John Davison Rockefeller - Encyclopedia


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JOHN DAVISON ROCKEFELLER (1839-), American capitalist, was born in Richford, Tioga county, New York, on the 8th of July 1839. In 1853 his family removed to Ohio, living after 1857 in Cleveland, where Rockefeller had begun to work as a bookkeeper in 1855 and where in 1858 he went into the produce commission business. His firm, Clark & Rockefeller,, in 1862 invested in an oil refinery, planned by Samuel Andrews,. and in 1865 Rockefeller sold out his share to his partner Clark, bought for $72,500 a larger share in another refinery, and formed the partnership of Rockefeller & Andrews. At about the same time another refinery was started by Rockefeller's brother William (b. 1841), but in 1867 Rockefeller & Andrews absorbed this business, and Henry M. Flagler was added to the partnership. In 1870 the two Rockefellers, Flagler, Andrews and a. refiner named Stephen V. Harkness formed the Standard Oil Company, with a capital of $1,000,000 (increased in 1872 to $2,500,000 and in 1874 to $3,500,000), of which John D. Rockefeller was president. This great corporation gradually established itself in practical control of the oil production in America, by means of business methods and financial operations which have been severely criticized, but which brought immense wealth to those concerned. Its capital was further increased in 1882,, when separate companies were organized in each state; and in later years, as the first great American "trust," the Standard Oil Company was hotly attacked during the anti-trust movement (see Inter-State Commerce). Into the merits of this question it is impossible to enter here. Rockefeller himself retired from active business in 1895; he had for a time large iron interests (mines and ore-carrying vessels) on Lake Superior, which he sold to the United States Steel Corporation, and his personal wealth was probably greater than that of any other man in the country. In private life he was a devoted member of the Baptist church, and his benefactions were numerous. To "the University of Chicago founded by John D. Rockefeller" (in 1892) he had given, up to 1910, $24,809,666, while to the General Education Board he had given $43,000,000; he founded (1901) and supported the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City; he gave large sums to Rush Medical College in Chicago, to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, to Barnard College in New York City and to the Baptist Missionary Society; and in 1909 he gave $1,000,000 to endow a medical commission to investigate the nature of the hook-worm and to suppress the hook-worm disease.

See Ida M. Tarbell's History of the Standard Oil Company (New York, 1903), a severe attack on the Trust; also his own Random Reminiscences (1909).

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