Master Rule Mfg. Co.

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This ad for the Master Rule Mfg. Co. dates from 1919 when the company was located at 841 E. 136th St., which is only a few doors east of the sign above at 815 E. 136th St. It also indicates Master Rule's origins in the earlier Dahl Mfg. Co.

In 1907 the inventor, Albert Dahl, secured US patent 870,940 for a Folding Step Ladder. His application began, "Be it known that I, ALBERT DAHL, a subject of the Czar of Russia, and a resident of the city of New York, borough of Manhattan, in the county and State of New York, have invented a new and Improved Folding Step-Ladder, of which the following is a full, clear, and exact description. The object of the invention is to provide a new and improved folding step ladder, for use by painters, interior decorators and other persons, and capable of being folded into a comparatively small package to be conveniently carried from one place to another, and also of being readily extended for its legitimate use."

Scientific American, 16 May 1908, pg. 356, found the Dahl step ladder indispensable: "Painters and paper hangers often find it necessary to use a step ladder on a stairway or in some other inconvenient place, where the tread part of the ladder must be set on a different level from the legs. In such conditions a folding ladder, like the one here illustrated, would be found indispensable. ... The inventor of this folding ladder is Mr. Albert Dahl, of 302 West 144th Street, New York City."

Dahl formed a company called Dahl's Folding Stepladder Co. in 1909, but the name changed to the Dahl Manufacturing Co. shortly after. This company was announced in American Artisan and Hardware Record 13 Nov. 1909, pg. 20, as follows, "The Dahl Manufacturing Company, New York City, has been incorporated with a capital of $50,000, to manufacture sheet metal shelves, folding step-ladders, etc. The incorporators are: Albert Dahl, William Schafer and Louis T. Valentine, all of New York City."

Another Albert Dahl patent was US 930,734 granted 10 August 1909 for Sheet-Metal Shelf and Brackets. In this application he again identified himself as "a subject of the Czar of Russia, and a resident of the city of New York, borough of Manhattan, in the county and State of New York."

In 1910 Hardware Dealers' Magazine 1 March 1910, pg. 587, described the Dahl products in these terms, "Dahl Mfg. Co., 156 Fifth avenue, New York City, are placing on the market 'Dahl's' Folding Metal Shelves, illustrated. They are made of sheet metal, white enameled, baked, and will not rust. They are so constructed with brackets as to fold flat, and are provided with screw holes and flanges, which are set apart 16 inches in all sizes, to screw into studs in the wall. ..." This ad for Dahl's shelving products appeared in The Architectural Record, November 1910. That same year a notice in the New York Times, 7 August 1910, pg. C15, seemed to be offering the company for sale: "On account of ill-health of our present manager and insufficient cash to manufacture goods and fill orders promptly there is now a chance for a Christian gentleman with a few thousand dollars to take hold of management of factory and sales force; our goods are patented, sold to department stores and building trade; the demands and profits are large. DAHL MFG. Co., 511 West 21st St. 'Phone 835-Chelsea."

A year later American Carpenter and Builder, 1 Sep. 1911, pg. 104, noted that Dahl, with offices now at 1 East 42nd St., was manufacturing the folding ruler called the Dahl Master Slide Rule, "Carpenters, builders, glaziers, shademen, plumbers, in fact any one in the building trades that ever has use for a folding rule, should be interested in the Dahl Master Slide Rule, made by the Dahl Mfg. Co., 1 East 42nd St., New York. This rule is illustrated herewith, right side up, ready for inside measurement. The arrow indicates the exact inside dimensions. As can be seen this rule is particularly desirable for measuring the inside dimensions of doors, window trim, etc. When closed, the rule measures 8 inches. ... The Dahl Mfg. Co. also manufactures a full line of white finish sheet metal cabinets and metal shelving. ..."

Albert Dahl, himself, was not listed in New York city directories after 1911. Possibly, he died around this time. Meanwhile, the Dahl Mfg. Co. had been taken over by two primary officers, John A. Benson (1868/69-?) and Carl Magnus Nicholson (1873-1943). By 1918 the company had relocated to 136th St. in the Bronx, and in 1919 the company name changed to Master Rule Mfg. Co. Apparently manufacture from this point forward concentrated on the folding rulers, as seen in this ad from American Builder, 1925.

Directories list Master Rule Mfg. Co. at 815 E. 136th Street from 1925 to 1946. In 1947 they relocated to White Plains, Westchester County, then in 1950 to Middletown, NY, in Orange County. The Manhattan telephone directory listed Master Rule Mfg. Co. at 40 Mulberry St., Middletown, from 1953 through 1979.

Both John A. Benson and Carl M. Nicholson were immigrants from Sweden. In 1900 Benson filed an application for a passport where he said that he was born 24 December 1868 in Bjorkeslund, Sweden, and that he had immigrated to the U. S. in 1887. In 1900 Benson identified himself as a carpenter and builder, and he was listed in New York city directories as early as 1892 as a carpenter in business with his brother, Alfred Benson. The business was call Benson Bros., and was located for many years at 2471 8th Avenue near 132nd St.

In 1904 Carl M. Nicholson filed an application for a passport where he said that he was born 10 January 1873 in Vimmerby, Sweden, that he had immigrated to the U. S. in 1888, and that he became a naturalized citizen in 1894 in Topeka, Kansas. Initially Nicholson was listed in New York city directories as a real estate operator. In 1911 he and John A. Benson were listed at 1 E. 42nd St., which became the address of Dahl Mfg. Co. in 1912. Benson was listed as an officer at Master Rule Mfg. Co. only through 1920.

Nicholson's death notice in the New York Times, 9 May 1943, pg. 40, read, "Ossining, N.Y., May 9 - Carl M. Nicholson, president of the Master Rule Manufacturing Company, 815 East 136th Street, the Bronx, died here today at his home, 15 Brookville Avenue, after an illness of four years, at the age of 70. He was a trustee of the Swedish Methodist Church, 150 East Sixty-second Street, New York, and a former president of the board of the Bethel Swedish Home in Ossining. He leaves a widow, Olga; a son, Ragnar, and four daughters, Mrs. Juliet Miller, Mrs. Gunhild Rozell, Mrs. Geraldine Bellows and Mrs. Eleanor Willcox."

Ragnar C. Nicholson (1912-1989) continued the business after his father's death.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Grutchfield