John D. Rockefeller

06.06.2015 |

Episode #2 of the course “History’s greatest entrepreneurs”

A giant in the history of industry, John D. Rockefeller is known for founding Standard Oil, which greased the wheels of industrial production in the 19th century. Rising from the most humble beginnings, Rockefeller left his impression on engineering, science, medicine, technology, transportation, economics, government, world trade, and more. As one of the most powerful and wealthiest men in history, John D. Rockefeller is remembered not only as a man who made a great deal of money, but who donated a great deal of that money as well. His keen ability to invest led him to consider not only a profit return of dollars and cents, but of social improvement and humanitarian wealth.

Rockefeller’s father was a scam artist and a con man who prided himself on teaching his sons street-wise lessons. Young John studied, worked odd jobs to support the family, and attended college for bookkeeping. Adept at finances, he invested in wholesale groceries, then in an oil refinery. Seeing a market niche he expected to grow, Rockefeller invested in oil and kerosene production and distribution. In 1866, he bought into an oil refinery with his brother in Cleveland, Ohio, which grew into the home of the Standard Oil Company by 1870.


4 Standard Oil Refinery No. 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, 1897Standard Oil Refinery No. 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, 1897


Throughout the 1880s, Standard Oil controlled approximately 90% of the oil production across the US. Rockefeller expanded his interests to railroads and iron as well. The company and Rockefeller practiced questionable tactics to eliminate competitors and shift balance in various industrial markets. In 1911, the US Supreme Court ordered Standard Oil disbanded to break up their monopoly. Long since retired, Rockefeller was spending his time giving to philanthropic causes. He gave millions to the University of Chicago, as well as founded Stilwell College of Atlanta, and provided funding for numerous other educational institutions. Rockefeller believed in better education for a better society.



“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

“Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity, an obligation, Every possession, a duty.”

“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

“If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.”


Recommended book

“Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller” by Ron Chernow


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