Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Samuel Milton Jones was born in Ty Mawr, Wales, on 8th August, 1846. The family emigrated in 1849 to the United States and settled in New York. After a brief schooling he started work at the age of ten.

At eighteen Jones moved to Titusville, Pennsylvania, where he found work in the oil industry as a driller, pumper, tool-dresser and pipe-liner. After inventing an improved oil-pumping mechanism, in 1892, Jones set up his own business, the Acme Sucker Rod Company, in Toledo, Ohio. Jones made a considerable fortune manufacturing his invention.

Jones was was also influenced by the views of William Morris, Walt Whitman and Leo Tolstoy. A generous employer, Jones introduced a profit-sharing scheme, an eight-hour day, a forty-eight week week, paid holidays and free recreational facilities. His critics claimed he was a Socialist, but as his great friend Brad Whitlock was to say later, "although he shared the Socialists's great dream of an ordered society" he could never "endure anything so doctrinaire as Socialism".

In 1897 Jones, a member of the Republican Party, stood for the post of mayor of Toledo. During his campaign advocated the public ownership of utilities, free parks and playgrounds, and an end to corruption in city government. Jones was elected but he was seen as too radical by the Republicans and they put up an alternative candidate in 1899. Jones now stood as an independent and was so popular he won 70 per cent of the vote.

Samuel Milton Jones was also re-elected in 1901 and 1903 but died while in office on 12th July, 1904. In his will, Jones left a large sum to his employees.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) The Toledo Times (6 October 1940)

In 1893 Jones invented the "sucker rod." This permitted deep-well drilling. He patented his invention and began to manufacture it. In 1894 he began Acme Sucker Rod Company. His factory was open during a time of depression and Toledoans sought work there. In his company he enforced the Golden Rule. He treated his employees well and paid them a fair wage. He also had workers keep their own time, gave employees paid vacations, had company insurance plans, and allowed employees to be active in profit sharing.

Jones was elected mayor of Toledo on February 25, 1897, after having lived in Toledo for only five years. He was a progressive mayor who preached Christ's teachings, supported the idea of equality of men, and focused on establishing a uniform three-cent fare on streetcars, as well as solving problems of unemployment and poverty. A campaign promise was to establish public parks and playgrounds. He believed this was important and, as an example, he purchased vacant ground that adjoined his factory and equipped it with everything necessary for a playground. This area, named Golden Rule Park, was created three years after he was elected mayor.

(2) Brand Whitlock wrote about Samuel Jones in his book Forty Years Of It (1914)

Samuel Jones was a man who tried to practice the fundamental philosophy of Christianity. All the newspapers were against him, and all the preachers. When the people came to vote for his re-election his majorities were overwhelming, so that he used to say that everybody was against him but the people.

In those days I had not met him. One day, suddenly, as I was working on a story in my office, in he stepped with a startling, abrupt manner, wheeled a chair up to my desk, and sat down. He was a big Welshman with a sandy complexion and great hands that had worked hard in their time, and he had an eye that looked right into the centre of your skull. He wore, and all the time he was in the room continued to wear, a large cream-coloured slouch hat, and he had on the flowing cravat which for some inexplicable reason artists and social reformers wear; their affinity being due, no doubt, to the fact that the reformer must be an artist of a sort, else he could not dream his dreams.

He had a practical air of the very practical business man he had been before he became mayor. He had been such a practical business man that he was worth half a million, a fairly good fortune for our town; but he had not been in office very long before all the business men were down on him, and saying that what the town needed was a business man for mayor. They disliked him of course because he would not do just what they told him to that being the meaning and purpose of a business man for mayor. The politicians and preachers objected to him on the same grounds: the unpardonable sin being to express in any but a purely ideal and sentimental form sympathy for the workers or the poor.

(3) Samuel Jones, The New Patriotism: A Golden-Rule Government for Cities (1899)

The ethics of the wild beast, the survival of the strongest, shrewdest, and meanest, have been the inspiration of our materialistic lives during the last quarter or half century. The fact in our national history has brought us today face to face with the inevitable result. We have cities in which a few are wealthy, a few are in what may be called comfortable circumstances, vast numbers are propertyless, and thousands are in pauperism and crime. Certainly, no reasonable person will contend that this is the goal that we have been struggling for; that the inequalities that characterize our rich and poor represent the idea that the founders of this republic saw when they wrote that "All men are created equal."

The new patriotism is the love of the millions that is already planning for and opening the way to better things, to a condition of life under this government when every child born in it will have an equal opportunity with every other child to live the best possible kind of life that he or she can live. This is the new patriotism - that feeling within one's breast that tells us that there can be no prosperity for some without there is a possibility for some prosperity for all, and that there can be no peace for some without opportunity for some peace for all; that man is a social being, society is a unit, an organism, not a heap of separate grains of sand, each one struggling for its own welfare. We are all so inextricably bound together that there is no possibility of finding the individual good except in the good of all.

The competitive idea at present dominant is most of our political and business life is, of course, the seed root of all the trouble. The people are beginning to understand that we have been pursuing a policy of plundering ourselves, that in the foolish scramble to make individuals rich we have been making all poor. "For a hundred years or so," says Henry Demarest Lloyd, "our economic theory has been one of industrial government by the self-interest of the individual; political government by the self-interest of the individual we call anarchy." It is one of the paradoxes of public opinion that the people of America, least tolerant of this theory of anarchy in political government, lead in practicing it in industry. We are coming to see that the true philosophy of government is to let the individual do what the individual can do best, and let the government do what the government can do best.

Our cities are to be saved by the development of the collective idea. We are coming to understand that every public utility and necessity to the public welfare should be publicly owned, publicly operated, and publicly paid for. Among the properties that according to any scientific conception of the purpose of government should be so owned are waterworks, heating and lighting plants, street railways, telephones, fire alarms, telegraphs, parks, playgrounds, baths, wash-houses, municipal printing establishments, and many other industries necessary to the welfare of the whole family that can only be successfully operated by the family in the interests of the whole family.

(4) James Rodabaugh, Northwest Ohio Quarterly (January, 1943)

The story of his life was one that appealed to native Americans and immigrants of the lower economic levels, for, as told in his autobiography, it was a story of "rags to riches." Born in an ancient stone house in North Wales in 1846, he emigrated in steerage to America at the age of three. The family, including seven children, settled in Lewis County, New York, where the father worked in the stone quarries, as a stone mason, and as a farmer. Sam started to work at ten years old; at fourteen he was working in a saw mill twelve hours a day. A few years later lie left home for the oil fields around Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Jones had been working on improvements for oil well machinery. After Standard Oil declared lack of interest in his patents, he established his own factory, the Acme Sticker Rod Company, to manufacture clasp joint couplings, pull-rods, combination clamp stirrups, and line pumping jacks. His entry into modern industry brought him a fortune and a social awakening. When swarms of men sought work at his factory, he met for the first time a different kind of man, piteous in his appeal and groveling in his feeling of inferiority before employer and boss. This Jones could not stomach. He immediately adopted as his motto: "The Business of this shop is to make men; the making of money is only air incidental detail." He "ignored the sacred rules of business," and posted only one rule for himself and his industry, "Therefore, whatsoever things ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them." His attempt to run his shop according to this precept won for him the sobriquet, "Golden Rule" Jones.

He determined to set up a shop without "rules" or "bosses"; he established the eight-hour day and forty-eight-hour week, while other plants were working ten and twelve hours for six days; no child labor was permitted, and no "piece-work" or "piece price" plan; overtime was abolished to allow for the employment of more men; there were no timekeepers, no timeclock, and no "ringing in" (each man kept his own time); a week’s vacation with pay was granted to every worker; every man with the company a year got a minimum of twelve dollars a week, and at Christmas a bonus of five per cent of the years salary was given. Outings and picnics were enjoyed by the employees and their families.

Jones encouraged music, and supported the organization of a chorus and a band by his workers. At the corner of Segur and Field Avenues lie converted a lot into Golden Rule Park and Playground. Here on Sunday afternoons he sponsored concerts and presented noted speakers. With the help of his sister Ellen, he established Golden Rule House as a community center, and here a kindergarten was established. Over the shop he opened Golden Rule Hall for club and social meetings. Here to he furnished the noon meal to his workers at fifteen cents. A co-operative insurance program was inaugurated in which employees and the factory established a fund to pay sickness arid injury benefits, the workers managing the fund and making rules for distribution. In 1901 Jones established a profit-sharing system by which the employees became stockholders. Finally, shortly before his death, Jones created the Golden Rule Trust Fund which is used to pay insurance to families of the workers. He encouraged his men to unionize, and marched with them in Labor Day parades.

(5) Melvin Holli, The American Mayor (1999)

In fifth place is Toledo's colorful Progressive Era mayor, Samuel "Golden Rule" Jones (1897-1904). A picturesque and eccentric millionaire manufacturer who railed against the very monopoly system (patent laws) that had made him wealthy, Jones sometimes took to standing on his head on streetcorners to make a point, and he preached Christian love and brotherhood to all who would listen. He instituted a "Golden Rule" in his factories, having to do with higher pay and more leisure time for workers to enjoy his Golden Rule Park while listening to his Golden Rule Band serenade the proletariat. In office, Jones tried to humanize the city's treatment of the poor and unemployed, took nightsticks away from the police, and frequently discharged criminals from the police court because he believed they were the products of a bad society. He also campaigned for municipal ownership of the utilities, public ownership of national trusts, fair pay for labor, and a better social order for all. And thus one of the most chronicled-by-the-press popular mayors of the fin-de-siécle period did not escape the notice of our experts, who ranked Jones fifth-best among all the mayors who ever held office.