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...
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