The story of his life was one that appealed to native Americans and immigrants of the lower economic levels, for, as told in his autobiography, it was a story of "rags to riches." Born in an ancient stone house in North Wales in 1846, he emigrated in steerage to America at the age of three. The family, including seven children, settled in Lewis County, New York, where the father worked in the stone quarries, as a stone mason, and as a farmer. Sam started to work at ten years old; at fourteen he was working in a saw mill twelve hours a day. A few years later lie left home for the oil fields around Titusville, Pennsylvania.
Jones had been working on improvements for oil well machinery. After Standard Oil declared lack of interest in his patents, he established his own factory, the Acme Sticker Rod Company, to manufacture clasp joint couplings, pull-rods, combination clamp stirrups, and line pumping jacks. His entry into modern industry brought him a fortune and a social awakening. When swarms of men sought work at his factory, he met for the first time a different kind of man, piteous in his appeal and groveling in his feeling of inferiority before employer and boss. This Jones could not stomach. He immediately adopted as his motto: "The Business of this shop is to make men; the making of money is only air incidental detail." He "ignored the sacred rules of business," and posted only one rule for himself and his industry, "Therefore, whatsoever things ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them." His attempt to run his shop according to this precept won for him the sobriquet, "Golden Rule" Jones.
He determined to set up a shop without "rules" or "bosses"; he established the eight-hour day and forty-eight-hour week, while other plants were working ten and twelve hours for six days; no child labor was permitted, and no "piece-work" or "piece price" plan; overtime was abolished to allow for the employment of more men; there were no timekeepers, no timeclock, and no "ringing in" (each man kept his own time); a weeks vacation with pay was granted to every worker; every man with the company a year got a minimum of twelve dollars a week, and at Christmas a bonus of five per cent of the years salary was given. Outings and picnics were enjoyed by the employees and their families.
Jones encouraged music, and supported the organization of a chorus and a band by his workers. At the corner of Segur and Field Avenues lie converted a lot into Golden Rule Park and Playground. Here on Sunday afternoons he sponsored concerts and presented noted speakers. With the help of his sister Ellen, he established Golden Rule House as a community center, and here a kindergarten was established. Over the shop he opened Golden Rule Hall for club and social meetings. Here to he furnished the noon meal to his workers at fifteen cents. A co-operative insurance program was inaugurated in which employees and the factory established a fund to pay sickness arid injury benefits, the workers managing the fund and making rules for distribution. In 1901 Jones established a profit-sharing system by which the employees became stockholders. Finally, shortly before his death, Jones created the Golden Rule Trust Fund which is used to pay insurance to families of the workers. He encouraged his men to unionize, and marched with them in Labor Day parades.