Monday, February 27, 2023

100 years of Ruby Fluid

I was doing a bit of soldering and it suddenly occurred to me that my tin of Rubyfluid was older than some of my friends. It's dented yellow 4 oz tin that would fit inside a coffee cup. I got more curious and I found a few citations and I began doing research in earnest.  

I learned that Rubyfluid was originally a product of  the Ruby Chemical Company which was founded on November 21st, 1907 making it over 115 years old. [SOURCE]  My tin in particular is at least 40 years old. It's a common brand of soldering flux both in liquid and paste forms for use on wiring, stained glass, plumbing, and roofing, to name just a few. Older ads refer to it as a zinc chloride flux. But that may not be the modern formulation.  It's decent stuff and my dingy tin can attest to the shelf life.

1907 was before WWI, not a particularly notable year in radio. Marconi began a regular transatlantic radio-telegraph service literally a month earlier. It was a year after Reginald Fessenden had his famous Christmas broadcast. Lee de Forest was making experimental broadcasts from his lab in New York. It's very likely that some of the great founders of radio broadcasting personally used Ruby Fluid, just not from my little tin. 

 The actual patent for this soldering compound was filed in April 18th 1907. [SOURCE] It was granted on January 28th 1908. It was Orval Hoover's only patent. In the absence of a formal product or company history I put together a short timeline.


1907 - Ruby Chemical Co. is founded. 

1908 Telephony Illustrated Journal, lists Chas. H. Hoover as Sales Manager located at Revere House in Chicago.  

The Iron Age describes an Ohio Hardware show in February attended by Ruby Chemical

RUBY CHEMICAL COMPANY, Johnstown, Ohio: Ruby Soldering Compound. Represented by D. L. Palmer and O. C. Hoover. ST. LOUIS CORDAGE COMPANY, St. Louis, Mo.: Mound City Binder Twine, Rope and Fodder Yarn. Represented by Will Cumback.

Chemical Engineer Monthly, lists patent 877,505 as a "soldering compound" by Orval.C. Hoover in a list of "recent inventions."  It describes it as below. Interesting to note that originally cochineal was used to dye it red.

"The compound consists of a solution of zinc in hydrochloric acid, neutralized by the addition of borax, rosin, and ammonium chloride, and containing also  cochineal, alcohol, and glycerin."
Chemical Abstracts Lists the formula somewhat more formally:

Orval C. Hoover, Johnstown, O. A soldering compound consisting of a solution of zinc in HCl, neutralized by the addition of borax, rosin and NH Cl and containing also cochineal, alcohol, and glycerol.
Columbus City Directory lists O.C. Hoover as a photographer located at 351 N. Washington Ave.

The Metal Worker reports for formation of Ruby Fluid in the Current Notes of the Trades column:

THE RUBY CHEMICAL COMPANY, Johnstown, Ohio, which was recently incorporated, has placed on the market a soldering and tinning fluid, invented by Orval C. Hoover, the secretary of the company

1909 - Telephony Magazine describes the new non-corrosive soldering flux in a full page piece also cites a new address at 54 North Clark St., Chicago.

.....An examination of the metallic fountain brush which forms at the same time a convenient vessel for holding, and handy instrument for applying the new flux, "Ruby Fluid," is enough to silence anyone who quotes the first two objections. When the brush is pushed tightly into the tube it forms a close-fitting stopper, so that it can be laid on a bench, or swung at the belt, by the hook shown in the illustration, without danger of leakage. Yet a pull on the bristles extends the brush to provide for a well regulated flow of the liquid, so that it can be lightly spread over just the spots where it will be useful...

1911 - The Automobile Trade Directory lists Ruby Chemical in a list of 38 makers of soldering flux. The list include Nokorode, which still exists and another 36 which do not.

1912 The Cincinnati Court Index, Electric Railway Journal  and other sources report Ruby Chemical relocating its offices

Ruby Chemical Company, Johnstown, Ohio, owing to the increase in its business, has been compelled to seek new quarters to better its business and shipping facilities, and its headquarters are now located at 157 West State Street, Columbus, Ohio. The company manufactures Ruby Fluid and Red Letter soldering flux. The company's main laboratory was at Johnstown, Ohio

The Canning Trade also describes the new offices but also their new Canadian operation:

They are also now building a Canadian factory at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for the convenience of their Canadian customers. The firm name in Canada is The Canadian Ruby Chemical Co., Ltd., 603 Builders' Exchange, Winnipeg, Man., Canada.

1913 - Columbus City Directory, Lists Ruby Chemical Co. staff: Fred H. Perfect as Mgr, Orval C. Hoover as "supt." at 157 W. State.

1916 - Industrial Commission of Ohio. reports business statics including the employee count at Ruby Chemical as a total of 6.

1918 - Columbus City Directory, Lists Orval C. Hoover as the VP of The Ruby Chemical Co. and a photographer located at 351 N. Washington Ave H2409 Indianola Av.

1919 - Hardware Review publishes a lengthy review under new products. Ads display wooden boxes.

     The Ruby fluid is a non-explosive, non-poisonous and non-corrosive fluid compound, designed as a flux for soldering and tinning on all metals without destroying, damaging or tarnishing either the metal or the coating, and is a complete substitute for acids, zinc chloride, salmoniac and other mixtures commonly used as a flux. Is is in every way a practical commercial product, the quality of which is not affected by age, temperature or exposure in open vessels.
     The claim of the manufacturer, the Ruby Chemical Co., of Columbus O., is supported by the fact that they ship it in tin wood jacketed shipping cans, ready for use.  It is also used from their It is also used from their "Ruby Fluid Fountain Brush," a receptacle made from tin tubing, in a convenient form to enable electricians or roofers to carry the fluid in their pocket or belt.
     Experiments in chemistry and metallurgy have proved that it is not necessary to "cut" or dissolve the surface of metals in order to cause solder of tinning metals to unite with them; also that metals coated with acids, or zinc chloride or other corrosive mixtures, and heated to the high temperatures necessary to fuse the solder or tin, will absorb certain elements which cause rust to form on iron and steel and verdigris on brass and copper, even though apparently washed and polished out.
     By special methods of filtration and distilling employed by the manufacturer of Ruby Fluid, these poisonous elements are entirely separated from the elements necessary in a perfect soldering flux, only the essential  properties being retained, which are neither poisonous nor corrosive. Therefore metals on which Ruby Fluid has been used are not affected with rust or tarnish.
     The Ruby Fluid flux appeals to the mechanic because it has no fumes, either poisonous or otherwise.  It is not poisonous to the hands or person. It is quick acting and shipped ready for use, and leaves the finished product clean and without tarnish.
     It appeals to the manufacturer because it makes a tight joint with a very thin film of solder, thus saving many times its cost in solder alone.  It is harmless to the finest of metal, thus avoiding the necessity of washing or buffing out the work, at a waste of time. When used in soldering machines it does not gum, and when used by hand it will not "pit" or "eat" the coppers, and will retain the tinning much longer than any other flux. Ruby Fluid flux has been on the market for the last nine years. It's fame among brass bed makers, art glass workers, electricians, auto factories, and sheet metal workers is unequaled.

1921 EMF Electrical Year Book lists both Ruby Chemical and Ruby Fluid Alphabetically:

RUBY CHEMICAL CO., THE -  68-70 McDowell, Columbus, Ohio. Manufacturer of soldering flux. Business established 1909. President, Dr. A. P. Taylor; vice president, H. A. Bishop; secretary, treasurer and general manager, Fred H. Perfect.  

RUBYFLUID.-Trade name for soldering flux manufactured by the Ruby Chemical Co., 68-70 McDowell, Columbus 8, Ohio

1941 - RadioCraft Magazine lists Ruby Chemical at the address 68 -70 McDowell St., Columbus, Ohio, "Rubyfluid " as a maker of solder, flux and solder paste.

Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office lists serial 441,747 as a patent filed in March 20th for Ruby's stainless steel soldering fluid. They claim use since June 1937.

1946 - Radio Magazine -  Ads display large tins with screw caps. But the address is now 61 McDowell Street, Columbus, OH.

1951 - Hardware Age, advertisement list Ruby Checmical is listed at 56 McDowell Street.

1956  Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office lists registration 144,038 filed by Fred H. Perfect for a Rubyfluid logo.

1971 World Aviation Directory lists the Ruby Chemical Co at 68-70 McDowell St. , Columbus , Ohio 43216 ( Tel . 614 221-3055) and Dale F. Baker General Manager.

1975 - Directory of Ohio Manufacturers lists the same address as above for Ruby Chemical as in 1971 but Dale F. Baker now as treasurer.

2010 - Superior Flux purchases Ruby Chemical, the makers of RubyFluid Liquid Flux and RubyFluid Paste Flux, located at 6615 Parkland Blvd. Cleveland, OH 44139


I did find one anachronistic reference to Ruby Chemical (above).  All reputable sources cite the formation of the Ruby Chemical company as 1907.  But I found another, earlier reference in a July 1891 issue of Pharmaceutical Era.  It's in st. Louis, MO instead of Johnstown, OH. Disambiguation is difficult on 100+ year old citations but I found a J. C. Grant Chemical Company which moved to East St. Louis from Chicago in 1902 at the same address. They're separated from each other at that address by at least a decade, and to our Ruby Chemical by some 400 miles.

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