Our museum is temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

Somers Bros. Ruler and Paper Cutter, Advertising Horlick's Malted Milk

Somers Bros. Ruler and Paper Cutter, Advertising Horlick's Malted Milk

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This yellow-coated tin combination rule and paper cutter has a 9" scale divided to eighths of an inch along one long edge. The other long edge is shaped into a tube, which may serve as a handle while cutting paper. The rule is marked: Compliments (/) of HORLICK'S FOOD Co (/) RACINE, WIS. It is also marked: HORLICK'S FOOD (/) IS THE BEST DIET (/) for INFANTS (/) and INVALIDS (/) &c. Advertising text also appears around the tube, including the information that 18 ounces of the product cost 75¢. The back of the rule is marked: SOMERS BROS. BROOKLYN, N.Y. Compare to MA.293320.2814.
William Horlick (1846–1936) and his brother, James, emigrated from England in 1869 and settled in Racine, Wis. In 1872 the men moved to Chicago, where they established Horlick's Food Company before moving the firm back to Racine in 1876. They worked on dried milk powders, leading to William's patent for the first malted milk powder in 1883. This product is the one advertised on this object, for use as a baby formula and to provide easily-digestible nutrition to nursing mothers, people with stomach problems, and the like.
Joseph L. and Guy A. Somers began manufacturing tin products in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1862. When a third brother, Daniel McLean, joined the firm in 1869, the business was renamed Somers Bros. It became known for lithographing designs onto tinware. In 1901 American Can Company took over the firm's operations. A three-acre factory building constructed in 1884 still stands. Richard S. Thain of Oak Park, Ill., patented the design for this combination ruler and paper cutter in 1885.
References: James Horlick and William Horlick, "Improvement in Concentrated Extracts for Food" (U.S. Patent 163,493 issued May 18, 1875); William Horlick, "Granulated Food for Infants and Process of Preparing the Same" (U.S. Patent 278,967 issued June 5, 1883); Wisconsin Historical Society, "'That's Meat and Drink to Me': Wisconsin's Malted Milk Story," 1996–2004, http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/museum/exhibits/horlicks/; Oak Clearing Farm and Museum, "Racine Time Line: Tid-Bits of History 1699–1899," 2000, http://www.racinehistory.com/timeline.htm; "Somers, Joseph L.," National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White and Company, 1922), xviii:85; "Daniel McL. Somers Dead," New York Times, August 30, 1912.
Currently not on view
Object Name
scale rule
date made
Horlick's Corporation
Somers Brothers
place made
United States: New York, Brooklyn
place distributed
United States: Wisconsin, Racine
Physical Description
tin (overall material)
overall: 1.2 cm x 24 cm x 4.5 cm; 15/32 in x 9 7/16 in x 1 25/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana
Advertising Devices
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Measuring & Mapping
Scale Rules
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object