BeeOasis Step 3
Black liquid exploded out of the ground and towards the sky. It was oil—black gold—and it had the power to light up homes. It had the power to run the engine of the American economy. It had the power to make a man very rich. John D. Rockefeller realized these things, so he took the oil and refined it. Then he created ways to move it around the country with trains and pipes. During his lifetime, Rockefeller became the world’s richest man, and he was the first American worth more than a billion dollars. When he died in 1937, his wealth had reached $1.4 billion. In today’s terms, that would be between 400 and 600 billion.
In 1870, Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in Cleveland, Ohio. By 1872, Standard Oil controlled almost all of the oil business in Cleveland. And by 1882, Standard Oil controlled almost all of the oil business in the United States. With nearly complete control, the company became a monopoly. That is, many people needed to buy oil, but practically speaking, they could only get it from one company. This caused many states to make laws against monopolies. And because of these laws, the U.S. Government broke up Standard Oil in 1911.
Rockefeller aggressively managed Standard Oil until he retired in 1897. But by the early 1900s, journalists had destroyed his reputation. Because of his hard-hitting style, he had become the most hated businessman in America. Rockefeller bought or destroyed his competitors because he felt that competition was wasteful and destructive. And he claimed he was not motivated by greed, but by a desire to serve God and people. He said, “God gave me money.” And he followed the advice of the preacher John Wesley, who said, “Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”
Rockefeller spent the 40 years of his retirement using his money to help people. He gave money to scientific and medical research, and he founded Rockefeller University and the University of Chicago. All in all, his donations and gifts totaled over $500 million dollars. He was a cold and calculating businessman, but in the end, he used his wealth constructively. Rockefeller was a complex human being, a curious mixture of goodness and greed. He helped create the modern corporate world; his charity stands as an example for all people; and he remains a giant of business.
Note: John D. Rockefeller lived from July 8, 1839, to May 23, 1937.