Photo: Library of Congress
Paul Thomas Anderson’s film “There Will Be Blood,” which was nominated for Best Picture in 2008, tells the story of a seemingly possessed oil man who forces a small-time landowner to sell his lucrative plot in his quest to build a business empire at the turn of the 20th century.Today, the St. Louis Federal Reserve released a chart illustrating what the “There Will Be Blood” economy looked like.
It shows the number of manufacturing and mining firms that “disappeared” as a result of being bought out or merged with another company.
Around 1900, the time period in the movie, there was suddenly an enormous surge in vanishing firms.
Cambridge University Law Professor Brian Cheffins has studied this period.
In 2002, he put out a paper explaining the aggressive business practices portrayed in the film were very real, and largely explain the huge merger boom:
“For industrialists who were in despair as a result of “cutthroat” competition, economic hardship served to displace, at least to some degree, the bias in favour of independence and fostered a willingness to contemplate selling out. With manufacturers being keen to “get in out of the rain” attention shifted from anticompetitive alliances to a different method for imposing discipline on market forces, namely merging under a single corporate roof. One way a horizontal consolidation could be structured was a complete “fusion” where the assets of former competitors were brought under the direct ownership of a pure operating company.”