The Woman Who Took on the Tycoon

Ida Tarbell wrote The History of the Standard Oil Company. You can read it online or save it to your computer.

In The History of the Standard Oil Company, she managed to combine a thorough understanding of the inner workings of Rockefeller’s trust and his interest in the oil business, with simple, dramatic and elegant prose. While avoiding a condemnation of capitalism itself and acknowledging Rockefeller’s brilliance, she did not hesitate to criticize the man for stooping to unethical business practices in pursuit of his many conquests:

It takes time to crush men who are pursuing legitimate trade. But one of Mr. Rockefeller’s most impressive characteristics is patience. There never was a more patient man, or one who could dare more while he waited. The folly of hurrying, the folly of discouragement, for one who would succeed, went hand in hand. Everything must be ready before he acted, but while you wait you must prepare, must think, work. “You must put in, if you would take out.” His instinct for the money opportunity in things was amazing, his perception of the value of seizing this or that particular invention, plant, market, was unerring. He was like a general who, besieging a city surrounded by fortified hills, views from a balloon the whole great field, and sees how, this point taken, that must fall; this hill reached, that fort is commanded. And nothing was too small: the corner grocery in Browntown, the humble refining still on Oil Creek, the shortest private pipe line. Nothing, for little things grow.

Read more of this article at The Woman Who Took on the Tycoon | History | Smithsonian.

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