Captains of Industry Vs. Robber Barons

John Davidson Rockefeller was once the world’s richest person. He made his money in the oil business and later became a famous philanthropist. Rockefeller was born in Richford, N. Y. When he was 14 years old, his family moved to Cleveland. Rockefeller started work as a clerk at a small produce firm. He then formed a partnership in a grain commission house. He used the profits from that to enter the oil business at 23. At that time, the production of oil and refining was a little organization. Rockefeller set out to make the industry orderly and efficient.

Fifteen years later, he achieved his goal of having oil products flow from producer to consumer controlled by one company–The Standard Oil Company. Standard Oil, which was established in 1870, grew out of several oil companies owned by Rockefeller, his younger brother William, and some associates. Rockefeller also concentrated on transportation. He built tank cars and distribution systems. In 1882, Rockefeller organized the Standard Oil Trust. He then controlled almost all U. S. oil refining and distribution and much of the world’s oil trade.

The immensity of Rockefellers holdings and public criticism of his business methods caused the Ohio Supreme Court to dissolve the Standard Oil Trust in 1892. From 1895 to 1897, Rockefeller gradually retired from active business. By that time, he had started charitable activities. He helped found the University of Chicago in 1890, and by 1910 his gifts to that organization totaled $35 million. Rockefeller spent the rest of his life establishing the foundations through which he gave his money to the public.