Read CHAPTER II of Frenzied Finance Vol. 1: The Crime of Amalgamated , free online book, by Thomas W. Lawson, on


At the lower end of the greatest thoroughfare in the greatest city of the New World is a huge structure of plain gray-stone. Solid as a prison, towering as a steeple, its cold and forbidding façade seems to rebuke the heedless levity of the passing crowd, and frown on the frivolity of the stray sunbeams which in the late afternoon play around its impassive cornices. Men point to its stern portals, glance quickly up at the rows of unwinking windows, nudge each other, and hurry onward, as the Spaniards used to do when going by the offices of the Inquisition. The building is N Broadway.

26 Broadway, New York City, is the home of the Standard Oil. Its countless miles of railroads may zigzag in and out of every State and city in America, and its never-ending twistings of snaky pipe-lines burrow into all parts of the North American continent which are lubricated by nature; its mines may be in the West, its manufactories in the East, its colleges in the South, and its churches in the North; its head-quarters may be in the centre of the universe and its branches on every shore washed by the ocean; its untold millions may levy tribute wherever the voice of man is heard, but its home is the tall stone building in old New York, which under the name “26 Broadway” has become almost as well known wherever dollars are juggled as is “Standard Oil.”

Wall Street and the financial world know that there are two “Standard Oils,” but to the public there is no clear distinction between Standard Oil, the corporation which deals in oil and things which pertain to the manufacture and transportation of oil, and “Standard Oil,” the giant, indefinite system which sometimes embraces all the “Standard Oil” group of individuals and corporations, and sometimes only certain of the individuals.

This giant creature, “Standard Oil,” can best be described so that the average man may understand it as a group of money-owners some individuals and some corporations who have a right to use the name “Standard Oil” in any business undertakings they engage in. The right to use the name is of priceless value, for it carries with it “assured success.”

Standard Oil, the seller of oil to the people, transacts its business as does any other corporation. It plays no part in my story and I shall not hereafter touch upon its affairs, but confine my meaning, wherever I use the name “Standard Oil,” to the larger and many times more important “System.”

There are only three men who can lend the name “Standard Oil,” even in the most remote way to any project, for there is no more heinous crime against the “Standard Oil” decalogue than using the name “Standard Oil” unauthorizedly. The three men are Henry H. Rogers, William Rockefeller, and John D. Rockefeller. Sometimes John D. Rockefeller uses the name alone in projects in which Henry H. Rogers and William Rockefeller have no interests. Henry H. Rogers or William Rockefeller seldom, if ever, uses the name in projects with which neither of the other two is associated. Sometimes, but not often, John D. and William Rockefeller use the name in connection with projects of their own in which Henry H. Rogers has no interest. Henry H. Rogers and John D. Rockefeller, I believe, never are associated in projects in which William Rockefeller has no interest. Henry H. Rogers and William Rockefeller frequently bring to bear the influence of the magic-working syllables in connection with joint affairs in which John D. Rockefeller has no interest in fact, during the past ten years the name “Standard Oil” has been used more in their combined undertakings than in all others put together.

There are eight distinct groups of individuals and corporations which go to make up the big “Standard Oil”:

1st. The Standard Oil, seller of oil to the people, which is made up of many sub-corporations either by actual ownership or by ownership of their stock or bonds. Probably no person other than Henry H. Rogers, William Rockefeller, and John D. Rockefeller knows exactly what the assets of the Standard Oil corporation are, although John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of John D. Rockefeller, and William G. Rockefeller, that able and excellent business man, son of William Rockefeller and the probable future head of “Standard Oil,” are being rapidly educated in this great secret. In this first institution all “Standard Oil” individuals and estates are direct owners.

2d. Henry H. Rogers, William Rockefeller, and John D. Rockefeller, active heads, and included with them their sons.

3d. A large group of active captains and first lieutenants, men who conduct the affairs of the different corporations or sections of corporations in which some or all of the “Standard Oil” are interested. Many of these are the sons or the second generation of men who held like positions in Standard Oil’s earlier days. Of these Daniel O’Day and Charles Pratt are fair examples.

4th. A large group of captains retired from active service in the Standard Oil army, who participate only in a general way in the management of its affairs, and whose principal business is looking after their own investments. These men are each worth from $5,000,000 or $10,000,000 to $50,000,000 or $75,000,000. The Paynes and the Flaglers are fair illustrations of this group.

5th. The estates of deceased members of this wonderful “Standard Oil” family, which are still largely controlled by some or all of the prominent “Standard Oil” men.

6th. “Standard Oil” banks and banking institutions, and the system of national banks, trust companies, and insurance companies, of which “Standard Oil” has, by ownership and otherwise, practically absolute control. The head of this group is James Stillman, and it is when these institutions are called into play in connection with “Standard Oil” business that he is one of the “Standard Oil” leaders, second to neither of the Rockefellers nor to Mr. Rogers.

7th. The “Standard Oil” army of followers, capitalists, and workers in all parts of the world, men who require nothing more than the order, “Go ahead,” “Pull off,” “Buy,” “Sell,” or “Stand Pat,” to render as absolute obedience and enthusiastic cooperation as though they knew, to the smallest detail, the purposes which lay behind the giving of the order.

8th. The countless hordes of politicians, statesmen, law-makers and enforcers, who, at home or as representatives of the nation abroad, go to make up our political structure, and judges and lawyers.

To the world at large, which looks on and sees this giant institution move through the ranks of business without noise or dissension and with the ease and smoothness of a creature one-millionth its size, it would seem that there must be some wonderful and complicated code of rules to guide and control the thousands of lieutenants and privates who conduct its affairs. This is partially true, partially false. “Standard Oil’s” governing rules are as rigid as the laws of the Mèdes and Persians, yet so simple as to be easily understood by any one.

First, there is a fundamental law, from which no one neither the great nor the small is exempt. In substance it is: “Every ‘Standard Oil’ man must wear the ‘Standard Oil’ collar.”

This collar is riveted on to each one as he is taken into “the band,” and can only be removed with the head of the wearer.

Here is the code. The penalty for infringing the following rules is instant “removal.”

1. Keep your mouth closed, as silence is gold, and gold is
what we exist for.

2. Collect our debts to-day. Pay the other fellow’s debts
to-morrow. To-day is always here, to-morrow may never come.

3. Conduct all our business so that the buyer and the seller must come to us. Keep the seller waiting; the longer he waits the less he’ll take. Hurry the buyer, as his money brings us interest.

4. Make all profitable bargains in the name of “Standard
Oil,” chancy ones in the names of dummies. “Standard Oil”
never goes back on a bargain.

5. Never put “Standard Oil” trades in writing, as your memory and the other fellow’s forgetfulness will always be re-enforced with our organization. Never forget our Legal Department is paid by the year, and our land is full of courts and judges.

6. As competition is the life of trade our trade, and
monopoly the death of trade our competitor’s trade, employ
both judiciously.

7. Never enter into a “butting” contest with the Government. Our Government is by the people and for the people, and we are the people, and those people who are not us can be hired by us.

8. Always do “right.” Right makes might, might makes
dollars, dollars make right, and we have the dollars.

All business of the gigantic “Standard Oil” system is dealt with through two great departments. Mr. Rogers is head of the executive, and William Rockefeller the head of the financial department. All new schemes, whether suggested by outsiders or initiated within the institution, go to Mr. Rogers. Regardless of their nature or character, he first takes them under advisement. If a scheme prove good enough to run the gantlet of Mr. Rogers’ tremendously high standard, the promoter, after he has set forth his plans and estimates, hears with astonishment these words:

“Wait while I go upstairs. I’ll say Yes or No upon my return.”

And upon his return it is almost always “Yes.” If the project, however, does not come up to his exacting requirements, it is turned down without further ado or consultation with any of his associates.

Those intimate with affairs at 26 Broadway have grown curiously familiar with this expression, “I am going upstairs.” “Upstairs” means two distinct and separate things. When a matter in Mr. Rogers’ department is awaiting his return from “upstairs,” it means he has gone to place the scheme before William Rockefeller, on the thirteenth floor, and laying a thing before William Rockefeller by Mr. Rogers consists of a brief, vigorous statement of Mr. Rogers’ own conclusions and a request for his associate’s judgment of it. William Rockefeller’s strong quality is his ability to estimate quickly the practical value of a given scheme. His approval means he will finance it, and William Rockefeller’s “say-so” is as absolute in the financing of things as is Mr. Rogers’ in passing upon their feasibility. It does not matter whether it is an undertaking calling for the employment of $50,000 capital or $50,000,000 or $500,000,000, Mr. Rockefeller’s “Yes” or “No” is all there is to it. He having passed on it, Mr. Rogers supervises its execution.

The other “upstairs” is one that is heard every week-day of the year except summer Saturdays. At 26 Broadway, just before eleven o’clock each morning, there is a flutter in the offices of all the leading heads of departments from Henry H. Rogers down, for going “upstairs” to the eleven o’clock meeting is in the mind of each “Standard Oil” man the one all-important event of every working day.

In the big room, on the fifteenth floor, at 26 Broadway, there gather each day, between the hour of eleven and twelve o’clock, all the active men whose efforts make “Standard Oil” what “Standard Oil” is; here also come to meet and mingle with the active heads the retired captains when “they are in town.” Around a large table they sit. Reports are presented, views exchanged, policies talked over, republics and empires made and unmade. If the Recorders in the next world have kept complete minutes of what has happened “upstairs” at 26 Broadway they must have tremendously large fire-proof safes. It is at the meeting “upstairs” that the “melons are cut,” and if one of the retired captains were asked why he was in such a rush to be on hand each day when in town, and if he were in a talkative mood which he would not be he would answer: “They may be cutting a new melon, and there’s nothing like being on hand when the juice runs out.”

If a new melon has been cut an Amalgamated Copper, for instance it is at one of these meetings that the different “Standard Oil” men are informed for the first time that the scheme, about which they may have read or heard much outside, is far enough along for them to participate in it. Each is told what sized slice he may have if he cares for any. It is a very exceptional thing for any one to ask for more than he has been apportioned, and an unheard-of thing for any one to refuse to take his slice, although there is absolutely no compulsion in the connection.

And here, perhaps, may not come amiss an incident which illustrates what may happen in a few minutes “upstairs.”

Before Amalgamated was launched, in bringing together the different properties of which it was composed I negotiated for the acquisition of the Parrott mine, the majority of whose stock was held by certain old and wealthy brass manufacturers in Connecticut. They had never seen any of the Rockefellers nor Henry H. Rogers, but we were several months getting the deal into shape before it was finally arranged, and they became familiar with the great “Standard Oil” institution. So much so that the chief of the owners to whom was delegated the duty of turning over the securities to my principals looked forward with much eagerness to the time when he must necessarily meet the mysterious and important personages who guided 26 Broadway’s destinies. Finally the day came, and at precisely a quarter of eleven I let him into one of the numerous private offices which are a part of Mr. Rogers’ suite. He had under his arm a bundle of papers representing the stocks which he was to exchange for the purchase money, amounting to $4,086,000, and I think he fully expected that in their examination, in the receipting for so large an amount of money, and in the general talkings over, which he thought must of course be a necessary part of the delivery, the greater part of the day would be taken up. It took me some six or seven minutes to get him located, and it was close on to five minutes of eleven when Mr. Rogers stepped into the room. I was well into the introduction, when out came Mr. Rogers’ watch, and with what must have appeared to the visitor as astonished consternation.

“I do hope you will excuse me,” he exclaimed in the middle of a handshake, “but, my gracious, I am overdue upstairs,” and he bolted.

His place was taken fifty seconds after by Mr. Rogers’ secretary, who in less than five minutes had exchanged a check of $4,086,000, made out to herself and indorsed in blank, for the bundle of stocks, and in another minute I was ushering the old gentleman into the elevator.

When he came to on the sidewalk he got his breath sufficiently to say: “Phew! I thought my trade was a big one, but that friend of yours, Rogers, must have had some other fellow upstairs who was going to turn in $40,000,000 of stuff, because he did appear dreadfully excited!”

The success of “Standard Oil” is largely due to two things to the loyalty of its members to each other and to “Standard Oil,” and to the punishment of its enemies. Each member before initiation knows its religion to be reward for friends and extermination for foes. Once within the magic circle, a man realizes he is getting all that any one else on earth can afford to pay him for like services, and still more thrown in for full measure. Moreover, while a “Standard Oil” man’s reward is always ample and satisfactory, he is constantly reminded in a thousand and one ways that punishment for disloyalty is sure and terrible, and that in no corner of the earth can he escape it, nor can any power on earth protect him from it.

“Standard Oil” is never loud in its rewards nor its punishments. It does not care for the public’s praise nor for its condemnation, but endeavors to avoid both by keeping its “business” to itself. As an instance, in connection with certain gas settlements I made with “Standard Oil,” it voluntarily paid one of its agents for a few days’ work $250,000. He had expected at the outside $25,000. When I published the fact, as I had a right to, “Standard Oil” was mad as hornets as upset, indeed, as though it had been detected in cheating the man out of two-thirds of his just due, instead of having paid him ten times what was coming to him.