Ida M. Tarbell, “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” 1904

Ida M. Tarbell’s The History of the Standard Oil Company was first serialized in McClure’s Magazine starting in 1902 and then published as a best-selling book in 1904. Tarbell grew up around the Pennsylvania oil industry, where her father suffered from, and protested, John D. Rockefeller’s business practices.  Tarbell’s study of Standard Oil excoriated Rockefeller and his company and helped spur new legislation and litigation to regulate interstate commerce and counter monopoly. In 1911, the United States Supreme Court broke up the Standard Oil Trust into more than thirty different independent companies. 

In this excerpt from Tarbell’s book, how does she argue against the idea that Standard Oil’s monopolistic practices were ”inevitable” and “necessary” for the company and the industry as a whole? 

Why does Tarbell think that the Standard Oil Trust represented an ethical crisis for the American economic system?


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

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