John Davidson Rockefeller, 1839 - 1937
Photo from Rockefeller Archive Center (1885)
Born: 8 July 1839, Richford, New York
Died: 23 May 1937, The Casements, Ormond Beach, Florida
Rockefeller's father was often away from home, it turned out that he had a second wife and family. The family (John was the second of six) moved several times, Rockefeller graduated from high school at Cleveland. He took a ten-week business course and at sixteen was a bookkeeper for wholesale produce firm. In 1859 he started his own produce company with a partner, then built an oil refinery with five partners in 1863. Two years later he bought out most of his partners and began aggressively expanding, including playing fast and loose with the railroads, cutting prices, and buying up competitors; by 1880 Standard Oil was refining 90% of the petroleum in the US. He established the infamous Standard Oil Trust which was broken up in 1911, leaving Rockefeller with over 25% interest in 34 separate companies, but over the next decade the value of those shares was five times as great. He was the first person to be worth a billion dollars, in today's dollars his worth was five times that of Bill Gates at his peak.
Then he got serious about giving it away. From his first paycheck he always tithed to the Baptist church he attended, but in 1884 he gave the primary funding for Spelman College and his $80 million grant to the University of Chicago turned a small Baptist school into a major institution by the turn of the century. He developed the conditional grant, a system that required the beneficiaries to raise money from a wider public, which in turn meant the public would cooperate and watch over progress. Early in life Rockefeller said his ambitions were to make $100,000 and live to the age of 100. He accomplished the first thousand times over, when he died of arteriosclerosis at his home he was just short of 98 years.
Biography from Wikipedia
Additional quotes from Wikiquote. Wikiquote entries are "sourced" and may include items longer than those included here, particularly for poets, lyricists, and dramatists.
John D. Rockefeller quotes:
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- A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds. permalink
- A man's wealth must be determined by the relation of his desires and expenditures to his income. If he feels rich on ten dollars, and has everything else he desires, he really is rich. permalink
- Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it. permalink
- Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things ... fail because we lack concentration — the art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else? permalink
- Do you know what would hurt grandfather a great deal? To know that any of you boys should become wasteful, extravagant, careless with his money. permalink
- Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity, an obligation, Every possession, a duty. permalink
- God gave me my money. permalink
Women's Home Companion (1915)
- I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity. permalink
- I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living. permalink
- I believe it is a religious duty to get all the money you can, fairly and honestly; to keep all you can, and to give away all you can. permalink
Time magazine (21 May 1928)
- I believe the power to make money is a gift of God ... to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience. permalink
interview with William Hoster
- I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure. permalink
- I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature. permalink
- I know nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money's sake. permalink
- I should say in general the advantage of education is to better fit a man for life's work. I would advise young men to take a college course, as a rule, but think some are just as well off with a thorough business training. permalink
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