Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States

Canadian criminal cases

Case in which the Supreme Court of the United States found Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey guilty of monopolizing the petroleum industry through a series of abusive and anticompetitive actions.

- Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States

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John Marshall Harlan

American lawyer and politician who served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1877 until his death in 1911.

The Supreme Court, headed by Melville Fuller, 1898; with Harlan in the front row, second from left
John Marshall Harlan
Harlan's gravesite

He also wrote dissents in major cases such as Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. (1895), which struck down a federal income tax; United States v. E. C. Knight Co. (1895), which severely limited the power of the federal government to pursue antitrust actions; Lochner v. New York (1905), which invalidated a state law setting maximum working hours on the basis of substantive due process; and Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States (1911), which established the rule of reason.


American multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas.

Chart of the major energy companies dubbed "Big Oil", with financial data from 2005
Socony gas station and store in Connecticut, 1916
Humble gas station in early 1970s. The chain would be rebranded to Exxon in 1973
First Exxon logo, launched in 1973. It contained the red and blue colors of the Esso, Enco and Humble brands
Exxon Building on Avenue of the Americas, sold in 1986
ExxonMobil Chairman Rex Tillerson with Vice President Dick Cheney, 2007
ExxonMobil Building. Former ExxonMobil offices in Downtown Houston were vacated in early 2015.
ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge
Map of the Yellowstone River watershed

By 1911, with public outcry at a climax, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States that Standard Oil must be dissolved and split into 34 companies.

Standard Oil

American oil production, transportation, refining, and marketing company that operated from 1870 to 1911.

John D. Rockefeller c. 1872, shortly after founding Standard Oil
Standard Oil Articles of Incorporation signed by John D. Rockefeller, Henry M. Flagler, Samuel Andrews, Stephen V. Harkness, and William Rockefeller
Share of the Standard Oil Company, issued May 1, 1878
Share of the Standard Oil Trust, issued January 18, 1883
Standard Oil Refinery No. 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, 1897
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt depicted as the infant Hercules grappling with Standard Oil in a 1906 Puck magazine cartoon by Frank A. Nankivell
John D. Rockefeller sitting in the witness stand and testifying before Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, July 6, 1907
This map shows by state which company has the rights to the Standard Oil name. ExxonMobil has full international rights and continues to use the Esso name overseas. States that are gray have a dot representing their owners, but are not actively being used; ExxonMobil operates in all these states and have de facto claimed the trademark.
One of 15 Chevron stations branded as "Standard" to protect Chevron's trademark; this one is in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A combination gasoline/diesel pump at an Exxon in Zelienople, Pennsylvania selling Exxon gasoline and "Esso Diesel".
BP station with "torch and oval" Standard sign in Durand, Michigan.
BP continues to sell marine fuel under the Sohio brand at various marinas on Ohio waterways and in Ohio state parks in order to protect its rights in the Sohio and Standard Oil names. The Anderson Ferry Marina near Cincinnati, Ohio is pictured.
Station signage at an Exxon station in Columbus, Ohio featuring the Esso logo, while BP owns the rights to the Standard Oil name in Ohio.

Its history as one of the world's first and largest multinational corporations ended in 1911, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was an illegal monopoly.

Supreme Court of the United States

Highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States.

The Court lacked its own building until 1935; from 1791 to 1801, it met in Philadelphia's City Hall.
The Royal Exchange, New York City, the first meeting place of the Supreme Court
Chief Justice Marshall (1801–1835)
The U.S. Supreme Court Building, current home of the Supreme Court, which opened in 1935.
The Hughes Court in 1937, photographed by Erich Salomon. Members include Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes (center), Louis Brandeis, Benjamin N. Cardozo, Harlan Stone, Owen Roberts, and the "Four Horsemen" Pierce Butler, James Clark McReynolds, George Sutherland, and Willis Van Devanter, who opposed New Deal policies.
Justices of the Supreme Court with President George W. Bush (center-right) in October 2005. The justices (left to right) are: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, John Roberts, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Stephen Breyer
John Roberts giving testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2005 hearings on his nomination to be chief justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg giving testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1993 hearings on her nomination to be an associate justice
The interior of the United States Supreme Court
The first four female justices: O'Connor, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan.
The current Roberts Court justices (since October 2020): Front row (left to right): Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Back row (left to right): Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Percentage of cases decided unanimously and by a one-vote margin from 1971 to 2016
The present U.S. Supreme Court building as viewed from the front
From the 1860s until the 1930s, the court sat in the Old Senate Chamber of the U.S. Capitol.
Seth P. Waxman at oral argument presents his case and answers questions from the justices.
Inscription on the wall of the Supreme Court Building from Marbury v. Madison, in which Chief Justice John Marshall outlined the concept of judicial review

Under the White and Taft Courts (1910–1930), the court held that the Fourteenth Amendment had incorporated some guarantees of the Bill of Rights against the states (Gitlow v. New York), grappled with the new antitrust statutes (Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States), upheld the constitutionality of military conscription (Selective Draft Law Cases), and brought the substantive due process doctrine to its first apogee (Adkins v. Children's Hospital).

Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890

United States antitrust law which prescribes the rule of free competition among those engaged in commerce.

Sen. John Sherman (R–Ohio), the principal author of the Sherman Antitrust Act

At Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States, 221 U. S. 1, 221 U. S. 54-58.

Rule of reason

Legal doctrine used to interpret the Sherman Antitrust Act, one of the cornerstones of United States antitrust law.

Sen. John Sherman (R–Ohio), the principal author of the Sherman Antitrust Act

William Howard Taft, then Chief Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, first developed the doctrine in a ruling on Addyston Pipe and Steel Co. v. United States, which was affirmed in 1899 by the Supreme Court. The doctrine also played a major role in the 1911 Supreme Court case Standard Oil Company of New Jersey v. United States.

United States v. American Tobacco Co.

Decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the combination in this case is one in restraint of trade and an attempt to monopolize the business of tobacco in interstate commerce within the prohibitions of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

The Supreme Court ordered the company to dissolve in 1911 on the same day that it ordered the Standard Oil Trust to dissolve.

The History of the Standard Oil Company

1904 book by journalist Ida Tarbell.

The subsequent decision splintered the company into 34 "baby Standards."

Federal Trade Commission

Independent agency of the United States government whose principal mission is the enforcement of civil (non-criminal) U.S. antitrust law and the promotion of consumer protection.

Apex Building, built in 1938 (FTC headquarters) in Washington, D.C.
Federal Trade Commission entrance doorway in Washington, DC

Following the Supreme Court decisions against Standard Oil and American Tobacco in May 1911, the first version of a bill to establish a commission to regulate interstate trade was introduced on January 25, 1912, by Oklahoma congressman Dick Thompson Morgan.

John D. Rockefeller

American business magnate and philanthropist.

Rockefeller in 1895
Rockefeller's birthplace in Richford, New York
Rockefeller at age 18
Rockefeller c. 1872, shortly after founding Standard Oil
Rockefeller in 1875. By then, he shaved off his sideburns, leaving his iconic mustache.
Standard Oil Trust Certificate 1896
Share of the Standard Oil Company, issued May 1, 1878
Rockefeller in 1895
The big corporations such as Standard Oil made large contributions to McKinley's presidential campaign.
Fear of monopolies ("trusts") is shown in this critique of Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company.
Rockefeller as an industrial emperor, 1901 cartoon from Puck magazine
Rockefeller c. 1902. By then, his moustache had fallen off due to alopecia.
Puck magazine cartoon: "The Infant Hercules and the Standard Oil serpents", May 23, 1906, issue; depicting U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt grabbing the head of Nelson W. Aldrich and the snake-like body of John D. Rockefeller
Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis wags his pen at John D. Rockefeller, who is sitting in the witness stand, during the Standard Oil case on July 6, 1907
Kykuit in Westchester County, New York, where Rockefeller spent his retirement. It has been home to four generations of the Rockefeller family.
The Euclid Avenue Baptist Church and its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Charles Aubrey Eaton in 1904
Rockefeller at age 80
Rockefeller with his son John Jr., 1915
Rockefeller in 1911
Central Philippine University in the Iloilo City was founded by the American Baptist missionaries through the benevolence as a legacy university of John D. Rockefeller in 1905. It is the first Baptist and second American university in Asia.
Rockefeller in 1922
Rockefeller's grave in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland
John D. Rockefeller's painting by John Singer Sargent in 1917

The Supreme Court ruled in 1911 that Standard Oil must be dismantled for violation of federal antitrust laws.