Part II: Economic Investigations
Series A: The Petroleum Industry
The 1920s were years of tremendous growth in the United States petroleum industry. Yet, despite unprecedented demands for petroleum products, overproduction of oil resulted in supply outstripping demand with increasing frequency. When this glut of oil was not sufficiently reflected in declining
prices, many leading businessmen and government officials wanted to know why.
Thus the Federal Trade Commission undertook a series of economic investigations into the petroleum industry. Far more than a record of production and prices, the wide-ranging investigations of the FTC-collected here for the first time-form a uniquely comprehensive survey of a major American industry.
In the three investigations included in this series-the Petroleum Industry, the Texas Panhandle, and Gasoline Prices-the FTC examined every facet of the oil industry. The authority of the FTC permitted it to conduct the most thorough investigations possible. FTC agents interviewed top officers of the major and minor petroleum companies, inspected internal company documents, and reviewed a broad spectrum of financial data. They investigated in detail the separate elements of the oil business: exploration, production, transportation, refining, marketing, and distribution. The FTC compiled an extraordinary documentary record of the organization and operations of the oil industry, and its findings helped to establish national petroleum policy.
These files provide basic sources for studies on business law and government regulations, business history, American industrial modernization, and the economic policies of the Progressive and New Deal eras.