Business Magnate. Best known as the patriarch of the socially prominent Rockefeller family of New York, the founder of the Standard Oil Company and founder of the Rockefeller Foundation. He was born John Davison Rockefeller on July 8, 1839 in Richford, New York, the son of William Avery Rockefeller, a traveling quack doctor, and Eliza Davison Rockefeller, who was very religious and disciplined. She taught John D. to work, to save, and to give to charities. In 1853 the Rockefellers moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where John D. attended high school from 1853-55. August of 1855 at the age of 16, he got a job as an assistant bookkeeper for a commission merchant. In 1858 he went into the produce commission business. His firm, Clark & Rockefeller, invested in an oil refinery in 1862, and in 1865 Rockefeller sold out his share to his partner Clark, used the proceeds for a larger share in another refinery, and formed the partnership of Rockefeller & Andrews. At about the same time Rockefeller's brother, William, started another refinery. In 1867 Rockefeller & Andrews absorbed this business, and Henry M. Flagler joined the partnership. In 1870 the two Rockefellers, Flagler, Andrews and a refiner named Stephen V. Harkness formed the Standard Oil Company, with John D. as president. Under John D.’s ruthless leadership, Standard Oil grew rapidly by acquisition of its competitors, and gained virtual control of oil production and distribution in America in about 10 years. His business methods, which would be mostly illegal today, brought immense wealth to himself and his partners, as well as ownership interests that had the foresight to take payment in Standard Oil stock, but were widely and severely criticized. On the plus side, Standard Oil's economies of scale lowered the cost of oil based products so that almost everyone could afford them. Following a period of ill health during which he lost all his hair, Rockefeller himself retired from active business in 1895. By 1901, he was worth about $900 million and is believed to have been the world's richest man at the time. His net worth when adjusted for inflation would put him in the top twenty modern day billionaires; however, when adjusted for the size of the United States economy in his day, his net worth would dwarf that of any of today's billionaires. In private life, Rockefeller was a member of the Baptist church, and late in life became a philanthropist. He founded the University of Chicago in 1892, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University) in New York City in 1901, the General Education Board in 1902, the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913, and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial in 1918, as well as giving large gifts to other institutions. Rockefeller married Laura C. Spelman (1839-1915), a teacher, on September 8, 1864 in Cleveland The couple had five children — four daughters and a son. The daughters were Bessie (1866-1906), Alice (1869-1870), who died in infancy, Alta (1871-1962), and Edith (1872-1932). The youngest of the five children was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), who inherited much of Rockefeller's fortune. Rockefeller's grandson, Nelson Rockefeller, was Vice President of the United States under Gerald Ford and another grandson Winthrop Rockefeller served as Governor of Arkansas. His great-grandson Jay Rockefeller (John D. Rockefeller IV) is currently a member of the U.S. Senate.
Bio by: Edward Parsons
Laura Celestia Spelman Rockefeller
1839–1915 (m. 1864)