In 1870, Rockefeller's firm became the Standard Oil Company, soon to be the world's most famous business name. Standard was an up-and-coming kind of business called a corporation. Corporate investors had special privileges, such as freedom from corporate debts. Critics would argue that investors, like railroaders, had special responsibilities, too.
Rockefeller, now 30, controlled about 29 percent of the private corporation's shares, dwarfing his five partners. He became president; his brother William, vice president; and Henry Flagler, secretary and treasurer. He also served on what was perhaps American business's first executive committee, a small group that made many decisions on behalf of the larger board of directors. At Rockefeller's insistence, Standard's officers drew no salaries at first. They made money only when the business did. [We did our day's work as we met it,… laying our foundations firmly,] Rockefeller would write in his memoirs. [None of us ever dreamed of the magnitude of what proved to be the later expansion.]
Tycoons such as Jay Gould secretly watered down the value of the stocks they issued. Standard did the opposite,