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"McKean: The Governor's County"
Rufus Barrett Stone
Chapter 7

Submitted by PHGS Member
Mike Henderson

"McKean: The Governor's County", Rufus Barrett Stone. Lewis Publishing Company, Inc. New York, 1926. Pages 45-47.


The discovery in 1876 of petroleum in the vicinity of Bradford in paying quantities was not only of immense portent to the inhabitants of McKean, but it was an event of national consequence. (Note 1) It identified a source of the country's wealth hardly second to any in importance. It was, moreover, destined to give rise to questions of public policy which soon pressed angrily for solution. They grew in apparent importance with the rapid increase of oil production. The producer must sell his product. There was but one buyer, the buyer had by reason of the volume of its shipments obtained discriminatory rates of transportation which precluded competition. If there was to be but one buyer, the buyer can purchase at its own price, without regard to intrinsic value or cost of production. This situation was regarded as oppressive and intolerable, and the popular revolt spread throughout the oil region and became more and more intense as corporations multiplied, combined and coalesced into obnoxious trusts. ( Note 2 ) From it arose a nation-wide agitation resulting in an appeal to Congress as well as to the state legislature. After a prolonged and bitter contest an Act of Assembly was passed designed to free producers of oil from the monopoly of such means of transportation. Furthermore an Anti-Trust law was enacted by Congress under the leadership of Senator John Sherman designed to establish a policy of corporate restraint and to forbid injurious trust combination. The Act, however, was like a seed that is planted and left for years to germinate. Ignored as inadequate and left dormant, it was finally vitalized by the resolute purpose of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was sustained by the Supreme Court of the United States and has been repeatedly enforced under its decrees. And the Free Pipe Law of Pennsylvania has in more than a single instance admitted independent corporation to fair competition. Thus the chief industry of the county of McKean, struggling for its own freedom, has stood for a truer spirit of justice in state and nation. This new spirit is now universally recognized and the causes of public complaint have mainly disappeared.

To render such new policy consistent in administration there were subordinate evils, incident to the petroleum industry, to be corrected. Four instance, the non-resident patentee of an explosive torpedo designed to stimulate the production of oil undertook to prosecute producers for shooting under liquid any simple well-known explosive. Notwithstanding protestations of good faith on the part of producers the patentee continued to harass them by vexatious litigation until finally by concerted action they gathered a mass of evidence by which the patent was defeated and at length its term expired.

Note 1: See Chapter: Incidents of Petroleum Discovery.

Note 2: The following quotation is from the History of the Standard Oil Company by Ida Tarbell (Vol. I, p. 169): "Mr. Patterson sketched the history of the oil business since the South Improvement Company identified the Standard Oil Company with that organization, and framed the specific complaint of the oil men as follows: 'The railroad companies have combined with an organization of individuals known as the Standard Ring; they give to that party the sole and entire control of all the petroleum refining interest and petroleum shipping interest in the United Sams, and consequently place the whole producing interest entirely at their mercy. If they succeed they place the price of refined oil as high as they please. It is simply optional with them how much to give us for what we produce."'

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