Photo Archive: The ACME Sucker Rod Co., Circa 1904

By Staff
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The factory floor of the ACME Sucker Rod Co./S.M. Jones Co. Looked at today, it’s a treasure of machine tools and equipment.
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Oliver Good’s 1899 patent specified a hot-tube engine with unique valving enabling it to run in either direction.
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The ACME Sucker Rod Co.

It’s surprising how little we apparently know about engines from the ACME Sucker Rod Co. and its successor, the S.M. Jones Co., Toledo, Ohio. That seems especially true in light of how much is known about company founder Samuel Milton Jones, who emigrated with his parents to the U.S. from Wales, U.K., in 1849, when he was just 3 years old. As relayed by Russell Farmer in the February 2008 issue of GEM, Jones earned the nickname “Golden Rule Jones” for his deep belief in the Golden Rule, to the point he’s said to have had only one “rule” posted in the ACME factory, a sign that read, “The Rule that Governs This Factory: ‘Therefore Whatsoever Ye Would That Men Should Do Unto You, Do Ye Even So Unto Them.’”

A champion of the working man who gave generously to help the poor, such was Jones popularity that he ended up serving three terms as Toledo’s mayor.

Jones made his fortune with the invention of a sucker rod to enable deep-well drilling, and then moved on to other oil-related products, including surface rods, pumping jacks, pumping powers and engines.

The first engines were based on a design patented in 1899 by Oliver F. Good of Toledo, a 4-stroke, ported exhaust, hot-tube engine clearly intended for oil field duty. Interestingly, it was designed to run in either direction and used a single valve for both intake and exhaust, although in fact the design specified a total of four valves; a single main intake/exhaust valve; an auxiliary fuel valve; an automatic auxiliary air valve; and an automatic valve for the exhaust port.

To the best of our knowledge there are no surviving records on how many engines were made under either the ACME or Jones names, but judging by the number of survivors – certainly dozens of engines and almost all of them from the Ohio and Pennsylvania oil territories – they appear to have been quite popular.

Following Jones’ death, in July 1904, ACME was renamed S.M. Jones Co. The S.M. Jones Co. continued to advertise engines under the ACME brand and also built and sold the Rathbun gas engine, apparently starting about 1907 or so. The Rathbun engines were apparently all large industrial engines.

The images displayed here are original factory photos and are marked “ACME Sucker Rod Co.,” which could suggest they were taken before 1905 and prior to Jones’ death in 1904. However, as they’re undated it’s entirely possible they were taken after Jones’ death, after which ACME became S.M. Jones & Co. A possible date indicator is the large, multi-cylinder vertical engine visible to the left and about halfway back on the factory floor in the photo on Page 13. It’s not clear to us if ACME/Jones made its own design multi-cylinder vertical, so if that engine is a Rathbun design, then the photo likely dates from 1907 or later. Judging by the valve chests, the horizontal engines stacked two deep in the photo at left all appear to have been built to the design specified in Good’s patent.

The factory was located at 835 Spencer St., just a few blocks from the Maumee River. Sadly, it’s now a parking lot. If any GEM readers know more about ACME Sucker Rod or S.M. Jones engines we’d be very interested to hear from you.

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