CONCLUSION men in either the political or industrial life of this country can point to an achievement carried out in more exact accord with its first conception than John D. Rockefeller, for both in purpose and methods the Standard Oil Company is and always has been a form of the South Improvement Company, by which Mr. Rockefeller first attracted general attention in the oil industry. The origi nal scheme has suffered many modifications. Its most offensive feature, the drawback on other people's shipments, has been cut off. Nevertheless, to-day, as at the start, the purpose of the Standard Oil Company is the purpose of the South Im provement Company—the regulation of the price of crude and refined oil by the control of the output; and the chief means for sustaining this purpose is still that of the original scheme—a control of oil transportation giving special privi leges in rates.
It is now thirty-two years since Mr. Rockefeller applied the fruitful idea of the South Improvement Company to the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, a prosperous oil refinery of Cleveland, with a capital of $1,000,000 and a daily capacity for handling i,5oo barrels of crude oil. And what have we as a result? What is the Standard Oil Company to-day? First, what is its organisation? It is no longer a trust. As we have seen, the trust was obliged to liquidate in 1892. It became a "trust in liquidation," and there it remained for some five years. It seemed to have come into a state of stationary liquidation, for at the end of 1892 477,881 shares were uncancelled; at the end of 1896 the same number were out. The situation of the great corporation was indeed curious. There began to be com ments on it, for complications arose—one over taxes. In 1893 an auditor in Ohio tried to collect taxes on 225 shares of the Standard Oil Trust. The owner refused to pay and took the case into court. He won it. The Standard Oil Trust is an unlawful organisation, said the court. Its certificates have no validity. It would seem strange that a certificate which was void to all purpose would still be valid as to taxable pur poses.* Here was an anomaly indeed. The certificates were drawing big quarterly dividends, had a big market value, but were illegal. Owners of small certificates naturally refused to exchange. In 1897 it took 194% shares in the Standard Oil Trust to bring back one share in each of the twenty com panies. Thus one share in the Standard Oil Company of Ohio
was worth twenty-seven shares in the Standard Oil Trust. If a man owned twenty-five shares he got only fractional parts of a share in each company. On these fractional parts he received no dividends, it not being considered practical to consider such small sums. To raise his twenty-five shares to 194, and so secure dividends, took a good sum of money, since Standard Oil Trust shares were worth at least 340 then. But why should he trouble? He received his quarterly divi dends promptly, and they were large! He paid no taxes, for his stock was illegal! The trustees were not pushing him to liquidate. Besides, it was doubtful if they could do anything. Joseph Choate said they could not. On May 3, 1894, before the attorney-general of New York, in an application for the forfeiture of the charter of the Standard Oil Company of New York, Mr. Choate said: "I happen to own mo shares in the Standard Oil Trust, and I have never gone forward and claimed my aliquot share. Why not? Because I would get ten in one company, and ten in another company, and two and three-fifths in another company.
"There is no power that this company can exercise to com pel me and other indifferent certificate holders, if you please, to come forward and convert our trust certificates." If there was a way, the trustees were indifferent to it. They evidently were contented to let things alone. It is quite possi ble that they would have been holding to-day 477,881 uncan celled shares of Standard Oil Trust if it had not been for the irrepressible George Rice. Since October, 1892, Mr. Rice had held a Standard Oil Trust certificate for six shares. He had never cancelled it. He had received no invitation to do so. He received his dividends regularly on it. Later, he purchased one share, called "assignment of legal title"—the new form given the trust certificate—and on this he received dividends, exactly as on the original trust certificate. Finally Mr. Rice made up his mind, without knowing any of the facts of the liquidation outlined above, that there was no intention to carry out the dissolution, that some means of evasion had been de vised, and he proposed to find out what it was.