John D. Rockefeller was born in Richford, New York, then part of the Burned-over district—a New York state area being the site of an evangelical revival known as the Second Great Awakening; it drew masses to various Protestant churches—especially Baptist ones—urging believers to follow such ideals as hard work, prayer and good deeds to ...
John D. Rockefeller: Early Years and Family . John Davison Rockefeller, the son of a traveling salesman, was born on July 8, 1839, in Richford, New York. Industrious even as a boy, the future oil ...
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John D. Rockefeller, in full John Davison Rockefeller, (born July 8, 1839, Richford, New York, U.S.—died May 23, 1937, Ormond Beach, Florida), American industrialist and philanthropist, founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust.
- Early Years
- Standard Oil
- Antitrust Issues
- Later Years, Death & Legacy
Born in Richford, New York, on July 8, 1839, John Davison Rockefeller moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 14. Unafraid of hard work, he embarked on a number of small-business ventures as a teenager, landing his first real office job at age 16, as an assistant bookkeeper with Hewitt & Tuttle, commission merchants and produce shippers. By the age of 20, Rockefeller, who'd thrived at his job, ventured out on his own with a business partner, working as a commission merchant in hay, meats, grains and other goods. At the close of the company's first year in business, it had grossed $450,000. A careful and studious businessman who refrained from taking unnecessary risks, Rockefeller sensed an opportunity in the oil business in the early 1860s. With oil production ramping up in western Pennsylvania, Rockefeller decided that establishing an oil refinery near Cleveland, a short distance from Pittsburgh, would be a good business move. In 1863, he opened his first refinery,...
In 1870, Rockefeller and his associates incorporated the Standard Oil Company, which immediately prospered, thanks to favorable economic/industry conditions and Rockefeller’s drive to streamline the company’s operations and keep margins high. With success came acquisitions, as Standard began buying out its competitors. Standard’s moves were so quick and sweeping that it controlled the majority of refineries in the Cleveland area within two years. Standard then used its size and ubiquity in the region to make favorable deals with railroads to ship its oil. At the same time, Standard got into the business itself with the purchase of pipelines and terminals, setting up a system of transport for its own products. Controlling (or owning) almost every aspect the business, Standard’s grip on the industry tightened, and it even bought thousands of acres of forest for lumber and drilling and to block competitors from running their own pipelines. Standard’s footprint got bigger as well, and i...
With such an aggressive push into the industry, the public and the U.S. Congress took notice of Standard and its seemingly unstoppable march. Monopolistic behavior was not kindly regarded, and Standard soon became the epitome of a company grown too big and too dominant, for the public good. Congress jumped into the fray with both feet in 1890 with the Sherman Antitrust Act, and two years later the Ohio Supreme Court deemed Standard Oil a monopoly that stood in violation of Ohio law. Always eager to be a step ahead, Rockefeller dissolved the corporation and allowed each property under the Standard banner to be run by others. The overall hierarchy remained chiefly in place, though, and Standard’s board maintained control of the web of spun-off companies. Just nine years after the company broke itself into pieces in the face of antitrust legislation, those pieces were again reassembled in a holding company. In 1911, however, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the new entity in violation o...
Rockefeller was a devout Baptist, and once retired from the daily operations of running one of the world’s largest businesses (in 1895, at age 56), he kept himself busy with charitable endeavors, becoming one of the more respected philanthropists in history. His money helped pay for the creation of the University of Chicago (1892), to which he gave more than $80 million before his death. He also helped found the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (later named Rockefeller University) in New York and the Rockefeller Foundation. In total he gave away more than $530 million to various causes. With his wife, Laura, Rockefeller had five children, including a daughter, Alice, who died in infancy. Rockefeller passed away on May 23, 1937, in Ormond Beach, Florida. His legacy, however, lives on: Rockefeller is considered one of America's leading businessmen and is credited for helping to shape the U.S. into what it is today. His only son, also named John, served by his father’s side a...
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John D. Rockefeller was born July 8, 1839, in Richford, New York, about midway between Binghamton and Ithaca. His father, William Avery Rockefeller, was a "pitch man" — a "doctor" who claimed he ...
- Early history
- Other activities
- Later years
The tycoons father, William Avery Rockefeller, was a traveling snake-oil salesman who posed as a deaf-mute peddler and hawked miracle drugs and herbal remedies. The smooth-talking huckster dubbed Devil Bill alternately fathered children, including the future industrialist, with his wife and mistress, the couples live-in housekeeper. The itinerant William Rockefeller also lived a double life posing as an eye-and-ear specialist named Dr. William Levingston, and in 1855 he secretly married another woman.
Although he was a fervent abolitionist, Rockefeller did not take up arms when the Civil War broke out in 1861. While his youngest brother was wounded at Chancellorsville and Cedar Mountain, Rockefeller received an exemption for being the primary means of supporting his family and hired substitute soldiers in his stead, a common practice during the war. I wanted to go in the army and do my part, he said. But it was simply out of the question. There was no one to take my place. We were in a new business, and if I had not stayed it must have stoppedand with so many dependent on it. Rockefellers commodity business profited handsomely from the Civil War and provided the necessary capital for his entrance into the oil business.
Shortly after the discovery of petroleum in Titusville, Pennsylvania, the 24-year-old Rockefeller entered the fledgling oil business in 1863 by investing in a Cleveland refinery. In 1870, he formed the Standard Oil Company of Ohio along with his younger brother William, Henry Flagler and additional investors. Through secret alliances with railroads, accumulating segments of the supply chain to achieve economies of scale, buying out and intimidating rivals and serving the growing demand for quality kerosene, Standard Oil eventually controlled 90 percent of the refining capacity of the United States. In the 1880s, Rockefeller moved Standard Oils headquarters to New York City.
Raised by a pious mother, Rockefeller tithed 10 percent of his earnings to his church from his very first paycheck. After retiring from Standard Oil in 1897, he stepped up his philanthropy and donated more than half a billion dollars to educational, religious and scientific causes. In 1913, Americas first billionaire endowed the Rockefeller Foundation, which had the ambitious goal to promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world. The foundation contributed to achievements such as development of a yellow fever vaccine and the successful eradication of hookworm disease in the United States. In addition to giving millions to help found the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University, the industrialist in 1882 began to donate money to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary. Two years later, the African-American womens school changed its name to Spelman Seminary in honor of his wife, Laura, and her parents, Harvey Buel and Lucy Henry Spelman, who were longtime abolitionists. In 1924, the institution was renamed Spelman College.
After years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1911 that Standard Oil must be dismantled because it violated federal anti-trust laws. The monopoly was broken up into 34 separate entities that included companies that would become ExxonMobil, Conoco, Chevron and Amoco. The court order turned out to be a financial windfall for Rockefeller, who still held a quarter of Standard Oils stock after his retirement. The individual pieces of the company were worth more than the whole, and as shares of the individual companies doubled and tripled in value in their early years, Rockefeller became the countrys first billionaire with a fortune worth nearly 2 percent of the entire American economy.
In addition to being a gifted orator, Churchill was a masterful writer who penned 42 books and earned the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature. During the 1930s, the Rockefeller family approached the future British prime minister to write an authorized biography of their patriarch, but Churchills proposed advance of $250,000 was too rich even for the deep-pocketed Rockefellers, who instead turned to Columbia University historian Allan Nevins.
Beginning in his 40s, Rockefeller lost all the hair from his head, his mustache and his body. The hair never grew back, and in the early 1900s the tycoon began to wear rotating wigs of various lengths to give the impression of his hair growing and being shorn.
Although he didnt celebrate birthdays with the same gusto as job days, Rockefeller certainly experienced many of them. His life spanned from the presidency of Martin Van Buren to that of Franklin D. Roosevelt before his death at age 97 on May 23, 1937. When Rockefeller turned 96, his insurance company was required to pay him the $5 million face value of his policy.