John D. Rockefeller And The Monopoly Of Standard Oil
2/8/1924-Moravia, NY: The boyhood home of John D. Rockefeller, Near Moravia, is now being used as a domicile by convicts from Auburn Prison, NY, who are employed in repairing the "Rockefeller Highway." Source: (gettyimages.com)
John D. Rockefeller began his life much like any other average American of that day. But he did not remain just another average American. He began what became a very wealthy family fortune for not only him and his immediate family but those that would come after him.
He was born on July 8, 1839, in Richford, New York. His father, William Avery Rockefeller was a traveling physician and snake-oil salesman. In 1851, he and his family moved to Moravia, New York where he attended Oswego Academy. Two years later, in 1853, they moved again to Cleveland, Ohio where he attended high school until he dropped out and went to Folsom Mercantile College to take a business class. His first meaningful job was as an assistant bookkeeper at the age of 16. By the time he turned 20, he was working with a business partner as a commission merchant in goods like hay, meats, and grains. He had a gross income of $450,000 the very first year.
The Oil Business
John D. Rockefeller was no foolish businessman. He did not take unnecessary risks but he had a good eye for a good opportunity. Such was the case when he saw a golden opportunity to get into the oil business. It was during the beginning of the 1860s when the production of oil was taking off in Western Pennsylvania. He built an oil refinery near Cleveland as part of his strategy, taking only two years to become the largest in the area.
With a few associates, he incorporated what was known as the Standard Oil Company in Ohio. In just a couple of years, they began buying out their competitors until they controlled almost all of the refineries in Cleveland. Their next move was to make profitable deals with the railroads to ship the oil, while at the same time, buying equipment to set up their own transportation. In that way, they were able to control every part of the oil business themselves. This caused competitors extreme distress.
New Laws Enacted
By 1881, they had become so big that they expanded to other states and established a board of nine trustees. This became the first major United States trust and led the way for others to follow in the game of monopoly. In one year, they had pretty much monopolized the entire oil business.
Because of the ruthless tactics begun by Rockefeller and others, new laws were put into place by the U.S. Congress. Many antitrust laws, such as the U.S. Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890, were established that made it illegal to use the tactics they were using. Rockefeller dissolved the trust and split up the properties, but the same nine men still controlled those companies. In 1899, the companies came back together in a holding company that lasted until 1911, when the Supreme Court declared that they were in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
The Latter Years
Rockefeller became one of the wealthiest men in the world. Ruthless or not, he had created a family legacy. By the time of his death, he was worth a fortune. He had given away over $500 million in his later years.
This was his final home at the time of his death -- much different from the humble childhood home of his youth. His children and grandchildren followed his lead and have continued the legacy that he started.
After he retired, Rockefeller dedicated his time as a philanthropist. He began giving money to charitable organizations and founded the University of Chicago in 1892. With the help of his son John, he established the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Foundation. After he passed away in 1937, his son continued what he started by giving to various foundations. He helped establish the USO (United Service Organizations) and donated $5 million to the Lincoln Center in New York City as well as other much-needed projects.