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John D. Rockefeller & the end of Standard Oil

In order to circumvent laws barring businesses from owning property out of state, John D. Rockefeller incorporated his oil business and created a byzantine holding company (or trust) called Standard Oil.

Rockefeller's trust, which came to dominate every aspect of the oil industry from production and refining to shipping and barrel making, earned the enmity of ruined competitors and, swayed by the work of muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell, public opinion and the political tide soon turned against him. Indeed, despite Rockefeller's protests that his business methods, common practice at the time, had led to lower oil prices, by 1911 antitrust suits had dissolved Standard Oil into dozens of smaller companies.

The upshot? Ironically, the value of Rockefeller's holdings actually rose so much on the open market that Rockefeller, already retired, became America's first billionaire.

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