The History of the Standard Oil Company

Briefer Version

Paperback, 256 pages

English language

Published Feb. 10, 2003 by Dover Publications.

OCLC Number:

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4 stars (1 review)

Muckrakers — a term coined in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt — referred to American journalists, novelists and critics who, in the early 20th century, attempted to expose corruption in politics and the abuses of big business. One publication spearheading these exposés was McClures Magazine, and Ida Tarbell was the writer whose dramatic revelations eventually lead to effective regulation of the Standard Oil Company. Her story, serialized by McClure's in 1902 and 1903, tells the history of John D. Rockefeller's company. The first major industrial monopoly in the U.S., Standard Oil, in 1901, was the largest corporation in the country, and at its peak, controlled as much as eighty-five percent of oil refining in America. But with all his wealth and power, Rockfeller could not protect himself from Tarbell. Her story of the company, which became a model for militant journalists in the future, managed to place the blame for …

20 editions

eyo, it's capitalism

4 stars

I read the Belt Revivals edition of this text. It's an abridged version of the 1904 original, with an introduction by Elizabeth Catte, whose What You're Getting Wrong About Appalachia I loved. The juicy details Catte gives in the introduction is that the writer, Ida Tarbell, is the son of an oil producer in addition to being an investigative reporter, which garnered much criticism at the time but Catte's suggestion is to read the text both as an investigation of monopolies and one in which the writer may have a personal stake—a personal grudge to bear. Excellent.

I picked up the book mostly because I wanted to understand the role that Standard Oil played in the area where I'm from. The area boomed with oil in the late 1800s, and my town was the birthplace of Marathon Oil (as Ohio Oil Company in 1887, purchased by Standard in 1889). I …


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  • Standard Oil Company