Short Biography of John D. Rockefeller
Known as one of America’s first industrial tycoons, John D. Rockefeller made his Standard Oil into an empire that would be scrutinized for their intensive buying out of smaller oil companies. This practice led to Rockefeller’s company controlling more than 90% of the American oil market. His company was later ruled a monopoly by the Supreme Court.
Young John was born in New York into a well-to-do family. His father sold lumber and medicines, and owned farm land. Brought up under the puritanical ways of his mother, Rockefeller always kept an organized and strict business practice. The Rockefeller family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and at the age of 19, John had already started his own company, which grossed nearly a half-million dollars in its first year. Even with the onslaught of the Civil War, Rockefeller’s company prospered. John D. Rockefeller saw the potential in the oil refinery business and in its transport. He began working with technical genius Samuel Andrews, and the two eventually formed a partnership known as the Rockefeller and Andrews firm, which became the largest refinery in Ohio. Rockefeller subsequently opened another company called Standard Works with his brother and the two opened up a central office in New York City.
Fierce competition meant that Rockefeller would have to tightly monitor his businesses if they were to garnish more than 10% of the market. Rockefeller’s scheme, as it was known, was to form the South Improvement Company, which would form alliances with Cleveland refiners to beat their opposition in Pennsylvania. The scheme failed, but showed that Rockefeller’s ingenious ability in corporate rivalry was unmatched.
Through purchasing most of Cleveland’s refineries, among others in New York and Philadelphia, he was able to use his own tank cars, his own barrels, his own laborers, and his own railroads to transport his shipments. He nearly owned everything by 1878, and some of his practices led to utter violence in the streets through strikes and threats.
By the early 1880s, Rockefeller had created America’s first trust company because of the monopoly he controlled. Through the trust, the company looked as if it had independent trustees that oversaw the company’s overall organization in each state. With over forty businesses under its name, Rockefeller had formed a company worth more than $80 million dollars and became the richest company in the world. In the latter years of his business, he bought new oil fields and began processing crude oil in his own companies.
Although his company always felt the heat of the government and the public, he began dabbling and eventually partially taking over the steel industry. However, after an agreement with Andrew Carnegie, the two decided not to touch each other’s industries. So, Rockefeller sold his shares in iron ore and Carnegie and J.P. Morgan created U.S. Steel, which surpassed $200 million dollars. From the beginning of his career, Rockefeller gave away one-tenth of his profits to worthy charities. Through his giving, the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University, which was formerly known as the Institute of Medical Research, was established. He later formed the Rockefeller Foundation, whose goal was to promote well-being throughout the world.