|Name:||John D. Rockefeller|
|Birth Day:||July 8, 1839|
|Death Date:||May 23, 1937 (age 97)|
|Birth Place:||Richford, United States|
|#1||William Rockefeller Jr.||Brother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#3||Elizabeth Rockefeller Strong||Daughter||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#4||Edith Rockefeller McCormick||Daughter||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#5||Alta Rockefeller Prentice||Daughter||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#7||William Rockefeller Sr.||Father||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#8||David Rockefeller||Grandson||$2.9 Billion||N/A||101||Entrepreneur|
|#9||Nelson Rockefeller||Grandson||$1.1 Billion||N/A||70||Politician|
|#10||Jay Rockefeller||Great-grandson||$160 Million||N/A||83||Politician|
|#11||Lucy Rockefeller Briggs||Sister||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#12||John D. Rockefeller Jr.||Son||$5 Million (Approx.)||N/A||86||Entrepreneur|
|#13||Laura Spelman Rockefeller||Spouse||N/A||N/A||N/A|
As per our current Database, John D. Rockefeller died on May 23, 1937 (age 97).
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
He worked as a bookkeeper for a produce commission firm.
When he was a boy, his family moved to Moravia, New York, and to Owego, New York, in 1851, where he attended Owego Academy. In 1853, his family moved to Strongsville, Ohio, and he attended Cleveland's Central High School, the first high school in Cleveland and the first free public high school west of the Alleghenies. Then he took a ten-week business course at Folsom's Commercial College, where he studied bookkeeping. He was a well-behaved, serious, and studious boy despite his father's absences and frequent family moves. His contemporaries described him as reserved, earnest, religious, methodical, and discreet. He was an excellent debater and expressed himself precisely. He also had a deep love of music and dreamed of it as a possible career.
In September 1855, when Rockefeller was sixteen, he got his first job as an assistant bookkeeper working for a small produce commission firm in Cleveland called Hewitt & Tuttle. He worked long hours and delighted, as he later recalled, in "all the methods and systems of the office." He was particularly adept at calculating transportation costs, which served him well later in his career. Much of Rockefeller's duties involved negotiating with barge canal owners, ship captains, and freight agents. In these negotiations, he learned that posted transportation rates that were believed to be fixed could be altered depending on conditions and timing of freight and through the use of rebates to preferred shippers. Rockefeller was also given the duties of collecting debts when Hewitt instructed him to do so. Instead of using his father's method of presence to collect debts, Rockefeller relied on a persistent pestering approach. Rockefeller received $16 a month for his three-month apprenticeship. During his first year, he received $31 a month, which was increased to $50 a month. His final year provided him $58 a month.
In 1859, Rockefeller went into the produce commission business with a partner, Maurice B. Clark, and they raised $4,000 ($113,822 in 2019 dollars) in capital. Clark initiated the idea of the partnership and offered $2,000 towards the goal. Rockefeller had only $800 saved up at the time and so borrowed $1,000 from his father, "Big Bill" Rockefeller, at 10 percent interest. Rockefeller went steadily ahead in business from there, making money each year of his career. In their first and second years of business, Clark & Rockefeller netted $4,400 (on nearly half a million dollars in business) and $17,000 worth of profit, respectively, and their profits soared with the outbreak of the American Civil War when the Union Army called for massive amounts of food and supplies. When the Civil War was nearing a close and with the prospect of those war-time profits ending, Clark & Rockefeller looked toward the refining of crude oil. While his brother Frank fought in the Civil War, Rockefeller tended his business and hired substitute soldiers. He gave money to the Union cause, as did many rich Northerners who avoided combat. “I wanted to go in the army and do my part,” Rockefeller 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 stopped—and with so many dependent on it.”
Rockefeller was an abolitionist who voted for President Abraham Lincoln and supported the then-new Republican Party. As he said, "God gave me money", and he did not apologize for it. He felt at ease and righteous following Methodist preacher John Wesley's dictum, "gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can." At that time, the Federal government was subsidizing oil prices, driving the price up from $.35 a barrel in 1862 to as high as $13.75. This created an oil-drilling glut, with thousands of speculators attempting to make their fortunes. Most failed, but those who struck oil did not even need to be efficient. They would blow holes in the ground and gather up the oil as they could, often leading to creeks and rivers flowing with wasted oil in the place of water.
A market existed for the refined oil in the form of kerosene. Coal had previously been used to extract kerosene, but its tedious extraction process and high price prevented broad use. Even with the high costs of freight transportation and a government levy during the Civil War (the government levied a tax of twenty cents a gallon on refined oil), profits on the refined product were large. The price of the refined oil in 1863 was around $13 a barrel, with a profit margin of around $5 to $8 a barrel. The capital expenditures for a refinery at that time were small - around $1,000 to $1,500 and requiring only a few men to operate. In this environment of a wasteful boom, the partners switched from foodstuffs to oil, building an oil refinery in 1863 in "The Flats", then Cleveland's burgeoning industrial area. The refinery was directly owned by Andrews, Clark & Company, which was composed of Clark & Rockefeller, chemist Samuel Andrews, and M. B. Clark's two brothers. The commercial oil business was then in its infancy. Whale oil had become too expensive for the masses, and a cheaper, general-purpose lighting fuel was needed.
In 1864, Rockefeller married Laura Celestia "Cettie" Spelman (1839–1915), daughter of Harvey Buell Spelman and Lucy Henry. They had four daughters and one son together. He said later, "Her judgment was always better than mine. Without her keen advice, I would be a poor man."
While other refineries would keep the 60% of oil product that became kerosene, but dump the other 40% in rivers and massive sludge piles, Rockefeller remained as thrifty and efficient as ever, using the gasoline to fuel the refinery, and selling the rest as lubricating oil, petroleum jelly and paraffin wax, and other by-products. Tar was used for paving, naphtha shipped to gas plants. Likewise, Rockefeller's refineries hired their own plumbers, cutting the cost of pipe-laying in half. Barrels that cost $2.50 each ended up only $0.96 when Rockefeller bought the wood and had them built for himself. In February 1865, in what was later described by oil industry historian Daniel Yergin as a "critical" action, Rockefeller bought out the Clark brothers for $72,500 (equivalent to $1 million in 2019 dollars) at auction and established the firm of Rockefeller & Andrews. Rockefeller said, "It was the day that determined my career." He was well-positioned to take advantage of postwar prosperity and the great expansion westward fostered by the growth of railroads and an oil-fueled economy. He borrowed heavily, reinvested profits, adapted rapidly to changing markets, and fielded observers to track the quickly expanding industry.
In 1866, William Rockefeller Jr., John's brother, built another refinery in Cleveland and brought John into the partnership. In 1867, Henry Morrison Flagler became a partner, and the firm of Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler was established. By 1868, with Rockefeller continuing practices of borrowing and reinvesting profits, controlling costs, and using refineries' waste, the company owned two Cleveland refineries and a marketing subsidiary in New York; it was the largest oil refinery in the world. Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler was the predecessor of the Standard Oil Company.
On January 10, 1870, Rockefeller abolished the partnership of Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler, forming Standard Oil of Ohio. Continuing to apply his work ethic and efficiency, Rockefeller quickly expanded the company to be the most profitable refiner in Ohio. Likewise, it became one of the largest shippers of oil and kerosene in the country. The railroads competed fiercely for traffic and, in an attempt to create a cartel to control freight rates, formed the South Improvement Company offering special deals to bulk customers like Standard Oil, outside the main oil centers. The cartel offered preferential treatment as a high-volume shipper, which included not just steep discounts/rebates of up to 50% for their product but rebates for the shipment of competing products.
Undeterred, though vilified for the first time by the press, Rockefeller continued with his self-reinforcing cycle of buying the least efficient competing refiners, improving the efficiency of his operations, pressing for discounts on oil shipments, undercutting his competition, making secret deals, raising investment pools, and buying rivals out. In less than four months in 1872, in what was later known as "The Cleveland Conquest" or "The Cleveland Massacre," Standard Oil absorbed 22 of its 26 Cleveland competitors. Eventually, even his former antagonists, Pratt and Rogers, saw the futility of continuing to compete against Standard Oil; in 1874, they made a secret agreement with Rockefeller to be acquired.
In 1877, Standard clashed with Thomas A. Scott, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Standard's chief hauler. Rockefeller envisioned pipelines as an alternative transport system for oil and began a campaign to build and acquire them. The railroad, seeing Standard's incursion into the transportation and pipeline fields, struck back and formed a subsidiary to buy and build oil refineries and pipelines.
Standard countered, held back its shipments, and, with the help of other railroads, started a price war that dramatically reduced freight payments and caused labor unrest. Rockefeller prevailed and the railroad sold its oil interests to Standard. In the aftermath of that battle, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania indicted Rockefeller in 1879 on charges of monopolizing the oil trade, starting an avalanche of similar court proceedings in other states and making a national issue of Standard Oil's business practices. Rockefeller was under great strain during the 1870s and 1880s when he was carrying out his plan of consolidation and integration and being attacked by the press. He complained that he could not stay asleep most nights. Rockefeller later commented:
At that time, many legislatures had made it difficult to incorporate in one state and operate in another. As a result, Rockefeller and his associates owned dozens of separate corporations, each of which operated in just one state; the management of the whole enterprise was rather unwieldy. In 1882, Rockefeller's lawyers created an innovative form of corporation to centralize their holdings, giving birth to the Standard Oil Trust. The "trust" was a corporation of corporations, and the entity's size and wealth drew much attention. Nine trustees, including Rockefeller, ran the 41 companies in the trust. The public and the press were immediately suspicious of this new legal entity, and other businesses seized upon the idea and emulated it, further inflaming public sentiment. Standard Oil had gained an aura of invincibility, always prevailing against competitors, critics, and political enemies. It had become the richest, biggest, most feared business in the world, seemingly immune to the boom and bust of the business cycle, consistently making profits year after year.
The company's vast American empire included 20,000 domestic wells, 4,000 miles of pipeline, 5,000 tank cars, and over 100,000 employees. Its share of world oil refining topped out above 90% but slowly dropped to about 80% for the rest of the century. Despite the formation of the trust and its perceived immunity from all competition, by the 1880s Standard Oil had passed its peak of power over the world oil market. Rockefeller finally gave up his dream of controlling all the world's oil refining; he admitted later, "We realized that public sentiment would be against us if we actually refined all the oil." Over time, foreign competition and new finds abroad eroded his dominance. In the early 1880s, Rockefeller created one of his most important innovations. Rather than try to influence the price of crude oil directly, Standard Oil had been exercising indirect control by altering oil storage charges to suit market conditions. Rockefeller then ordered the issuance of certificates against oil stored in its pipelines. These certificates became traded by speculators, thus creating the first oil-futures market which effectively set spot market prices from then on. The National Petroleum Exchange opened in Manhattan in late 1882 to facilitate the trading of oil futures.
Standard Oil moved its headquarters to New York City at 26 Broadway, and Rockefeller became a central figure in the city's business community. He bought a residence in 1884 on 54th Street near the mansions of other magnates such as William Henry Vanderbilt. Despite personal threats and constant pleas for charity, Rockefeller took the new elevated train to his downtown office daily. In 1887, Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission which was tasked with enforcing equal rates for all railroad freight, but by then Standard depended more on pipeline transport. More threatening to Standard's power was the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, originally used to control unions, but later central to the breakup of the Standard Oil trust. Ohio was especially vigorous in applying its state antitrust laws, and finally forced a separation of Standard Oil of Ohio from the rest of the company in 1892, the first step in the dissolution of the trust.
In 1884, Rockefeller provided major funding for Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary in Atlanta for African-American women, which became Spelman College. His wife Laura Spelman Rockefeller, was dedicated to civil rights and equality for women. John and Laura donated money and supported the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary whose mission was in line with their faith based beliefs. Today known as Spelman College, the school is an all women Historically Black College or University in Atlanta, Georgia, named after Laura's family. The Spelman Family, Rockefeller's in-laws, along with John Rockefeller were ardent abolitionists before the Civil War and were dedicated to supporting the Underground Railroad. John Rockefeller was impressed by the vision of the school and removed the debt from the school. The oldest existing building on Spelman's campus, Rockefeller Hall, is named after him. Rockefeller also gave considerable donations to Denison University and other Baptist colleges.
Henry Morrison Flagler, one of the co-founders of Standard Oil along with Rockefeller, bought the Ormond Hotel in 1890, located in Ormond Beach, Florida, two years after it opened. Flagler expanded it to accommodate 600 guests and the hotel soon became one in a series of Gilded Age hotels catering to passengers aboard Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway. One of Flagler's guests at the Ormond Hotel was his former business partner John D. Rockefeller, who first stayed at the hotel in 1914. Rockefeller liked the Ormond Beach area so much that after four seasons at the hotel, he bought an estate in Ormond Beach called The Casements. It would be Rockefeller's winter home during the latter part of his life. Sold by his heirs in 1939, it was purchased by the city in 1973 and now serves as a cultural center and is the community's best-known historical structure.
He was allegedly influenced by a meeting in 1893 with Swami Vivekananda, who urged him to use more of his philanthropy to help poor and distressed people.
Upon his ascent to the presidency, Theodore Roosevelt initiated dozens of suits under the Sherman Antitrust Act and coaxed reforms out of Congress. In 1901, U.S. Steel, then controlled by J. Pierpont Morgan, having bought Andrew Carnegie's steel assets, offered to buy Standard's iron interests as well. A deal brokered by Henry Clay Frick exchanged Standard's iron interests for U.S. Steel stock and gave Rockefeller and his son membership on the company's board of directors. In full retirement at age 63, Rockefeller earned over $58 million in investments in 1902.
By 1901 he began wearing toupées. His hair never grew back, but other health complaints subsided as he lightened his workload.
On Gates' advice, Rockefeller became one of the first great benefactors of medical science. In 1901, he founded the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City. It changed its name to Rockefeller University in 1965, after expanding its mission to include graduate education. It claims a connection to 23 Nobel laureates. He founded the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission in 1909, an organization that eventually eradicated the hookworm disease, which had long plagued rural areas of the American South. His General Education Board made a dramatic impact by funding the recommendations of the Flexner Report of 1910. The study had been undertaken by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
In 1902, facing cash flow problems, John Cleveland Osgood turned to George Jay Gould, a principal stockholder of the Denver and Rio Grande, for a loan. Gould, via Frederick Taylor Gates, Rockefeller's financial adviser, brought John D. Rockefeller in to help finance the loan. Analysis of the company's operations by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. showed a need for substantially more funds which were provided in exchange for acquisition of CF&I's subsidiaries such as the Colorado and Wyoming Railway Company, the Crystal River Railroad Company, and possibly the Rocky Mountain Coal and Iron Company. Control was passed from the Iowa Group to Gould and Rockefeller interests in 1903 with Gould in control and Rockefeller and Gates representing a minority interests. Osgood left the company in 1904 and devoted his efforts to operating competing coal and coke operations.
Rockefeller is largely remembered simply for the raw size of his wealth. In 1902, an audit showed Rockefeller was worth about $200 million—compared to the total national GDP of $24 billion then.
Rockefeller's General Education Board, founded in 1903, was established to promote education at all levels everywhere in the country. In keeping with the historic missions of the Baptists, it was especially active in supporting black schools in the South. Rockefeller also provided financial support to such established eastern institutions as Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley and Vassar.
Rockefeller gave $80 million to the University of Chicago under William Rainey Harper, turning a small Baptist college into a world-class institution by 1900. He would describe the University of Chicago as “the best investment I ever made.” He also gave a grant to the American Baptist Missionaries foreign mission board, the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society in establishing Central Philippine University, the first Baptist and second American university in Asia, in 1905 in the heavily Catholic Philippines.
One of the most effective attacks on Rockefeller and his firm was the 1904 publication of The History of the Standard Oil Company, by Ida Tarbell, a leading muckraker. She documented the company's espionage, price wars, heavy-handed marketing tactics, and courtroom evasions. Although her work prompted a huge backlash against the company, Tarbell stated she was surprised at its magnitude. "I never had an animus against their size and wealth, never objected to their corporate form. I was willing that they should combine and grow as big and wealthy as they could, but only by legitimate means. But they had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me." Tarbell's father had been driven out of the oil business during the "South Improvement Company" affair. Rockefeller called her "Miss Tarbarrel" in private but held back in public saying only, "not a word about that misguided woman." He began a publicity campaign to put his company and himself in a better light. Though he had long maintained a policy of active silence with the press, he decided to make himself more accessible and responded with conciliatory comments such as "capital and labor are both wild forces which require intelligent legislation to hold them in restriction." He wrote and published his memoirs beginning in 1908. Critics found his writing to be sanitized and disingenuous and thought that statements such as "the underlying, essential element of success in business are to follow the established laws of high-class dealing" seemed to be at odds with his true business methods.
Rockefeller and his son continued to consolidate their oil interests as best they could until New Jersey, in 1909, changed its incorporation laws to effectively allow a re-creation of the trust in the form of a single holding company. Rockefeller retained his nominal title as president until 1911 and he kept his stock. At last in 1911, the Supreme Court of the United States found Standard Oil Company of New Jersey in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. By then the trust still had a 70% market share of the refined oil market but only 14% of the U.S. crude oil supply. The court ruled that the trust originated in illegal monopoly practices and ordered it to be broken up into 34 new companies. These included, among many others, Continental Oil, which became Conoco, now part of ConocoPhillips; Standard of Indiana, which became Amoco, now part of BP; Standard of California, which became Chevron; Standard of New Jersey, which became Esso (and later, Exxon), now part of ExxonMobil; Standard of New York, which became Mobil, now part of ExxonMobil; and Standard of Ohio, which became Sohio, now part of BP. Pennzoil and Chevron have remained separate companies.
The strike, called in September 1913 by the United Mine Workers, over the issue of union representation, was against coal mine operators in Huerfano and Las Animas counties of southern Colorado, where the majority of CF&I's coal and coke production was located. The strike was fought vigorously by the coal mine operators association and its steering committee, which included Welborn, president of CF&I, a spokesman for the coal operators. Rockefeller's operative, Lamont Montgomery Bowers, remained in the background. Few miners actually belonged to the union or participated in the strike call, but the majority honored it. Strikebreakers (called "scabs") were threatened and sometimes attacked. Both sides purchased substantial arms and ammunition. Striking miners were forced to abandon their homes in company towns and lived in tent cities erected by the union, such as the tent city at Ludlow, a railway stop north of Trinidad.
Rockefeller created the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913 to continue and expand the scope of the work of the Sanitary Commission, which was closed in 1915.
His wealth continued to grow significantly (in line with U.S. economic growth) as the demand for gasoline soared, eventually reaching about $900 million on the eve of the First World War, including significant interests in banking, shipping, mining, railroads, and other industries. His personal wealth was 900 million in 1913 worth 21 billion dollars adjusted for inflation in 2016. According to his New York Times obituary, "it was estimated after Mr. Rockefeller retired from business that he had accumulated close to $1,500,000,000 out of the earnings of the Standard Oil trust and out of his other investments. This was probably the greatest amount of wealth that any private citizen had ever been able to accumulate by his own efforts." By the time of his death in 1937, Rockefeller's remaining fortune, largely tied up in permanent family trusts, was estimated at $1.4 billion, while the total national GDP was $92 billion. According to some methods of wealth calculation, Rockefeller's net worth over the last decades of his life would easily place him as the wealthiest known person in recent history. As a percentage of the United States' GDP, no other American fortune—including those of Bill Gates or Sam Walton—would even come close.
Under the protection of the National Guard, some miners returned to work and some strikebreakers, imported from the eastern coalfields, joined them as Guard troops protecting their movements. In February 1914, a substantial portion of the troops were withdrawn, but a large contingent remained at Ludlow. On April 20, 1914, a general fire-fight occurred between strikers and troops, which was antagonized by the troops and mine guards. The camp was burned, resulting in 15 women and children, who hid in tents at the camp, being burned to death. Costs to both mine operators and the union were high. This incident brought unwanted national attention to Colorado.
Due to reduced demand for coal, resulting from an economic downturn, many of CF&I's coal mines never reopened and many men were thrown out of work. The union was forced to discontinue strike benefits in February 1915. There was destitution in the coalfields. With the help of funds from the Rockefeller Foundation, relief programs were organized by the Colorado Committee on Unemployment and Relief. A state agency created by Governor Carlson, offered work to unemployed miners building roads and doing other useful projects.
The casualties suffered at Ludlow mobilized public opinion against the Rockefellers and the coal industry. The United States Commission on Industrial Relations conducted extensive hearings, singling out John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Rockefellers' relationship with Bowers for special attention. Bowers was relieved of duty and Wellborn restored to control in 1915, then industrial relations improved. Rockefeller denied any responsibility and minimized the seriousness of the event. When testifying on the Ludlow Massacre, and asked what action he would have taken as Director, John D. Rockefeller Jr. stated, "I would have taken no action. I would have deplored the necessity which compelled the officers of the company to resort to such measures to supplement the State forces to maintain law and order." He admitted that he had made no attempt to bring the militiamen to justice.
Rockefeller's fourth main philanthropy, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation, was created in 1918. Through this, he supported work in the social studies; this was later absorbed into the Rockefeller Foundation. In total Rockefeller donated about $550 million.
Rockefeller would support Baptist missionary activity, fund universities, and heavily engage in religious activities at his Cleveland, Ohio church. While traveling the South, he would donate large sums of money to churches belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention, various Black churches, as well as other Christian denominations. One time, he paid for a slave's freedom and donated to a Roman Catholic orphanage. As he grew rich, his donations became more generous, especially to his church in Cleveland; nevertheless, it was demolished in 1925, and replaced with another building.
Rockefeller died of arteriosclerosis on May 23, 1937, less than two months shy of his 98th birthday, at "The Casements", his home in Ormond Beach, Florida. He was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.
As a youth, Rockefeller reportedly said that his two great ambitions were to make $100,000 (equivalent to $2.74 million in 2019 dollars) and to live 100 years.
Instead of wanting to eliminate them, Rockefeller saw himself as the industry's savior, "an angel of mercy" absorbing the weak and making the industry as a whole stronger, more efficient, and more competitive. Standard was growing horizontally and vertically. It added its own pipelines, tank cars, and home delivery network. It kept oil prices low to stave off competitors, made its products affordable to the average household, and, to increase market penetration, sometimes sold below cost. It developed over 300 oil-based products from tar to paint to petroleum jelly to chewing gum. By the end of the 1870s, Standard was refining over 90% of the oil in the U.S. Rockefeller had already become a millionaire ($1 million is equivalent to $26 million in 2019 dollars).
Currently, John D. Rockefeller is 183 years, 2 months and 17 days old. John D. Rockefeller will celebrate 184th birthday on a Saturday 8th of July 2023.
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