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Analysis on How John D. Rockefeller Became a Successful Businessman

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Was John D. Rockefeller a Robber Baron?

A robber baron, by definition, is a nineteenth century businessman who acquired his fortune by ruthless means. When determining if any individual can be considered a robber-baron, it is most important to examine his intentions in his industry, how he actually made the money, and what he did with the money earned. Taking these into account, it’s clear that oil mogul John D. Rockefeller was not a robber baron.

First, Rockefeller did not want to be in the business solely to make money. Of course, he had to make a living somehow, and this was simply the profession he chose. Being a bookkeeper in the past, Rockefeller was obsessed with organization and saw an opportunity to help the oil industry take hold of what he knew it had to offer. In fact, Rockefeller himself stated, “If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it”. Rockefeller had no intentions to exploit anyone, solely to step up to what he saw as a need for organization in the oil boom that came in the late 19th century.

Second, Rockefeller made his money in ways that might seem immoral, but were in no way illegal. Because his company was growing, it was only natural that it would make more profit and begin to overtake other companies. This is because he was successful and good at what he did – not because he exploited others. He was merely a businessman following the American Dream, working in a capitalist economy to support his family. He attended church on Sundays and was known to be very faithful. He even offered competitors very fair prices when bought them out: “I thought that his feelings were such on the subject that I could trust him and that he would deal honourably by me” (Chernow, 42).

Finally, the ways in which Rockefeller spent the money he earned – not screwed people out of – were very honorable. Rockefeller and his family were devout Christians, and gave a large share of their fortune to the Church. Rockefeller donated money to support universities and even formed the University of Chicago. He also gave away money to support medical research and advancements in science. By the end of his life, Rockefeller’s charitable donations amounted to more than $530 million.

All in all, it’s clear that being a capitalist and standing up for yourself does not make you a bad person. John D. Rockefeller was just this: a businessman earning a living. His motivation was not to become rich, but to help American industry. He expanded his company in fair ways under the law and used his profits for bettering the welfare of society as a whole. There’s no way he could be considered a ruthless robber baron.

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Analysis on How John D. Rockefeller Became a Successful Businessman. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
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