John D. Rockefeller: Biography
John D. Rockefeller may have been one of the richest men in the world, but he was also one of the most generous. Here is a breif biography.
John David Rockefeller was born July 8, 1839 on farm at Richford, in Tioga County, New York. The second of six children born to William and Eliza (Davison) Rockefeller, John was born into a modest lifestyle that allowed for much learning and extensive travel opportunities. The family relocated several times during John's early life; first to New York and then Ohio, where they would eventually buy a home and settle down. Blending well into Strongsville, Ohio, the Rockefellers planted roots while John entered high school in nearby Cleveland. John rented a room in the city while studying and became an active member of Erie Street Baptist Church; the same church he would become trustee over at the age of 21.
John left high school in 1855 and enrolled in a business course offered at Folsom Mercantile College. Completing the six month class in a mere three months, John signed on as an assistant book keeper with Hewitt & Tuttle, a small firm of commission merchants. John's weekly pay was $3.57. Within two years, John would advance through the company quickly, holding many different titles.
With $1000 of his own money that he had stocked away and a borrowed $1000 from his father, John left Hewitt & Tuttle in 1859 and formed a partnership in the commission business with Maurice B. Clark. It was during this same year that the first oil well was dug in Pennsylvania, opening the doors for Cleveland to become a major refining center. Already successful, Rockefeller and Clark entered the oil business as refiners in 1863, adding another to their partnership, a man named Samuel Andrews. Andrews already had several years of refining experience and his knowledge, combined with Rockefeller's drive and business sense, made for a perfect match. Andrews, Clark & Co. would thrive for two years before a business disagreement separated the team. Rockefeller bought out his partners (now numbering five) for $72,500, and formed Rockefeller & Andrews.
John married in 1864, taking schoolteacher Laura C. Spelman as his wife. They would bear five children; four daughters and a son, who would later very actively resume their father's philanthropist lifestyle.
As kerosene was introduced to the American markets as a means for lighting and fueling fire, Rockefeller's stake in the oil industry grew. In 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company with his brother William and several others, including Andrews, Henry Flagler and S.V. Harkness. Its net worth was valued at over one million dollars.
By 1872, Standard Oil was so successful that it controlled almost all the refining firms in Ohio and had control over several in New York. The fast growing company was refining 29,000 barrels of crude oil a day and it's success now stretched into New Jersey, as well.
In addition to being the owner of Standard Oil, John Rockefeller owned iron mines and timberland. He also invested in numerous companies in the manufacturing, transportation, and other industries. Still holding the title of president of Standard Oil in 1911, Rockefeller had retired from active leadership of the company fourteen years earlier, in 1896. In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court found the Standard Oil Company to be in violation of the anti-trust laws, and ordered the dissolution of its New Jersey firm. All 38 companies, which it then controlled, were separated into individual businesses.
In his early fifties, John D. Rockefeller focused his interests on philanthropy, leaving the business making decisions to his family and staff. Rockefeller strived to give his fortunes away in ways that would allow for many to prosper from his good deed. Even as a small child, Rockefeller had been encouraged to share what he had, and he did, giving weekly allowance money to his church and other small charities. Support of religious institutions and African-American education remained a top priority for Rockefeller, who gave the first $600,000 to fund the building blocks of what is now known as the University of Chicago. Never one to stop giving or turn his back, Rockefeller gave as much as $35 million dollars to the University of Chicago during his lifetime.
Rockefeller's wife passed in 1915, and he threw himself into researching, aiding and funding a variety of causes and organizations. During his 97 years, John D. Rockefeller would help to fund numerous causes, including the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the General Education Board, the Rockefeller Sanitation Commission and the Rockefeller Foundation.
John D. Rockefeller died on the morning of May 23, 1937, at The Casements, his home in Ormond Beach. He was 97 years old. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland. His generous gifts still continue today, through the help of his children.