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The Rise and Progress of the Standard Oil Company (originally published in 1903), from its inception in 1865 till its control, in 1878, of ninety-five per cent of the oil business of the United States, has presented itself to different critics in somewhat different characters; certain conservative writers think it was largely the result of discriminations in freight rates, extorted by more or less questionable practices from easy virtue of the railroads. But just why the railroads found it expedient to grant such unusual favors, and why this particular group of men, above all others, proved best able to extort such favors, no one has satisfactorily explained. And thus begins the first chapter of this interesting book.
The secret of this strange success with the railways is not, however completely insoluble. If the episodes in The Rise and Progress of the Standard Oil Company from 1865 till 1877 be carefully studied, the motives of every act, both of the company and of the railways, will certainly be revealed. The materials for this study are not lacking. A vast amount of evidence showing the ability of the Standard Oil Company to turn these possibilities to advantage has been gathered by various commissions and investigating committees. And so in what seems at first sight an unaccountable and suspiciously rapid growth may be discerned signs of inevitable development - the operation of motives, which are, at any rate, explicable.
The author then follows the Standard Oil Company's history. The study of the Standard Oil Company was undertaken by the author while Ricardo Scholar in Economics at Harvard University for the year 1900 -1901. The results of this study were reported from time to time to the Seminary of the Department of Economics, and eventually were printed in the Quarterly Journal of Economics published for Harvard University. The period from 1865 till 1879 was treated in the Quarterly for February, 1902, in an article entitled - The Rise and Supremacy of the Standard Oil Company, and in the Quarterly for February, 1903, under the title of The Later History of the Standard Oil Company... the narrative was continued to July, 1903. The sources of this history are the reports of official investigating commissions and committees.
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