Original Document
Original Document
Ida Tarbell, "Preface," The History of the Standard Oil Company, 1904. 

THIS work is the outgrowth of an effort on the part of the editors of McClure's Magazine to deal concretely in their pages with the trust question. In order that their readers might have a clear and succinct notion of the processes by which a particular industry passes from the control of the many to that of the few, they decided a few years ago to publish a detailed narrative of the history of the growth of a particular trust. The Standard Oil Trust was chosen for obvious reasons. It was the first in the field, and it has furnished the methods, the charter, and the traditions for its followers. It is the most perfectly developed trust in existence; that is, it satisfies most nearly the trust ideal of entire control of the commodity in which it deals. Its vast profits have led its officers into various allied interests, such as railroads, shipping, gas, copper, iron, steel, as well as into banks and trust companies, and to the acquiring and solidifying of these interests it has applied the methods used in building up the Oil Trust. It has led in the struggle against legislation directed against combinations. Its power in state and Federal government, in the press, tin the college,] in the pulpit, is generally recognised. The perfection of the organisation of the Standard, I the ability and daring with which it has carried out its projects, make it the pre-eminent trust of the world — the one whose story is best fitted to illuminate the subject of combinations of capital.
Another important consideration with the editors in deciding that the Standard Oil Trust was the best adapted to illustrate their meaning, was the fact that it is one of the very few business organisations of the country whose growth could be traced in trustworthy documents. There is in existence just such documentary material for a history of the Standard Oil Company as there is for a history of the Civil War or the French Revolution, or any other national episode which has divided men's minds.
This has come about largely from the fact that almost constantly since its organisation in 1870 the Standard Oil Company has been under investigation by the Congress of the United States and by the Legislatures of various states in which it has operated, on the suspicion that it was receiving rebates from the railroads and was practising methods in restraint of free trade. In 1872 and again in 1876 it was before Congressional committees, in 1879 it was before examiners of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and before committees appointed by the Legislatures of New York and of Ohio for investigating railroads. Its operations figured constantly in the debate which led up to the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887, an d again and again since that time the Commission has been called upon to examine directly or indirectly into its relation with the railroads.
In 1888, in the Investigation of Trusts conducted by Congress and by the state of New York, the Standard Oil Company was the chief subject for examination. In the state of Ohio, between 1882 and 1892, a constant warfare was waged against the Standard in the courts and Legislature, resulting in several volumes of testimony. The Legislatures of many other states concerned themselves with it. This hostile legislation compelled the trust to separate into its component parts in 1892, but investigation did not cease; indeed, in the last great industrial inquiry, conducted by the Commission appointed by President McKinley, the Standard Oil Company was constantly under discussion, and hundreds of pages of testimony on it appear in the nineteen volumes of reports which the Commission has submitted.
This mass of testimony, all of it submitted under oath it should be remembered, contains the different charters and agreements under which the Standard Oil Trust has operated, many contracts and agreements with railroads, with refineries, with pipe-lines, and it contains the experiences in business from 1872 up to 1900 of multitudes of individuals. These experiences have exactly the quality of the personal reminiscences of actors in great events, with the additional value that they were given on the witness stand, and it is fair, therefore, to suppose that they are more cautious and exact in statements than many writers of memoirs are. These investigations, covering as they do all of the important steps in the development of the trust, include full accounts of the point of view of its officers in regard to that development, as well as their explanations of many of the operations over which controversy has arisen. Hundreds of pages of sworn testimony are found in these volumes from John D. Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, Henry M. Flagler, H. H. Rogers, John D. Archbold, Daniel O'Day and other members of the concern.
Aside from the great mass of sworn testimony accessible to the student there is a large pamphlet literature dealing with different phases of the subject, and there are files of the numerous daily newspapers and monthly reviews, supported by the Oil Regions, in the columns of which are to be found not only statistics but full reports of all controversies between oil men. No complete collection of this voluminous printed material has ever been made, but several small collections exist, and in one or another of these I have been able to find practically all of the important documents relating to the subject. Mrs. Roger Sherman of Titusville, Pennsylvania, owns the largest of these collections, and in it are to be found copies of the rarest pamphlets. Lewis Emery, Jr., of Bradford, the late E. G. Patterson of Titusville, the late Henry D. Lloyd, author of "Wealth vs. Commonwealth," William Hasson of Oil City, and P. C. Boyle, the editor of the Oil City Derrick, have collections of value, and they have all been most generous in giving me access to their books.
But the documentary sources of this work are by no means all printed. The Standard Oil Trust and its constituent companies have figured in many civil suits, the testimony of which is still in manuscript in the files of the courts where the suits were tried. These manuscripts have been examined on the ground, and in numerous instances full copies of affidavits and of important testimony have been made for permanent reference and study. I have also had access to many files of private correspondence and papers, the most important being that of the officers and counsel of the Petroleum Producers' Union from 1878 to 1880, that covering the organisation from 1887 to 1895 of the various independent companies which resulted in the Pure Oil Company, and that containing the material prepared by Roger Sherman for the suit brought in 1897 by the United States Pipe Line against certain of the Standard companies under the Sherman anti-trust law.
As many of the persons who have been active in the development of the oil industry are still living, their help has been freely sought. Scores of persons in each of the great oil centres have been interviewed, and the comprehension and interpretation of the documents on which the work is based have been materially aided by the explanations which the actors in the events under consideration were able to give.
When the work was first announced in the fall of 1901, the Standard Oil Company, or perhaps I should say officers of the company, courteously offered to give me all the assistance in their power, an offer of which I have freely taken advantage. In accepting assistance from Standard men as from independents I distinctly stated that I wanted facts, and that I reserved the right to use them according to my own judgment of their meaning, that my object was to learn more perfectly what was actually done — not to learn what my informants thought of what had been done. It is perhaps not too much to say that there is not a single important episode in the history of the Standard Oil Company, so far as I know it, or a notable step in its growth, which I have not discussed more or less fully with officers of the company.
It is needless to add that the conclusions expressed in this work are my own.
I. M. T.

Credit: Ida Tarbell, The History of the Standard Oil Company. New York: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1904
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