Standard Oil was formed as an Ohio based partnership between industrialist John D. Rockefeller, his brother William Rockefeller, Henry Flagler, chemist Samuel Andrews. They had two silent partners, Stephen V. Harkness, and Oliver Burr Jennings, who had married the sister of William Rockefeller's wife.
In 1870 Rockefeller incorporated Standard Oil in Ohio. Of the initial 10,000 shares, John D. Rockefeller received 2,667; Harkness received 1,334; William Rockefeller, Flagler, and Andrews received 1,333 each; Jennings received 1,000; and the firm of Rockefeller, Andrews and Flagler received 1,000. The company later absorbed or drove most of its competition out of business in Cleveland in less than two months in 1872. And later throughout the northeastern United States.
In response to state laws trying to limit the scale of companies, Rockefeller and his associates developed innovative ways of organizing, to effectively manage their fast growing enterprise. In 1882, they combined their disparate companies, spread across dozens of states, under a single group of trustees. By a secret agreement, the existing thirty seven stockholders conveyed their shares "in trust" to nine Trustees. John and William Rockefeller, Oliver H. Payne, Charles Pratt, Henry Flagler, John D. Archbold, William G. Warden, Jabez Bostwick, and Benjamin Brewster.
The company grew by increasing sales and also through acquisitions. After purchasing competing firms, Rockefeller shut down those he believed to be inefficient and kept the others.
In 1885, Standard Oil of Ohio moved its headquarters from Cleveland to its permanent headquarters at 26 Broadway in New York City. Concurrently, the trustees of Standard Oil of Ohio chartered the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (SOCNJ) to take advantages of New Jersey's more lenient corporate stock ownership laws.
Also in 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. The source of all American anti-monopoly laws. The law forbade every contract, scheme, deal, or conspiracy to restrain trade, though the phrase "restraint of trade" remained subjective. The Standard Oil group quickly attracted attention from antitrust authorities leading to a lawsuit filed by Ohio Attorney General David K. Watson.
Standard Oil was broken up in 1911.