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How John D. Rockefeller dominated the Oil Industry for 50 years



2. Introduction

It is in the greatest anarchy that the men of the second part of the 19th century discovered the wonderful properties of this liquid that was known from Antiquity. It seemed that by a simple distillation, an abundant and easily extractable natural resource could be transformed with no waste in a lubricant and lighting oil far superior to those that were known so far, and much cheaper.

Only the most crazy gold rush can be compared to the incredible boom that the oil regions witnessed immediately. But the anarchic competition of the first times was slowly superseded by a more rigorous organization, as a mysterious company ate one refiner after the other, pipelines after transporters and integrated the whole industry in a frictionless machine. The time was one of industrial concentration, and oil was no exception. Under the strong and inflexible leadership of John D. Rockefeller, the ubiquitous Standard Oil ate progressively almost the whole oil industry, controlling in 1900 about 90% of the refined oil production in the USA.

Resistance against this "conspiration against trade" was a strong as it was disorderly, with the independent producers speaking of laissez-fairest individualism and the Standard of "reducing the waste and the reckless competition that could only harm the interests of the producers". The resistance slowly organized itself to try to escape strangulation. But the oilmen were not made for the joint, long-term action necessary to destroy the Standard Oil. During 40 years, trial after trial came, until the public believed that they were not bandits but Destiny itself. Only in 1911 an effective dissolution of this "Anaconda" that strangled the industry finally succeeded. The giant was killed and from his remains two dozens of independent, competing companies were created. The first great industrial monopoly had lived, and on his still warm body a century of struggle against the trusts, the oligopolies and the monopolies opened, so powerful and so foreign to the American Dream.

If Rockefeller's commercial methods may shock some people today, it must be remembered that they were part of the continent and part of the century. May the bleeding hearts which will be scandalized by this tale recall that the museums, foundations, universities, scolarships, chairs which today live off a wealth whose origin is now forgotten, have been created by the same barons, the Frick, Astor, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Hearst or Rockefeller that led their businesses recklessly, destroying the weak and twisting the arms of the powerful, often conducting their trade with armed hands. Just thinks that the laws that today rule trade and the financial markets have often been created after today illegal acts that lead these men to fortune and that posterity did forget, dazzled by the mansions and the philanthropic image that they were careful to leave behind.

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