Pipelines and the Producers' Attack on Standard Oil, 1878-1880
BY THE end of 1877 Standard Oil seemed to have a clear field in consolidating its predominant position in refining. The trunk line railroads were its allies, and Standard-controlled pipelines served the railroads. The only major antagonists still in a position to upset this picture were the producers, and they needed transportation and refining facilities to offer a serious challenge. The Empire Line had offered these resources, but now its facilities were added to those of Standard Oil. A dwindling number of independent refiners and exporters, chiefly in New York, still provided the producers with a market for crude outside the Standard Oil alliance, but their survival and the producers' deliverance from a dependence on the alliance similar to that of the railroads did not seem likely.
During the next two years the producers probed desperately for weak spots in Standard Oil's armor. They sought access to the seaboard by pipeline, public policies which would offset the advantages of the oil alliance in transportation, and the creation of a public opinion hostile to that group.
The Bradford field in McKean County, close to the New York State line, had developed rapidly since 1875. The hilly, wooded tract of