David Rance collects slide rules, those analog calculating devices that became obsolete when electronic pocket calculators hit the market in the early 1970s. He hopes someone will know something about a rare one from a refinery supply company.
Rance contacted the American Oil & Gas Historical Society to see if anyone knows more about a recent addition to his private collection. Born in England, he worked in the petroleum industry for 25 years before moving to “the main bulb-growing area of The Netherlands.”
David’s Calculating Sticks website offers historical insights about the calculating devices, including details on the more than 550 slide rules in his collection. In August 2016, he emailed images of his 10-inch wooden slide rule, which has “Refinery Supply Company” and “AC-ME Pocket Calculator” printed on its back.
“Sadly, like the one in the MIT collection, it came without any documentation and despite my best efforts, I still know very little about its provenance,” he wrote, referring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s museum.
The slide rule is “the iconic instrument of the engineering profession,” according to the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Every significant human-built structure of the past 150 years has involved its use.” Among the world’s top science and engineering universities, MIT was founded in 1861 – just two years after the first U.S. commercial oil well launched the oil and gas industry.
Rance believes his ruler was used in the petroleum industry for “orifice meters,” he says. “With the slide rule it is possible to calculate gas flows directly from static pressure, differential pressure and orifice coefficient settings.”
The supplier, the Refinery Supply Company of Tulsa (and Dallas), “appears to have a rich history as a major supplier/reseller, notes Rance. “I believe ‘AC-ME’ refers to the aptly named ‘AC-CURATE ME-ASUREMENT PRECISION INSTRUMENTS’ Company, possibly once based in Piqua, Ohio,” he adds. Refinery Supply Company of Tulsa was established in 1923 – but today cannot locate information about its old slide rule.
“Can the AOGHS help? From your archives or anyone associated with society, can you tell me anything about this AC-ME pocket calculator, the Refinery Supply Company or the AC-CURATE ME-ASUREMENT PRECISION INSTRUMENTS Company?”
Adding to the mystery is that the slide rule was made in Germany, Rance says. “A more natural choice would have been one of excellent U.S.-based slide rule makers such as Keuffel & Esser Company. So it begs the question, why would a Tulsa-based supplier import such an item?
“I look forward to hearing anything your knowledgeable AOGHS community can tell me about my rather mysterious AC-ME Pocket Calculator.”
Comment below if you would like to share some information about this slide rule.
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Citation Information – Article Title: “Petroleum Objects & Oilfield Artifacts.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/oil-almanac/petroleum-objects-oilfield-artifacts. Last Updated: December 5, 2019. Original Published Date: August 23, 2016.