Brief video of Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones, mayor of Toledo from 1897-1904
CITY FLOURISHED UNDER GOLDEN RULE OF JONES
In the annals of Toledo’s political history in this century, one man stands out. His name is Samuel Jones .
Best remembered by his nickname, Golden Rule, Mr. Jones was Toledo’s 28th mayor beginning in 1897. He won re-election three times but did not live to run again as he became the first mayor to die in office. Such was his popularity that Toledoans lined the city’s streets to view his funeral cortege in July, 1904.
Mr. Jones is considered one of the founders of the progressive reform movement that emerged at the turn of the last century, elevating Toledo in the process.
“He dramatized the issue of the whole progressive period on a national scale,” says Dr. Charles Glaab, professor of history at the University of Toledo. “Toledo became one of the centers of the intellectual movement of urban progressivism. Jones had a great deal to do with getting the movement under way at the city level.”
At the university, Dr. Glaab teaches a course in urban history and gives lectures on Mr. Jones. He co-wrote a book on Toledo history, Gateway to the Great Lakes, that contains a chapter on the former mayor, who also was a successful, innovative businessman.
Mr. Jones was born in Wales in 1846. His parents, seeking a better life, immigrated to the United States around 1850 with their five children. They ended up in the Black River Valley region of New York state, where Mr. Jones’s father worked as a stone mason and farmer. Young Samuel disdained farming and began working 12-hour days in a sawmill at age 14. His work, an economic necessity for the family, limited his education to less than three years. At 16, Samuel began spending his summers working on a steamer. The mechanical skills learned during a three-year stint aided his later career.
At 19, he left New York for Pennsylvania’s oil fields, where he found limited success. He went back to New York, but returned to Pennsylvania at 22. After saving several hundred dollars, he began buying oil leases, earning a decent living. Mr. Jones married and fathered three children. The family moved around Pennsylvania, following the oil strikes.
A pair of catastrophic events changed Mr. Jones’s life. His 2-year-old daughter, Eva Belle, died in 1881. Four years later he lost his beloved wife, Alma. The losses sent Samuel Jones into a year-long funk. Finally, in 1886, on the advice of family and friends, Mr. Jones and his two sons moved to the newly opened oil fields around Lima, O. There he drilled the state’s first large well and helped found the Ohio Oil Co., which later was bought by John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co.
During his years in Lima, Mr. Jones became active in the local YMCA and a Methodist church where he met his second wife, Helen Beach, of Toledo. The couple settled in the city in 1892. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones continued drilling for oil, using his mechanical expertise to make valuable improvements to the equipment. In 1894, he secured a patent for an iron pumping rod, known as sucker rods, that aided deep well drilling. He opened a plant in East Toledo and later moved it to Segur Avenue near Field Avenue.
At the time, Toledo was experiencing unprecedented growth. Its population jumped from 50,000 in 1880 to 81,000 in 1890 to 130,000 in 1900, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Immigrants flooded Toledo to work in the city’s growing glass, bicycle, and foundry industries. Such growth created many problems, most of them costing the city money it did not have. As Dr. Glaab wrote: “Streets need paving, public utilities had to be expanded, more public transportation was required, housing had to be built, and taxes had to be raised.”
Meanwhile, an economic panic in 1893 threw the country into a depression. In Lucas County, numerous businesses went bankrupt and, according to Dr. Glaab, 7,000 paupers resided in Lucas County and the city of Toledo was $7 million in debt. At the same time, the city’s location on Lake Erie and its lively port trade festered prostitution, larceny, and other forms of petty crime.
Into this environment came Samuel Jones , who had never lived in a large city. He carried with him memories of his poverty-ridden childhood and a morality gained from his faith.
Free-lance writer Elaine Court wrote in a Blade profile of Mr. Jones: “[He was] a Christian who rejected the gospel of wealth in favor of the social gospel. [He] envisioned cities and business not as traps for the working man, but as the new frontier on which to build economic and political democracy. [He] knew the discouragement of the unemployed and underpaid and determined to do something about it for his employees.”
Although the going wage at the time was $1 to $1.50 a day, Mr. Jones paid his employees $1.50 to $2 a day at his factory, the Acme Sucker Rod Co. All employees received one week of paid vacation after six months on the job, and he reduced their workday from 12 to eight hours – radical decisions for the time.
Even more astounding, Mr. Jones developed a revenue-sharing program for his workers, provided health insurance, and subsidized hot meals in the Acme cafeteria.
Unlike other companies, which had a long list of regulations and requirements for their employees, Samuel Jones posted only one rule on his company’s notice board.
The golden rule: Do unto others as you would do unto yourself.
As his company prospered, Mr. Jones expanded his goodwill. Next to the factory he built Golden Rule Park, where his employees could exercise or relax, where invited guests with similar philosophies could speak, and where the employee ensemble, the Golden Rule Band, could entertain.
In time it became clear that Mr. Jones was using Acme as a model for social change, and that he would soon apply his method to city politics.
In 1897, as a political unknown, he emerged from a deadlocked Republican Party convention as the group’s choice to run for mayor. He beat Democrat Parks Hone by 518 votes out of 20,164 cast.
According to Dr. Glaab and his co-author, Morgan Barclay, the form of city government at the time was based on an old state law that called for a two-house assembly, and 14 boards and commissions. With so many decision-makers involved, taking decisive action was a cumbersome process. Nevertheless, as Dr. Glaab and Mr. Barclay wrote, Mr. Jones managed to achieve some measure of success during his first term. He introduced a merit system for police officers and firefighters. As a man who abhorred violence, he won acclaim from national reform leaders for his edict that called for police officers to replace their clubs with canes in an effort to reduce police brutality.
For the poor, one of his largest concerns, Mr. Jones helped develop a program that gave them food and shelter in exchange for working for the city’s street department.
Brand Whitlock, a journalist and lawyer who was Mr. Jones’s legal adviser and later became mayor, liked to tell a story underscoring his mentor’s generosity, which Dr. Glaab and Mr. Barclay recounted in their book:
“[Mr. Jones and Mr. Whitlock] were strolling in downtown Toledo when a stranger asked for 50 cents to obtain lodgings for the night. Mr. Jones reached into his pocket and, finding no change, gave the man a $5 bill and asked him to return the change. Mr. Whitlock said he never expected to see the man again. But as Mr. Whitlock and Mr. Jones continued to talk, the man appeared with the change. The mayor put it in his pocket and the man asked why he had not counted it. Mr. Jones replied: ‘You counted it, didn’t you?’ A faith in mankind – sometimes approaching naivete – became the hallmark of the Jones administration.”
Mr. Jones formed his unique style of governing by consulting the writings of the period’s major reformers. But he was most influenced by the humanist works of Walt Whitman, Henry Thoreau, and Leo Tolstoy.
By the next election, in 1899, Mr. Jones had fallen out of favor with the Republican party because conservative members were fed up with his reform policies. He lost the support of the local moral reform group. Although he did not drink, Mr. Jones felt saloons were a good place for workers to gather. And he angered church leaders when he refused to boot prostitutes out of town.
Lacking party support, Mr. Jones ran as an independent on the slogan “Principle Before Party.” He received 70 per cent of the vote.
Later that year he ran for governor as an independent. Although he lost, Dr. Glaab and Mr. Barclay note that Mr. Jones somehow carried the Toledo and Cleveland regions.
One of Mr. Jones’s talents was recruiting bright talent to his administration. Aside from Mr. Whitlock, one of his most accomplished aides turned out to be Sylvanus Jermain, Dr. Glaab said. Mr. Jermain, with Mr. Jones’s support, developed the city’s public park system, expanded the zoological gardens into one of the country’s best, opened Ottawa Park, one of the country’s first public golf courses, and constructed a network of boulevards.
Mr. Jones aggressively pushed for educational reform, improving conditions and teaching methods in the city’s schools.
Mr. Jones won again in 1901 and 1903. His last battle, according to Dr. Glaab, involved the city’s street railway company, which wanted to extend its franchise 25 years. Mr. Jones opposed the extension and, furthermore, asked the company to lower its fares to three cents. City council sided with the streetcar company. But much to the delight of angry citizens, who packed council chambers during the decisive vote, Mr. Jones vetoed its decision. He was carried out of city hall by his happy supporters, Dr. Glaab recounted.
After a brief illness in early summer of 1904, Samuel Jones died at age 57. According to Dr. Glaab and Mr. Barclay, 55,000 people viewed his body as it lie in state. Five thousand people, including thieves and prostitutes, attended his funeral.
During his lifetime, Mr. Jones achieved great success,but less so in his later years. Although his company continued to prosper, his personal fortune had dwindled from $900,000 to $300,000, surprising family members, according to the free-lance writer Ms. Court. In keeping with his beliefs, Mr. Jones had given much of the money to charities.
Meanwhile, according to Dr. Glaab, Mr. Jones was rapidly falling out of favor as a politician, and there was no guarantee he would win the next election.
“In a sense,” Dr. Glaab says, “he was like so many political leaders who became famous. He died at the right time.”
A sitting U.S. president, the speaker of the U.S. House, and the leader of the Senate traversed Ohio campaigning against him, trying to mute the strong appeal of his populist message.
He was Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones, a penniless man who became a millionaire businessman before turning his attention to politics, where he was one of the nation’s foremost political reformers as mayor of Toledo. A stubborn man who hated political parties because of the corruption they encouraged, Mr. Jones ran his company and his administration based on the Biblical precept that one should treat others as one would want to be treated.
He gained national attention for his municipal reforms and for his success in fighting corruption.
He died during his eighth year in office, but the legend of Samuel Jones lives on – nearly 100 years after his death, experts have rated him the fifth-best mayor in United States history.
Mr. Jones arrived in Toledo from Wales via Pennsylvania and Lima, establishing the Acme Sucker Rod Co., which made oil drilling equipment. He won the nickname “Golden Rule Jones” for the policies he implemented at the firm, including the eight-hour workday, paid vacations, and a company park for his employees.
In 1897, with the local Republican Party badly split over whom to offer as a mayoral candidate, they settled on him as a compromise. He won but quickly fell out of favor with the GOP because of his refusal to fulfill their patronage demands. He ran and won re-election as an independent in 1899, winning 70 per cent of the vote.
He served until his death in 1904.
While in office, he implemented many reforms, including a civil service system for police officers and firefighters, and he was known for bringing his “Golden Rule” philosophy to city government, preaching love and forgiveness and light sentences for petty crimes.
When a group of local ministers urged him to force prostitutes out of town, he asked “To where?” Mayor Jones suggested that the ministers take the girls into their homes to shelter them and pledged that, if the ministers would comply, he and Mrs. Jones would do the same.
He was criticized for not closing city bars on Sundays, but he maintained Toledoans worked long and hard six days a week and deserved their beer on the seventh.
In 1899, a few months after winning re-election, he became an independent candidate for governor, though some in the state Republican Party tried to entice him to run for the GOP nomination.
To quash Mr. Jones’s candidacy, New York Gov. Teddy Roosevelt, U.S. House Speaker David Henderson, U.S. Senate President Pro Tem William Fry, and both of Ohio’s senators traveled the state campaigning against him, and for George Nash, who won. Even President William McKinley, an Ohio native who did not campaign for his own presidency three years before, traveled the state to speak on behalf of Mr. Nash, causing the Toledo News Bee newspaper to wonder: “What office is William McKinley running for this year?”
On election night, as the vote totals flowed into election headquarters in the Valentine Building in downtown Toledo, Mayor Jones called his strong third-place finish and his effort to fight the two-party system a “moral victory,” saying his independent candidacy won more votes than any other such effort in Ohio history.
He carried Toledo by 2,270 votes after having spent $250 on his campaign here. In Cuyahoga County, he won 54 per cent but lost badly in rural areas.
Eventually, the reforms that Mr. Jones fought for became commonplace in the American work force and in government. But because of his foresight and commitment to the “Golden Rule,” he has earned a lasting place in American political history.
from the Ohio Historical Society
Samuel M. Jones was born on August 3, 1846, in Wales. His family immigrated to the United States in 1849. Jones’s parents struggled economically. His father found work as a stonemason and as a tenant farmer. Samuel Jones received a minimal education, primarily because his family needed him to work to survive economically. At ten years of age, Jones was employed as a laborer for a local farmer. Jones earned three dollars per month.
Jones found other employment that paid significantly better wages. At the age of fourteen, he accepted a job at a sawmill. He also spent several summers working on steamboats. In 1865, Jones found employment in the oilfields of western Pennsylvania. He gained extensive knowledge of the oil industry and was able to accumulate some modest savings. In 1870, Jones utilized these funds to form his own oil firm.
Jones remained in the oil business in Pennsylvania for the next decade. In 1885, after the death of his wife of ten years, he moved to Lima, Ohio. There, he continued to search for oil and quickly established a profitable well on the outskirts of Lima. At its peak, the well produced six hundred barrels of oil per day. Jones helped establish the Ohio Oil Company, which was eventually purchased by the Standard Oil Company, making Jones a wealthy man.
In 1892, Jones moved to Toledo, Ohio. Here he established the S.M. Jones Company, which manufactured tools for the oil industry. While Jones headed the company, unlike other businessmen of this era, he refused to pay his workers low wages. Jones determined that workers should receive a large enough salary to support their families. He asked his employees to work hard, to be honest, and to follow the golden rule. If the workers did these things, Jones promised his employees fair wages and safe working conditions. Jones became known as Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones because of his regulations.
In 1897, Jones received the Republican Party’s nomination for Toledo’s mayoral office. Workers united behind Jones’s candidacy, and he proclaimed that his “golden rule” philosophy would be the basis of his administration. Jones won the election and proceeded to implement Progressive reforms. During his time in office, Jones worked to improve conditions for the working class people of his community. The mayor opened free kindergartens, built parks, instituted an eight-hour day for city workers, and did much to reform the city government. Jones encouraged voters and politicians to renounce political parties. He believed that non-partisan politics would unite the American people together, rather than divide them as political parties seemed to do.
Jones was not very popular among businessmen and the wealthier members of Toledo society because of his views. Average citizens, however, rallied behind him. The Republican Party refused to nominate Jones for the mayor’s seat in 1899, but Jones still ran. With the support of the working class, Jones easily won reelection in 1899, having attained seventy percent of the vote. Jones died in office on July 12, 1904. His successor, Brand Whitlock, continued Jones’s reform efforts.