Surely you must have heard of John D. Rockefeller, especially since he is widely considered as the single richest personality in modern history, but do you know exactly how he managed to become so rich? In a word, it all comes down to “oil” but Rockefeller was much more than a mere industrialist. The man was an ingenious businessman, an expert bookkeeper but also a very kind and generous person despite his enormous wealth.
Accounting for inflation, the personal fortune of John D. Rockefeller would amount to $340 billion in today’s money, but John was not born in a rich family nor did he inherit his fortunes overnight. Instead, he worked hard and had a business-orientated mentality ever since he was a little boy since he started lending money to his neighbors with 7% interest at the age of 14. After a few years, Rockefeller was working as a bookkeeper at a wholesale produce commission in Cleveland, eventually becoming a head bookkeeper with annual earnings of $500. Keep in mind that this was in 1856 when he was only 17 years old! A devout Baptist, he donated 10% of his first salary to the church, and he has been known to give away vast sums of money throughout the course of his life. He provided funds for medical research, for schools, and for keeping churches open. The extent of his generosity amounts to about $7 billion in modern money, which he gave away selflessly from 1855 to 1934.
He gained his massive wealth through his Standard Oil company, which he and his associates formed in the 1870s. Due to extremely favorable economic conditions and Rockefeller’s skills to streamline some of its operations, the company had become quickly the most important in the industry. The main issue for Standard Oil at that time was the fact that anyone who had the money to purchase a refinery could start their own business. That meant a lot of competitors for Rockefeller’s company. But Rockefeller anticipated this risk of competition and decided to buy as many competitors as possible and absorb them into his own company by any means possible. By 1873, his business was responsible for the refinement of over 90% of the U.S.’s oil. This caused some problems in exchange since many began to criticize the company’s monopoly on the market. In 1911, the US Supreme Court decided that Standard Oil should be disbanded and was eventually divided into 34 smaller firms. Moreover, because the company was worth more in pieces than in its entirety, the decision of the US Supreme Court helped Rockefeller score a huge profit through them over time, becoming later the first billionaire in the United States.
Towards the end of his life, John suffered from several health issues, including depression, alopecia, and eventually arteriosclerosis, which caused his death. His youthful dream was to accumulate a fortune of $100,000 and to live until the age of 100. As far as his personal fortune is concerned, he clearly surpassed all expectations, and since he died at the age of 97, he came pretty close to fulfilling his second dream as well.