Richest People in History John D. Rockefeller

About John D. Rockefeller history, biography, and worth of one of the richest men in history.



"God-gave-me-my-money" Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839, on a farm outside Richford, N.Y. In 1853 his family settled near Cleveland, O., where John went to work as a clerk after finishing his education at Central High School and B. S. Folsom's Commercial College. Not content to remain a clerk and confident of his moneymaking abilities, he launched his own business in 1859, selling grain, hay, and meats on the Cleveland docks. Although successful in selling commodities, Rockefeller recognized the potential profits to be made in refining the newly discovered oil in northwestern Pennsylvania. He sold his merchandising operation and joined in building a refinery bearing the names Rockefeller and Andrews. It quickly became the largest refining operation in Cleveland, mainly as a result of Rockefeller's meticulous attention to cost-cutting details and his boldness in quashing smaller, less efficient, and less ruthless competitors.

In 1870 Rockefeller's refining business was incorporated as the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and during the next two decades Standard methodically steamrollered its way to a complete monopoly in oil refining. Competitors were given a choice: consolidate with Standard or be crushed. Those businessmen quixotic enough to contest Standard's supremacy soon found it impossible to make money; through railroad rebates and kickbacks, cost-cutting, and credit manipulations, Rockefeller eliminated what to him was abhorrent disorder and waste in the oil business. In fact, Rockefeller--a pious Baptist who would later prove himself to be America's greatest philanthropist--was driven not so much by dreams of wealth and power as by disgust at the chaos and inefficiency generated by small competing industrial units.

How Much?

At the age of 57, Rockefeller retired from directing the affairs of Standard Oil; that was in 1896, when he was worth about $200 million. His wealth, however, had just begun to zoom skyward. As the oil-refining business switched its focus from kerosine for lighting to gasoline for automobiles, Standard Oil and Rockefeller really began an unprecedented accumulation of wealth. Before long, the Baptist businessman was a billionaire. By 1911, the year in which the Supreme Court dissolved the Standard Oil monopoly, Rockefeller had severed his connection with the corporation and turned to giving his money away. Although some charities refused to accept what they claimed to be Rockefeller's tainted lucre, he succeeded in ridding himself of approximately $550 million during his lifetime. At his death in 1937 at the age of 97, Rockefeller's personal fortune amounted to $26,273,845, including just one share of Standard Oil stock with a market value at the time of $43.94.

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