Editors Note: We're blogging through We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.
John D. Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839. His father, William, was a vagabond, leaving his family regularly to go sell his “medicines”. His dream was to become a musician, but his first job was as an accountant in 1855. In 1859, he formed a produce wholesale company with a friend, Maurice B Clark. They made enough money from this to build their first oil well. They kept making money, and Rockefeller started buying out area oil businesses. He married his wife, Laura, in 1864. In 1866, John’s brother William joined the company, and Henry Flagler followed the next year. The company followed the oil to Pennsylvania, and Rockefeller kept buying other companies.
By 1880, the company owned almost all of the oil companies in the USA. In 1882, the Standard Oil Trust was formed, which ran the individual companies. The company ran well until 1911, when the trust was ordered to dissolve because of a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
During his working life, Rockefeller was often viewed negatively for his ruthless business ways. A book was written by Ida Tarbell, which exposed his ways. Tarbell’s father had been driven out of the oil industry by Standard Oil.
Rockefeller was know for his donations - he donated over $530 million in his lifetime. His donations helped cure hookworm and yellow fever. He also helped form or build at least three separate colleges, including Rockefeller University in New York City, Spelman College in Atlanta, and the University of Chicago.
Once Rockefeller hit his 50s, he suffered from depression and alopecia, a condition which causes the loss of hair. John D. Rockefeller died on May 23, 1937, at 97 years old.