How did John D. Rockefeller change the face of the United States throughout his lifetime? Better yet, what impacts did he make in his lifetime? Let’s start from the very beginningâ€¦ John Davidson Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839, in Richford, New York. He was born the second of six children, in a very large family. His father owned farm property and traded in many goods, including lumber and medicine. His mother, quite the opposite of his father’s “fun-loving” ways, brought up her family very strictly. After living in Oswego, New York, for several years the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1853. John graduated from high school there and shined in everything including math. After graduation, Rockefeller went to a commercial college for three months. After college he found his first job at the age of sixteen working with a produce clerk as an assistant bookkeeper with Hewlett & Tuttle for less than four dollars a week. He showed a talent for persistent detail and a strong work ethic from the beginning. In 1859, Rockefeller was rewarded by being made a partner. By the age of 20, Rockefeller, who’d succeeded at his job, went out on his own with another business partner, working as merchants in many things including hay, meats, grain and other goods. At the close of the company’s first year in business, it had made almost $450,000.
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Rockefeller being a careful business man who also abstained from taking risks, sensed an opportunity in the oil business by the early 1860s, and he took it. In 1863 he opened his first refinery just outside of Cleveland and founded the Standard Oil Company. Less than a decade later, Rockefeller had almost completely gained control of the regions oil refineries. When the oil business moved out east to Pennsylvania, Rockefeller followed it almost immediately. By the early 1880s, he ruled over the oil businesses throughout the country, and his company was worth approximately $55,000,000. Standard’s supremacy started from its control, and ownership, of almost every single part of the business. Under Rockefeller’s control, the company created a system of pipelines to transport its products. It owned many train cars, and bought thousands of acres of forest for fuel. In 1882, Rockefeller put together the Standard Oil Trust, a business trust that would serve as a model for foundation of every other kind of monopoly. Rockefeller, of course, was appointed head of his own organization.
But as Rockefeller’s power and wealth increased at an alarming rate, his image with the public people took a harsh turn towards the negative end. By the early 1800s, states began to pass antimonopoly legislation, paving the way for the 1890 passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The act stops certain business activities that federal government regulators consider to be anticompetitive, and requires the federal government to thoroughly investigate and trail trusts, companies, and organizations suspected of being in violation. It was the first federal statute to limit cartels and monopolies, and today still forms the base for most antitrust legal action by the United States federal government.
To build his infamous monopoly, Rockefeller used a tactic called Horizontal Integration. It describes a type of rights and control. It is a tactic used by a business or corporation that wants to sell a type of product in many markets. (In Rockefeller’s case, Oil.) Horizontal Integration happens when a firm is being taken over by another firm, (or merged) which is in the same industry and in the same stage of production as the merged firm, such as an oil company being merged with another oil company. In the case of two oil companies being merged, both companies are in the same stage of production and also in the same industry. The goal of horizontal integration is to unite like companies and monopolize an industry.
As stated before, John D. Rockefeller was a founder, chairman, and a major shareholder of Standard Oil. Standard Oil had significant success, and many people believe that it out-competed many of its rivals with its lower costs and efficient production and logistics. Standard Oil’s production increased so rapidly that it soon exceeded U.S. demand and the company began viewing export markets. In the 1890s, it started making and marketing kerosene to China’s large population of close to 400 million as lamp fuel. Response was positive and sales boomed. China became Standard Oil’s largest market in Asia. In 1896, Rockefeller retired from most of his involvement of Standard Oil, and turned the majority of his focus toward philanthropy in the United States. His new ways did little to stop the attacks on himself and his business. Around 1904, Ida M. Tarbell wrote The History of Standard Oil, a book that told the incredible tale of Standard Oil, and its sketchy business practices. In 1911, the company was found to be in violation of the Sherman Act and was ordered to disassemble.
Rockefeller was around 57 years old in 1896, when he decided that others should take over the leadership of Standard Oil. He focused himself on philanthropy, giving away the vast majority of his fortune. He did this in such a way that it would do the most good. This was achieved through the careful study, experience, and help of advisors. from the time that he had begun earning money as a young boy, he had been giving a part of his income to his church and different charities. His ways developed out of his early family life, religious ways, and financial habits. Rockefeller once wrote, “I believe it is every man’s religious duty to get all he can honestly and to give all he can.” He was a very wise man, and many people looked to him for financial advice. During the 1850s, he made frequent contributions to the Baptist church, and by the age of 21, he was giving not only to his on denomination, but also to other denominations. He also gave to foreign Sunday schools, and an African-American church. Funding of churches and African-American education remained among his foremost charitable interests throughout the scope of his life.
As his wealth continued to grow in the 1870s and 1880s, Rockefeller came to favor a supportive and restrictive system of giving in which he would agree to supply part of the amount needed for a specific project, if the others involved in it also would provide significant financial funding. The American Baptist Education Society had resolved in1889 to establish a well-equipped college in Chicago. Rockefeller ultimately contributed in the founding of the University of Chicago. With the persistence of the society’s director, the Rev. Fredrick T. Gates, Rockefeller offered to give $600,000 of the first $1 million for benefaction, if the remaining $400,000 was guaranteed by others within 90 days. The University of Chicago was unified in 1890. Over the next twenty years, Rockefeller donated to help build up the institute, always on the circumstance that others should join in its support. In 1910 he made a farewell gift of $10 million, which brought his total charities to the University around $35 million. In extracting from further activity there, he wrote: “I am acting on an early and permanent conviction that this great institution, being the property of the people should be controlled, conducted and supported by the people.”
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Rockefeller also recognized the problems of sensibly applying great funds to human welfare, and he helped to define the method of scientific, efficient, and corporate philanthropy. The technique was this: to create many generous corporations, give them title to great funds, whose organization and use would be overseen by trustees and supervised by officers with specialized training and experience, with both the trustees and officers being devoted to continuous study of the opportunities for the best uses of the funds under their care.
To help manage his charitable actions, Rockefeller hired the Rev. Fredrick T. Gates, whose work with the American Baptist Education Society and the University of Chicago encouraged Rockefeller’s assurance. With the wise advice of Gates, and after 1897, his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Rockefeller established a series of organizations that are very important in the history of American philanthropy. It also influenced science, public health, and medicine. In 1901 he created the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, which is now the Rockefeller University, for the sole determination of discovering the causes, manner of prevention, and the cure of disease. A few of its noted achievements are the serum treatment of spinal meningitis and of pneumonia; the nature of the virus causing epidemic influenza; knowledge of the cause and manner of infection in infantile paralysis; a treatment for African sleeping sickness; blood vessel surgery; the first demonstration of how nerve cells flow from the brain to other areas of the body; the first demonstration of the preservation of whole blood for subsequent transfusion; peptide synthesis; the discovery that a virus can cause cancer in fowl; and identification of DNA as the crucial genetic material.
From its laboratories have come cures for diseases, and new knowledge and scientific techniques which have helped to revolutionize biophysics, biochemistry, biology, medicine, and other scientific disciplines. In 1902 Rockefeller created the General Education Board, or the GEB, for the “promotion of education within the United States of America without the distinction of race, sex or creed.” In the years between 1902 and 1965, the GEB circulated $325 million for the enhancement of education at all levels, with importance upon higher education, including medical schools. In the South, where there was special need, the GEB helped schools for both White and African-American students. Also, out of the Board’s work with children’s clubs in the farm ground grew the 4-H Club program and the federal programs of farm and home addition. Around 1909 Rockefeller created The Rockefeller Sanitary commission for the extermination of hookworm disease. Its sole resolution was “to bring about a cooperative movement of the medical profession, public health officials, boards of trade, churches, schools, the press, and other agencies for the cure and prevention of hookworm disease,” which was especially overwhelming in the South.
From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Sanitary Commission launched a large campaign of public education and medication in eleven Southern states. It paid the salaries of field personnel, who were appointed jointly by the states and the Commission, and sponsored public education campaigns and the treatment of infected persons.
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