John D. Rockefeller
November 16, 2011 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Rockefeller has not squandered his income. He has applied it for thirty-five years to accumulating not only oil property but real estate — railroad stock, iron mines, copper mines, anything and everything which could be bought cheap by temporary depressing and made to yield rich by his able management. For thirty-five years he has worked for special privileges giving him advantages over competitors, for thirty-five years he has patiently laid net-works around property he wanted, until he had it surely corralled and could seize it; for thirty-five years he has depreciated values when necessary to get his prey. And to-day he still is busy. In almost every great financial manoeuvre [sic] in the country is felt his supple, smooth hand with its grip of steel, and while he directs that which is big, nothing is too small for him to grasp.

At the time of his death, Rockefeller's wealth equaled 1/65 of the Gross Domestic Product. Today's equivalent would be $ 225 billion.
posted by Trurl (7 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Ida Tarbell.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:23 PM on November 16, 2011

There's something perversely attractive, perhaps, in the stories of these robber barons.

Note: manoeuvre is not a misspelling, if that's what the "sic" is intended to indicate.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:39 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

The funny thing is, and I hate to fall back on the old bankers-are-evil trope, a lot of the consolidation of the Gilded Age was driven by financiers. By which, probably, I could just say JP Morgan, but might as well spread it out a little. The problem with the earliest part of the industrial revolution wasn't not enough competition - it was too much.

Multiple railroad lines between two cities, dozens of auto makers for a tiny market, fifty or more cigar companies, and so on and so on. It drove investor capital *mad*. The advantages of all of these technologies were clear, but banks were left holding the bag for tremendous amounts of debt when well over half of the railroads went bankrupt, and even higher rates for other industries. The smart money, ahem, came to realize that having one trust gobble up all the bankrupt companies in the industry could create enough market force to bankrupt the rest and and unlock two achievements: HORIZONTAL INTEGRATION and MONOPOLY.

Good job here, but if we're talking about Rockefeller's tentacles taking hold of every part of American life: The Octopus. (An oft used image of the age.)
posted by absalom at 7:19 PM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

Tarbell was friends with H H Rogers who eventually became a partner in Standard Oil. Their mutual friend, Mark Twain, introduced them.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:45 PM on November 16, 2011

The overuse of hyphens in the article (net-works, to-day) totally reminded me of the old-timey (heh) articles from "The Onion." (which, I suppose, is entirely the point)
posted by ShutterBun at 8:56 PM on November 16, 2011

There is a two hour documentary about Rockefeller online, which YouTube commenters deride as pure propaganda.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:08 PM on November 16, 2011

Obligatory I drink your milkshake
posted by Lanark at 3:06 AM on November 17, 2011

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