Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest corporation has a market valuation of nearly $400 billion despite the recession and recent drop in oil prices. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Sunoco and ConocoPhillips posted record sales and profits through 2008. Imagine having these companies under one umbrella, one company unmatched in size and power with a market value exceeding $640 billion. Seems far-fetched, but it isn't. Until 1911, they were part of an even larger company, controlled by one titan -- John D. Rockefeller Sr.

His company, Standard Oil, the nation's most powerful trust, controlled the oil industry. Only President Teddy Roosevelt had the temerity to take on Standard and Rockefeller. One Standard executive remarked that “Darkest Abyssinia never saw anything like the course of treatment we received at the hands of the administration following Mr. Roosevelt’s election in 1904.”

Roosevelt directed the Justice Department to take action under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and in 1911 the Supreme Court forced Standard Oil to break up into 34 companies, creating Exxon, Mobil, Conoco, Chevron, Amoco, Sohio, Socony, Atlantic, Richfield, Esso, Marathon and 23 other smaller entities.