Until the invention of the Internal Combustion Engine, petrol was considered a by-product of the oil industry; it’s only use being that of a very effective cleaner. This would be purchased in small bottles from either a chemist shop or ironmongers.
In the earliest days of the Motor Car (or Horseless Carriage as it was also known) motoring was little more than a frivolous novelty pursued around the private estates of the landed gentry. Before long the motor car became reliable enough to undertake a reliable journey, albeit in short stages. The cars owner would have a large drum of petrol kept in his Motor House (later called a garage after the French “garer”- to shelter).
Hotels and roadside inns also keen to attract new trade started to sell petrol, this was supplied in sealed two gallon cans, each can would have the fuel companies name embossed upon its sides and one would be carried on the running board of the car. These would often be in the colours of the fuel company supplying the petrol or motor spirit as it was also known.