BusinessFamous Personalities

John D. Rockefeller’s Net Worth

John D. Rockefeller was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He started out as a clerk but turned a $4,000 investment in an oil refinery into a fortune that is still the largest of its kind.

John D. Rockefeller has a net worth equal to $340 million after adjusting for inflation and taking into account the relative GDP at the time.

Quick Facts

Full NameJohn D. Rockefeller
Net Worth$340 Billion
Date of BirthJul 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937 (97 years old)
NationalityUnited States of America

Early Life

John Davison Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839, in Richford, New York. On his dad’s property in Oswego he grew up surrounded by many different goods and services, including lumber and patent medicines.

His mother had a stricter nature than his father and raised him to be an academically-driven individual. After living in Oswego for several years, they moved to Cleveland when the city was beginning to grow into a metropolis. John graduated from high there and excelled in math.

After graduating from high , Rockefeller attended a commercial college for three months. He found his first job at the age of sixteen as a produce clerk. In 1859, at the age of nineteen, he started his first company, Clark and Rockefeller with a young Englishman.

They grossed $450,000 in their first year of corporate activity, which was largely handled by Clark. Rockefellers were in charge of office management, bookkeeping and relationships with bankers.

Personal Life

John D. Rockefeller married Laura C. Spelman in 1864 and together they had four daughters and one son. John D. Rockefeller passed away of arteriosclerosis on May 1937, two months shy of his 98th birthday.


Rockefeller’s early successes relied on a genius for organization and method. Rockefeller prospered during the Civil War (1861–65), when Confederate forces clashed with those of Union. With the Pennsylvania oil strike (1859) and the building of a railroad to Cleveland, Rockefeller branched out into oil refining (purifying).

Within two years Rockefeller became senior partner, and the firm Rockefeller and Andrews became Cleveland’s largest refinery. He was able to secure financial help from S. V. Harkness and a new partner, H. M. Flagler (1830–1913), who also secured favorable railroad freight rebates for the company.

The Standard Oil Company, founded in 1870 by Rockefeller, his brother William, Flagler, Harkness, and Andrews in Ohio, thrived for more than 70 years as it was a 10 percent market share. Even though there were plenty of competitors to the company it still managed to make a profit.

Despite Rockefeller’s best efforts, the oil industry was never completely controlled by Standard Oil. He did succeed in buying out most of the Cleveland refineries and others in New York, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. However, he turned to new methods of transportation such as railroad tank cars and pipelines.

Refining oil was not an easy task at the beginning of Standard Oil’s existence. The company had to find a way to refine the fuel, transport it safely, and store it. It wasn’t until 1879 that its refining process had perfected 90% or more of American oil.

When Rockefeller came through the 1873 panic, he still urged refiners to organize. However, as his control grew he fought with the Pennsylvania Railroad and created a new company (which eventually failed) to break his control.

That same year, bloody railroad strikes forced Standard Oil to surrender. The company’s dream of order was near completion.

By 1883, Standard Oil had taken control of the entire industry. The monopoly it helped create lasted until 1884. In that year, Rockefeller decided to make a “trust” between its own assets and those of his close associate John D. Willaims, who would then use them as collateral for loans to Flagler.

Standard Oil Trust was a business that made use of the trust method, which enabled it to own businesses and collect revenues from them. With a worth of about seventy million dollars, it’s the largest and richest industrial organization of its time.

Rockefeller’s business began to change in the 1880s. He moved from refining oil into producing oil itself and expanded to foreign markets in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

From 1885 to 1911, Standard Oil introduced a committee system of management to control its enormous empire. The five companies that came to be as a result of the merger are Conoco, Chevron, Esso (later Exxon, now part of ExxonMobil), Mobil, and Texaco.

Standard Oil was split into 34 separate companies, but all of them were controlled by John D. Rockefeller. Even though his power was reduced, the deal was still very profitable for him because the combined net worth of the companies rose five times after the split, and his personal wealth increased to $340 million.

Philanthropy and Final Years

Rockefeller started to retire from day-to-day business operations in the mid-1890s. Inspired, at least in part, by fellow Gilded Age tycoon Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), who made a vast fortune in steel and then became a philanthropist and gave away the bulk of his money, Rockefeller donated more than half a billion dollars to various educational, religious, and scientific causes through the Rockefeller Foundation.

He was a pioneer in the field of genetics and edited two periodicals that combined science and economics.

Rockefeller was devoutly religious, a temperance advocate and an avid golfer. His goal was to reach the age of 100; however, he died at 97 on May 23, 1937, when he was staying in Ormond Beach Florida with his family.

Rockefeller owned several residences, including a home in New York City, an estate in Lakewood, New Jersey and an estate called Kykuit, old Dutch for “lookout,” set on 3,000 acres near Tarrytown, New York. He was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

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