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superseded by a more rigorous organization, as a mysterious company ate one refiner after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.