David Rance has collected a lot slide rules — analog calculating devices that became obsolete when hand-held electronic calculators gained widespread use in the early 1970s. He preserves among the largest “pocket calculator” collections in the world.

Since many of the devices he collected came from the petroleum industry, Rance emailed the American Oil & Gas Historical Society in August 2016. He thought AOGHS members (or website visitors) might have information about a refinery supply company’s slide rule.

Slide rule "pocket calculator" detail from collection of David Rance.

Before computers, the slide rule, a collectible pocket calculator.

Born in England, he worked in the petroleum industry for 25 years before moving to “the main bulb-growing area of The Netherlands.”

Refinery Supply Company

Rance emailed images of his 10-inch wooden slide rule, which has “Refinery Supply Company” and “AC-ME Pocket Calculator” printed on one side. A skilled academic researcher, his David’s Calculating Sticks website includes historical insights about calculating devices — with details about the more than 550 slide rules in his collection.

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The Refinery Supply Company calculator has posed a problem. “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 noted in his email to AOGHS, referring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s museum.

Refinery Supply Company old slide rule close-up.

The Refinery Supply Company of Tulsa and Dallas, “appears to have a rich history as a major supplier/reseller,” notes collector David Rance of the Netherlands.

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 U.S. petroleum industry. The student newspaper The Tech, “the first newspaper published on the web,” in 1884 provided a colorful account of Pennsylvania oilfield fire (see Oilfield Artillery fights Fires).

Rance’s ruler was used in the petroleum industry for “orifice meters,” he noted for AOGHS. “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 added.

Refinery Supply Company of Tulsa was established in 1923 — but there has been little more information about its 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 to share information about David Rance’s Refinery Supply Co. slide rule.

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2022 Bruce A. Wells.

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 3, 2021. Original Published Date: August 23, 2016.

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