John D. Rockefeller, Sr.: Americas First Billionaire (Titans of Fortune)

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Witch of Wall Street. Armand Hammer. An Oil Baron of Many Contradictions.

John D. Rockefeller

Juan Terry Trippe. King of Commercial Aviation. Benjamin Franklin. The New Prometheus. Andrew Carnegie. Prince of Steel and Libraries. Henry Ford.

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An American Icon. Built and Empire on Titans of Fortune. Wright Brothers. Powered Their Way to Posterity. Charles Lewis Tiffany. King of Diamonds.

He later called it "the best investment I ever made. It was especially active in supporting underprivileged schools in the South. Its most dramatic impact came by funding the recommendations of the Flexner Report of , which had been funded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; it revolutionized the study of medicine in the United States. Despite his personal preference for homeopathy, Rockefeller, on Frederick Gates's advice, became one of the first great benefactors of medical science. It changed its name to Rockefeller University in , after expanding its mission to include graduate education.

It claims a connection to 23 Nobel laureates. He founded the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission in , an organization that eventually eradicated the hookworm disease that had long plagued the American South. The Rockefeller Foundation was created in to continue and expand the scope of the work of the Sanitary Commission, which was closed in The foundation built the Peking Union Medical College into a great institution. Rockefeller's fourth main philanthropy, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation created in supported work in the social studies; it was later absorbed into the Rockefeller Foundation.

Oddly enough, Rockefeller was probably best known in his later life for the practice of giving a dime to children wherever he went.


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He even gave dimes as a playful gesture to men like tire mogul Harvey Firestone and President Herbert Hoover. During the Great Depression, Rockefeller switched to giving nickels instead of dimes. He died on May 23, , 26 months shy of his th birthday, at the Casements, his home in Ormond Beach, Florida. He was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

Rockefeller had a long and controversial career in industry followed by a long career in philanthropy.


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His image is an amalgam of all of these experiences and the many ways he was viewed by his contemporaries. These contemporaries include his former competitors, many of whom were driven to ruin, but many others of whom sold out at a profit or a profitable stake in Standard Oil, as Rockefeller often offered his shares as payment for a business , and quite a few of whom became very wealthy as managers as well as owners in Standard Oil.

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They also include politicians and writers, some of whom served Rockefeller's interests and some of whom built their careers by fighting Rockefeller and the "robber barons. The rise of the Standard Oil men to great wealth was not from poverty.

John D. Rockefeller - First Billionaire

It was not meteor-like, but accomplished over a quarter of a century by courageous venturing in a field so risky that most large capitalists avoided it, by arduous labors, and by more sagacious and farsighted planning than had been applied to any other American industry. The oil fortunes of were not larger than steel fortunes, banking fortunes, and railroad fortunes made in similar periods.

But it is the assertion that the Standard magnates gained their wealth by appropriating "the property of others" that most challenges our attention. We have abundant evidence that Rockefeller's consistent policy was to offer fair terms to competitors and to buy them out, for cash, stock, or both, at fair appraisals; we have the statement of one impartial historian that Rockefeller was decidedly "more humane toward competitors" than Andrew Carnegie ; we have the conclusion of another that his wealth was "the least tainted of all the great fortunes of his day.

What makes him problematic—and why he continues to inspire ambivalent reactions—is that his good side was every bit as good as his bad side was bad. Seldom has history produced such a contradictory figure. Notwithstanding these varied aspects of his public life, Rockefeller may ultimately be remembered simply for the raw size of his wealth. Rockefeller's net worth over the last decades of his life would easily place him among the very wealthiest persons in history.

The Rockefeller wealth, distributed as it was through a system of foundations and trusts, continued to fund family philanthropic, commercial, and, eventually, political aspirations throughout the twentieth century. Another grandson, Nelson A. Great-grandson John D. Rockefeller has passed into popular culture as the embodiment of wealth. Oysters Rockefeller was named for him because the dish was so "rich.

As a consequence, Rockefeller along with the Rothschilds was considered in that country as the canonical billionaire—synonymous with extreme wealth.

A Short Biography

Rockerduck is a Disney character popular in Europe who is a foil to another well-known rich duck, the avaricious Scrooge McDuck. New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards.


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  7. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats. The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:. A devout Baptist and temperance advocate, Rockefeller gave money more generously—his chosen philanthropies included the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Chicago, and what is today Rockefeller University—than anyone before him.

    Titan presents a finely nuanced portrait of a fascinating, complex man, synthesizing his public and private lives and disclosing numerous family scandals, tragedies, and misfortunes that have never before come to light. Facebook Messenger Click the button below and wait for a message from our Facebook bot in Messenger!

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