Standard Oil Rise and Fall

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Shortly before the Civil War, Rockefeller and a partner established a shipping company in Cleveland, Ohio. The company made much money during the war. In 1863, he and his partner invested in another business that refined crude oil from Pennsylvania into kerosene for illuminating lamps.By 1870, Rockefeller and new partners were operating two oil refineries in Cleveland, then the major oil refining center of the country. The partners incorporated (under a charter issued by the state of Ohio) and called their business the Standard Oil Company.To give Standard Oil an edge over its competitors, Rockefeller secretly arranged for discounted shipping rates from railroads. The railroads carried crude oil to Standard's refineries in Cleveland and kerosene to the big city markets. Many argued that as "common carriers" railroads should not discriminate in their shipping charges. But small businesses and farmers were often forced to pay higher rates than big shippers like Standard Oil.The oil industry in the late 1800s often experienced sudden booms and busts, which led to wildly fluctuating prices and price wars among the refiners. More than anything else, Rockefeller wanted to control the unpredictable oil market to make his profits more dependable.In 1871, Rockefeller helped form a secret alliance of railroads and refiners. They planned to control freight rates and oil prices by cooperating with one another. The deal collapsed when the railroads backed out. But before this happened, Rockefeller used the threat of this deal to intimidate more than 20 Cleveland refiners to sell out to Standard Oil at bargain prices. When the so-called "Cleveland Massacre" ended in March 1872, Standard controlled 25 percent of the U.S. oil industry.Rockefeller saw Standard Oil's takeover of the Cleveland refiners as inevitable. He said it illustrated "the battle of the new idea of cooperation against competition." In his mind, large industrial combinations, more commonly known as...
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