American Scandal

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The Breakup of Big Oil | Rise of Rockefeller | 1

The Breakup of Big Oil | Rise of Rockefeller | 1

Tue, 11 Aug 2020 09:00

John D. Rockefeller is a poor boy with a dream. He's going to become a businessman. And he's going to be wildly rich. Soon, he stumbles on the product that will seal his fate: oil. Thick, crude oil is gushing from the ground across America. It's creating boomtowns—and a new economy. Rockefeller begins to conquer the industry, but he quickly makes enemies, including a young woman who will challenge Rockefeller's growing empire.

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It's the dead of night in March 1872. The main street is empty and Titusville, Pennsylvania, and all the homes are dark in this newly prosperous town. But suddenly, the silence is broken by the sound of heavy boots on a dirt road. Man flood into the streets, their clothes stained with oil and the light of kerosene lamps flickering across their faces. At the head of the pack walks Franklin Tarbel. Tarbel is in his early 40s, he's tall, lean, with a thick brown beard trimmed to a point. Right now, Tarbel is gripping a sharp and axe. He's not preparing to hurt anyone, though he knows that tonight he may have to swing the weapon. Tarbel turns and notices the man beside him, who looks worried. Like Tarbel, he's in the oil business. Both men run their own small companies and both produce crude oil from Pennsylvania's newly discovered deposits. Tarbel looks at the man and pats him on the shoulder. Don't worry, we'll show John D. Rockefeller. We're not going to roll over for that crook. Frank, this seems like a bad idea. We're picking a fight with giants. No, no, no, they picked this fight, not us. Remember that. Rockefeller is never going to give up. Not until every last oil man is working for him. He's going to keep buying us out one by one. Anyone who says no, but Rockefeller is going to crush them. That's why we got to take action. Stay strong together. Man stares down at his feet, shakes his head, but what if we can't hold him? Look, if we all sell the Rockefeller at least, we'll be on the winning side. Tarbel shoots him in menacing glance. Now, how'd Guy before I take orders from any man, especially a man like Rockefeller? Up ahead, Tarbel sees the rail station. It still looks new and polished. It's a sign of all the oil that's been discovered in Titusville and all the money that's poured in. As the mob approaches, the security guards look up, faces suddenly full of fear, and just as quickly, they run away into the night. Tarbel races his axe and addresses the crowd. All right, man. Let's go. We can't let Rockefeller get one drop of our oil. Him in the railroads, they're thieves. So tonight, we set things right. Tarbel feels the mob surging forward. He hops over a set of tracks and makes his way to the first of the railroads cars. In no time, the men break through the car door. The climb inside and begin rolling wooden barrels out onto the track, one barrel, then another, and another. Tarbel gazes at them. He licks his lips and grins. Then he kicks one of the barrels aside, races his axe and swings. Thick oil bursts from the splintered wood, and the familiar stinging smell of crude fills the air. He looks around and sees other men swinging their axes. Their faces splattered with black thick oil. Tarbel wipes his mouth on his sleeve. He thinks about how much blood and sweat it took to get this oil out of the ground. He hates the way Steve and one drop, but it's worth it to stop Rockefeller. Anything to keep that robber bear from threatening his livelihood and his family's future. Tarbel races to grab another barrel. They have to move quickly in case the security comes back with reinforcements. But Tarbel is full of energy and fueled by his anger at Rockefeller and his cronies. In this country, Tarbel thinks there's always a rich man trying to take everything for himself. Makes Tarbel furious. So he swings down his axe, cracking yet another barrel. The thick oil comes gushing out. Tarbel swings again, and the barrel smashes open. For Franklin, Tarbel, this feels good. He feels strong and powerful. And tonight he'll show John D Rockefeller that free men don't give in so easily. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y Podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y Podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scandal. Today, the global economy is home to a number of massive, powerful companies, Amazon, Walmart, Google, ExxonMobil. They dominate their industries and often destroy their competition. It's the reality that today seems normal to many Americans. But over 100 years ago, one company helped set the stage for our modern economy, standard oil, and its founder was a man named John D Rockefeller. In the mid 1800s Rockefeller built an empire. Standard oil would go on to control a staggering 90% of the country's oil refining. But Rockefeller wasn't the only one operating a ruthless monopoly. Men like Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan also rose to power by dominating an entire industry. Soon politicians questioned what these lords of industry meant for American democracy. And the public expressed outrage about such vast concentrations of wealth. In this six part series, we'll look at how one man came to dominate America's oil industry. He relied on secret deals, bribes, even espionage. Yet John D Rockefeller wasn't invincible. A woman named Ida Tarbel fought to expose him by relying on the power of journalism. And through her extensive reporting, she also exposed the dangers of big business. This is episode one, Rise of Rockefeller. It's September 1850, outside Oigo, New York. The broad Susquehanna River moves gently past a small farmhouse. John Davidson Rockefeller is on his hands and knees in the garden. He's weeding a row of squash and feels the soft snap of roots giving way. He tosses the unwanted plants into a pile. So then that he hears the sound of hooves in the distance and rises from the ground. John is tall with a high forehead and a thin nose. When he stares in the mirror, he sees someone who looks like an adult, and a boy who's just 11 years old. John scans the horizon. He's hoping to see his father break through the tree line. Big Bill Rockefeller, as he's known, has been gone for months. He's been on one of his business trips, selling medicines from his cart. The townspeople laugh at John's father, and say Big Bill is a fake doctor, a fraud, a John ignores them. A horsefighter then appears on the road, but it's not John's father. Disappointed John turns back to the garden, he knows he shouldn't be idle. He looks over and tells his younger brother William to move on to the next row. Then he turns to see that his youngest brother, Frank, is wandered away. Frank is five and plenty old to help with the chores. So John yells at him to come back and says he'll never amount to anything if he doesn't work hard. Frank just giggles and runs away. John feels his anger rise. John's mother always scolds him and tells him to help his brother Frank be a good Baptist who works hard. Frank has always been impossible to control. That's not the only thing John is worried about, though. The longer his father is gone, the more debt the family racks up. John keeps the family books, and he knows that any day now he could go out to buy food and be refused. John is about to go grab his little brother when suddenly Frank starts squealing with joy and running toward the trees. Then John hears the sound of hooves beating on the ground. In rides his father on a beautiful new horse. John walks calmly towards his father, trying to contain his excitement. When John gets near, his father steps down from the saddle. He wears a fine silk hat and a grin. Big Bill reaches into his pocket and pulls at a large wad of new bills. John's eyes widen. He can see a $50 bill on the outside of the roll. Big Bill claps John on the shoulder and tells him not to worry. He settled all the debts at the store, but John barely hears him. His eyes are fixed on the money, which seems magical and it's beauty and power. John looks back at his father, who smiles with a mist of his glint in his eyes. He asks if John would like to write his new horse and John eagerly nods yes. His father bends down and weaves his hands into a makeshift step. John places his foot into his father's hand, but just as he's about to leap into the saddle, his father lets go. John smacks him to the side of the horse and collapses onto the ground. He lies sprawled in the dirt, head spinning. He can hear his brother's laughing. John looks up at his father stunned. Big Bill issues a stern command. Remember John, never trust anyone completely. Not even me. It's five years later in Cleveland, Ohio. John D. Rockefeller walks quickly down a cobblestone street. He wears a dark suit, but his sleeves are too short. He tugs at the cuffs. He's sixteen years old and worried that he might outgrow this suit before he can get a job that might pay for a new one. Soon further down this street, Rockefeller spots what he's looking for. The entrance to a shipping firm known as Huitt and Tuttle. Rockefeller sighs in relief. He's right on time for his interview. He opens the front door and heads upstairs. As he walks up the steps, Rockefeller can feel himself sweating. His heart racing. He's been hunting for a job every day for nearly two months. He needs this interview to go well. Badly. Rockefeller began his job search when his father wrote a letter and told him to drop out of school. His father said he was starting a long sales trip in Canada and that man John needed to provide for the family. Reading these words, Rockefeller's heart sank. He knew then that he'd never be able to go to college, become a Baptist minister like his mother wanted. He was furious, and resistant at first, but there was only one choice. He had to get a job. Right now, Rockefeller reaches the top of the stairs and finds Isaac Huitt, the senior partner of the shipping firm. Huitt is gray haired and dressed neatly in a frock coat. He looks rich, well respected, just the kind of man Rockefeller would like to be someday. Huitt greets him, then gestures to a desk and asks John to demonstrate his penmanship. Rockefeller approaches the desk and writes out a series of sums in a careful hand. When he steps back, Huitt looks over his work and frowns. Rockefeller's stomach turns. He was sure he hadn't made a single error, but then Huitt nods his approval and offers the job. Rockefeller can begin as a bookkeeper right away. Rockefeller feels like he's floating off the ground. He has a job, and soon he'll have money. He can support his family. Rockefeller almost feels like he's about to cry, but instead he summons all his calm so that he can thank Mr. Huitt in a steady voice. Then he's shown to where the books are kept, the room where he'll make his first real salary. It's two years later, in a winter morning in 1857. The cold wind rattles the windows of the Eerie Street Baptist Mission Church in Cleveland, Ohio. John D. Rockefeller stands near the church's entrance. He's wearing his best Sunday suit and eagerly shakes the hands of worshippers as they come in from the cold. Rockefeller is only 18, but ever since getting his bookkeeping job, he's become an important member of this congregation. He gives precisely 10% of his $500 salary to church causes, like the abolition of slavery. He then carefully records each donation in a little red notebook. Rockefeller's fistidious attention to the numbers recently even had the preacher make him the church treasurer. Rockefeller thanks God he's a member of a humble church like this, one where he can be of use. When Rockefeller finishes his final greeting, he hurries inside, closes the door and joins his mother in siblings in their pew near the front. Today, as usual though, his father won't be joining them. He's not in town. And while Big Bill still comes to Cleveland from time to time, John has become the main provider for the family. The preacher then takes the pulpit. His expression is grave and he clears his throat. He says he has a serious announcement one that concerns the future of the church. The congregants murmur and John exchanges a worry glance with this mother. The preacher continues explaining that a creditor has threatened to foreclose on the church's mortgage. They'll need to raise $2,000 by the end of the month, or God's house will be taken by the bank. Rockefeller hears people gasping. $2,000 is a great deal of money, but there must be a way to raise it. Then Rockefeller grins. He has a simple plan. After the sermon, Rockefeller hurries to the church door. He stops one of the congregants, a railroad conductor, just as he's about to leave. Rockefeller says he's decided to raise funds to save the church and asks what the conductor can spare. When he hears a paltry figure, Rockefeller points to the conductor's gold watch. And Rockefeller reminds him that surely the man can double that amount. The conductor sheepishly agrees. Rockefeller then writes the promise sum in his notebook and steps in front of the next man. Rockefeller moves from one parishioner to another, gaining a steady stream of pledges to donate money. At that moment, Rockefeller feels warmth, welling up inside him. And he realizes that he's not just adding up numbers like he does in his stage up. He's raising funds like a businessman. Rockefeller smiles proud of himself. He has a natural talent. He can convince men to put money in his hands. This can only mean one thing. God wants him to be successful. And now he just needs to find a business to apply himself to. Because once he does, finds the right market, he sure the Lord will help him conquer it. It's April 17, 1861 in Rouseville, Pennsylvania. Franklin Tarbill enters the town's general store, a scowl plastered on his face. He looks around the store and notices the gonged angry faces of men like him, tired and disappointed. Tarbill knows how they feel. He came to Pennsylvania to build oil barrels. He thought he'd make a fortune. But there was a problem. His barrels aren't worth much if there's no oil to fill them. It seems like the wells might have dried up for good. In which case, he and his wife will have to move their whole family again, including their four year old daughter, Ida. The uncertainty has been weighing heavily on him. Plus, there's the bigger news, the story everyone in the country is talking about. Inside the general store, Tarbill approaches a group of men. He takes a seat on a cracker barrel and one of the men, an oil driller, dresses him. Tarbill, looks like you heard the news? Yeah, who has it? I just can't believe the rebels took Fort Sunter. What do you suppose President Lincoln will do? Well, it's war. No way around it now. Well, if that's it, then I'm going to fight. I suppose I would too if I didn't have my family to look after. Lord knows I have to start making money somehow. Soon too. Right then, a man burst through the door, his eyes wide with joy. Henry Rouse just filled a gusher. Come quick, it's a, it's the biggest I've ever seen. Tarbill and the other men trade excited glances, and then Tarbill leaps from his seat, his heart pounding. He hurries out of the store, then he sees it. A giant black tower bursting high above the trees. He rises into the blue sky and blots out the sun. Tarbill turns to the driller. Well, gosh darn it, you believe it? We got one. This is going to change everything. Whole town. We're back in business. Tarbill hurries toward the growing column of oil. He can see the entire hillside already has a thick black green coat. The grasses are matted with it, and the tree limbs hang heavy from the weight. Tarbill stops in his tracks, hauled by the sight, as the gusher grows even taller. That's when Tarbill sees an orange flash. In one awful instant, the gusher erupts in a towering fountain of flames. Tarbill hears the terrified screams of men running from the inferno. Tarbill feels his body go stiff. Then without thinking he turns to run, the others racing alongside. He feels the heat of the flames behind him. He doesn't have time to think to wonder how many of his friends are now dead. He can only run as fast as he can until the sound of splashing oil disappears. Then he stops, panting, trying to catch his breath. He turns back and watches the tower of oil off in the distance as it continues bursting into the air, as unrelenting as the fire. Tarbill's breath is still labored. He whites from his face droplets of oil that will save his family, but come at a terrible price. If you're into True Crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running True Crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every True Crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or you can listen ad free by joining Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. It's the spring of 1863 in Cleveland, Ohio. Assign reading Clark and Rockefeller hangs out at the entrance to a produce warehouse. Inside, John D Rockefeller leans forward in his chair as he stares at the figures in a tall ledger book. Rockefeller started this produce business five years ago, and since then it's been a success. Because of the Civil War, prices are up, and that means the business is now more profitable than ever. There's a knock at the door, and Rockefeller looks up from the ledger. He finds Samuel Andrew standing in the doorway smiling. Rockefeller knows Andrews from church, and gestures for him to come in. Hello, Mr. Andrew. What brings you to the world of produce, placing a large order, I hope, I'm afraid not, Mr. Rockefeller. It's another matter, but a matter of business. Rockefeller scrutinizes the man. He's grown to just trust many businessmen. The Civil War has created business for many con men, and Rockefeller knows he must be extraordinarily careful with his money. Still, Andrews has a strong reputation. He's a self taught chemist and was the first man in Cleveland to refine oil into kerosene. Rockefeller stares at Andrews as the chemist shuffles his feet and looks away. Well then, what is it? What's the business? I'm starting an oil refinery. And I wonder if you'd be interested in joining as a partner? Well, I'm flattered, but I'm not sure it would be to my taste. I like a steady business, not one populated with all the drunkards I hear about in the oil country. Oh, yes, but this is production, Mr. Rockefeller. This is refining oil, turning it into kerosene. You wouldn't be drilling wells in Pennsylvania. You'd be the middleman. Hmm. But it's still a risk, isn't it? The oil can always run dry. Andrews pauses and then points to the wall. I see you have a kerosene lamp. Certainly beats burning whale blubber, I imagine. It does. Every other man in Cleveland feels the same. Look, perhaps the oil will disappear someday, but today, no, there are huge profits to be made. Rockefeller taps his pen against the desk thinking, he persists his lips, then looks back at Andrews. Well, I'll warn you, I'll want to keep a very close eye on the whole operation. Now, that's fine. I'm not a passive investor. I'd welcome your help with the business. I prefer tinkering with my chemicals. Well, excellent then. Count me in. Andrews thanks him and leaves. And Rockefeller's mind races ahead to the possibilities of this new venture. Oil is a higher risk than most the investment Rockefeller has made. It's far riskier than his produce business. But Rockefeller knows the Civil War won't last forever, and time the price of food will go back down. So it's time to try something new, something that could make him the fortune he's always dreamed of. It's early in the morning, a year and a half later. Today, workers are filing into the Excelsior refinery, a sprawling complex set on a red clay hill outside Cleveland. The sun hasn't fully risen, but John D Rockefeller started the day long ago. He's already inside the refinery, right now, he's pushing a wooden barrel and rolling it toward a room where the barrels are filled with kerosene. Rockefeller may be the senior partner at the refinery, but he enjoys these small tasks of the labor. He takes great pride in seeing the operation run smoothly, and he's feeling especially proud today. It's his wedding day, and there's no doubt that this refinery and its remarkable profits helped him win his bride's hand. Rockefeller smiles as he works. He's been courting Settie for two years, and she's a good woman from a respected Cleveland family. Rockefeller feels a glow of accomplishment. Like he's finally becoming the man he always dreamed he'd be. By the end of the day, he'll be part of a respected family. It'll be a small ceremony at his inlaws home, so there won't be any unwanted guests asking unwanted questions about his absent father. Rockefeller takes a deep breath and then enters the refining room. The stench of sulfuric acid stings his nose, but Rockefeller doesn't win. Oil may be an ugly, dirty business, but it's helping him to move up in the world. He's making far more money than he made selling produce, and already he's made this operation lean and efficient by cutting unnecessary expenses and employees. Soon he'll also break free from his business partner, Maurice Clark. The two of them ran the produce company and Clark moved with Rockefeller into the oil business, but Clark is less disciplined. Rockefeller sneers thinking that Clark is the kind of man who'd take a day off to get married. Rockefeller grabs another barrel and rolls it across the ground. As he once again enters the refining room, Rockefeller stops and breathes in the foul air. This time he doesn't hold his nose. He can handle the discomfort. He doesn't bother him, unlike Clark, who doesn't have the appetite to be a successful businessman or to do what it takes to make money. Rockefeller grins, pushes the barrel forward. Clark has no real concern, he thinks. Rockefeller will soon find a way to cut him out of the operation to keep the business growing efficiently and without distractions. It's February 14, 1865, four months later. Huffbeats echo on the streets of downtown Cleveland. John D. Rockefeller exits a horse drawn carriage and approaches the office of a law firm. He wears a silk hat and striped trousers, a fitting outfit for an important day. A few weeks ago, Rockefeller learned about a new oil gusher in a place called Pit Hole in Western Pennsylvania. It was the largest well yet. Rockefeller took it as a sign from God that oil was here to stay and that he should stake his entire future on it. He could make a fortune, but there was a problem. Maurice Clark was still his business partner, so Rockefeller decided to lay a trap. A few days prior, Rockefeller invited Clark to dinner where he intentionally proposed an unwise business plan for the refinery. As expected, Clark lost his temper. He became so angry that he suggested they dissolve their partnership in the oil refinery. For John D. Rockefeller, this plan couldn't have gone any smoother. So today, Rockefeller walks upstairs into the law office, comes face to face with Clark. This will be their last meeting, a private auction to determine who will take control of the refinery. Rockefeller feels remarkably calm. He's determined to win. And if he does, the largest refinery in Cleveland will be under his control. Soon, the auction begins and the two men quickly bid up to $50,000. It's a large sum and more than the whole value of the refinery, but Rockefeller won't give up. Clark places a higher bid and then Rockefeller outbidts him. But the numbers are getting staggering. Rockefeller feels a tightness in his throat. The bid reaches $60,000, then $70,000. Rockefeller breathes trying to study himself. If the price goes much higher, there isn't a banker in Cleveland who will finance the deal. And yet, Rockefeller knows he cannot back down. This is his future, his chance of glory. So when Clark comes in at $72,000, Rockefeller immediately raises him an additional 500, his heart is racing. A Rockefeller makes sure not to reveal an ounce of concern. Clark looks over his eyes, sullen. And at that moment, Rockefeller knows it's over. Clark mutters, you win, John. The business is yours. Rockefeller doesn't smile. He doesn't boast. Instead, he just nods and walks out of the room. John D Rockefeller is 25 years old. And now he owns the largest oil refinery in Cleveland. In fact, it's one of the largest in the entire world. God's bounty will continue to flow from the wells of Western Pennsylvania. And Rockefeller won't rest until every last drop of it passes through his hands. It's June 1865. Ida Minerva Tarbell stands on her family's front porch in Rouseville, Pennsylvania. Ida is tall for a seven year old and is quick and intelligent eyes. Right now, she's watching in fascination as another group of soldiers marches past her family's home. The man march in blue union uniforms. Their faces and outfits are dirty, go. And as they pass, Ida can make out bits and pieces of their conversations. They sound like all the men who pass by the house on a daily basis now, celebrating after the end of the war. They talk about money, they talk about oil in Pennsylvania. Just then, Ida's father appears on the horizon as he rides his horse into the valley. Franklin Tarbell rides his chestnut gilding at a deasy trot and Ida feels a wave of relief. She worries whenever her father doesn't make it home before dark. He runs a business making oil barrels and recently he's been making lots of money, which he carries as he rides home. Ida knows that he has a pistol, but she shakes as she thinks about all the rumors about bandits on the road. Franklin rides up and ties his horse. Ida runs to him and he hugs her close, his beard scratching her face. She holds on to him and tells him that she's seen more soldiers. She wants to know why they just keep coming. Franklin steps back and kneels down. He tells her not to be afraid. Their men trying to make an honest living, just like he is. He adds that everyone has the right and no man or woman is above anyone else. That's what the war was about. Ida locks eyes with her father and feels safe. But she doesn't know if he's telling the truth. He talks a lot about goodness and fairness, but sometimes she doesn't believe him. She's a girl and that means she can't go to college. So how far is that? What about President Lincoln, she thinks? He was shot for doing the right thing. Men fight each other in the road. They look greedy and dangerous. And while her father says men can overcome their desires, Ida doesn't believe him. Greed seems awfully powerful. Maybe Ida thinks, maybe men can't overcome their greed. Maybe that's what the war was about. Maybe her father was wrong. Maybe Ida will have to face the world and put up a fight. It's March 1870. A train squeals to a halt at the station in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Workman race to the train and begin unloading freight. And out of one car steps John D. Rockefeller, who gazes across the station and stretches his arms. It's been a long journey from Cleveland. Rockefeller hates to leave his wife and two young daughters at home. But he knows he can't control his growing empire while sitting behind a desk. He needs to come to Titusville to get a view of all his future operations. The last five years have been a series of successes for Rockefeller. Ever since he took control over the refinery, Rockefeller has continued to weed out inefficiencies and find new areas for growth. These days, Rockefeller sells his leftover sulfuric acid for fertilizer. He sells petroleum jelly to households. He's even found a use for gasoline. Most refiner's treat gasoline is a useless byproduct of caracene refining. Many simply dump their gasoline in the river, even if that means the water occasionally sits on fire. But Rockefeller's refineries home to an innovation. They now burn gasoline to power the refining process itself. And all the while, Rockefeller has been expanding the business. His enterprise now creates wooden barrels. He controls multiple refineries and he owns a fleet of railroad cars. And yet, Rockefeller knows that he's just getting started. As he walks through the streets of Titusville, he sees a horse drawn cart racing by, loaded with massive oil barrels. The barrels teeter on the edge of the cart, and as the horses take a turn, one of the barrels tips over, comes crashing down onto the road. Lands with a thud, and the crack of splintering wood. The driver brings the cart to a halt. Rockefeller can't believe his eyes. This is an industry stuck in ugly adolescence, and it's not that better technology is unavailable. Oil can be shipped by pipelines. Still, the small time producers in towns like Titusville are stuck in their old ways, Rockefeller thinks. That has to change. Rockefeller walks down the dusty street, watching as a group of men loads the fallen oil barrel back into the cart. Crude oil drips out the side of the barrel, leaving a trail of black liquid on the ground. As much as Rockefeller is embarrassed by the sight, he also feels a surge of hope and promise. Because now finally, he has the instrument to control this chaotic industry. Just before this trip, he signed a piece of paper that created a new company, Standard Oil. Standard oil will bring all his ventures under one corporation. And thanks to his sterling credit, Rockefeller has $1 million in capital. With that sort of backing, he'll be able to acquire any oil business he chooses. Another oil cart rumbles past, and another wooden barrel nearly rolls off the cart. Rockefeller cracks his knuckles. Soon all this disorder will come under his calm discipline. One day, Standard will refine all the oil. They'll make all the barrels and own all the tank cars. As he continues walking down the street, Rockefeller surveys the dirty town. Soon, he'll own the oil wells too. For these small time oil producers, the end of an era is coming soon. It's December 1870 in Titusville, Pennsylvania. A school bell rings and children and thick winter coats flood out of the newly built schoolhouse laughing and gossiping. Hide a tarpil waits until the rest of the children have left. And she steps out onto the street and makes her way home. Tarble is 13 years old and so far she hasn't made any friends since moving to this new town. So different from every where she's lived before. Titusville has banks and schools and even an opera house. Still for Tarble, something about this town feels off. Her father, Franklin, says they'll have good fortune in this town that the oil won't stop flowing. But Ida isn't so sure he's right. Ida turns down Main Street towards home and already she can hear the sound of her father's hammer. When she arrives, she sees him on the front porch. He's building a wooden handrail. Franklin puts down his tools to greet her. But after a moment he gets a strange look on his face. He asks side what's wrong. Ida knows she can't hide her feelings. So she lets it out. She asks what will happen if everything falls apart again. Back in their old town, the oil disappeared and Franklin had to close his barrel shops. It felt like he was almost overnight. The entire town disappeared. Ida's father leans toward her, gently tucking a strand of Ida's long hair behind her ear. He tells her not to worry. Yes, he had to close his shops. But he's done making barrels. He's in production now. His company buys and leases oil wells. And if one goes dry, there's always another. He's been in the oil business a long time now and they'll have plenty of money. They won't have to leave this new home. Franklin smiles at Ida and says he has something to show her. He takes her hand and leases her into the living room. There she discovers a new piano. Ida is shocked. Gasps at the beauty of it. She's always wanted to learn piano. But then a feeling of dread creeps up on her. She gives her father a look and asks what they'll do with this piano if they have to move again. Franklin smiles and pats her on the back. And then he makes a promise. The times living in boom towns are over. Oil is a respectable industry and it's here to stay. Ida steps up to the piano, presses two of the small black keys. A sour sound fills the living room. Her father laughs and says they'll get her lessons soon once the next oil well begins to flow. Franklin walks toward the front door and grabs his hammer. Four stepping out onto the front porch to return to his work. He turns back to Ida, saying, I promise it's different this time. It's November 30th, 1871. The Union flag flaps in the wind above the massive St. Nicholas Hotel in New York City. John DeRoccafellar strives into the hotel's vaulted lobby and announces himself to the concierge. Man nods and leads into a suite on the second floor. When Roccafellar enters, he sees a man sitting on a velvet sofa. He has side whiskers and wears a black bow tie. When the man notices Roccafellar, he rises with an outstretched hand. The man's name is Peter H. Watson. And Roccafellar knows that he's in charge of a vast railroad network. Watson's network is key for Roccafellar's business because it connects him to the oil producers. In Pennsylvania, oil producers drill oil out of the ground, but crude oil isn't much use for everyday people. Americans use kerosene, not crude. Roccafellar knows that that's why his business is so popular. He makes products that people actually use. The oil comes out of the ground and Roccafellar's refineries turn it into products Americans want and pay for. So the two sides depend on each other. Roccafellar needs crude oil so he can refine it into kerosene, and the drillers need someone like Roccafellar who can buy their crude oil and turn it into something useful. At the same time, the drillers are in Pennsylvania and his refineries are in Cleveland. That's why the rail road network is so crucial. It connects Roccafellar's refineries with oil drillers in Pennsylvania. But for John D. Roccafellar, that means he must have a good relationship with the railroads. He's not certain why Watson asked him here today, but he suspects it's about forming an alliance. Roccafellar enters and shakes Watson's hand and the two settle into high back chairs. Roccafellar then waits patiently. Watson gives a nervous smile and leans forward. Mr. Roccafellar, thank you for coming. I hardly need to tell you that this meeting should be kept secret, please. Of course, you can count on my discretion. Very good. Now, I have a proposal. The railroads are tired of dealing with the small oil producers and refineries. They're unpredictable and that cuts into our profits. We never know how much they'll ship or how little. We'd much rather the oil industry be in standard oils capable of hands. Roccafellar nods. He likes where this is going. Now, the other railroads and I have formed a company together. It's um... how should I describe it? Well, it sounds like an alliance. Well, yes, that's right. An alliance. One that will allow us to jointly improve our oil interests. We've named it the South Improvement Company, a bland name. One that won't draw attention. And we decided to raise our rates for shipping crude and refined oil. Huh, raise your rates. And how exactly does that help standard oil? Watson shifts in his seat, gives a slight smirk. Well, Mr. Roccafellar, those rates aren't for you. We want to do business with you. Those rates are for the small timers. We'll only charge standard oil half of that. Well, that's a start. But I don't see it as sufficient. Watson stares and disbelief, but Roccafellar is feeling emboldened and presses forward. You know, we can ship in other ways. By sea for one, and we're building pipelines that could make your railroads obsolete. But you're paying half as much as your competition. Ah, you can still do more. I want to know everything about my competitor shipments. I want to know where their oil and caracene are going, and I want as much detail as you can provide on their operations so I can adjust my tactics and prices. That way I can undercut them. And when I do, we can get rid of all the small producers. That's a great deal to ask, Mr. Roccafellar. The sooner I control the market, the sooner I can save costs for myself and for you. Watson swalls hard. Very well. Excellent, Mr. Watson. You are doing God's work here. Indeed. But as you know, some members of the public won't stand for this. And needless to say, the small refiners will start howling as soon as we raise the rates. Well, the public doesn't need to know anything about this. And you overestimate the independence. The chaotic, disorganized, your proposal will pull them out by the roots, like weeds in a garden. And then you and I will make lots and lots of money. At that, Roccafellar rises for a handshake. Roccafellar grips Watson's hand squeezing tighter, imagining himself gripping the entire region's oil supply. Soon, Roccafellar will thrash the competition. Any independent with an ounce of sense will sell out to him. And the rest won't last the year. Next on American scandal, John D. Roccafellar moves quickly on a secret new deal with the railroads. But the men in oil country aren't going down without a fight. From Wandry, this is episode 1 of the Breakup of Big Oil for American scandal. And a quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatizations are based on historical research. And if you'd like to learn more about the breakup of Big Oil, we recommend the book, Tighten, the life of John D. Roccafellar by Ron Schernau. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsey Graham, for airship, audio editing by Molly Vock, Sound Design by Derek Barrett. This episode is written by Michael Canyon Meyer, edited by Christina Mallsberger, produced by Gabe Rivett. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her nonlokes for Wandry.