We never attempted, as I have already said, to sell the Standard Oil stock on the market through the Stock Exchange. In the early days the risks of the business were great, and if the stock had been dealt in on the Exchange its fluctuations would no doubt have been violent. We preferred to have the attention of the owners and administrators of the business directed wholly to the legitimate development of the enterprise rather than to speculation in its shares. The interests of the company have been carefully conserved. We have been criticized for paying large dividends on a capitalization which represents but a small part of the actual property owned by the company. If we had increased the capitalization to bring it up to the real value, and listed the shares on the Exchange, we might have been criticized then for promoting a project to induce the public to invest. As I have indicated, the foundations of the company were so thoroughly established, and its affairs so conservatively managed, that, after the earlier period of struggle to secure adequate capital and in view of the trying experiences through which we then passed, we decided to pursue the policy of relying upon our own resources. Since then we have never been obliged to lean very heavily upon the financial public, but have sought rather to hold ourselves in position not only to protect our own large and important interests, but to be prepared in times of stress to lend a helping hand to others. The company has suffered from the statements of people who, I am convinced, are not familiar with all the facts. As I long ago ceased to have any active part in the management of its affairs perhaps I may venture the opinion that men who devote themselves to building up the sale of American products all over the world, in competition with foreign manufacturers should be appreciated and encouraged.
There have been so many tales told about the so-called speculations of the Standard Oil Company that I may say a word about that subject. This company is interested only in oil products and such manufacturing affairs as are legitimately connected therewith. It has plants for the making of barrels and tanks; and building pumps for pumping oil; it owns vessels for carrying oil, tank-cars, pipes for transporting oil, etc., etc.—but it is not concerned in speculative interests. The oil business itself is speculative enough, and its successful administration requires a firm hand and a cool head.
The company pays dividends to its stockholders which it earns in carrying on this oil trade. This money the stockholders can and do use as they think fit, but the company is in no way responsible for the disposition that the stockholders make of their dividends. The Standard Oil Company does not own or control “a chain of banks,” nor has it any interest directly or indirectly in any bank. Its relations are confined to the functions of ordinary banking, such as other depositors have. It buys and sells its own exchange; and these dealings, extending over many years, have made its bills of exchange acceptable all over the world.