Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/644

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

understood the profit which lay in "higgling." These Ohio refiners handled an article whereof freight was a large element of price; so, making "special rates" their opportunity or cover, they gradually succeeded in obtaining enormous rebates from ordinary terms, not only on the oil shipped by them, but on oil shipped by competitors. With this infamous advantage, the growth of their operations and of their power was rapid. Not many years elapsed before they were able to lay a pipeage system for their oil at a cost of thirty million dollars, supplanting the railroad system which had given them their chief impetus. In its struggle to extend and maintain its practical monopoly, the investigations of this "trust" at Albany and Washington disclose how the combats of swamp and jungle may be repeated in counting-house and exchange. Violence and fraud were employed to further the process of pushing rivals to the wall. Clerks were tempted to betray a competitor's confidence, workmen were bribed to explode his stills. To-day the Standard Oil Trust refines three fourths of the petroleum of the United States; fortunately, its interests chime with those of consumers, who therefore share in the benefits of its high and compact organization. The field of oil production constantly widens, bringing to market an increasing volume of crude oil; as the "trust" owns nearly all the transporting, storage, and manufacturing facilities in the country, it finds it best to make prices so reasonable that its sales may be the largest possible. This "trust" possesses almost every advantage which would inure to a state monopoly, managed by eminent ability at work for individual gain. It enjoys the immense saving which results from organizing the whole Union as a single market, whose wants can be systematically ascertained, and as systematically supplied from the trade-center of each territorial division. It reaps the gain which flows from so adjusting supply to demand that labor can be given uniform or nearly uniform employment, which comes from preserving credit from undue cheapening, and thus minimizing one of the chief perplexities of business—the estimation of risks. By unification of management, any new improvement in machinery or process is introduced at once into every refinery the trust controls. Mr. Dodd, one of the Standard's solicitors, declares its profits during 1886 to have been thirteen per cent, a much smaller return than that popularly supposed. It is worthy of note that the Standard people are now buying large tracts of oil lands, presumably with intent to control the production of oil as well as its distribution, refinement, and sale.

Incited by the success of the Standard, a great many "trusts" have been formed, imitating its methods in endeavoring to control the production of some leading article of trade. None of them, however, exhibit the ability of its management, or the sensitive-