30 September 2014
Review Questions Robber Barons Activity
Identify the large figure in the cartoon. Who is he and what is his significance to this time period?
John D. Rockefeller, shown in the cartoon, was the famous oil magnate who created a powerful monopoly on the US oil industry in less than 20 years. By 1899, the Standard Oil Trust had already been formed, which allowed Rockefeller to control his monopoly completely with this, so to speak, "corporation of corporations": the heads of each oil refinery corporation within the country, including Rockefeller himself, formed the Board of Trustees, which set equal prices, as well as production levels, for each "branch" of the board.
What criticism is this cartoonist making of this individual and of the overall situation? (Pay attention to the title of the cartoon in answering this question)
Rockefeller is examining the White House and Treasury in his hand; in the background, the State Capitol building is portrayed as a giant oil refinery.
The cartoon's main motif is that big business (specifically big oil) had become extremely prevalent in late 19th century America, and it had grown so large that the government was unable to control it. Rockefeller is portrayed as a man that has become so powerful that he has dwarfed the power of the federal government. Rockefellers' oil is seen as extremely pervasive in the illustration. The dark color choices in the cartoon give the situation an air of darkness and negativity; the smoke coming from the smokestacks almost looks like smoke from a fire, which could be a representation that big business was destroying America.
Who or what does the octopus in the center of the image represents?