Morgan, Rockefeller, And Carnegie: Captains Of Industry
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Rise of the Industrial Giants
Rockefeller was born into a large and poor family in upstate New York that moved several times before eventually settling in Cleveland , Ohio. He became an assistant bookkeeper at age 16 and went into several business partnerships beginning at age 20, concentrating his business on oil refining. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in He ran it until , and remained its largest shareholder. Furthermore, Rockefeller gained enormous influence over the railroad industry which transported his oil around the country. Standard Oil was the first great business trust in the United States. Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and, through corporate and technological innovations, was instrumental in both widely disseminating and drastically reducing the production cost of oil.
His company and business practices came under criticism, particularly in the writings of author Ida Tarbell. The Supreme Court ruled in that Standard Oil must be dismantled for violation of federal antitrust laws. It was broken up into 34 separate entities, which included companies that became ExxonMobil , Chevron Corporation , and others—some of which still have the highest level of revenue in the world.
In the end it turned out that the individual segments of the company were worth more than the entire company was when it was one entity—the sum of the parts were worth more than the whole—as shares of these doubled and tripled in value in their early years. Rockefeller spent much of the last 40 years of his life in retirement at Kykuit , his estate in Westchester County, New York , defining the structure of modern philanthropy, along with other key industrialists such as steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.
He and Carnegie gave form and impetus through their charities to the work of Abraham Flexner , who in his essay "Medical Education in America" emphatically endowed empiricism as the basis for the US medical system of the 20th century. Rockefeller was also the founder of the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University and funded the establishment of Central Philippine University in the Philippines. He adhered to total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco throughout his life. He was a faithful congregant of the Erie Street Baptist Mission Church, taught Sunday school, and served as a trustee, clerk, and occasional janitor. Rockefeller was also considered a supporter of capitalism based on a perspective of social Darwinism , and he was quoted often as saying, "The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest".
He had an elder sister named Lucy and four younger siblings: William Jr. His father was of English and German descent, while his mother was of Ulster Scot descent. Throughout his life, Bill was notorious for shady schemes. Between John and William Jr. Eliza was a homemaker and a devout Baptist who struggled to maintain a semblance of stability at home, as Bill was frequently gone for extended periods. She also put up with his philandering and his double life, which included bigamy. He followed his father's advice to "trade dishes for platters" and always get the better part of any deal. Bill once bragged, "I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make 'em sharp. In , his family moved to Strongsville, Ohio , and he attended Cleveland's Central High School , the first high school in Cleveland and the first free public high school west of the Alleghenies.
Then he took a ten-week business course at Folsom's Commercial College , where he studied bookkeeping. His contemporaries described him as reserved, earnest, religious, methodical, and discreet. He was an excellent debater and expressed himself precisely. He also had a deep love of music and dreamed of it as a possible career. Much of Rockefeller's duties involved negotiating with barge canal owners, ship captains, and freight agents. In these negotiations, he learned that posted transportation rates that were believed to be fixed could be altered depending on conditions and timing of freight and through the use of rebates to preferred shippers. Rockefeller was also given the duties of collecting debts when Hewitt instructed him to do so.
Instead of using his father's method of presence to collect debts, Rockefeller relied on a persistent pestering approach. In , Rockefeller went into the produce commission business with a partner, Maurice B. He gave money to the Union cause, as did many rich Northerners who avoided combat. There was no one to take my place. We were in a new business, and if I had not stayed it must have stopped—and with so many dependent on it. Rockefeller was an abolitionist who voted for President Abraham Lincoln and supported the then-new Republican Party. He felt at ease and righteous following Methodist preacher John Wesley 's dictum, "gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.
Most failed, but those who struck oil did not even need to be efficient. They would blow holes in the ground and gather up the oil as they could, often leading to creeks and rivers flowing with wasted oil in the place of water. A market existed for the refined oil in the form of kerosene. Coal had previously been used to extract kerosene, but its tedious extraction process and high price prevented broad use.
Even with the high costs of freight transportation and a government levy during the Civil War the government levied a tax of twenty cents a gallon on refined oil , profits on the refined product were large. Clark's two brothers. The commercial oil business was then in its infancy. Whale oil had become too expensive for the masses, and a cheaper, general-purpose lighting fuel was needed. Tar was used for paving, naphtha shipped to gas plants. Rockefeller said, "It was the day that determined my career. He borrowed heavily, reinvested profits, adapted rapidly to changing markets, and fielded observers to track the quickly expanding industry.
In , William Rockefeller Jr. By , with Rockefeller continuing practices of borrowing and reinvesting profits, controlling costs, and using refineries' waste, the company owned two Cleveland refineries and a marketing subsidiary in New York ; it was the largest oil refinery in the world. By there was triple the kerosene refining capacity than needed to supply the market, and the capacity remained in excess for many years. Continuing to apply his work ethic and efficiency, Rockefeller quickly expanded the company to be the most profitable refiner in Ohio. Likewise, it became one of the largest shippers of oil and kerosene in the country.
The railroads competed fiercely for traffic and, in an attempt to create a cartel to control freight rates, formed the South Improvement Company offering special deals to bulk customers like Standard Oil, outside the main oil centers. Part of this scheme was the announcement of sharply increased freight charges. This touched off a firestorm of protest from independent oil well owners, including boycotts and vandalism, which led to the discovery of Standard Oil's part in the deal. Rogers , led the opposition to this plan, and railroads soon backed off. Pennsylvania revoked the cartel's charter, and non-preferential rates were restored for the time being. Before , oil light was only for the wealthy, provided by expensive whale oil. During the next decade, kerosene became commonly available to the working and middle classes.
Undeterred, though vilified for the first time by the press, Rockefeller continued with his self-reinforcing cycle of buying the least efficient competing refiners, improving the efficiency of his operations, pressing for discounts on oil shipments, undercutting his competition, making secret deals, raising investment pools, and buying rivals out. In less than four months in , in what was later known as "The Cleveland Conquest" or "The Cleveland Massacre," Standard Oil absorbed 22 of its 26 Cleveland competitors.
Pratt and Rogers became Rockefeller's partners. Rogers, in particular, became one of Rockefeller's key men in the formation of the Standard Oil Trust. For many of his competitors, Rockefeller had merely to show them his books so they could see what they were up against and then make them a decent offer. If they refused his offer, he told them he would run them into bankruptcy and then cheaply buy up their assets at auction. However, he did not intend to eliminate competition entirely. In fact, his partner Pratt said of that accusation "Competitors we must have If we absorb them, it surely will bring up another.
Instead of wanting to eliminate them, Rockefeller saw himself as the industry's savior, "an angel of mercy" absorbing the weak and making the industry as a whole stronger, more efficient, and more competitive. It added its own pipelines, tank cars, and home delivery network. It kept oil prices low to stave off competitors, made its products affordable to the average household, and, to increase market penetration, sometimes sold below cost. It developed over oil-based products from tar to paint to petroleum jelly to chewing gum. He instinctively realized that orderliness would only proceed from centralized control of large aggregations of plant and capital, with the one aim of an orderly flow of products from the producer to the consumer. That orderly, economic, efficient flow is what we now, many years later, call ' vertical integration ' I do not know whether Mr.
Rockefeller ever used the word 'integration'. I only know he conceived the idea. In , Standard clashed with Thomas A. Scott , the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad , Standard's chief hauler. Rockefeller envisioned pipelines as an alternative transport system for oil and began a campaign to build and acquire them. Standard countered, held back its shipments, and, with the help of other railroads, started a price war that dramatically reduced freight payments and caused labor unrest. Rockefeller prevailed and the railroad sold its oil interests to Standard.
In the aftermath of that battle, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania indicted Rockefeller in on charges of monopolizing the oil trade, starting an avalanche of similar court proceedings in other states and making a national issue of Standard Oil's business practices. He complained that he could not stay asleep most nights. Rockefeller later commented: . It supplied kerosene by tank cars that brought the fuel to local markets, and tank wagons then delivered to retail customers, thus bypassing the existing network of wholesale jobbers. Standard's most potent weapons against competitors were underselling, differential pricing, and secret transportation rebates.
The firm was attacked by journalists and politicians throughout its existence, in part for these monopolistic methods, giving momentum to the antitrust movement. By , according to the New York World , Standard Oil was "the most cruel, impudent, pitiless, and grasping monopoly that ever fastened upon a country". To critics Rockefeller replied, "In a business so large as ours We correct them as soon as they come to our knowledge. At that time, many legislatures had made it difficult to incorporate in one state and operate in another.
As a result, Rockefeller and his associates owned dozens of separate corporations, each of which operated in just one state; the management of the whole enterprise was rather unwieldy. In , Rockefeller's lawyers created an innovative form of corporation to centralize their holdings, giving birth to the Standard Oil Trust. Nine trustees, including Rockefeller, ran the 41 companies in the trust. Standard Oil had gained an aura of invincibility, always prevailing against competitors, critics, and political enemies. It had become the richest, biggest, most feared business in the world, seemingly immune to the boom and bust of the business cycle, consistently making profits year after year.
The company's vast American empire included 20, domestic wells, 4, miles of pipeline, 5, tank cars, and over , employees. Rockefeller finally gave up his dream of controlling all the world's oil refining; he admitted later, "We realized that public sentiment would be against us if we actually refined all the oil. In the early s, Rockefeller created one of his most important innovations. Rather than try to influence the price of crude oil directly, Standard Oil had been exercising indirect control by altering oil storage charges to suit market conditions. Rockefeller then ordered the issuance of certificates against oil stored in its pipelines.
These certificates became traded by speculators, thus creating the first oil-futures market which effectively set spot market prices from then on. The National Petroleum Exchange opened in Manhattan in late to facilitate the trading of oil futures. The Paris Rothschilds jumped into the fray providing financing. Even more critical, the invention of the light bulb gradually began to erode the dominance of kerosene for illumination. Standard Oil adapted by developing a European presence, expanding into natural gas production in the U.
Standard Oil moved its headquarters to New York City at 26 Broadway, and Rockefeller became a central figure in the city's business community. He bought a residence in on 54th Street near the mansions of other magnates such as William Henry Vanderbilt. Despite personal threats and constant pleas for charity, Rockefeller took the new elevated train to his downtown office daily. Ohio was especially vigorous in applying its state antitrust laws, and finally forced a separation of Standard Oil of Ohio from the rest of the company in , the first step in the dissolution of the trust.
In the s, Rockefeller expanded into iron ore and ore transportation, forcing a collision with steel magnate Andrew Carnegie , and their competition became a major subject of the newspapers and cartoonists. The daily management of the trust was turned over to John Dustin Archbold and Rockefeller bought a new estate, Pocantico Hills , north of New York City, turning more time to leisure activities including the new sports of bicycling and golf.
Upon his ascent to the presidency, Theodore Roosevelt initiated dozens of suits under the Sherman Antitrust Act and coaxed reforms out of Congress. In , U. Steel , then controlled by J. Pierpont Morgan , having bought Andrew Carnegie's steel assets, offered to buy Standard's iron interests as well. Steel stock and gave Rockefeller and his son membership on the company's board of directors. One of the most effective attacks on Rockefeller and his firm was the publication of The History of the Standard Oil Company , by Ida Tarbell , a leading muckraker.
She documented the company's espionage, price wars, heavy-handed marketing tactics, and courtroom evasions. I was willing that they should combine and grow as big and wealthy as they could, but only by legitimate means. But they had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me. Though he had long maintained a policy of active silence with the press, he decided to make himself more accessible and responded with conciliatory comments such as "capital and labor are both wild forces which require intelligent legislation to hold them in restriction.
Critics found his writing to be sanitized and disingenuous and thought that statements such as "the underlying, essential element of success in business are to follow the established laws of high-class dealing" seemed to be at odds with his true business methods. Rockefeller and his son continued to consolidate their oil interests as best they could until New Jersey, in , changed its incorporation laws to effectively allow a re-creation of the trust in the form of a single holding company. Rockefeller retained his nominal title as president until and he kept his stock. Pennzoil and Chevron have remained separate companies.
In the aftermath, Rockefeller's control over the oil industry was somewhat reduced but over the next 10 years, the breakup also proved immensely profitable for him. Rockefeller in to help finance the loan. Rockefeller, Jr. Control was passed from the Iowa Group  to Gould and Rockefeller interests in with Gould in control and Rockefeller and Gates representing a minority interests. Osgood left the company in and devoted his efforts to operating competing coal and coke operations. Rockefeller's operative, Lamont Montgomery Bowers,  remained in the background. Few miners actually belonged to the union or participated in the strike call, but the majority honored it. Strikebreakers called "scabs" were threatened and sometimes attacked.
Both sides purchased substantial arms and ammunition. Striking miners were forced to abandon their homes in company towns and lived in tent cities erected by the union, such as the tent city at Ludlow, a railway stop north of Trinidad. Under the protection of the National Guard, some miners returned to work and some strikebreakers, imported from the eastern coalfields, joined them as Guard troops protecting their movements. In February , a substantial portion of the troops were withdrawn, but a large contingent remained at Ludlow.
On April 20, , a general fire-fight occurred between strikers and troops, which was antagonized by the troops and mine guards. The camp was burned, resulting in 15 women and children, who hid in tents at the camp, being burned to death. This incident brought unwanted national attention to Colorado. The union was forced to discontinue strike benefits in February There was destitution in the coalfields. With the help of funds from the Rockefeller Foundation , relief programs were organized by the Colorado Committee on Unemployment and Relief. A state agency created by Governor Carlson, offered work to unemployed miners building roads and doing other useful projects. The casualties suffered at Ludlow mobilized public opinion against the Rockefellers and the coal industry.
Rockefeller Jr. Bowers was relieved of duty and Wellborn restored to control in , then industrial relations improved. I would have deplored the necessity which compelled the officers of the company to resort to such measures to supplement the State forces to maintain law and order. Against long-circulating speculations that his family has French roots, genealogists proved the German origin of Rockefeller and traced them back to the early 17th century. Johann Peter Rockenfeller baptized September 27, , in the Protestant church of Rengsdorf immigrated in from Altwied today a district of Neuwied , Rhineland-Palatinate with three children to North America and settled down in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
The name Rockenfeller refers to the now-abandoned village of Rockenfeld in the district of Neuwied. They had four daughters and one son together. He said later, "Her judgment was always better than mine. Without her keen advice, I would be a poor man. The Rockefeller wealth, distributed as it was through a system of foundations and trusts, continued to fund family philanthropic, commercial, and, eventually, political aspirations throughout the 20th century. John Jr. Grandson Laurance Spelman Rockefeller became a conservationist. John D. Rockefeller was born in Richford, New York , then part of the Burned-over district , a New York state region that became the site of an evangelical revival known as the Second Great Awakening.
It drew masses to various Protestant churches—especially Baptist ones—and urged believers to follow such ideals as hard work, prayer, and good deeds to build "the Kingdom of God on Earth. His mother was deeply religious and disciplined, and had a major influence on him in religious matters. During church service, his mother would urge him to contribute his few pennies to the congregation. He came to associate the church with charity. A Baptist preacher once encouraged him to "make as much money as he could, and then give away as much as he could".
Money making was considered by him a "God-given gift". A devout Northern Baptist, Rockefeller would read the Bible daily, attend prayer meetings twice a week and even led his own Bible study with his wife. Burton Folsom Jr. His philosophy of giving was founded upon biblical principles. He truly believed in the biblical principle found in Luke , "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Rockefeller would support Baptist missionary activity, fund universities, and heavily engage in religious activities at his Cleveland, Ohio , church. Conservative, white Democratic governments in the South passed Jim Crow legislation, creating a system of legal racial segregation in public and private facilities.
Blacks were separated in schools and hospitals, and had to use separate sections in some restaurants and public transportation systems. They often were barred from certain stores, or forbidden to use lunchrooms, restrooms, and fitting rooms. Because they could not vote, they could not serve on juries, which meant they had little if any legal recourse in the system. Blacks who were economically successful faced reprisals or sanctions. Through violence and legal restrictions, whites often prevented blacks from working as common laborers, much less as skilled artisans or in the professions.
The period also was marked by social movements for reform, the creation of machine politics, and continued mass immigration. During the Gilded Age, the wealthy provided private money to endow thousands of colleges, hospitals, museums, academies, schools, opera houses, public libraries, symphony orchestras, and charities. Key Terms robber baron : Especially in the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries, a business tycoon who had great wealth and influence but whose methods were morally questionable. Gospel of Wealth : An article written by Andrew Carnegie that describes the responsibility of the new upper class of self-made rich to engage in philanthropy. Machine Politics : In U. It began with the innovation of Bessemer steel and culminated in mass production and the production line.
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