Makers of the Acu-Rule and ACUMATH Slide Rule
Copyright George E. Keane November 30, 2004 Festus, Missouri.
This a revised and updated version November 24, 2006
copyright November 24, 2006
It Started in Festus, MissouriOne would expect that Slide Rules would be manufactured in a large city. But in 1938 in the closing years of the Great Depression when Festus was a small town of only 4,400, Paul Jones came to town and started making them. Festus was hardly a place where one would expect to find a company with the technology to produce slide rules, but there it was.
Paul Jones overcame the problems of precision manufacturing that slide rules require in addition to the proper milling of the wood and the need for accurate indexing of the numerical scales. Very little is known in Festus about this company or why Mr. Jones even started it.
The earliest documented reference was found in the May 12, 1938 issue of The Jefferson County Press. The Festus Mfg. Co. was listed with other businesses on a page congratulating the Festus High School graduation class of 1938. The companies existence was also confirmed by the Tri-City Independent of Festus in it's September 29, 1938 issue. When reporting his very narrow escape from death in an automobile accident, Paul Jones was referred to as the manager of the Festus Manufacturing Co. with offices located on West Main St.
Another reference was made by Howard Litton, Festus historian. He stated in his book, Tanglefoot - Portrait of a City, Vol. 1, June 1989, that the manager of the Festus Manufacturing Co. was Mr. Paul Jones. Mr. Jones was born in St. Louis His mother was from Chicago and his father, a Real-estate Agent, was born in Tennessee. Paul was described as very smart, very handsome and 42 years old at the time. Today no one knows why he decided to manufacture slide rules.
The Festus Mfg. Co. was located in the S. T. Waggener & Brothers Store Company building at 318 West Main St., Festus, Missouri. The Waggener Store Company was a lumber yard and had recently installed the machinery needed to start a window sash and mill work operation and this was where work on the slide rule started. It is believed that the lumber yard owned the slide rule company but Paul Jones was the one who started it. By April 12, 1940 Mr. Jones and Waggener separated. Jones took control of the company and renamed it. The company continued in Festus and The Acu-Rule Mfg. Co. was incorporated with Directors Herman L. Schnure, N.F. Delporte and V. E. Guenther, all from St. Louis. Production seems to have been uninterrupted. The company's history can be followed by looking at the manuals that were included with the slide rules. Paul Jones wrote the first instruction sheet. It is inscribed "Paul Jones, Author Copyright 1938." In the same year it was changed to "Festus Mfg. Co. Festus, Mo., U. S. A., Copyright 1938".
The manuals next said:
Acu-Rule Mfg. Co. (successor to Festus Mfg. Co.)This pattern is supported by tax records. A search of the Festus, Missouri city tax records did not find a record for the Festus Manufacturing Company but a search of the Jefferson County, Missouri Assessment records for 1939 did find a record in the Merchant's Assessment Book on page 198. It is believed the taxes were paid by the Waggener lumber yard while it was under their control and the county tax record is the result of Paul Jones registering the new company that remained for a short time in Jefferson County at the Festus location. Leaving Waggener's ownership seems to have been a friendly separation.
At the New York address of 15 East 26th St., NY is a very large office building called the Madison Square Building. Mr. Jones hired a person with the interesting name of Magnus M. Manheim as Sales Manager. Using an Acu-Rule Mfg. Co. letterhead, Mr. Manheim circulated a sales letter and price sheet with four models of slide rules. This letter, dated August 14, 1939,
was directed to wholesale vendors. This was done prior to the Acu-Rule Mfg. Co. being incorporated in Missouri and while still located in Festus. It took very little time for Acu-Rule to be noticed by K & E. By 12/20/1938 samples and price information was already in the competitors cabinet.
At the same time a catalog from Laboratory Specialties, Inc., a science equipment supply house located at 144 South Wabash St., Wabash, Indiana was offering these slide rules at retail at about 100% markup with quantity discounts. The same model numbers were used. It seems the Acu-Rule Mfg. Co. was now in business.
The St. Louis PeriodAfter the 1940 incorporation the company left Festus and was operating in rented quarters at 623 Del Monte Way, St. Louis. Mr. Paul Jones was the President and the Secretary & Treasurer was Mr. Schnure. From this time on there was no longer any association with Festus.
In addition to the Acu-Rule product line, custom production of slide rules was done. One was the Dietzgen Company and the standard Paul Jones type manual that was used made identification easy. A different box was specified by Dietzgen for this wood slide rule. The D. Van Nostrand book company bought slide rules and used a specially designed box. The rules were a point of sales item placed by their slide rule instruction books. Another company was the Frederick Post Company of Chicago. These were wood rules with printing directly on the unpainted body. Positive identification was possible because the familiar Paul Jones manual was used with an overprint for the Post Company that included Post’s 1944 oval logo.
In 1944, the company was still operating under the Acu-Rule name with Mr. Jones as president, Russell S. Queen as vice president and General manager. Katherine Drew Jones, Paul’s wife, was secretary & Treasurer.
In 1945 the company produced a Trig slide rule. Although Mr. Jones wrote the original Mannhiem type manual he decided to hire Professor Ross Middlemiss to write a new Trig - Mannheim manual. This was the first major departure from the original style Acu-Rule manual. The copyright was Paul Jones, June, 1945. Mr. Jones died that same month at the age of 49. The company continued and in 1946 Wilfred J. R. Boos became President and Treasure of the company. Mrs. Jones stayed as Vice President and Secretary until 1947 and there was no further association with the Jones family.
Mr. Boos was ready to try new innovations and the company experienced a productive period. By 1946 the metal core slide rules were being sold under the brand name of Acu-Math and referred to as the "Never Stick Metal Core" slide rule. In St. Louis considerable effort was expended to developing a wood and plastic laminated rule. Invariably the wood shrunk more than the plastic and the plastic was left extending beyond the wood. This problem was never solved and wood and plastic laminates were finally abandon.
A Log/Log rule was produced and Professor Middlemiss was again hired to produce a Log/Log manual. The copyright was to W. J. Boos, 1946. Eventually both Middlemiss manuals were combined and became the Trig Log Log.
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