DOMINANCE IN THE OIL INDUSTRY: STANDARD OIL FROM 1865 TO 1911
Leslie D. Manns
The discovery of oil at Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859 would, within a few short years, result in the creation of a highly competitive, highly unstable petroleum industry in the United States. Out of this chaotic economic environment would rise one of the greatest industrial combinations the world has ever known: the Standard Oil Trust. From its ancestor's modest beginnings in 1863 until its court-ordered dissolution in 1911, Standard Oil provides an excellent case study of how a virtual monopoly was created and sustained.
In examining the rise of Standard Oil to a position of unquestioned dominance in the petroleum industry, one is struck by the deep divisions of interpretation of the facts that exist. The period in which Standard came to dominate the industry is known for populist hatred of big business, especially perceived monopolies and "yellow journalism." In such an environment it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Even more disinterested observers arrive at radically different conclusions when examining the operations of the Standard Oil Trust.1
In its brief of the facts filed in 1909, the United States Department of Justice averred that Standard had engaged in the following methods to continue the monopoly and restrain interstate commerce:
Rebates, preferences, and other discriminatory practices in favor of the combination by railroad companies; restraint and monopolization by control of pipe lines, and unfair practices against competing pipe lines; contracts with competitors in restraint of trade; unfair methods of competition, such as local price cutting at the points where necessary to suppress