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John D. Rockefeller is an example of someone who started out to be very poor, but was worth millions of dollars by the end of his life. He was born on July 8, 1839 in Richford, New York, but spent part of his early life in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, William Avery Rockefeller, has been characterized as a con man or peddler. He would pretend to be someone he wasnt and then charge people for giving advice. As a child John grew up in this odd environment, without much of a relationship with his father. He was a very responsible young man, worked very hard to make money, and had good business sense. For example, had a plan where he would buy penny candies from a wholesale business and then sell off the candy at double the price to the kids in the neighborhood. He was intelligent and very good at accounting. He kept track of the money he earned by using a ledger, which is what professional accountants use. He later did start his business life by working as an accountant. Because John grew up without any basic guidance from his father, he became very self-reliant in the ways of doing business, which proved to make him very successful. John used his fortune to try to repair the damage to his familys name by giving to many charities. It is said that when he traveled to New York he would give out dimes to the children in the streets. It proved to be a good way to improve his familys reputation, especially the reputation his father had left behind.
John D. Rockefeller went into the oil business as a young man 23 years old, in a group of people that included his brother William. Eventually their firm changed its name to the Standard Oil Company of Ohio in 1870. In a clever move, Rockefeller learned about every aspect of the oil business, from the drilling process to the refining of oil into gasoline. By doing this he was able to control every part of his business. His goal was to dominate the oil business, and he did. He was called the oil baron and in business he showed little compassion to his workers. He considered any business to be like a jungle where only the fittest survived. Because he controlled every part of Standard Oil, he was able to make millions of dollars while putting out a good product at the cheapest price. He also controlled many of the businesses related to oil. By the 1880s Standard Oil controlled 95% of the oil refining business in the nation. Rockefeller moved his headquarters to New York City to be able to establish ties with other countries that depended on oil. Eventually Standard Oil was declared a trust and Rockefeller was forced to break the company into 34 separate companies. He became known as the worlds first billionaire, but only by being ruthless in business. He ruled over Standard Oil with complete authority, with little regard for his workers. He treated everyone with little respect, with an eye to the bottom line. Most people of that time criticized the methods Rockefeller used to develop his oil empire, but respected him as a great business leader. Many people received money from Rockefellers many charities. He gave away over $500 million dollars during his lifetime to foundations and organizations. He supported homeless shelters, raised teachers salaries, and basically tried to soften his image as a ruthless businessman. Through the Rockefeller Foundation he was able to contribute money to the people who needed it most.
John D. Rockefeller is seen by some as a captain of industry and by others as a robber baron. In my opinion, Rockefeller was a robber baron for many reasons. He tried to eliminate competition by threatening businesses like the railroads, so that he could have total control over them. He used cruel tactics in running his business, and had no problem firing people from their jobs. He didnt care about people as much as he cared about making money in any way that he could. He was very successful and very charitable with his money, but the way he got to the top was ruthless. Thats why I would consider him to be more of a robber baron than a captain of industry.
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