5 Things You Didn't Know About John Rockefeller

On January 10, 1870, John D. Rockefeller and a handful of partners incorporated Standard Oil Company, he largest oil refinery in the world of its time. Here are 5 things you didn't know about America’s first billionaire...


Rockefeller Was the First American Billionaire Many Times Over # Image credit: WikiCommons After started out at age 16 as a bookkeeper in Cleveland. He eventually built an empire that was estimated in 1916 to be worth around $10 billion. By the standards of the 21st century, that amounts to about $336 billion, which would earn Rockefeller a spot as the richest man in American history. That’s much higher net worth than Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon.

His Father Was a Scoundrel # Image credit: WikiCommons William Avery Rockefeller could only be described as a conman who was known to sell fake miracle drugs, herbal remedies and pose as a peddler who was a deaf-mute. His nickname was allegedly “Devil Bill,” and he fathered children not only with his wife but with his mistress, who lived in his home as the housekeeper. In addition, the elder Rockefeller posed as a physician specializing in eye and ear problems, and when he died in 1906, he was buried under the fake name of William Levingston.


Rockefeller Did Not Serve in the Civil War Rockefeller made it clear that he supported abolition but did not serve in the Civil War, and paid a substitute to take his place, which was common in those days for people who had money. He said he wanted to serve in the military during the war but could not because his family was dependent on the money he made in his business. The business in question was commodities, from which Rockefeller made enough war profit that he was able to begin building his oil company.

Rockefeller’s Iron-Fisted Hold on the Oil Business Was Broken in 1911 At one time, Rockefeller controlled about 90 percent of the oil produced in the United States; however, a Supreme Court case in 1911 ruled that Standard Oil had to be dismantled because the company violated federal antitrust laws. Thirty-four different entities grew from the breakup of Standard Oil, and some of those grew into new mega oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon-Mobil.

Despite His Reputation as a Cheapskate, Rockefeller Was a Major Philanthropist Rockefeller carried dimes when he went out in public and handed them out to people on the street, so since he was extremely wealthy, there were those who considered him a cheapskate. However, Rockefeller and his son were major philanthropists, donating the land where the United Nations was built and funding Rockefeller Center, which put around 75,000 people to work during the Great Depression. Over the years, Rockefeller donated more than $500,000,000 for religious, scientific and educational purposes.

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