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John Rockefeller’s Philanthropy and Its Manifestation

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In the year 1839, on July 8th, Eliza and William Rockefeller had a child which they named John. John only had a little time with his father because William left the family when John was ten years old. William later became known as “Devil Bill,” traveled as a fake doctor who sold “miracle cures” and secretly remarried to a lady named Margaret Allen. William Rockefeller’s teaching philosophy to his sons was “I cheat my boys every chance I get, I want to make ‘em sharp” and “I trade with the boys and just beat ‘em to be sharp traders.” 

In contrast with his father, Eliza Davison Rockefeller, John’s mother, was a hard-working lady with a devotion to the Baptist Church who taught John to be responsible and disciplined. Fourteen year old John and his brother stayed in a boarding house and attended Central High, which John never graduated from. John Rockefeller entered an accounting and bookkeeping program that helped him find a job and start his career.

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Rockefeller and other advisors started the Standard Oil Company. As the company began to grow, it began to absorb smaller companies until it absorbed all of them in Cleveland. In 1881, Rockefeller and his partners placed stock in other states and created a new board of trustees which consisted of 9 trustees, with Rockefeller at the head setting a model for future monopolies in the United States and the first US successful “trust.” Other states and the US Government identified this monopoly as a harm and passed antimonopoly laws and a Sherman Antitrust Act (1980) against the Standard Oil monopoly. This entirely dismantled the monopoly forcing Rockefeller to reverse the trust and divide his monopoly among several companies in other states with interlocking directorates. Later the company was combined into a holding company, which existed until it was ruled illegal again by the Sherman Antitrust Act.

After becoming a successful business man in the oil industry, Rockefeller wanted to find a way to give back to his community through education and medicine. One of Rockefeller’s first contributory acts was to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary which was a four-year college for African American women that was later renamed after Rockefeller’s wife, Laura Spelman Rockefeller. In addition to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, John Rockefeller founded the now nationally ranked, University of Chicago and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research to help solve common health issues. 

Rockefeller donated $1 million to the General Education board to help revive the South, donated $1 million to a health program now called Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease, and created a foundation which performed research on health issues around the world called the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. As Rockefeller’s giving of money became noticeable, many people sent letters to him asking for his support, but mainly for his money that caused him to create a private foundation. The private foundation supported many causes like the American Red Cross and medical schools including John Hopkins and Harvard. John Rockefeller’s philanthropy has become a tradition in his family and still continues to give back to the community today.

John D. Rockefeller never truly received an education from school, he received it from experience. At age 16, he went out in Cleveland, Ohio and went looking for a job and finally, after several tries visiting businesses (at least 3 times per business), he finally found a job as a bookkeeper where he worked for a commission merchant and produce shipper. John Rockefeller gave away 6-10% of his daily 50 cent salary to charity even when he was poor. 

Before turning 20, John Rockefeller and his neighbor Maurice Clark created a partnership with an initial investment of $4,000 which later turned into a lot of profit as they began to grow. They went from making $4,400 a year to $17,000 a year largely because of the Civil War increasing the demand for grain. After whale oil became scarce, Rockefeller decided to invest in petroleum which made him one of the wealthiest men at that time.

John Rockefeller and his friends Samuel Andrews and Clark collaborated and created the Excelsior Oil Works. Due to his sensitivity of details and frugalness, Rockefeller made sure the company’s locations were close to railroad stations, he sent his own men to purchase oil to skip the middlemen, built his own supplies to be used for the company, and let no oil go to waste. Clark left the business causing Rockefeller and Andrews to create a new business called Rockefeller and Andrews which performed the same job as Excelsior. 

The company grew, creating a new branch for overseas. Because of the complexity and uncertainty of the oil business, Rockefeller bought out smaller refineries and created a monopoly called The Standard Oil Company which came to control 90% of all of America’s oil refineries, and 1/3 of all the oil wells in America. The company then established a trust which was extremely successful but was ruled illegal by the government forcing it to separate.     

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