How Did John D Rockefeller Make Money

John D. Rockefeller is widely regarded as one of the wealthiest and most successful businessmen in history. His fortune, which was largely made in the oil industry, was so vast that he became one of the richest men in modern history. But how did John D. Rockefeller make his money? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the life of this extraordinary man and explore the factors that contributed to his enormous wealth.

Early Life

John D. Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839, in Richford, New York. He was the second of six children born to William Avery Rockefeller and Eliza Davison. Rockefeller’s family was not wealthy, and they lived a modest life. His father was a traveling salesman who sold various goods, including medicines, which he claimed could cure cancer and other ailments.

Rockefeller showed an early aptitude for business and entrepreneurship. As a young boy, he sold candy and other small items to his neighbors and classmates. He also had a passion for mathematics and kept meticulous records of his earnings and expenses.

In 1853, when Rockefeller was just 14 years old, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. It was here that he would begin his career in the oil industry.

The Oil Industry

In the mid-1800s, the oil industry was in its infancy. Oil was primarily used for lighting, and most of the production was in Pennsylvania. However, as demand for oil grew, entrepreneurs like Rockefeller saw an opportunity to capitalize on the industry.

In 1859, oil was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania. This event, known as the “Oil Rush,” sparked a frenzy of activity as entrepreneurs rushed to capitalize on the new industry. Rockefeller was one of these entrepreneurs.

Rockefeller and a business partner, Maurice B. Clark, formed the firm Clark & Rockefeller in 1863. The company sold hay, grain, and other products, but they soon saw an opportunity in the oil industry. In 1865, they bought a small refinery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Rockefeller quickly saw that the key to success in the oil industry was controlling the entire supply chain. He began to buy up oil fields, pipelines, and refineries. He also used his business acumen to negotiate favorable deals with railroads, which allowed him to transport his oil more efficiently and cheaply.

The Standard Oil Company

In 1870, Rockefeller and several other oil tycoons formed the Standard Oil Company. This new company was designed to consolidate the oil industry and eliminate competition. By controlling every aspect of the oil supply chain, from production to transportation to refining, Standard Oil could set prices and control the market.

Rockefeller’s business strategy was ruthless but effective. He bought out his competitors, often at below-market prices. He also used his influence to secure favorable government policies, such as favorable tax laws and subsidies.

By 1879, Standard Oil controlled 90% of the oil refineries in the United States. Rockefeller’s net worth was estimated at $900 million, making him one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Criticism and Legacy

Rockefeller’s business practices were controversial, and he faced criticism from many quarters. Critics accused him of monopolizing the oil industry, eliminating competition, and exploiting workers. He was also accused of using his wealth to influence politicians and control the government.

In 1911, the US Supreme Court declared Standard Oil a monopoly and ordered it to be broken up into smaller companies. Rockefeller retired from the company soon after, but he remained active in philanthropy and public service. He donated vast sums of money to charitable causes, including education, medicine, and scientific research.

Today, John D. Rockefeller’s legacy is complex. He was a ruthless businessman who built his fortune through questionable means. However, he also used his wealth to make significant contributions to society through his philanthropy. He believed that it was his duty to give back to society and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others.

Rockefeller’s philanthropic efforts were far-reaching and varied. He donated millions of dollars to establish the University of Chicago and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University). He also supported research in areas such as agriculture, public health, and social sciences.

In addition to his philanthropic work, Rockefeller was also a pioneer in corporate philanthropy. He believed that businesses had a responsibility to give back to their communities, and he encouraged other business leaders to follow his lead. He established the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913 to support charitable causes around the world.

Rockefeller’s philanthropic legacy continues to this day. The Rockefeller Foundation is still active and supports causes such as climate change, public health, and social justice. The University of Chicago and Rockefeller University are also still thriving institutions that continue to make significant contributions to education and research.


John D. Rockefeller’s fortune was made in the oil industry, but his legacy extends far beyond his business success. He was a complex figure who was both praised and criticized for his business practices. However, his philanthropic efforts are a testament to his commitment to improving the lives of others.

Rockefeller’s life and legacy remind us of the importance of using our resources to make a positive impact on the world around us. Whether we are business leaders, philanthropists, or simply members of our communities, we all have the power to make a difference. By following Rockefeller’s example and working to improve the world around us, we can create a brighter future for ourselves and future generations.