Featured in Issues & Controversies in American History:
Should the Government Break Up the Company?
Founded in 1870, the Standard Oil Company would soon become one of the largest and most powerful companies in the United States. Standard Oil prospered by absorbing its rivals or forcing them out of business through various shady practices. Yet it managed to avoid running afoul of federal law until 1906, when the U.S. government accused it of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Federal prosecutors sought to break up the giant Standard Oil Trust and divide it into smaller companies. Those in favor of breaking up Standard Oil argued that it had long engaged in illegal and unfair tactics, such as conspiring with railroads for preferential rates and rebates, and securing exclusive control of pipelines carrying oil to its refineries. Opponents of breaking up Standard Oil argued that the company’s efficient organization kept the price of fuel low and that dividing it into smaller companies would harm the oil industry and U.S. economy.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Should the U.S. government break up Standard Oil? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the arguments surrounding Standard Oil.
Click on the links below for more information about Issues & Controversies in American History: