Friday, June 12, 2015

Cordova Candles and Standard Oil Co

An ad in the Jan 25,1908 Lawrenceville Republican for Cordova wax candles made by Standard Oil Company intrigued the researchers. 

A Tariff Hearing before the Committee on Ways and Means November 20, 1908 indicated that the Standard Oil Company, owned by John D Rockefeller, had a monopoly on paraffin wax. A by-product of petroleum, it was controlled in this country by the Standard Oil Company. 

Competitors began to complain that they used to be able to purchase wax at reasonable prices but since the advent of Standard Oil Company in the candle business the company had made it a point to maintain a high price for wax, at the same time depressing the prices of candles; the object of this action being to eliminate competition in the candle business. Not only was this monopoly in the US but Standard Oil had a working arrangement with the English manufacturers whereby the prices in England were the same as those in the United States, thus creating  a monopoly which was almost international in its scope. 

But this Hearing was just a part of Standard Oil’s problems.

By 1911 the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Standard Oil group to be an unreasonable monopoly under the Sherman Antitrust Act and ordered Standard to break up into 90 independent companies with different boards of directors. John D Rockefeller owned a quarter of the shares of the resulting companies and the shares in these companies mostly doubled. He emerged from the dissolution as the richest man in the world. (Who knew selling candles could be so lucrative?)