These qualities told. The firm grew as rapidly as the oil business of the town, and started a second refinery — William A. Rockefeller and Company. They took in a partner, H. M. Flagler, and opened a house in New York for selling oil. Of all these concerns John D. Rockefeller was the head. Finally, in June, 1870, five years after he became an active partner in the refining business, Mr. Rockefeller combined all his companies into one — the Standard Oil Company. The capital of the new concern was $1,000,000. The parties interested in it were John D. Rockefeller, Henry M. Flagler, Samuel Andrews, Stephen V. Harkness, and William Rockefeller. [5]

The strides the firm of Rockefeller and Andrews made after the former went into it were attributed for three or four years mainly to his extraordinary capacity for bargaining and borrowing. Then its chief competitors began to suspect something. John Rockefeller might get his oil cheaper now and then, they said, but he could not do it often. He might make close contracts for which they had neither the patience nor the stomach. He might have an unusual mechanical and practical genius in his partner. But these things could not explain all. They believed they bought, on the whole, almost as cheaply as he, and they knew they made as good oil and with as great, or nearly as great, economy. He could sell at no better price than they. Where was his advantage? There was but one place where it could be, and that was in transportation. He must be getting better rates from the railroads than they were. In 1868 or 1869 a member of a rival firm long in the business, which had been prosperous from the start, and which prided itself on its methods, its economy and its energy, Alexander, Scofield and Company, went to the Atlantic and Great Western road, then under the Erie management, and complained. "You are giving others better rates than you are us," said Mr. Alexander, the representative of the firm. "We cannot compete if you do that." The railroad agent did not attempt to deny it — he simply agreed to give Mr. Alexander a rebate also. The arrangement was interesting. Mr. Alexander was to pay the open, or regular, rate on oil from the Oil Regions to Cleveland, which was then forty cents a barrel. At the end of each month he was to send to the railroad vouchers for the amount of oil shipped and paid for at forty cents, and was to get back from the railroad, in money, fifteen cents on each barrel. This concession applied only to oil brought from the wells. He was never able to get a rebate on oil shipped eastward. [6] According to Mr. Alexander, the Atlantic and Great Western gave the rebates on oil from the Oil Regions to Cleveland up to 1871 and the system was then discontinued. Late in 1871, however, the firm for the first time got a rebate on the Lake Shore road on oil brought from the field.

Map of Northwestern Pennsylvania, showing the relation of the Oil Regions to the railroads in 1859, when oil was "discovered."

Another Cleveland man, W. H. Doane, engaged in shipping crude oil, began to suspect about the same time as Mr. Alexander that the Standard was receiving rebates. Now Mr. Doane had always been opposed to the "drawback business," but it was impossible for him to supply his customers with crude oil at as low a rate as the Standard paid if it received a rebate and he did not, and when it was first generally rumoured in Cleveland that the railroads were favouring Mr. Rockefeller he went to see the agent of the road. "I told him I did not want any drawback, unless others were getting it; I wanted it if they were getting it, and he gave me at that time ten cents drawback." This arrangement Mr. Doane said had lasted but a short time. At the date he was speaking — the spring of 1872 — he had had no drawback for two years.

A still more important bit of testimony as to the time when rebates first began to be given to the Cleveland refiners and as to who first got them and why, is contained in an affidavit made in 1880 by the very man who made the discrimination. [7] This man was General J. H. Devereux, who in 1868 succeeded Amasa Stone as vice-president of the Lake Shore Railroad. General Devereux said that his experience with the oil traffic had begun with his connection with the Lake Shore; that the only written memoranda concerning oil which he found in his office on entering his new position was a book in which it was stated that the representatives of the twenty-five oil-refining firms in Cleveland had agreed to pay a cent a gallon on crude oil removed from the Oil Regions. General Devereux says that he soon found there was a deal of trouble in store for him over oil freight. The competition between the twenty-five firms was close, the Pennsylvania was "claiming a patent right" on the transportation of oil and was putting forth every effort to make Pittsburg and Philadelphia the chief refining centres. Oil Creek was boasting that it was going to be the future refining point for the world. All of this looked bad for what General Devereux speaks of as the "then very limited refining capacity of Cleveland." This remark shows how new he was to the business, for, as we have already seen, Cleveland in 1868 had anything but a limited refining capacity. Between three and four million dollars were invested in oil refineries, and the town was receiving within 35,000 barrels of as much oil as New York City, and within 300,000 as much as Pittsburg, and it was boasting that the next year it would outstrip these competitors, which, as a matter of fact, it did.

The natural point for General Devereux to consider, of course, was whether he could meet the rates the Pennsylvania were giving and increase the oil freight for the Lake Shore. The road had a branch running to Franklin, Pennsylania, within a few miles of Oil City. This he completed, and then, as he says in his affidavit, "a sharper contest than ever was produced growing out of the opposition of the Pennsylvania Railroad in competition. Such rates and arrangements were made by the Pennsylvania Railroad that it was publicly proclaimed in the public print in Oil City, Titusville and other places that Cleveland was to be wiped out as a refining centre as with a sponge." General Devereux goes on to say that all the refiners of the town, without exception, came to him in alarm, and expressed their fears that they would have either to abandon their business there or move to Titusville or other points in the Oil Regions; that the only exception to this decision was that offered by Rockefeller, Andrews and Flagler, who, on his assurance that the Lake Shore Railroad could and would handle oil as cheaply as the Pennsylvania Company, proposed to stand their ground at Cleveland and fight it out on that line. And so General Devereux gave the Standard the rebate on the rate which Amasa Stone had made with all the refiners. Why he should not have quieted the fears of the twenty-four or twenty-five other refiners by lowering their rate, too, does not appear in the affidavit. At all events the rebate had come, and, as we have seen, it soon was suspected and others went after it, and in some cases got it. But the rebate seems to have been granted generally only on oil brought from the Oil Regions. Mr. Alexander claims he was never able to get his rate lowered on his Eastern shipments. The railroad took the position with him that if he could ship as much oil as the Standard he could have as low a rate, but not otherwise. Now in 1870 the Standard Oil Company had a daily capacity of about 1,500 barrels of crude. The refinery was the largest in the town, though it had some close competitors. Nevertheless on the strength of its large capacity it received the special favour. It was a plausible way to get around the theory generally held then, as now, though not so definitely crystallised into law, that the railroad being a common carrier had no right to discriminate between its patrons. It remained to be seen whether the practice would be accepted by Mr. Rockefeller's competitors without a contest, or, if contested, would be supported by the law.

What the Standard's rebate on Eastern shipments was in 1870 it is impossible to say. Mr. Alexander says he was never able to get a rate lower than $1.33 a barrel by rail, and that it was commonly believed in Cleveland that the Standard had a rate of ninety cents. Mr. Flagler, however, the only member of the firm who has been examined under oath on that point, showed, by presenting the contract of the Standard Oil Company with the Lake Shore road in 1870, that the rates varied during the year from $1.40 to $1.20 and $1.60, according to the season. When Mr. Flagler was asked if there was no drawback or rebate on this rate he answered, "None whatever."

It would seem from the above as if the one man in the Cleveland oil trade in 1870 who ought to have been satisfied was Mr. Rockefeller. His was the largest firm in the largest refining centre of the country; that is, of the 10,000 to 12,000 daily capacity divided among the twenty-five or twenty-six refiners of Cleveland he controlled 1,500 barrels. Not only was Cleveland the largest refining centre in the country, it was gaining rapidly, for where in 1868 it shipped 776,356 barrels of refined oil, in 1869 it shipped 923,933, in 1870 1,459,500, and in 1871 1,640,499. [8] Not only did Mr. Rockefeller control the largest firm in this most prosperous centre of a prosperous business, he controlled one of amazing efficiency. The combination, in 1870, of the various companies with which he was connected had brought together a group of remarkable men. Samuel Andrews, by all accounts, was the ablest mechanical superintendent in Cleveland. William Rockefeller, the brother of John D. Rockefeller, was not only an energetic and intelligent business man, he was a man whom people liked. He was open-hearted, jolly, a good story-teller, a man who knew and liked a good horse — not too pious, as some of John's business associates thought him, not a man to suspect or fear, as many a man did John. Old oil men will tell you on the creek to-day how much they liked him in the days when he used to come to Oil City buying oil for the Cleveland firm. The personal quality of William Rockefeller was, and always has been, a strong asset of the Standard Oil Company. Probably the strongest man in the firm after John D. Rockefeller was Henry M. Flagler. He was, like the others, a young man, and one who, like the head of the firm, had the passion for money, and in a hard self-supporting experience, begun when but a boy, had learned, as well as his chief, some of the principles of making it. He was untiring in his efforts to increase the business, quick to see an advantage, as quick to take it. He had no scruples to make him hesitate over the ethical quality of a contract which was advantageous. Success, that is, making money, was its own justification. He was not a secretive man, like John D. Rockefeller, not a dreamer, but he could keep his mouth shut when necessary and he knew the worth of a financial dream when it was laid before him. It must have been evident to every business man who came in contact with the young Standard Oil Company that it would go far. The firm itself must have known it would go far. Indeed nothing could have stopped the Standard Oil Company in 1870 — the oil business being what it was — but an entire change in the nature of the members of the firm, and they were not the kind of material which changes.

With such a set of associates, with his organisation complete from his buyers on the creek to his exporting agent in New York, with the transportation advantages which none of his competitors had had the daring or the persuasive power to get, certainly Mr. Rockefeller should have been satisfied in 1870. But Mr. Rockefeller was far from satisfied. He was a brooding, cautious, secretive man, seeing all the possible dangers as well as all the possible opportunities in things, and he studied, as a player at chess, all the possible combinations which might imperil his supremacy. These twenty-five Cleveland rivals of his — how could he at once and forever put them out of the game? He and his partners had somehow conceived a great idea — the advantages of combination. What might they not do if they could buy out and absorb the big refineries now competing with them in Cleveland? The possibilities of the idea grew as they discussed it. Finally they began tentatively to sound some of their rivals. But there were other rivals than these at home. There were the creek refiners! They were there at the mouth of the wells. What might not this geographical advantage do in time? Refining was going on there on an increasing scale; the capacity of the Oil Regions had indeed risen to nearly 10,000 barrels a day — equal to that of New York, exceeding that of Pittsburg by nearly 4,000 barrels, and almost equalling that of Cleveland. The men of the oil country loudly declared that they meant to refine for the world. They boasted of an oil kingdom which eventually should handle the entire business and compel Cleveland and Pittsburg either to abandon their works or bring them to the oil country. In this boastful ambition they were encouraged particularly by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which naturally handled the largest percentage of the oil. How long could the Standard Oil Company stand against this competition?

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