Business tycoon and philanthropist John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was born in America on July 8, 1839, and died on May 23, 1937. He is usually regarded as the richest individual in contemporary history and the richest American of all time. Rockefeller was born in Upstate New York into a big family that travelled around a lot before settling in Cleveland. At the age of 16, he started working as an assistant bookkeeper. At the age of 20, he entered into his first of several business partnerships, focusing on oil refining. In 1870, Rockefeller established the Standard Oil Company. He served as its manager and biggest shareholder until 1897. As kerosene and petrol gained popularity, Rockefeller's fortune increased. At his height, he was the richest man in the nation and held 90% of the country's oil reserves. Up to the development of electricity, the entire nation relied on oil for lighting, and following the creation of the vehicle, it was utilised as fuel. Additionally, Rockefeller expanded his control over the railway sector, which was responsible for moving his oil throughout the nation. The first notable commercial trust in the United States was Standard Oil. Rockefeller revolutionised the petroleum industry by utilising the firm's monopolistic strength and played a crucial role in both broadly spreading and significantly lowering the cost of producing oil via corporate and technological advancements.
Particularly in the words of novelist Ida Tarbell, Rockefeller's firm and commercial practises came under fire. In 1911, the Supreme Court declared that Standard Oil must be broken up because it had broken the federal antitrust laws. ExxonMobil, Chevron Corporation, and other businesses that some still have the greatest levels of income in the world were split up into 34 different corporations. As a result, Rockefeller amassed a wealth equivalent to about 2% of the country's GDP, becoming its first billionaire. A 1913 estimate of his personal wealth put it at $900 million, or around 3% of the $39.1 billion US GDP for that year.[required complete citation] That was his highest net worth, which is $26.6 billion (in 2022 dollars; adjusted for inflation). He leaned heavily on his wife Laura Spelman Rockefeller, with whom he had four children and a son, for counsel. He often attended the Erie Street Baptist Mission Church, where he also taught Sunday school and worked as a trustee, clerk and caretaker on occasion. He used religion as a compass throughout his life and saw it as the key to his success. Based on a social Darwinist viewpoint, Rockefeller was also seen as a proponent of capitalism, and he was frequently cited as stating, "The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest."
Early Life And More
Rockefeller was the second of six children born to conman William A. Rockefeller Sr. and Eliza Davison in Richford, New York. Rockefeller had four younger siblings, including fraternal twins Franklin (Frank) and Frances, William Jr., Mary, and an older sister called Lucy. His mother was of Ulster Scots ancestry, while his father was of English and German ancestry. According to one story, some forebears were Huguenots from the Roquefeuille family who escaped from France to Germany during Louis XIV's reign at a time of religious persecution. Their name had taken on a German pronunciation by the time their offspring emigrated to North America. William Sr. initially worked as a lumberjack before becoming a travelling salesman. Locals referred to him as "Big Bill" and "Devil Bill" and claimed he practised as a "botanic physician" and sold elixirs. He lived a wandering life, unencumbered by traditional morals, and hardly visited his family. All of Bill's life, he was known for his ability to pull off scams. Between the births of Lucy and John, Bill had a daughter named Clorinda who passed away at an early age with his lover and servant Nancy Brown. Between the births of John and William Jr., Bill and Nancy had Cornelia, their daughter.
Eliza, a housewife and devoted Baptist, found it difficult to keep the household in some sort of order because Bill regularly had to travel for long stretches of time. She also put up with his bigamy and living a second life that included philandering. Joseph Pulitzer offered a prize of $8,000 for information about his father Rockefeller during the height of his notoriety. However, Bill was not located by journalists prior to his passing, and information about his bigamous marriage was only made public after his passing. In Norwich, Ontario, Canada, Bill Rockefeller, whose real name was William Levingston, entered into a bigamous marriage with Margaret L. Allen (1834–1910) after leaving his family behind about 1855 while continuing to be married to Eliza until her death. His burial was funded after his death in 1906.
He was born in Moravia, New York, and his family later relocated to Owego, where he attended Owego Academy, in 1851. He attended Cleveland's Central High School, the first high school in Cleveland and the first free public high school west of the Alleghenies, when his family relocated to Strongsville, Ohio, in 1853. At Folsom's Commercial College, he later enrolled in a ten-week business course where he learned bookkeeping. Despite his father's absences and the multiple movements his family made, Rockefeller was a well-behaved, earnest, and diligent young man. He was characterised by his contemporaries as quiet, sincere, pious, systematic, and cautious. He was a skilled debater who used clear language. He also had a great love for music and fantasised about making a living from it.
In addition to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, New York, and the region in northwest Pennsylvania where the majority of the oil originated, Cleveland was one of the five major refining centres in the United States at the conclusion of the American Civil War. Kerosene refining capacity was three times more by 1869 than what was required to meet market demand, and this capacity persisted for many years. Rockefeller established Standard Oil of Ohio on January 10, 1870, by dissolving the partnership of Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler. Rockefeller swiftly developed the business to become the most successful refiner in Ohio by continuing to use his work ethic and efficiency. It also rose to become one of the biggest oil and kerosene shippers in the nation. The railroads engaged in strong competition for business, and in an effort to build a cartel to regulate freight rates, they established the South Improvement Company, which provided special agreements to large clients like Standard Oil outside of the major oil centres. The cartel provided special treatment as a high-volume shipper, which included rebates for the shipment of rival items in addition to significant discounts/rebates of up to 50% for their own product.
The revelation of significantly higher freight fees was a component of this plan. Independent oil well owners erupted in a fury of protest as a result, engaging in boycotts and acts of vandalism that eventually revealed Standard Oil's involvement in the agreement. This scheme was opposed by a significant New York refiner, Charles Pratt and Company, led by Charles Pratt and Henry H. Rogers, and railroads quickly withdrew. The cartel's charter was withdrawn by Pennsylvania, and non-preferential prices were temporarily reinstated. Rockefeller's initiatives did result in cheaper kerosene and other oil byproducts for American customers, much to the displeasure of rivals. Prior to 1870, whale oil, which was costly, was only available to the rich. Kerosene became widely accessible to the working class throughout the following ten years.
Despite continually facing a large number of rivals, Standard Oil progressively increased its market share through horizontal integration and eventually captured 90% of the US market, dominating oil sales and refining. The business installed its own vertical distribution system in the kerosene sector to replace the previous one. Tank cars were used to transport the fuel to local markets, and tank waggons were then used to transfer the fuel to retail consumers, circumventing the network of wholesale jobbers that was previously in place. Standard Oil's commercial practises sparked a great deal of criticism even though they significantly reduced the cost of paraffin goods for the general public while enhancing their quality and accessibility (the price of paraffin fell by over 80% throughout the company's existence).
The daughter of Harvey Buell Spelman and Lucy Henry, Laura Celestia "Cettie" Spelman (1839–1915) was wed to Rockefeller in 1864. Together, they produced one son and four daughters. Later, he said, "Her judgement was always superior than mine. I would be in dire straits if not for her astute advise.
Rockefeller experienced mild melancholy and intestinal issues in his 50s, and in the 1890s, at a time of stress, he acquired alopecia, which is the loss of some or all body hair. He started wearing toupées in 1901, and his moustache vanished in 1902. His hair never came back, but when he reduced his workload, other health issues improved.
Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery is home to Rockefeller's burial.
Less than two months shy of turning 98, Rockefeller passed away from arteriosclerosis at "The Casements," his residence in Ormond Beach, Florida, on May 23, 1937. In Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery, he was laid to rest.