The Death of a Market: Standard Oil and the Demise of 19th Century Crude Oil Exchanges

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From the mid-1870s through 1895, a commodities market in oil existed. Although its organization was primitive, it offered the varieties of commodity contracts familiar today. In 1895, Standard Oil announced that it would no longer use the Oil Exchange to set prices offered to producers. This raises a fascinating question, why was an efficient mechanism for price discovery discarded in favor of internal pricing by Standard Oil? Three possibilities are explored to explain the market's death: the role of Standard's monopsony power, transactions costs, and Standard's desire to eliminate the threat of crude producers forming cartels.

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