February 4 , 1894: J. D. Rockefeller takes control of Lake Superior Consolidated Mines

On this day in 1894, a New York newspaper reported that John D. Rockefeller had taken control of Lake Superior Consolidated Mines—essentially all the holdings of West Duluth’s Merritt family, who had first opened the Mesabi Iron Range just a few years earlier. The Duluth News Tribune reprinted the article the following day: “John D. Rockefeller has obtained absolute control of the most important iron mines of the United States. By a deal that was closed on Friday he absorbed all the Lake Superior mines…. This places him in the same position toward the iron mining business as he has long held toward that of oil…. He was able to accomplish this because of the recent financial crisis. The owners of these mines had been developing them at such a rapid rate that they had not enough cash to carry them through the hard times. Mr. Rockefeller seized the opportunity to buy everything in sight. On the 1 o’clock train to the West yesterday were Mr. [Frederick] Gates, Mr. Rockefeller’s confidential man, and a party of trusted employees, together with several members of the Merritt family. They were on their way to Duluth to take charge of the mines, docks and railroads in the name of John D. Rockefeller.” Many have characterized Rockefeller’s “takeover” as plain and simple theft. There is much more to the Merritt’s story and their battle with Rockefeller, and it also involves Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, Henry Oliver, and Duluth’s own Chester Congdon and Joseph Cotton, and you can read the story here.

John D. Rockefeller. (Image: Public Domain)

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