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The Rockefellers

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John D. Rockefeller

Religion is a well-compartmentalized element of modern American history. It's referred to and recognized as an aspect of culture, and even of politics, but usually ranked below race, gender, and class. Research in the history of philanthropy, ranging from the narrative of Robert Bremner to the critiques of Peter Dobkin Hall, has identified religion as a fundamental motivational force. This is especially true of the religious context of the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller, one of the greatest philanthropists in American society. In the first sixty one years of Rockefeller's life, most of his philanthropic activity took place in Cleveland. His work makes it a benchmark in the study of this field, making it appropriate to try and observe the connection between religion and Philanthropy throughout his life.

John D. Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839 in Richford, New York. Cleveland was John's primary home from his childhood until 1884 when he moved his family to New York City, where he lived for around thirty years. Cleveland was the city where John focused his benefactions, where he first recorded his donations of nickels and dimes in 1855, until the turn of the century. Cleveland could be a focus of Rockefeller's philanthropy because there was a certain interconnection between Rockefeller's rise as a businessman and philanthropist and the rapid growth of Cleveland. Rockefeller entered business in 1855 as a clerk, became a commission merchant just three years later. In the midst of the Civil War he grasped the growth potential of the newest market commodity, petroleum, and staked his career on it. Quickly mastering the business, he purchased his first oil refinery in 1863 and within a decade was in total control of the rapidly growing petroleum industry. For a time in the 1880s he made Cleveland the center of refining in the United States, while he invested his profits in



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