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John D Rockefeller: A Positive Influence On American Industry?

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John D. Rockefeller Senior is one of the most famous industrialists to date. His fame is well deserved, through decades of hard work that brought prosperity to the American petroleum industry. Rockefeller has been called philanthropist, "great man" 1 "industrial statesman..., robber baron" , thief and other titles of both pleasant and unpleasant nature. His ways of conducting business brought him fame, fortune, and a lawsuit that broke up the Standard Oil Company. Despite these questionable business practices, John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company greatly contributed to the economy, and the well-being of the United States and its people. "The life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was marked to an exceptional degree by silence, mystery, and evasion."

John Davidson Rockefeller Senior was born in Richford, New York, on July 8, 1837. His parents were William Avery Rockefeller, and Eliza Davison Rockefeller.

William was a man of self expression; he was labeled by the town of Richford as "the town's richest man" , due to his almost limitless spending. He was also called the "most notable man of the community" . The family had basic comforts, but was not rich, as later clarified by Mary Ann Rockefeller, sister to John D. He also claimed that he was a doctor that could cure cancer; he disappeared from home for weeks, and he organized businesses which showed John from very early in his life how such things operate. William often loaned money to John, but kept the option to call it in at any time. This taught john that deficits and debts are very harmful to business and should be eliminated as soon as possible. John was very precise with his money throughout his entire life, which is one of the underlying reasons for his enormous success.

Eliza was a devout Baptist. She was disciplined and hard working. She and her religion taught John D. of philanthropy, and the need to accumulate money to use it for aid to the needy. She "encouraged the children to drop pennies into the collection plate; Rockefeller later cited his mother's altruism as the genesis of his philanthropy." John D. enjoyed going to church, and saw it as "something deeply refreshing for the soul." His father had paid him five dollars to read the entire bible, creating a strong bond between God and money in his mind. This was the time of the second Great Awakening, a religious revival. John was clearly touched by this and it affected his perception of things for the rest of his life. "The low church Baptists didn't prohibit the accumulation of wealth but did oppose its vain, ostentatious display, setting up a tension that would be threaded throughout Rockefeller's life." He would always have to decide between faith and financial ambition. Eliza was a good mother; she cared very strongly for her children. Because her husband was often away from home, she had to develop unique ways of protecting her children from harm. "One of Rockefeller's favorite stories reveals her coolheaded response to danger:"

Mother had whooping cough and was staying in her room so that we should not catch it. When she heard thieves trying to get at the back of the house and remembered there was no man to protect us, she softly opened the window and began to sing some old Negro melody, just as if the family were up and about. The robbers turned away from the house, crossed the road to the carriage house, stole a set of harness and went down the hill to their boat at the shore.

Rockefeller had, from early experiences such as this one, developed a deep respect for women. This was radically different from the other industrialists of the Gilded Age, which saw women as purely ornamental. This fact puts the idea of Rockefeller being a philanthropist on even more solid ground.

John D. Rockefeller entered Owega Academy in 1852, where he studied bookkeeping, banking, and commercial law. There, he excelled at mental arithmetic, something that would considerably help him in his business career. At the age of sixteen, he started working for Hewitt & Tuttle, commission merchants and produce shippers. "John began to keep a ledger, noting every expenditure, large and small. For him, numbers were sacred." After holding a job there for three months, Rockefeller's zealous work was rewarded with fifty dollars' pay, and a raise to twenty five dollars per month. This was a large amount of money during the 1850's, especially for a boy of seventeen. Interestingly, Rockefeller considered this raise unnecessary, "one has a hunch that he was jubilant but feared, out of religious scruples, his own greed." This early experience showed to John D. that hard work, punctuality, and ambition can lead to great profits. He would pursue this ambition throughout his life. His three years of working at Hewitt & Tuttle taught him how a business was run, and he was ready to start his own.

At the age of 21, John D. Rockefeller started a business with Maurice B. Clark. The two partners each invested $2000 into "Clark and Rockefeller", which bought and sold grain, fish, water, lime, plaster, and other such products. Despite a severe frost that had damaged the crops, the company "had netted a highly respectable $4,400, tripling the income that John had made during his last year at Hewitt and Tuttle." Even in the very beginning of his business career, Rockefeller saw amazing success.

During the years of the American Civil War, Rockefeller did not fight. He had to support his family due to his father's desertions, and paid $300 for a substitute, which was done by men "like J. P. Morgan, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., and other well-heeled young men." Rockefeller's business was located in Cleveland, which was an excellent position for the food-trading company because of logistics around the country. In 1861, Rockefeller banished one of the three main partners, asserting himself as in command. By 1862, the annual profits went up to $17,000, nearly four times the profits before the Civil War.

In 1859, Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well in western Pennsylvania. Soon, the entire valley had been converted to a giant oil field, and hundreds of fortune seekers arrived to build derricks, refineries, and to buy up the land, as quickly as possible. Samuel Andrews was a self-taught chemist that worked in a lard-oil refinery, and had extracted the first kerosene out of the Pennsylvania oil. He came to Rockefeller, and persuaded him to enter into the oil refining business. He and Maurice Clark invested $4,000 into a small refinery close to Cleveland, on the Cuyahoga River, which flowed



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