Short essay paper: Standard Oils John D. Rockefeller

Companies and firms attract public attention to the ways they operate, which further affects their success or failure in the industry. Most of the stakeholders, such as corporate managers, government agencies, lawyers, financial advisers, researchers, economists as well as journalists play key roles in discussing matters related to various companies and their style of operation. Trust and mistrust, subjectivity and objectivity, as well as a general commitment to business practice, transform the scholarly, social, economic, legal, and political history of a country and the whole world. This paper presents a summary and a critical evaluation of some of the articles that criticize John D. Rockefellers’ business ventures, in particular, that of Standard Oil. It compares and contrasts four well-selected contemporary (primary source) articles, in the period from 1895 to 1912, commenting on John D. Rockefeller (in addition to already class-assigned primary sources). It presents an analytical as well as a thematic shape out of the selected sources. Finally, the conclusion of this article presents a summary of the findings.

John D. Rockefeller was a fast-rising businessman. By the 1900s he has already created a tremendous oil empire. However, he utilized ordinarily as well as some rather cunning ways to create an oil company that stood out among its few competitors. This state of affairs resulted in that he attracted numerous critics from many areas of public life, and the media was just one of them. In particular, some of the media professionals, for example, Ida Tarbell dedicated some of her works to criticize Rockefeller. She depicts John D. Rockefeller as a cruel, unjust, and deceitful person. Tarbell claims that Rockefeller had been a monopolistic person who had always sought to degrade the moral values of the oil businesses in America. Tarbell had a significant impact on Rockefeller’s oil business, setting the tone for the debate about his business operations. Her main achievement lay in increasing the number of critics, who were very quick to express their discontent and hatred towards Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

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Tarbell’s negative view of Rockefeller was farfetched, which some might argue starts in the days that her father, Mr. Frank Tarbell, has had a similar business venue. He created oil storage, which he later transformed into an oil manufacturing and refining company. Ida Tarbell states that her father’s company had witnessed numerous difficulties, and it was hit hard by a secret plan choreographed and executed by railroad companies and oil refiners, ostensibly guided by Rockefeller. This left Tarbell bitter and gave her a set of bad memories that she always wished to release. This was the main reason Tarbell wanted to become a journalist and her driver for publicly criticizing individuals and organizations that she felt were unjust.

Tarbell took up the subject of monopolistic organizations and mistrust which by the time she joined the McClures Magazine had become very topical. She wished to set the records straight for the public, which was starting to get confused from the heinous practices of many organizations of the day. She decided to take on the case of Standard Oil to inform the public about the economic mistrusts and problems caused by the company. By conducting thorough research of the company’s strategies, policies, and objectives she has managed to reveal the unethical practices and decisions of Rockefeller. In this regard, she unveiled the troubles and difficulties that independent oil workers had gone through. One has to add that she nevertheless tried to indicate the positive side of Rockefeller. However, this was quickly out shadowed by the numerous descriptions of Rockefellers’ unethical operations.

Tarbell, however, seems to forgo the standard of objectivity in her critique of Rockefeller. This is evident by the issue of her father’s oil business and its eventual collapse. Even though she strives to highlight the plight of other oil workers and businesses, she has an interest in depicting Standard Oil and Rockefeller in a negative tone. For example, Tarbell refers to Rockefeller as an old person, stating that she is “the oldest man in the world a living mummy” (Tarbell, 1). She states that Rockefeller is money-mad and a hypocrite (Tarbell, 9). This is a clear indication that she resorts to subjectivity in her position towards Rockefeller, rather than maintaining an objective point of view. This, therefore, demeans the impartiality of her expose, which leads to a thought that she might have sought vengeance for Rockefeller’s role in the downfall of her father’s oil business. This could also be the main reason Rockefeller decided to take part in a public confrontation with Tarbell.

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Gilbert Montague, on the other hand, seeks to dispute the written materials and critiques of writers about the practices of Rockefeller. Montague begins by indicating that the majority of these writers are quick to express rather subjective opinions about the way Rockefeller operated his oil business while ignoring the facts regarding the development of Standard Oil. It is possible to establish that Montague aims to disapprove the majority of these writers, of which Tarbell is one, terming them as corrupt and such that only wish to express conservative concerns of the independent oil workers. Montague claims that these independent oil workers had bribed some of the writers for them to publish negative exposes, which would in turn help them to gain an advantage over Standard Oil.

Montague presents how the oil business of the time transformed with the railway industry by attempts of the industries to minimize costs and maximize their profits. Montague shows how Rockefeller designed an effective and genuine strategy that resulted in his company standing out among its competitors. The core of the strategy was allying with a group of oil manufacturing and distributing companies: “Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler the refineries of William Rockefeller & Co., Rockefeller & Andrews, Rockefeller & Co., S. V. Harkness, and H. M. Flagler” (Montague, 267). As a group, Standard Oil and other major companies managed to significantly improve the oil manufacturing and distribution business. For example, they acquired larger and more efficient machinery, which helped streamline the business even further.

Montague indicates that the majority of the writers failed to point out the evident methods that Rockefeller utilized to climb the ladder of success and become a leader in the oil industry. They only mentioned the side of the matter that was of interest to the independent oil workers. In particular, they were either absorbed by the large companies, who had adopted some new business strategies and policies or, in the case of other independent oil workers who did not realize the power of major corporations, they were faced out by competition and extreme costs of oil production and distribution. Small independent workers struggled with having small profits and experiencing significant losses at the same time. These small-scale companies were further discriminated against as large conglomerates secured contracts and had much more efficient transportation services. “Where the competition for traffic was keen, the railroads usually contracted with the strongest shipper or group of shippers to carry freight at a special rate…” (Montague, 276). Conversely, one could argue that Montague is defending Standard Oil and other large companies. He could be working against the independent oil workers. There is evidence for such a point of view in the introduction, which deliberately showcases negative attributes of the independent oil workers calls them corrupt.

Ralph is another individual who contributes to the subject of the success and supremacy of Rockefeller and his style of operations, as well as his morality. Ralph mainly seeks to advance the view of Montague and dispute Tarbell’s negative view towards Rockefeller’s success. In the introduction, Ralph mentions his article, in which Rockefeller is depicted as a great person. Ralph states that Rockefeller is a financial expert, whose ways and knowledge are unmatched by the many experts who only strive to speak ill of him without much knowledge about how he acquired his wealth.

Ralph states that Rockefeller faced numerous negative reports about his style of operating a business and how he is a cunning and shrewd person. However, Ralph states that Rockefeller has a genuine capacity to do business efficiently, which is strengthened by a proper upbringing and the extent that his parents instilled great skills in him. He owes a great debt to his mother for the sensible, pious, altogether wise training she gave him and to his father for inculcating in him the practical views and industrious habits, which must have so greatly contributed to his after success (Ralph, 2).

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Ralph, however, goes the extra mile to draw attention to the dexterity of Rockefeller. He points out how Rockefeller makes his money as he engages in other daily life activities, such as attending church, playing the violin, or taking breakfast. Time spent in these activities is symbolized as time in which he makes thousands of dollars. This is rather subjective and may be seen as a deliberate act of showiness, which is not an objective way to describe the process of rising to success or dexterity in any business. It is rare to find genuine people boasting about their success. Many hardworking individuals appreciate the collective efforts made by his or her employees and partners rather than make suggestions that will leave people seeing them as shrewd.

Winston also joins the debate by seeking to establish whether Rockefeller is a genuine business person. He synthesized various invaluable reports. In particular, Winston makes use of books, specifically, Tarbell’s historical accounts, court proceedings, and commissioner of corporations report by Mr. Garfield on the transportation to defend the Standard Oil Corporation. Winston points out that a majority of the writers who publish negative critiques about the company rely mainly on baseless facts, and inaccurate information to build their reasoning. One can trust his work, considering that Tarbell’s critique revolves around the tribulations that she went through after her father lost his oil company. Tarbell decided to write about Rockefeller as a means to get back to Rockefeller, as has allegedly destroyed her father’s company.

Winston refutes the claims made by Tarbell by analyzing them bit by bit. He argues by attaching legal evidence and court proceedings that dispute Tarbells arguments. Presenting facts that support the arguments about the success and supremacy of the Standard Oil Company is a great and efficient way to dispute the opinions of writers. However, tone can easily notice that Winston may also show some element of bias in his presentation, especially, when analyzing the work of Tarbell. Winston appears subjective in criticizing Tarbell’s work, for example, where he claims that in many years spent among books, I have found no other work which at all approaches this in reckless audacity (Winston, 9). He further claims that the people he has spoken to regarding Tarbell’s work do not see the contradictions that he can perceive himself.

In conclusion, it is apparent that the public eye closely monitors the way that companies carry out their business activities. Stakeholders, such as journalists, government organizations, economic experts, researchers, academicians, financial experts, and legal/political experts are all a part of this monitoring. Their views and concerns about any of the organizations under scrutiny lead to mixed reactions, which further shape the way these organizations conduct their businesses, including how other people and consumers perceive them. This aspect is evident in the case of John D. Rockefeller, who was scrutinized from every side by media as well as economic experts who later shaped the way Standard Oil operated. The extent of trust or mistrust appears to be a compelling factor in the instance of scrutiny. However, mainly, the subject of subjective undertones is also evident, which further demeans the objectivity of the four critiques evaluated. Subjective critics can mislead the public about a company’s welfare, business ventures, and other people’s opinions. In this regard, it is difficult to establish whether John D. Rockefeller was a genuine and honest businessman or whether the accusations presented by Tarbell are true. Therefore, objectivity is essential in formulating critical points of view that help present authentic, dependable facts to the public about an organization’s trading activities.


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