his friends – this time made of fiberglass and featuring cutting-edge animatronics – for Sinclair’s Dinoland exhibit in the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

He and the other dinosaurs traveled by barge 125 miles down the Hudson River to the Dinoland Pavilion.


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Article about the Sinclair Oil exhibit for the worlds fair

Worlds fair map with Dino on the front

Dino was 70 feet long (or 56 kids long, according to the advertising) and weighed 20 tons.

Dinosaur figures from the worlds fair

Sinclair’s Dinoland featured “Mold-a-Rama” machines, which for 25 cents would mold a dinosaur toy out of Sinclair’s “Dinofin Plastic” before your very eyes.

Assembling the worlds fair dino

children looking at the worlds fair exhibit

After the fair, DINO had his animatronics removed; toured the nation with his fellow Mesozoic friends; appeared in the 1966 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; and now lives in Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas, along with the Tyrannosaurus rex.

TV with the show Dinosaurs displayed on it

In the 1991-1994 Disney TV series Dinosaurs, which featured animatronic dinosaurs by Jim Henson, Sinclair is the surname of the main characters.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade logo

In 2015, DINO returned to The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time since 1976. The new 72-foot-long balloon took flight above New York City in front of 3.5 million spectators and more than 50 million television viewers.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade flier announcing that Dino is back

Dino in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Dino 2NYC logo

In 2016, DINO took a cross-country road trip from California to The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City to celebrate Sinclair’s centennial.

Fiberglass DINOs began appearing at Sinclair stations across the country in the early 1960s. He’s still a favorite photo op today.

Person posing with Dino in Fresno, CA

Person posing with Dino in Las Vegas, NV

Person posing with Dino in Jordan, UT

Person posing with Dino in Cheyenne, WY

Person posing with Dino in Lincoln, NE

Person posing with Dino in Kansas City, MO

Person posing with Dino in Henderson, KY

Person posing with Dino in Budd Lake, NJ

Times Square, NYC

The Dino Store

You can still buy a variety of DINO toys, including a version of the inflatable DINO that was popular starting in the 1930s.

Shop now

Blow up dinosaur toy

Dinosaur soap

Dinosaur plush

Dino o' mite t-shirt

Sinclair hat

Sinclair Oil gas topper

Learn more about Sinclair’s history.


Credit: Some photographs shown above are courtesy of the collection of Steve McCarthy, Salt Lake City, UT; Wendell White; American Oil & Gas Historical Society