Daily Archives: January 29, 2015

Ironic Juxtaposition

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fourbrothers.pngOne doesn’t imagine that the advertising manager for the 1902 “History of the Police Service of Albany” explicitly intended these two advertisements to end up directly adjacent to each other. (He probably didn’t intend the typo in “Brothers,” either.)

Four Brothers Independent Oil appears to have been a regional supplier that began in Albany. Thomas L. Hisgen started in the axle grease business in 1889 and moved into illuminating oil in 1900 (most Google references to the company will turn up tests of their headlight oil, because headlight oil was a thing.) Their oil business extended along the rail lines down to Yonkers, out to Connecticut, north to Ticonderoga, east at least to Springfield, Mass.  As they here warned, where there is no competition, monopoly rules. Today we can find out about Four Brothers primarily because of their participation in the United States’ case to break up the Standard Oil monopoly. It appears that Standard Oil, not satisfied with something like 85% of the oil business in the country, paid agents to follow Four Brothers’ trucks around, offer their customers underpriced deals to switch, harassed their drivers and generally worked to drive this tiny business out of business. George Hisgen, then living at 59 Ten Broeck Street, testified in the government’s case against Standard Oil.

Directly below their ad, the monopoly, Standard Oil Company. It was broken up in 1911, making John D. Rockefeller filthy stinking rich (he had previously only been stinking rich).

Slightly uncomfortable ad placement.

(We’ve written about the Hisgen Brothers before. An eBay offering of their billhead places their factory at Tivoli and Lark streets.)