Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
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Tue, 20 Dec 2022 08:01
John D. Rockefeller makes a bold move, one that helps him crush his opponents. Soon, disaster strikes in Titusville, Pennsylvania. And that means it's time for Ida Tarbell to return home—and to take on Standard Oil.
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Hey, prime members, you can listen to American Scandal add-free on Amazon music, download the app today. It's January 1882 in Cleveland, Ohio. Inside the offices of Standard Oil, a shaft of morning light pours in through the windows. It lights up a row of men who sit hunched over their desks. The room is quiet and still. But the silence is broken by the sound of heavy footsteps as John D. Rockefeller enters the room. He wears a silk top hat and carries a long black umbrella. His expression is grim. Rockefeller walks past the row of men, his bookkeepers. One man looks up from his ledger and smiles, but Rockefeller strides right past him. Rockefeller then enters his private office and slams the door. In the office, he takes a seat and opens a book of accounts. He shakes his head and disgust. Usually, a good night of sleep helps him figure out the answers to all his worries, but not this time. He's finally run up against a problem that even he can't solve. Come in, come in. A man in a gray wool suit enters. His name is Samuel Dodd and his Rockefeller's lawyer. Rockefeller's size and relief. Dodd has a brilliant legal mind and he's just a man that Rockefeller needs right now. Sam, please take a seat. Dodd settles into a large chair and Rockefeller continues. I've created a monster. I own 90% of the oil refineries in the entire United States and you know what? I can't control a single one. What do you mean? You own the refineries, lock, stock and barrel. You can do whatever you want with them. In theory, of course, I can. It's a sprawling empire. Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, I have refineries all across the country. But how am I supposed to manage so many individual companies? It's spiraling out of my control. Well, you could stop acquiring new refineries or even sell some. Sell. No, you have to be joking. We've knocked down every competitor. We can't let up. We can't let them come roaring back. Not after everything I've accomplished. Rockefeller rises and begins pacing the room. We have to keep growing. The question is, how do you control all of these individual refineries, but keep them under a single business? God sits back in his chair thinking, John, it's difficult. The government has laws on the books. They don't want a single company to be so big and so strong, strong enough to own businesses in every state. So what do we do? Rockefeller watches as a wicked smile stretches across God's face. Well, you know, I think I've got something. So we don't create a single central company that you use to control your empire. No, we create something else. A trust. Here, let me show you. God quickly reaches into his bag and takes out a notebook. He grabs a pen from the desk and begins to draw a diagram. Here at the bottom, you have Standard of Ohio, an individual business, one of your many refineries. And also here at the bottom, Standard of New York and on and on and on. It's your whole empire, but right now, there's split apart in pieces, as he said, all separate companies. Yes, this is the problem. Of course, but what if God takes his pen and sets it on the words Standard of Ohio, then draws a line going up, like a string on a puppet. He draws the same line coming up from the word Standard of New York and he traces those lines up to the top of the page where he writes three more words, Standard Oil Trust. So here, we're not going to create a single company. That's not allowed. Instead, we'll create a trust. All your individual companies will make a legal pledge, it's like when you give someone power to be a guardian over a child. Your companies will entrust you with that power. You'll be the guardian, pulling these strings. Rockefeller's squints, staring at dot. That sounds illegal. Could you really conceal these operations? We pay off enough politicians as it is. I swear to you, John, no state will be able to track it. No one has seen anything like this before. As far as they know, Standard of Ohio is still distinct from Standard of New York. But you and your executive committee will have all the power. Finally, it'll operate like a single central company. Rockefeller gazes into the distance, considering the proposal. Then he walks over to Dodd and reaches out for a handshake. Sam, I like it. But please, hurry. I need this trust formed as quickly as possible. This disorder is driving me mad. The two men grin and shake hands. And a moment later, Dodd leaves the room. Rockefeller settles back a news chair. He finally feels like himself again. He considers this bold new scheme and slowly brushes his thumb over his cufflink. It's made of a black gem, like a royal seal that's emblazoned with a letter R for Rockefeller. Rockefeller feels strong and untouchable. He sure of it. If this plan succeeds, it will give him more power than he could ever imagine. It could also make him the richest man in the country. Maybe even the richest in the world. American scandal is sponsored by the new Paramount Pictures film, Babylon, in theaters December 23rd. A hundred years ago, life in America was looking good. The war was over. The boys had come home. The stock market was up. And haircuts and hemlines were short. And while characters like Gatsby were seeking unknown levels of decadence on the East Coast, out west in Hollywood, a whole new debauchery was being invented. From writer, director Damien Chazelle, Babylon is an epic film set in 1920s Los Angeles, led by Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Diego Calva. The trailer vibrates with glamour, excess, and bad decisions, promising a fast-paced, ricocheting story of the rise and fall of the young, beautiful, ambitious, and depraved in early Hollywood. Babylon is in theaters December 23rd. You don't write an elevator for the music, or pick an airline for the movies. So when it comes to audio entertainment, it makes sense to choose Audible. It's the home for stories told by the biggest stars like Ethan Hawke, Carrie Washington, and Kevin Hart. It's home to epic adventures, chilling mysteries, and can't miss comedies. Audible is the home of storytelling. Let your imagination soar with audiobooks, podcasts, and originals. Let Audible help you discover new ways to laugh, be inspired, or be entertained. New members can try it free for 30 days. Visit audible.com-listening or text listening to 500-500. That's audible.com-listening or text listening to 500-500 to try Audible free for 30 days. Audible.com-listening. From One Re, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scandal. The Standard Oil Trust was something the world had never seen before. It gave John D. Rockefeller an unparalleled amount of power. With the trust, Rockefeller was able to control a wide variety of businesses, from oil refineries to pipelines to railroad cars. He also controlled standards aggressive marketing divisions, which fought to ensure that every household in America burned standard caracene and heating oil. In effect, Rockefeller invented the modern holding company, and laid the groundwork for the vast multinational companies that are common today. But the practice was new in the late 1800s, and so Rockefeller and Standard Oil avoided widespread public scrutiny. But as the years unfolded, the company grew reckless and vulnerable to attack. Soon, a determined journalist decided to strike. Her name was Ida Torbal, and she began to hold Rockefeller accountable for his wrongdoings. This is Episode 3, The Flood. It's a summer of 1881 in Columbus, Mississippi, a pair of horses turn a corner and trot along the main street of this southern town. The horses hooves stop on the dirt road and kick up dust. A shopkeeper looks over at the horses, and notices that the animals are pulling a wide cart loaded with barrels painted blue which bounce with each rut in the road. Yet the shopkeeper has no trouble reading the words on the barrels. They say Standard Oil Company. The horses pass by the shopkeeper's small grocery, and he quickly grows suspicious. He grabs his bowl or hat to begin following the cart. He has a bad feeling about this, and he can't let it go. Not after what happened a month ago. It was then that the shopkeeper first saw those blue barrels, printed with the word Standard Oil. That day, a similar cart stopped in front of the shopkeeper's store, a salesman with a long, bushy mustache stepped down from the cart and entered the store. The man said he was selling Standard Kerosene. He claimed it was the best kerosene around that Americans all across the nation use it to light their lamps. The salesman seemed friendly at first, but that changed when the shopkeeper said he already had a kerosene supplier and that he wasn't interested. The salesman insisted that the shopkeeper purchase Standard Oil Kerosene. He wouldn't relent, and so finally the shopkeeper had to ask him to leave. That's when the salesman lowered his voice and stepped close to the shopkeeper. He said that if the shopkeeper didn't buy Standard Kerosene, he could expect trouble. Salesman then said he would open a competing grocery store down the street. He'd sell everything from flour to potatoes, and he'd keep his prices low, so low in fact that he'd run the shopkeeper out of business. The shopkeeper laughed at this absurd threat and he didn't think any more of it, but now he feels weighed down with dread because here are those blue barrels once again moving down the street. The shopkeeper picked up his pace and keeps following the cart. He's sweating and choking on the dust that the horses are kicking up. Then the cart stops in front of an empty storefront, only blocks away from his own store. Workers begin unloading the barrels and bringing them inside. The shopkeeper gets closer and notices that another cart is being unloaded. This one doesn't have barrels of kerosene. Instead it has heaters, lamps, and stoves, everything needed to burn kerosene in a home. And each product bears the same name, Standard Oil. The shopkeeper begins to shake, and then he grows hot with rage when he sees a sign in front of the store. He lists a wide number of products for sale, meat, sugar, coffee, flour, potatoes, and they're all selling at absurdly cheap prices. The shopkeeper is stunned. He knows he can't match them. People are going to flock to this new store and he'll be ruined. The shopkeeper stands staring at this new competitor, and that's when he sees the man with a bushy mustache step out from the store. The shopkeeper rushes over and demands to know why the salesman would do this. Why go through all this trouble just to ruin another man's life? The salesman smirks, looks him dead in the eye. Then he says the shopkeeper was given a choice. He could buy Standard Oil kerosene, or he could stay with the competitor and face the consequences. The shopkeeper's mouth falls open. He stutters, trying to find the right words. But before he can, the salesman smiles and turns away. Then he enters the new grocery store and begins nailing a sign to the wall. When he finishes, he looks at the shopkeeper and smiles. The sign reads, now open. It's five years later in New York City. John D. Rockefeller stares out the window of his penthouse office. Often the distance he can see ships docked in New York's harbor. Right now, men are loading blue barrels of kerosene into those ships. Standard Oil refines that kerosene and continues to rake in huge profits. Enough to build this nine-story building overlooking the southern tip of Manhattan. Rockefeller leaves the window. He feels a wave of pride as he returns to a large mahogany desk. In what feels like the blink of an eye, Rockefeller has made a fortune. He used to be a poor boy with no money to his name. Now he's the most powerful oilman in the entire country, and possibly the entire world. So it's fitting that Standard Oil moved its headquarters to New York City. This sprawling metropolis is the epicenter of American capitalism and a proper home to an enterprise like Standard Oil. For Rockefeller the move from Cleveland felt like proof that Standard Oil had finally arrived on the world stage. And it was proof that the company was all powerful and unstoppable. At his desk, Rockefeller picks up a report and begins reading it. The report is from a man who works for the railroads. He and Rockefeller have a mutually beneficial agreement. Rockefeller bribes him, and in return, the man supplies Rockefeller with information about Standard Oil's competitors. The reports have been enormously helpful and allowed Standard to maintain its advantage over the market. Normally, Rockefeller's pleas to read these letters. But as he reads today's report, Rockefeller's mood quickly grows dark. The railroad agent says there's troubling news out of St. Louis. One of Standard Oil's competitors has just flooded the city with a large shipment of caracene. Standard Oil's getting beaten in this lucrative market. Rockefeller finishes reading their report, then pounds his desk in frustration. He doesn't understand how this could have happened. Standard is the most powerful refiner in the country. It holds an iron grip over America's cities. So why is it suddenly getting beaten by a competitor in St. Louis? Rockefeller begins flipping through his catalog reports from his intelligence network, searching for an answer. That's when he hears a knock on the door. His secretary peeks into the room and tells Rockefeller it's nearly noon. Time for his daily lunch meeting with the Standard Oil directors. Rockefeller stands and takes a deep breath. Soon he'll meet with the men who help him run Standard Oil. He'll demand answers about this new report from St. Louis. And if he's not satisfied with their responses, Rockefeller won't hesitate to make big changes. Fast. Minutes later, Rockefeller leaves his office and heads down a long, carpeted hallway. He passes through a series of doors, each equipped with special devices. The doors can only be opened by those who know how to correctly turn the knobs. This adds extra security to the building, and Rockefeller grins as he imagines a snooping journalist getting trapped between the doors. Rockefeller opens the final door and passes into a room decorated with hunting trophies. The heads of elk, boar, and other animals line the wall. At the long table are Standard Oil directors. Most of them used to be rivals from refineries in Titusville, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and New York. But one by one, each of the men realized they'd been beaten. And soon they joined Standard Oil and began fighting for the company with a nearly religious enthusiasm. Rockefeller takes his usual seat next to John Archbald, who is now his most trusted deputy. And with his eyes narrowed, Rockefeller addresses the room. Gentlemen, I've just received troubling words from our intelligence network. Shameful news, which should make all of you worried. The director's exchange nervous glances. Rockefeller continues. I've learned that one of our competitors is shipping large quantities of kerosene to St. Louis. They're beating us and stealing our customers. We're losing one of the most important metropolitan markets in the country. John Archbald turns to face Rockefeller. Well, this is outrageous. Our marketers in St. Louis must answer for this. They must, and they will. But they're not the only ones to blame. Look around this room. Look at their men entrusted to run this company. We hold the power. And that means we hold the responsibility. But we've done everything in our power. Not everything. Rockefeller cases across the table. The director's faces look solemn and downcast. Yes, we've been successful. But we've grown lazy. We've failed to change tactics now that we control the market. It's time to adapt. But John, you said it. We control the market. What else would you have us do? Stop expanding. Stop growing. For now. At this point, we must defend our territory. We have to retake St. Louis and prevent any similar competition in the future. Archbald considers this and leans forward. Well, we can give away lamps and stoves, drive up consumer demand for kerosene. Our competitors might drop their prices, but then we'll drop our prices even more. Even if that means we'll take a short-term loss. But we have the power to do this. We can push back the competition. Rockefeller nods. He's proud to see Archbald proposing such a bold initiative. Hmm. Good. These are exactly the right ideas. And there's one more. We must also split up the country into separate territories. We'll divide and conquer each, stopping out the competition one by one. Until no one can compete with standard oil ever again. The director has cheered this proposal. And Rockefeller looks across the room smiling. He knows that every problem has a solution and every hiccup, however minor, must be dealt with. Standard oil is the most powerful refiner in the country. And John D. Rockefeller is a good-a-let-that title slip away. A teen solo hiker is terrorized for days by unknown figures dressed in white. Two cops quit their jobs at a local theater because of encounters with an alleged demon. An isolated forest in Canada where people keep turning up headless. These are just a few of the unbelievable stories you'll hear on the Mr. Ballin podcast on Amazon Music. Each week you'll hear about inexplicable encounters, shocking disappearances, and other strange dark and mysterious stories. And they are all true, like the case of Haley Zegga. She disappeared on a hiking trail for 51 hours. And when she was found again, she said a friend helped her survive. And this friend of hers exactly matched the physical description of a little girl who had gone missing in that exact spot 23 years earlier and who had never been found. Hey, Prime members, listen to the Amazon Music exclusive podcast, Mr. Ballin podcast, strange dark and mysterious stories in the Amazon Music app. Download the app today. It's a warm and sunny day in June 1892. Today a group of children have gathered on the lawn of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, France. They're spread out in the grass and giggling while watching a puppet show. Ida Tarmel stands to the side in the shade of a large chestnut tree. Tarmel is now 34 years old. She has her dark hair pinned up in a bun and wears a long sleeve floral dress. She fans herself with her hand and continues to watch as the children grasp and grab at each other. Mary Annette crashes into a wall and the children howl with laughter in their squeaky voices. Tarmel grins and turns from the stage. She continues strolling down a gravel path. Tarmel loves her life here in Paris. She ride in France about a year ago after coming all the way from Pennsylvania. She had $150 in her pocket and dreamed to live a new, exciting life. Tarmel had saved that money while working as a magazine editor. She took the job because she realized that as a woman, she could never be a scientist, not even with a college degree. She enjoyed editing, but she also missed the feeling of making new discoveries. She wanted to see the world up close, just like she used to with her microscope. But with that career path close to her, she decided to become a writer. She wanted a fresh start and one that was far from the oil fields of Pennsylvania. She figured it didn't get much farther than Paris. Tarmel feels free from her past and already she's been wildly successful in her career. She's publishing articles in American magazines and newspapers and even though she can't be a scientist, she gets to write about scientific topics. So for her, she figures life couldn't get much better. But today, something feels off. Tarmel has a vague notion that something has happened. She can't put her finger on it. So she exits the garden through a rot iron gate, heads to a nearby kiosk where she buys a newspaper. Her life in France may feel perfect, but Tarmel can't deny she still gets homesick. She practically enhales the letters her mother sends, and now with the newspaper in hand, Tarmel flips to the page with foreign news. She's hungry for an update from the United States and she's eager to set aside this strange, ominous feeling that she's had all day. But a headline midway down the page sends a shock through her spine. She can't believe the words, the newspaper says a damn has broken in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The town has been destroyed by flood and fire. Tarmel's mouth goes dry. She imagines a wall of water rushing down Main Street, destroying everything in its path, including her family's home. She quickly scans the rest of the article. It says most of Titusville is either burned or underwater. As many as 150 people are dead, the rest have fled to the hills. Tarmel doesn't hesitate. She picks up her long skirt and begins running down the street. She needs to get to our apartment. She prays her family has sent a telegram or something. She prays they're not dead. Tarmel turns a corner and suddenly runs into a man who's smoking a cigarette. He curses her and waves his arms, but she doesn't stop. She keeps running past him. He doesn't matter right now, she thinks. Paris doesn't matter right now. Tarmel's thoughts begin to swirl as she runs down a cobblestone street. How could she abandon her family and move so far away? Her little sister has been recently ill. How selfish to abandon her, Tarmel thinks. In a smogistor sister, her father's business is still sinking. The standard oil bullies the entire region. Tarmel is a block from her apartment and nearly out of breath. She clenches her fingers until her fist cramp. She could have done something. She could have helped her family instead of moving so far away, pursuing some child's dream. Now her home is gone. Her family might be gone too. Tarmel reaches her building and throws up in the front door. She races up the stairs. When she reaches the landing, her land lady is waiting at the apartment door. Without saying a word, the woman hands Tarmel a slip of white paper. It's a telegram from Tarmel's brother, William. Tarmel's hands shake as she unfolds the paper. On it is a single word. She reads, takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. She feels like she's gonna fall over. For a moment, she stops breathing. Then she forces her eyes open, takes a deep gulp of air and reads the telegram once again, feeling dizzy with relief. The one word on the telegram is safe. Tarmel leans against the wall, breathing heavily. Her family is alive. They survive the accident. She'll be able to see them once again. Tarmel turns and looks out the hallway window. She gazes at the Paris skyline. In the short time she's been here, this city has felt like a magical escape. But now it's just another city. And a place far, far from home. It's autumn, 1893. The main street of Titusville, Pennsylvania is lined with burnt and scattered timber. Franklin Tarmel looks out from his front porch, gazing at all the wreckage. You stare silently. His face is lined with worry and his beard is flecked with grey. It's been a year since the Great Flood and Fire, but he'll never forget the day the dam broke. It all happens so fast. The floodwater is washed over the refineries. It then sent a wall of water, oil, and fire roaring through the town. That day Franklin and his wife Esther stood on this very porch watching. They were ready to abandon their home if the water rose any higher, but somehow their house survived. But that didn't stop the bad news from coming. Recently the oil market took a huge hit and prices dropped. Then just days ago, Tarmel discovered that his business partner killed himself. It was a horrible shock and added to Tarmel's other misery. He learned that his company's finances are in terrible shape. Tarmel exhales raggedly, like he's been holding his breath this whole time. Then he turns and walks inside. His wife Esther quickly stands up from the sofa as he enters. He searches his face with a look of concern. You heard back from the bank? Franklin nods, but he can't look at his wife directly in the eyes. They want the desk fate now. Instead, it doesn't matter that my partner died. We're responsible for his half of the money. Franklin, what are we going to do? How can we get that sort of money? Tarmel gathers his courage. Then he looks up at Esther. There's only one way we have to mortgage the house. No, it hasn't come to that. I'll go back to teaching. You haven't taught for 30 years. That doesn't matter. I can do it again. So it won't be enough. I'm done. I'm done fighting. I can't win. Not up him up against giants like standard. You made an honest living. That's more than John D. Rockefeller can say. Like that's the consolation. Because while I was sticking to my principles, we lost our business. Now we're going to lose the roof over our heads. Franklin, the market will come back. It always does. Somehow we'll make the payments. We'll make this work. Franklin approaches his wife and embraces her. To hold each other quietly until Franklin is hit with another worry. What do we tell Eida? She's doing so well in Paris. I don't want her thinking she should rush back here to help us out. She has a career there. There's nothing here for her and Titusville. I'll write to her and tell her exactly that. She should stay in Paris. We'll be fine. Franklin lays a kiss on his wife's forehead and steps back. Then he wipes a tear from his eye. Steels a glance at the piano, where Eida first learned to play music. He remembers how proud he felt to get her the piano and lessons. But now he feels the overwhelming heaviness of shame as another thought crosses his mind. He could make good money selling that piano. Targal shakes his head. No. He can't do that, not yet. Somehow they'll get through this. It's a year later in the fall of 1894. A wooden buggy bounces as it travels over a rough stretch of road. Eida tarmel looks out from the front seat and gazes at the distant tree line of Titusville, Pennsylvania. She glances left at her brother, William. He sits beside her holding the reins on a pair of horses. As she stares at these dusty roads, Eida feels a strange mixture of comfort and sadness. For three years, she was separated from her family by an ocean. It's good to be home, back in a place that feels so familiar. And even now, it's still a relief that none of her family members died in the big accident. When the dam broke and destroyed the town. So for Eida tarmel, this should be a triumphant return. She's a successful writer, and she even has a promising new job, working full-time at an ambitious new magazine called McClure's. She'll have the chance to investigate important stories and explore them at length. She never could have imagined such a job would exist, or that she, a woman, could get it. But even though she's happy to be home, and even though her family members all survived the flood, Eida can't help but feel some amount of bitterness. That feeling hits her at the moment the buggy reaches the crest of the hill. William pulls back and stops the horses. He points at a high earthen wall, one that seems to rise toward the sky. William tells Eida that that's the dam that broke. It didn't just destroy the city. It destroyed her father. Eida wins this. She imagines a flood of water rushing into town. It's true that her family members all survived, but her father's business did not. After the flood, his business and oil production finally collapsed. The local economy was devastated, and Eida's father simply couldn't compete with John D. Rockefeller, not with all the politicians in his pocket or his network of spies. And so while Franklin Tarble survived the flood, he emerged a profoundly different man. Eida could sense it the second she saw him. Her father looked frail, hunched over. His voice was weaker and he seemed defeated. Looking at the dam, Eida Tarble sighs, shakes her head. She turns to her brother and explains that the flood was just a straw that broke the camel's back. Rockefeller was coming for their father, and all the other men like him who tried to fight against standard oil. Eventually, surely they would have lost. The flood only made that faster. Eida's brother, William Snears, he reminds Eida that the government hasn't been any help. Sure, Congress made it illegal for Rockefeller to form his little pact with the railroads, and they passed a law to fight against monopolies. But both laws are toothless, nothing's happened. It seems like no one can beat standard. And standard just keeps growing. Eida gazes at the sky. And she remarked on how impossible it all seems. An entire industry could end up in the hands of just one man. It goes against the spirit of fair play. Her brother, William Sneakers, and says it's not like Congress or the president or any of the states are going to do anything about it. This story is over. Eida straightens her skirt, looks back at her brother with an intense gaze. But what if the story isn't over, she says? William raises a eyebrow. Eida continues. This could all change, she says. But first, people need to know the truth about Rockefeller. Then, once his cruel tricks are known to the public, finally, people will do something. They'll stop buying standard kerosene. They'll take action. Her brother nods, but looks unconvinced. How do you get common folk to understand what Rockefeller has done? But Eida smiles with a fiery look in her eyes. It's simple, she says. You start digging. You uncover the truth. And then when you find it, you write about it. You tell the world. William gets a conspiratorial look on his face. NASA Ida, whether this is something to do with her new job for that magazine, but Ida only blinks and points at the reins on the horses. Let's go home, she says. We've both got a lot of work to do. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham, the host of Wonder's podcast, American Scandal. We bring to life some of the biggest controversies in US history, events that have shaped who we are as a country, and that continue to define the American experience. American Scandal tells marquee stories about American politics, like the breaking at the Watergate Hotel, an event that led to the downfall of a president and raised questions about the future of American democracy. We go behind the scenes looking at devastating financial crimes, like the fraud committed at Enron and Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. And we tell stories of complicated public figures like Edward Snowden and Monica Lewinsky, people who found themselves thrust into the spotlight, and who spurred debates about the future of the country. Follow American Scandal wherever you get your podcasts. You can listen ad-free on the Amazon Music or Wonder App. Music It's the spring of 1896 in New York City. From his ninth floor office, John D. Rockefeller stares out the window. Right now, he's lost and thought. Something that's been happening often. Finally, he understands why. Rockefeller built standard oil into an unrivaled empire. Standard owns the refineries, the pipelines, the tank cars. Now, it owns a large share of the actual oil wells and even dominates the market for petroleum byproducts. The entire country depends on standard oil. If he chose to, Rockefeller could shut down the railroads simply by refusing to sell them greased for their engines. With so many accomplishments and so much power, Rockefeller realizes that he may have reached the top. There's nowhere else to go from here. In his office, Rockefeller paces thinking about next steps. He'd like to focus on philanthropy, and he spent a considerable amount of time establishing the University of Chicago. But perhaps it's time to make a big decision to change his role with standard oil. There's a knock at the door. Rockefeller's secretary enters looking apologetic. He says he's sorry for the intrusion, but Rockefeller's brother Frank is in the building. He's demanding to be let in. Rockefeller's size. And before he can answer Frank barges in. Rockefeller can already sense that he'll have to defuse yet another problem with his troubled brother. Frank, what brings you to New York? Well brother, I thought you knew everything that goes on around here. Well I don't know everything. I'm not gone. Sure act like it. Rockefeller tenses up. He can already sense the lashing that's coming his way. So he waits patiently for Frank to continue. So why am I here? I'm a vice president of the company. My presence is required from time to time. Frank, you're a vice president of standard of Ohio. Not the standard oil trust. You know, I could be of use here in New York if you'd only let me. But every time I make a contribution, you just belittle me. What about standard of Ohio success? Yeah, that success has nothing to do with you. I myself built standard oil. You practically prints money for its dong-holes, including you. Frank begins to speak, but Rockefeller cuts them off. And on that note, I have something to share with you. I decided that it's time for me to retire. I will retain my title of president and continue to be briefed on affairs, but I'll be stepping aside. Rockefeller sees Frank's surprise. Who would be taking your place? John Archbald will assume the hell. Archbald, the little man with a big mouth. What about family? What about me? Rockefeller sits back in his chair. He's allowed Frank to poke at him for an entire lifetime. And he's always suffered it with polite silence. He's tired of that. What about you? Well, you're a drunk and a gambler. You've never pulled your weight. You never gave me a chance to pull my weight. I see you don't deny the drunk and gambler. Frank, I made you rich. You'd be nothing without me. Frank's face grows red. And as he speaks, his voice begins to crack. And droplets of spittle shoot from his mouth. You won't even forgive me my loans. I'm the richest man in the world for a brother. And he's heartless, heartless. You know what? This is the last time we'll speak, John. The last time. Well, that's just as well. I'm sure Archbald will be kind enough to keep you on the payroll once I'm gone. At that Rockefeller calls for his secretary, who rushers Frank out of the room. Rockefeller feels tired and worn out. But he's confident he's made the right move. Archbald is the man to succeed him. He might be cocky, but Archbald reminds Rockefeller of himself in one crucial way. They both want to win at all costs. Rockefeller shakes his head. He's nearly laughing. No, he wouldn't dream of letting someone like Frank drive his perfect company into the ground. Man like Archbald will keep fighting, making sure that standard oil stays on top of the world. It's long past midnight in November 1898. John Archbald sits at his desk, cast with the orange glove and nearby lamp. His shadow flickers against the wall as he writes a letter. Archbald snuck into this room as quietly as possible. He didn't want to wake his wife. He'd rather she remain in the dark about his business affairs, especially affairs of this kind. Archbald forms precise letters on the paper with a nib of his fountain pen. He pauses, satisfied smiles, but across his face. This letter is going to get results. And it will ensure that Archbald remains one of the most powerful men in the world of oil, or maybe just the world. A little over a year ago, Archbald took charge of standard oil. John D. Rockefeller went into retirement, but he's still far away standards larger shareholder. That's why Archbald briefs him on the company every week. Still, Archbald knows that this is his moment to shine. He's already begun to put his own bold touch on standards day-to-day affairs. And this letter is a perfect example. Right now, Archbald is offering to bribe a senator from Ohio. He hovers his pen over the page, and then writes that he approves of the senator's work. That's why he's giving the man a gift of $15,000. But he reminds the senator of a pressing issue. There's the pesky matter of some antitrust legislation that's floating around the Senate. Archbald writes that he's confident the senator will have no difficulty killing it. Just then, Archbald hears the floorboards creak in the hallway. He instinctively pulls the letter into his lap. The door opens, and Archbald finds his wife standing in the doorway, her eyes bleary. She asks what he's doing. Says it's not healthy to be working at this hour. Archbald lays down his pen. Looks at his wife intensely. He says, there's nothing more important than work. Nothing in the world. She begins to speak, but he stops her. She should go back to bed. So she shakes her head and her relents, backing her back in the room. Archbald takes the letter from his lap and lays it back on the desk. The paper is a little crumpled, but he decides not to start over. He knows that a few wrinkles won't matter, as long as the money is good. Throughout the country, Americans are increasingly turning hostile to business monopolies. But Archbald knows that if he keeps the right politicians on the payroll, standard will come out without a scratch. Finally, with the letter complete, Archbald makes out a certificate of deposit for $15,000. He writes that he's not going to be able to do anything. He writes the numbers with a dramatic flourish. Unlike Rockefeller, who treated bribes as an unpleasant necessity, Archbald believes all bribery should be done with relish. He then seals up the letter and certificate and gazes out the window at the moon this night. He's determined to be more than just a caretaker at the standard oil trust. He will expand on Rockefeller's legacy. And with enough bold moves and late nights, he will forge a legacy of his own. It's late 1899. Bited Tarmall enters the offices of McCleur's magazine in Manhattan. She surveys the office where several writers and editors are bent over their desks in deep concentration. She walks past them and several colleagues look up a nod. Tarmall smiles and tips her hat. Tarmall has been writing from McCleur's ever since she returned from Paris, but she still can't believe her good fortune. Each month, her articles appear alongside fiction from Mark Twain, Will a Cather and Robert Lewis Stevenson. But McCleur is getting the most attention for its nonfiction. The magazine has been producing a new, aggressive form of public journalism. The articles have exposed corruption and advocate for reform. For Ida Tarmall, this is the highest calling in the most important writing in America. Tarmall moves through the magazine's headquarters and enters the office of SS McCleur, the magazine's founder. McCleur is leaning back in his chair, rubbing his fingers through his sandy blonde mustache. When he notices Tarmall, he jumps to his feet and greets her. His face is beaming with excitement. Tarmall knows that he has a childlike curiosity about the world and a desire to explore new ideas. Still, she's never seen him look disenthusiastic. A moment later, he explains why he's in such a good mood. He tells Tarmall that he's made a decision. He wants her to be the magazine's managing editor. She's created a number of hits including her biographies of President Lincoln and Napoleon. She has a vision McCleur says, and he wants Tarmall to guide the magazine. Of course, he adds she'll still get to write. Tarmall is stunned. This is an opportunity beyond anything she could have imagined when she moved to Paris to become a writer. She begins to thank McCleur and he reaches out to shake her hand. He says he'll make this official as soon as he can, but in the meantime, she shouldn't let it distract her from her next story. Tarmall feels like she's floating. She begins to walk out the office, then stops. She turns around and with a radiant smile, she thanks Mr. McCleur. Tarmall then returns to her desk her head spinning with ideas. This promotion makes it clear. She's free to take on any subject she pleases, no matter how ambitious. She has a vote of confidence from McCleur himself. Tarmall picks up a pen and turns it over in her hand. Then, like a jolt of electricity, the idea comes. She's going to investigate the rise of large companies in America. For Tarmall, their massive power threatens the very idea of democracy. She can think of no better subject than the largest business of them all. The company that loomed over her childhood, that haunts her family and her hometown to this day. Ida Tarmall is going to investigate Standard Oil. From Wondery, this is episode three of the breakup of Big Oil from American Scandal. In our next episode, Ida Tarmall launches a searing investigation of Standard Oil. Receives unlikely support from John D. Rockefeller's inner circle. Hey, prime members. You can listen to American Scandal Add Free on Amazon Music. Download the Amazon Music Cap today. Or you can listen Add Free with Wondery Plus and Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at Wondery.com slash survey. If you'd like to learn more about the breakup of Big Oil, we recommend the book's Titan, The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernau. All in a day's work by Ida Tarmall and taking on the trust by Steve Weinberg. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what we're set, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosting, edited and executive produced by me, Lindsey Graham for Airship. Audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrett's, Music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Michael Kenyon Meyer, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven, executive producer, our Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marshall Louis for Wondery.