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This Day In Market History: Rockefeller Founds Standard Oil

Wayne Duggan

Each day, Benzinga takes a look back at a notable market-related moment that happened on this date.

What Happened?

On this day 148 years ago, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. founded the Standard Oil Company.

Where Was The Market?

Neither the S&P 500 nor the Dow Jones Industrial Average was around yet.

What Else Was Going On In The World?

In 1870, the U.S. Congress created the Department of Justice, and William Lions of Connecticut invented the can opener. An average work horse cost $150.

An Iconic Industrial Giant Is Born

At the time of its founding, Standard Oil was the largest oil company in the world. Rockefeller initially owned a 26.6 percent stake in the company, which was founded with $1 million in capital. At the time, Standard Oil accounted for 10 percent of total U.S. oil refining, but it grew rapidly vial mergers and acquisitions. Rockefeller undercut the prices of competitors by working out deals with transportation companies.

Standard Oil was one of the first targets following the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. The U.S. Justice Department officially broke up Standard Oil in 1911 on antitrust grounds.

Standard Oil was forced to fragment into 34 different companies, but its legacy lives on in many of the largest oil & gas companies in the world today. Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil of New York eventually became Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM). The original Standard Oil corporate entity, as well as Standard Oil of Indiana, are now part of BP plc (ADR) (NYSE: BP). Standard Oil of California eventually became Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX).

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