Home >> History Of Standard Oil >> A Modern War For to An Unholy Alliance >> The Breaking up of_P1

The Breaking up of the Trust

company, oil, rockefeller, standard, committee, business, companies, pratt, charles and south

Page: 1 2 3 4 5

THE BREAKING UP OF THE TRUST no characteristic of Mr. Rockefeller and his great corporation which from the beginning had been more exasperating to the oil world than the se crecy with which operations were conducted. The plan of the South Improvement Company had only been re vealed to those who signed an agreement to keep secret all transactions they might have with it. The purchase in 1874 and 1875 by the Standard Oil Company of Lockhart, Frew and Company of Pittsburg, of Warden, Frew and Company of Philadelphia, and of Charles Pratt and Company of New York was so thoroughly concealed that Mr. Rockefeller, five years after it occurred, dared make an affidavit that it had never occurred ! * Men who entered into running arrangements with Mr. Rockefeller were cautioned "not to tell their wives," and correspondence between them and the Standard Oil Company was carried on under assumed names! Whenever the subject of the relations between the various companies came up in a lawsuit or an investigation, a candid and straightforward answer was always avoided by both Mr. Rockefeller and the men known to be associated with him in some way. For instance, in 1879, when H. H. Rogers was before the Hep burn Committee, an effort was made to find out what rela tion the firm of Charles Pratt and Company, of which he was a member, sustained to the Standard Oil Company. Mr. Rogers's testimony was a masterpiece of good-natured eva sion,* and all that the examiners could get, though they re turned again and again to the inquiry, was that Charles Pratt and Company worked "in harmony" with the Standard Oil Company.

When ex-Governor Nash of Ohio was investigating the relations of the Cleveland and Marietta Railroad and the National Transit Company, try his best he could not find out anything definite. In his report Mr. Nash said: "I have pur posely referred to the parties who entered into this arrange ment with Receiver Pease and his freight agent, J. E. Terry, as the parties represented by O'Day and Scheide, for the rea son that I have not been able to ascertain who or what the parties are." That they were officers of the National Transit Company he had evidence, but what relation had the National Transit Company to the Standard Oil Company? Was it a part of it? Mr. Nash was unable to find from Mr. O'Day, closely as he might question him.t In the Buffalo case, when John D. Rockefeller was on the stand, he was put through a questioning in regard to the rela tions of the persons concerned in the suit to the Standard Oil Trust, whose existence he admitted. Mr. Rockefeller answered all the questions his lawyers would allow, but at the end the plaintiffs had gained little or nothing, and there was a strong impression, from the attitude of his lawyers rather than from that of Mr. Rockefeller, that an effort was making to conceal the nature of the agreement or charter or whatever it was under which the companies involved were working. Naturally enough this attitude inspired resentment and aggravated the feeling that this secrecy meant evil-doing. When the epidemic of trust investigation broke out in i888, and the Standard Oil Trust was brought up for examination, there was a general public demand to have the matter cleared up. The first inves

tigation of importance took place in February, 1888, in New York City, and by the direction of the Senate of New York State. A list of more than a score of trusts was in the hands of the committee, and, with the limited time at their disposal, it was certain that they could not look into more than half a dozen. There seems to have been no hesitation about including the Standard Oil Trust. "This is the original trust," wrote the committee. "Its success has been the incentive to the formation of all other trusts or combinations. It is the type of a system which has spread like a disease through the commercial sys tem of this country." There were several things the committee wanted to know about the Standard Oil Trust, and its_ resident was summoned for examination. ( ) What was it? Was it an organisation recognised by any law of the land? Long ago men had decided that partnerships, corporations, companies, in which men united to do business, must be regulated by law and subjected to a certain amount of publicity, if the public good was to be protected. Was the Standard Oil Trust within or without the law? (2) By the testimony of its own members, in other years the Standard Combination controlled from eighty to ninety per cent. of the oil business of the country. Was this supremacy due in any measure to special privileges, such as discrimina tion in railroad rates? (3) Was its power used to manipulate production and prices, and to prevent men outside entering the oil business? It was to learn these things that the commission summoned Mr. Rockefeller. Flanked by Joseph H. Choate, present Ambassador to the Court of King Edward and the most emi nent lawyer of the day, and S. C. T. Dodd, a no less able if a less well-known lawyer, Mr. Rockefeller submitted him self to his questioners. In no case where he has appeared on the stand can his skill as a witness be studied to better advan tage. With a wealth of polite phrases—"You are very good," "I beg with all respect"—Mr. Rockefeller bowed himself to the will of the committee. With an air of eager frankness he told them nothing he did not wish them to know. The com mittee had a desire to begin at the beginning. It evidently had heard that a short-lived organisation, called the South Im provement Company, had given Mr. Rockefeller his whip hand in the oil business as far back as 1872, enabling him in three months' time to raise his daily capacity as a refiner from r,soo to ro,000 barrels, and so they asked Mr. Rockefeller: Q. There was such a company ? A. I have heard of such a company. Q. Were you not in it ? A. I was not.* It is a perfectly well-known fact that Mr. Rockefeller owned 18o shares in the South Improvement Company, of which he was a director; that, when a public uprising caused the de struction of the company, he was one of the two men who tried to save it; also that the Standard Oil Company of Ohio was the only concern which profited by the short-lived con spiracy.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5