Challenged Big Business - And Won! (2014)
Tarbell portrayed the independent oil producers as "Innocents" who risked everything in their ventures, and then a malevolent "Big Hand" (Rockefeller) came down and swatted them. Ida also wrote a separate article about the labor violence in the coal industry (Tarbell had little sympathy for labor union leaders), while Lincoln Steffens (pictured) wrote an article on the corruption in city governments for McClure's. All three articles were designed to show that the "American Contempt for the Law" negatively affected the public good.
Tarbell contended that the independents welcomed competition (that basically wasn't true; Tarbell didn't have a great grasp on the mechanics and motivations within markets), and Rockefeller wanted to crush competition (that was absolutely true). Tarbell described a takeover by Standard Oil of an independent pipeline that used espionage, sabotage of a Buffalo refinery, and rigging an Ohio U.S. Senate election.
Even though Tarbell extolled the virtues of the independents, in private she became disillusioned about her heroes; her wrath with them was as great as with Rockefeller. Ida thought that the independents always seemed to make the wrong decisions and flunk-out at every critical juncture, but she kept her official written focus on the Standard Oil Trust (SOT) and Rockefeller . . . she kept going after "The Octopus".
By 1904, Ida and her researchers still hadn't found a recent photograph of Rockefeller, and to Tarbell, the HSOC wasn't complete without one. Ida and her main assistant decided to attend Rockefeller's Baptist church incognito, using other parishioners as "cover". Also, a sketch artist would be with them in the church as well, and his sketch from the "secret mission" is pictured above.
Tarbell stated that a man of Rockefeller's power and influence should not be able to "Live in the Dark"; he was the victim of "Money Passion", which blinded him to the good in life (according to Mark Hanna, Rockefeller was "Money Mad . . . sane in every other way . . . but "Money Mad"). Tarbell's only praises for Rockefeller were that he was a good husband and father, and lived far more economically than other tycoons (tycoon is based on a Japanese word that meant "Great Lord").
In the second installment of her "Character Sketch" on Rockefeller, Ida found a formal photograph, and based the installment on her observations of Rockefeller's face, asking readers to do the same. To Ida, the photograph of Rockefeller (pictured on the cover of McClure's, above) combined with the "Church Sketch" showed concentration, cruelty, craftiness . . . a repulsive "Living Mummy", who was far too stealthy and secretive for the public good (Ida even proved that Rockefeller's father, a known scoundrel, had been indicted for horse theft and rape). After her "Character Sketch" on Rockefeller, Ida Tarbell became the most famous woman in America (in part that was also due to the decline in popularity of Jane Addams in the early-1900's).
S.S. McClure's publishing empire) by influencing and intimidating advertisers, but he was confident that his secret business methods would remain secret . . . he felt safe from further exposure.
Ida Tarbell (pictured at her desk at McClure's in 1905) condemned the practices of the Standard Oil Trust, but not the practice of Capitalism in general - Tarbell didn't have any problem with Combinations that used ethical means to earn profits. To Tarbell, Rockefeller's potential for greatness was ruined because he didn't played fair . . . in 1906, the Attorney General (Charles J. Bonaparte) agreed, in that he prosecuted Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Trust for unfair business practices under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890).