John D. Rockefeller was born in Richford, New York, on July 8, 1839. His father William Avery “Bill” Rockefeller was a traveling con artist who told people that he was a botanic physician. Bill made a living selling elixirs. John's mother Eliza was a deeply devoted Baptist. He was the second of six children, and the oldest boy. His father was almost always on the road. However, Bill returned often enough to impregnate his housekeeper twice. His mother put up with his cheating and even bigamy. Bill often told his friends that he cheated his children often in order to keep them sharp. In 1851, the Rockefeller family moved to Moravia, New York, and then to Owego, New York. While in Owego John attended the Owego Academy. Then in 1853, the Rockefeller family moved to a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. As a boy John Rockefeller made money raising turkeys, selling candy and potatoes, and loaning money. While in Cleveland he attended Folsom Commercial College where he studied bookkeeping.
John Rockefeller started his business career in 1855 at the age of 16, when he was hired by a commission house called Hewitt and Tuttle. They paid him 50 cents a day. Then, in 1859 John started a produce business. In just four years he made enough money to constructed an oil refinery in Cleveland. At the time whale oil was very popular, but it had become very expensive, leading to the need for a cheaper lighter oil. John's new company was called Clark and Rockefeller. One of his primary partners was a chemist named Samuel Andrews. John bought out the Clark family in 1865 for $72,000. The deal would later be called the most important move of his career.
In 1866, his brother Bill constructed another refinery and brought John in on the deal. Then in 1867, they took in Henry Flagler as a partner. At this time the company became known as Rockefeller, Andrews and Flagler. Three years later it became Standard Oil of Ohio, which evolved into one of the largest shippers and refiners of oil and kerosene in the nation. Before long, Rockefeller was buying out all of his opposition, and the company became very ruthless. Rockefeller wiped out all competition with less than ethical business practices. Today his company is considered one of the first cartels.
In 1879, the state of Pennsylvania indicted him for his monopoly of the oil industry. Immediately afterward numerous states filed similar action against Rockefeller and his company. By this time, Standard was producing 90% of the oil and they had almost 300 products. Rockefeller and his partners now operated dozens of corporations in different states. In 1882, the partners reorganized the company into a trust and profits soared. At this time Standard Oil Trust operated 20,000 oil wells, 4,000 miles of pipeline, and had over 100,000 employees.
In 1904, Ira Tarbell documented Standard Oils dirty dealings in her book entitled, “The History of Standard Oil.” Instead of attacking her, Rockefeller set out to improve his companies image. Then in 1911, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil violated the Sherman Anti-trust Act and they ordered the company divided up into 34 companies. These companies include Exxon Mobil, Pennzoil, Conocco Philips, Chevron, and Mobil. Rockefeller was now worth approximately 900 million dollars. In 1897, he retired to became one of the nations greatest philanthropists in the history of our nation. Before his death he gave away almost $500 million dollars. Rockefeller helped establish the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller Institute, and the Rockefeller Foundation. At the time of his death in1937, his estimated worth was $336 billion dollars.