Jones, Samuel Milton

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Samuel Milton Jones (18461904) was born in the village of Ty Mawr, in Caernarvonshire, Wales, on August 3, 1846. Jones was brought to the United States at the age of three and raised in New York, where he received only about thirty months of schooling. At the age of 18, in 1864, Jones found work in the Titusville, Pennsylvania, oil fields. Jones did well in the oil business, and worked the industry in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. In 1870 he became a producer himself.

When Jones' first wife died, he moved to Ohio in 1886 seeking some change in his life. He operated from a headquarters in Lima, Ohio, and operated his oil fields, which were the result of a big strike that year. Also in 1886 Jones met and married a woman from a prominent Toledo family, Helen W. Beach. They were to have three sons.

Jones studied oil field production. In 1893 he invented the "sucker rod," a device that permitted deepwell drilling. He made a fortune on the sucker rod by establishing a manufacturing plant in Toledo he called the Acme SuckerRod Company. Jones was an efficient business manager. But he was also a kind and benevolent employer who introduced many worker reforms such as the 8hour day, paid vacations, and a minimum wage. He also eliminated child labor and piecework. He instituted a five percent Christmas Bonus. Many of his competitors and political enemies called Jones "socialistic."

Jones hung a sign in his factory extolling the "Golden Rule" and encouraged all employees to honor it. He used the same Golden Rule in his own dealings and believed it worked. From this, his workers and the general public came to call him "Golden Rule Jones".

Golden Rule Jones entered politics in 1897. Running as a Republican, he was elected mayor of Toledo. But his political allies did not support the reforms he championed, and he fell out of favor. Jones's reforms included fighting against corruption, improvement of industrial conditions in the city, and the establishment of city parks. The Republicans refused to nominate Jones in 1899. But he ran as an independent and won by a landslide. Following this victory, Jones brought the 8-hour day and minimum wage to city workers.

Jones continued with his reforms as he won four successive elections. He pushed for municipal ownership of services and utilities, and the direct popular nomination of candidates for public office by petition (without the intervention of political party machinations). He added public services and established public parks and kindergartens. Jones died in office on July 12, 1904, but his reforms were carried on by his mayoral successor.

FURTHER READING "Samuel Milton Jones," available On Line @

Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1994, s.v. "Jones, Samuel Milton."

Killits, John, ed. Toledo and Lucas County Ohio, 16231923. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1923.

Van Doren, Charles. Webster's American Biographies. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1984.

"Woodlawn Cemetery Necrology: Samuel M. Jones," available On Line @

Samuel Milton Jones

views updated May 14 2018

Samuel Milton Jones

Samuel Milton Jones (1846-1904), American manufacturer and political reformer, was noted for his enlightened labor policies and progressive political crusades.

Samuel Jones was born Aug. 8, 1846, near Beddgelert, Caernarvonshire, Wales. His parents immigrated to an upstate New York farm when he was 3. After only a few years of school he started working at the age of 10. He left home 4 years later, worked at various manual jobs, and was employed finally in the oil fields in Titusville, Pa. By 1870 he had begun to acquire wells of his own, and in 1885 he moved to Lima, Ohio, where he struck even richer wells. He invented several improved oil-drilling devices and in 1894 established the Acme Sucker Rod Company of Toledo to manufacture oil-well machinery.

Jones's business success did not harden him to the lot of underprivileged men. Instead, he earned the nickname "Golden Rule" Jones for running his factory on Christian and humanitarian precepts. Although he opened it in a depression year, he raised his men's pay. He also instituted an 8-hour day, a 48-hour week, a week's vacation with pay, a 5 percent bonus at Christmas, lunches at cost in the Golden Rule Dining Room, and cooperative health insurance—all of which were progressive workmen's benefits in the 1890s. Jones felt responsible for his employees' social awakening and brought in guest lecturers at his own expense. Even paychecks were accompanied by homilies on applied Christianity written by Jones.

In 1897 Jones, a Republican, was elected mayor of Toledo, Ohio. He tried to make Toledo a model city. He established an 8-hour day in the police and water departments; expanded municipal services to include playgrounds, golf links, kindergartens, and free concerts; and attacked the police courts for what he believed was their unfairness to social outcasts and poorer citizens. These ideas seemed radical and dangerously eccentric to many Toledo residents, but Jones was reelected in 1899, 1901, and 1903.

A dispute with the state Republican leadership in 1899 prompted Jones to run without party affiliation in every election thereafter. This was a fitting departure for a man whose personal style was more educational and evangelical than political in a partisan sense. Jones died in office on July 12, 1904, one of the most widely respected civic leaders of his time.

Further Reading

Jones produced two statements of his philosophy: The New Right: A Plea for Fair Play through a More Just Social Order (1899), which contains autobiographical material on his early life, and Letters of Love and Labor (2 vols., 1900-1901). Jones's protégé, Brand Whitlock, wrote an admiring assessment of him in Forty Years of It (1914). Hoyt Landon Warner, Progressivism in Ohio, 1897-1917 (1964), and Jack Tager, The Intellectual as Urban Reformer: Brand Whitlock and the Progressive Movement (1968), contain useful sketches of Jones's career. □

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