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The name of the Standard Oil Company has come to mean a number of things, good and bad, to different people, with how much justice in each case would be hard to determine. But one very definite thing it does stand for: a standard of quality, an inflexible requirement of the highest excellence in its products.
The question was recently propounded, "What has been the greatest contribution to the progress of civilization in this country?" The natural replies — the printing-press, the steam-engine, the telegraph — were all negatived by the propounder, and the true answer declared to be, "The Standard Oil Company."
Further explanation was offered somewhat in this wise: "The Standard Oil Company, by improving the processes of refining petroleum, by raising the standard for refined oil and by lowering its price, has made it possible for the farmer, the dweller in the small towns and villages, the ranchman and the miner in their isolation, to have a safe, efficient, and cheap, light, and by its help to read at will through the longest evenings of the winter. The availability of an inexpensive standard illuminant has made possible the extension of the mission of the printingpress; by bringing the distant dwellers into contact, through their reading, with the world has increased their desire and their need for travel, has spread civilization into the far corners of the land." The claim is doubtless exaggerated, the ranking far too high for any one body of men; for there is more than a germ of truth in the suggestion. The Standard has steadily improved the quality of refined oil, till, as an officer of the Company said, "The poorest refined oil to-day is probably better than the best twenty years ago."
This standard is maintained by constant inspection and testing of products, and by the most careful attention to complaints from any source whatever. Every refinery has a fully equipped laboratory, where skilled experts make careful tests of the products at every point in their manufacture, solve the problems that continually arise from the variation in the character of the crude, and make experiments with a view to improvement in methods of manufacture and to betterment, however slight, in the quality of the product. In addition, the top floor of the famous building at 26 Broadway contains another laboratory, under the direction of the chief chemist of the company, where checking tests are made on samples of each shipment from the various refineries. An illustration will indicate the thoroughness of the inspection.
When a tank steamer is loaded at Bayonne, for example, the mate, who of course has no connection with the refinery, takes a sample of oil from each of the steamer's tanks. These samples, perhaps a dozen in number, are placed in a locked case and sent to the laboratory at 26 Broadway. There they are put through the usual tests. When the ship reaches its destination — say, London — the mate takes another series of samples, incloses them in another locked case, and sends it back by the next steamer. Tests of these samples will reveal any deterioration of the oil in any one or more of the tanks. An unfavorable result from any of these inspections will be called sharply to the attention of the men responsible for the manufacturing. Warning is also sent to the selling department in England that that lot of oil is not perfect; they are instructed to be on the watch for complaints, and to allow the return of the oil if it does not give satisfaction. As at the one end of the line the Standard strives to "take care of the producer," at the other it bends every effort to satisfy the consumer.
Several years ago a complaint of the quality of the oil was received by cable from Norway. By the first steamer after its receipt three men went to investigate. Tracing the complaint to its source, they found the fishermen along the lonely Norwegian coasts using the oil in lamps formerly used for burning fish-oil. Unsatisfactory results from even the finest oil burnt in those lamps, clogged and foul with the residue of such a crude product, were inevitable. Demonstrations in proper lamps showed the originators of the complaint the baselessness of their charge. It cost the Company five thousand dollars to run down that complaint; but the "Standard" was vindicated.
In addition to the constant inspection of the Standard's products, its chemists do invaluable work in the investigation of manufacturing processes. The crude oil from each field differs in some particulars from every other crude, and in most cases requires a different method of refining. The Ohio crude is the most notable example of this peculiarity. It is heavily charged with sulphur. It was a long time before a process for removing the sulphur was discovered in the Standard laboratories. The discovery raised the Ohio crude from an almost worthless product to a position of practically equal value with other crudes. The Texas crude went begging at a cent a barrel until the Standard invented a satisfactory method for refining it. The California crude was for long considered to be of value only for burning in its unrefined form. The Standard chemists finally succeeded in solving the problem of its refinement.
It is safe to say that there is one body of men to whom the more or less popular'conception of the Standard as a soulless giant of predatory tendencies has no reality. To the sixty thousand employees of the Standard in this country and abroad the Company is a good master. The men of the rank and file are held in their loyalty by good wages, considerate treatment, and the prospect of a pension after faithful service. The men in the more responsible positions are actuated not only by feelings of gratitude for generous recognition of their services, but by a sense of partnership in the greatness of the business which they have themselves helped to build up.
Many times I have asked foremen and superintendents and higher officers how long they have been with the Standard, and the invariable reply has been, fifteen years, or eighteen, or twenty, or twenty-seven, or thirty years; men do not stay with an employer for such lengths of time merely for the money they can make. In every case, too, an enthusiasm has been expressed for the Standard which speaks well for its leaders and for the spirit in which they have conducted its internal affairs. From my observation the Standard army has a full measure of that esprit de corps which is almost vitally essential to victory in the arts of peace as well as in those of war. Whatever outside observers think of the Standard, the men, from the top to the bottom, who have helped to make it what it is, believe in it.
THE RUBBER INDUSTRY
BY HENRY CLEMENS PEARSON
IN THE JUNGLE
HE tigre is dead, Patron," said Juancho softly in my ear, and I almost fell from my tree perch for I had not heard him climb up beside me.
We had been journeying nearly a month by river boats, first up the Amazon, then up the Solimoes, planning to reach some of the great rubber camps before the floods slacked. At "Paraiso," Juancho's excellent Spanish was well understood by the Portuguese and we were warmly welcomed, given a place to swing our hammocks, and invited to remain a year if we wished at the seringal, as the wild rubber estate is called.
We had been there several days when a Cearense left his estrada, came back to the seringal in the middle of the week, saying that a jaguar was stalking him and that he was doomed. Whether true or not he was too much frightened to work and Juancho suggested a remedy.
Overhanging the river, where the receding waters showed a great spit of yellow sand, was a lofty tree, its spreading branches beginning about thirty feet from the ground. About its trunk, and, indeed, hanging from the branches, were bushrope cables up which any active man could climb. In a crotch on one of these branches Juancho fitted up a fairly comfortable seat for me, then the Cearense dragging a huge catfish out on the sand, left it and going down to the margin of the river returned to camp by boat. My duty was to keep out of sight until