The Story of a Great Monopoly

"America has the proud satisfaction of having furnished the world with the greatest, wisest, and meanest monopoly known to history."

H.L. Taylor & Co., of Petrolia, had wells producing 1600 barrels of oil a day. Their tanks at the wells were full. They owned other tanks, to which they could get their oil only through the pipes which the Standard owned and operated as a common carrier. They applied to it for transportation, and were refused. The wells could not be shut down for fear of water, and so thousands of barrels of oil ran into the ground. The Standard carried its point, for after that the firm sold all their oil to it, always twenty-two to twenty-five cents a barrel below the market price. H. Caldwell was another producer who had flowing wells and empty tanks, which the Standard refused to connect, and who had to sell his oil to it at prices ranging from twelve and one fourth to eighteen and one half cents a barrel below the lowest market rate.

Lewis Emery, Jr., a producer of oil, was an owner in six different companies, all of which were denied transportation by the Standard, and forced to sell to it at its price. He said, "We go down to the office, and stand in a line, sometimes half a day; people in a line, reaching out into the street, sixty and seventy of us. When our turn comes, we go in and ask them to buy, and they graciously will take it." This was known in the trade as the "immediate shipment swindle." Sometimes the Standard, after buying the oil this way, would take away a small part of it, and refuse to pay for the rest till it was shipped, months later. As an immediate result of these manipulations, the price of oil began a steady decline from $1.30 to eighty cents a barrel, in the face of an increased demand unequaled in the history of the trade. In 1878 oil went down to seventy-eight and three fourths cents a barrel at the very time the shipments from the wells were 56,000 barrels a day, the largest ever made till that time. All this, as one of the largest producers testified, was because "we take our commodity to one buyer and accept the price he chooses to give us, without redress, with no right of appeal."

Hundreds and thousands of men have been ruined by these acts of the Standard and the railroads; whole communities have been rendered desperate, and the peace of Pennsylvania imperiled more than once. The thousands of men thrown out of employment in Pittsburg between 1872 and 1877 were actors in the Pittsburg tragedy of July, 1877. The oil producers, in their memorial to Governor Hartranft, August 15, 1878, for help declared that "the Standard and the railroad companies leave to the people, whose creatures they are, but two remedies,—an appeal for protection first to the law of the land, and next to the higher law of nature!"

The very intelligent and fair correspondent of the New York Sun, whom the Standard could not seduce, as it did the representative of another great New York daily, wrote from Titusville, Pa., November 4, 1878, "The fact is the State of Pennsylvania has had a narrow escape from an internal war, that would have required all its resources to control and check, and the danger is not over yet....Had certain men given the word there would have been an outbreak that contemplated the seizure of the railroads and running them, the capture and control of the United Pipe Line's [the Standard's] property, and in all probability the burning of all the property of the Standard Oil Company in the region. The men who would have done this, and may do it yet, are not laborers or tramps. They are men who believe in order and law, and have business to attend to."

Mr. B. B. Campbell, who described himself as the unfortunate owner of nearly a hundred producing wells, told a story before the supreme court of Pennsylvania that ought not to be uninteresting to the million of consumers of kerosene. One day, returning to his home at Parker, near Pittsburg, the centre of a great oil district, he found the citizens in a state of terrible excitement. The Standard, through its pipe line, had refused to run oil, unless sold to them, and then declared it could not buy, because the railroads could furnish it no cars in which to move away the oil. Hundreds of wells were stopped, to their great damage. Thousands more, whose owners were afraid to close them for fear of injury by salt water, were pumping the oil on the ground.

All the influence of a few leading men was hardly enough to prevent an outbreak and the destruction of railroad and pipe lines. Mr. Campbell telegraphed the railroad authorities, "The refusal of the Standard to run oil, unless sold upon immediate shipment, and of the railroads to furnish cars, has created such excitement here that the conservative citizens will not be able to control the peace, and I fear the scenes of last July will be repeated in an aggravated form." The interview that followed convinced the railroad men they had gone too far, and in a few hours afterwards hundreds of empty cars suddenly appeared at Parker, and for a week the railroad, which had said it could furnish no cars, took away from Parker fifty thousand barrels of oil a day!

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