Home >> History Of Standard Oil >> The Compromise Of to Witnesseth >> The Oil War of_P1

The Oil War of 1872

company, business, rate, south, cents, railroads, days and freight

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

THE OIL WAR OF 1872 not until after the middle of February, 1872, that the people of the Oil Regions heard anything of the plan which was being worked out for their "good." Then an uneasy 'rumour began running up and down the creek. Freight rates were going up. Now an advance in a man's freight bill may ruin his business ; more, it may mean the ruin of a region. Ru mour said that the new rate meant just this ; that is, that it more than covered the margin of profit in any branch of the oil business. The railroads were not going to apply the pro posed tariffs to everybody. They had agreed to give to company unheard of until now—the South Improvemen Company—a special rate considerably lower than the nev open rate. It was only a rumour and many people discredite( it. Why should the railroads ruin the Oil Regions to buil( up a company of outsiders? But facts began to be reported. Mr. Doane, the Clevelan( shipper already quoted, told how suddenly on the 22d of Feb ruary, without notice, his rate from the Oil Regions to Cleve land was put up from thirty-five cents a barrel to sixty-five cents, an advance of twenty-four dollars on a carload.* Mr. Josiah Lombard of the New York refining firm of Ayres, Lombard and Company was buying oil for his company at Oil City. Their refinery was running about 12,000 barrels a month. On the i9th of February the rate from Oil City to Buffalo, which had been forty cents a barrel, was raised to sixty-five cents, and a few days later the rate from Warren to New York was raised from eighty-seven cents to $2.14. Mr. Lombard was not aware of this change until his house in New York reported to him that the bills for freight were so heavy that they could not afford to ship and wanted to know what was the matter.t On the morning of February 26, 1872, the oil men read in their morning papers that the rise which had been threatening had come; moreover, that all members of the South Improve ment Company were exempt from the advance. At the news all oildom rushed into the streets. Nobody waited to find out his neighbour's opinion. On every lip there was but one word, and that was "conspiracy." In the vernacular of the region, it was evident that "a torpedo was filling for that scheme." In twenty-four hours after the announcement of the increase in freight rates a mass-meeting of 3,00o excited, gesticulat ing oil men was gathered in the opera house at Titusville.

Producers, brokers, refiners, drillers, pumpers were in the crowd. Their temper was shown by the mottoes on the ban ners which they carried: "Down with the conspirators"— "No compromise"—"Don't give up the ship!" Three days later as large a meeting was held at Oil City, its temper more warlike if possible; and so it went. They organised a Petro leum Producers' Union,* pledged themselves to reduce their production by starting—no—new wells for sixty days and by shutting down on Sundays, to sell no oil to any person known to be in the South Improvement Company, but to support the creek refiners and those elsewhere who had refused to go into the combination, to boycott the offending railroads, and to build .lines which_they would own and„control themselves. They sent a committee to the Legislature asking that the char ter of the South Improvement Company be repealed, and another to Congress demanding an investigation of the whole business on the ground that it was an interference with trade. They ordered that a history of the conspiracy, giving the names of the conspirators and the designs of the company, should be prepared, and 30,00o copies sent to "judges of all courts, senators of the United States, members of Congress and of State Legislatures, and to all railroad men and prominent business men of the country, to the end that enemies of the freedom of trade may be known and shunned by all honest men." They prepared a petition ninety-three feet long praying for a free pipe-line bill, something which they had long wanted, but which, so far, the Pennsylvania Railroad had prevented their getting, and sent it by a committee to the Legislature; and for days they kept r,000 men ready to march on Harrisburg at a moment's notice if the Legislature showed signs of refusing their demands. In short, for weeks the whole body of oil men abandoned regular business and surged_from town to town intent on destroying the "Monster," the "Forty Thieves," the "Great Anaconda," as they called the myste rious South Improvement Company. Curiously enough, it was chiefly against the combination which had secured the discrimination from the railroads—not the railroads which had granted it—that their fury was directed. They expected nothing but robbery from, railroads, they said. They were used to that; but they would not endure it from men in their ._..„_, own business.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9