Cutting to Kill

oil, standard, letters, business, dealers, dealer and company

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The screw was turned, Mr. Rice affirms, his rate being raised fifty per cent. in five days.

Rice carried on his fight for a market in the most aggressive way, and everywhere he met disastrous competition. In 1892 he published a large pamphlet of documents illustrating Standard methods, in which he included citations from some seventy letters from dealers in Texas, received by him between 1881 and 1889, showing the kind of competition his oil met there from the Waters-Pierce Oil Company, the Standard's Texas agents. A dozen sentences, from as many different towns, will show the character of them all: Mr. Rice claims, in his preface to the collection of letters here quoted from, that he has hundreds of similar ones from different states in the Union, and the writer asked to examine them. The package of documents submitted in reply to this. request was made up literally of hundreds of letters. They came from twelve different states, and show everywhere the same competitive method—cutting to kill. One thing very noticeable in these letters is the indignation of the dealers at the Standard methods of securing trade. They resent threats. They complain that the Standard agents "nose" about their premises, that they ask impudent questions, and that they generally make the trade disgusting and humiliating. In Mis sissippi, in the eighties, the indignation of the small dealers against Chess, Carley and Company was so strong that they formed associations binding themselves not to deal with them.

These same tactics have been kept up in the Southwest ever since. A letter, dated April 28, 1891, from the vice president of the Waters-Pierce Oil Company, A. M. Finlay, to his agent at Dallas, Texas, says bluntly: "We want to make the prices at Dallas and in the neighbourhood on Brilliant and water-white oil, that will prevent Clem (an independent dealer) from doing any business." And Mr. Finlay adds: "Hope you will make it a point to be present at the next meet ing of the city council, to-morrow night, and do everything possible to prevent granting a permit to build within the city limits, unless building similar to ours is constructed, for it would not be fair to us to allow someone else to put up con structions for the storage of oil, when they had compelled us to put up such an expensive building as we have."

Mr. Rice is not the only independent oil dealer who has produced similar testimony. Mr. Teagle and Mr. Shull, in Ohio, have furnished considerable. "The reason we quit tak ing your oil is this," wrote a Kansas dealer to Scofield, Shur mer and Teagle, in 1896: "The Standard Oil Company noti fied us that if we continued handling your oil they would cut the oil to ten cents retail, and that we could not afford to do, and for that reason we are forced to take their oil or do busi ness for nothing or at a loss." "The Standard agent has re peatedly told me that if I continued buying oil and gasoline from your wagon," wrote an Ohio dealer to the same firm in 1897, "they would have it retailed here for less than I could buy. I paid no attention to him, but yesterday their agent was here and asked me decidedly if I would continue buying oil and gasoline from your wagon. I told him I would do so; then he went and made arrangements with the dealers that handle their oil and gasoline to retail it for seven cents." Mr. Shull summed up his testimony before the same com mittee to which Mr. Teagle gave the above, by declaring: "You take $ro,000 and go into the business and I will guaran tee you won't be in business ninety days. Their motto is that anybody going into the oil business in opposition to them they will make life a burden to him. That is about as near as you can get to it." Considerable testimony of the same sort of practices was offered in the recent "hearing before the Industrial Commis sion," most of it general in character. The most significant special case was offered by Mr. Westgate, the treasurer of the American Oil Works, an independent refinery of Titus ville, Pennsylvania.

The American Oil Works, it seems, were in 1894 shipping oil called "Sunlight" in barrels to South Bend, Washington.

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