This paper is a review of the literature covering the history of the use of lubricants. The uses of oils derived from animals, vegetables and minerals are placed in perspective from ancient times to the Wright Brothers' flight in 1903. After that period, the discussion is confined largely to the lubrication of aircraft piston engines. The paper attempts to explain the preference for castor oil in European and British engines and the more general, but by no means exclusive, use of petroleum-based mineral oils in the United States.The British Air Ministry, in 1929, reached a decision to abandon castor oil due to availability and cost of petroleum-based oils. The simultaneous U.S. Army Air Corps recognition of the advantages of the very flat viscosity-temperature curve of Pennsylvania oils for hot running engines and for cold starting led to the world-wide use of these lubricating oils.The background for the continued, and often controversial use of straight mineral oil, some of the additives used, tests of synthetic oil in winter use, and oil reclamation are reviewed through World War II until 1963 when lubricating oils containing ashless additives became the predominant products.