John D. Rockefeller as a Robber Baron
A "robber baron" was someone who employed any means necessary to enrich themselves at the expense of their competitors. Did John D. Rockefeller fall into that category or was he one of the "captains of industry", whose shrewd and innovative leadership brought order out of industrial chaos and generated great fortunes that enriched the public welfare through the workings of various philanthropic agencies that these leaders established? In the early 1860s Rockefeller was the founder of the Standard Oil Company, who came to epitomize both the success and excess of corporate capitalism. His company was based in northwestern Pennsylvania.
A major question historians have disagreed on has been whether or not John D. Rockefeller was a so-called "robber baron". Matthew Josephson agreed that Rockefeller was indeed a "robber baron". In the book Taking Sides, He claims that Rockefeller was a deceptive and conspiratorial businessman, whose fortune was built by secret agreements and wrung concessions from America's leading railroad companies (Taking Sides 25).
When John D. Rockefeller merged with the railroad companies, he had gained control of a strategic transportation route that no other companies would be able to use. Rockefeller would then be able to force the hand on the railroads and was granted a rebate on his shipments of oil. This was a kind of secret agreement between the two industries. None of the competition knew what the rates were for the rebates or the rates that Rockefeller was paying the railroad. This made it hard for the competition to keep up with the Standard Oil Company. The consequences led to many oil companies getting bought out by Rockefeller secretly. All in all, 25 companies surrendered to Rockefeller's relentless expansion, which was 20% of the oil industry in America.
John D. Rockefeller and his comrades had stolen a long march on their
opponents, their tactics shaped themselves already as giant industrialists of the future conquering the pigmies. Josephson said, "Entrenched at the narrows of the mighty river of petroleum, they could no more be dislodged than those other barons, who had planted their castles along the Rhine"(Taking Sides 35).
Ralph W. Hidey and Muriel E. Hidey disagreed with Josephson. In the book Taking Sides, They believe that John D. Rockefeller and his associates created and applied a system for operating a large integrated industrial enterprise, which was one of the earliest representatives of Big Business. He contributed to the development of American petroleum industry and through it to the growth of the economy.
The Hidey's believed that Rockefeller's greatest contribution, beyond the concept of Standard Oil combination itself, was the persuasion of strong men to join the alliance and to work together...