John D. Rockefeller: 20 things you didn’t know about the wealthiest American of all time

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John D. Rockefeller sr

Imagine being the wealthiest person in the United States. That was the reality for John Davison Rockefeller, who rose from humble beginnings to become a billionaire oil baron. Besides his role in founding Standard Oil, a massive oil monopoly, here are 20 lesser-known things about the wealthy businessman.

  1. Rockefeller was a devout Baptist and believed that his business success was a gift from God. He donated millions of dollars to religious causes throughout his life. He once donated to a black church, a Methodist, and a Catholic orphanage, all within a year. 
  2. John got his first job at age 16 at Hewitt and Tuttle, a brokerage firm as an assistant bookkeeper. He commissioned merchants and produce shippers and was paid $25 a month. For the rest of his life, he recognized September 26, 1855, the day he got the job as “Job Day” and cherished it more than his birthday. 
  3. At the age of 20, Rockefeller began to thrive at his job and decided to embark on an independent entrepreneurial journey with a business partner, Maurice Clark. They operated as commission merchants, dealing in hay, meats, grains, and various commodities. By the end of their first year in business, their company had generated a total revenue of $450,000.
  4. He became the world’s first confirmed U.S. dollar billionaire in 1916. Most of his wealth was from his oil magnate.
  5. Rockefeller was a personality with admirers and critics alike due to his business skills, charitable deeds, and involvement in monopolies and cutthroat business tactics.
  6. John D. Rockefeller had a fear of public speaking. He was known to be a private and introverted individual who was uncomfortable with public speaking. He often practised his speeches to overcome this anxiety in front of his employees and associates. This approach made him more confident in delivering public addresses and presentations over time. 
  7. Rockefeller was a stern father, but he was also loving and supportive. He taught his children the importance of hard work, honesty, and thrift. He also taught them the value of giving back to the community.
  8. Rockefeller’s children grew up to be successful adults. His son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., became a philanthropist and businessman. His daughter, Abby Rockefeller Aldrich, became an art collector and philanthropist. His other children, Edith Rockefeller McCormick, Bessie Rockefeller Strong, and Martha Rockefeller Collis, also became philanthropists and community leaders.
  9. John D. Rockefeller contributed significantly to the field of public health through his philanthropic efforts. He and the Rockefeller Foundation pioneered funding and supporting campaigns to combat various diseases, including hookworm and malaria. These initiatives included education, research, and the distribution of treatment and prevention measures. 
  10. Rockefeller was a skilled golfer. He played the game regularly until his condition worsened in the late years of his life, so he had to discontinue it. But it was at age 62 that John D. took up golf seriously.
  11. He owned five different homes in his lifetime. One of which burnt down and was never rebuilt. They were located in New York and another in New Jersey, Cleveland, and Florida.
  12. John D. Rockefeller was a very private individual who avoided the spotlight and rarely gave interviews. He was known for his reserved personality. Despite his immense wealth and influence, he preferred to stay out of the public eye and maintain a relatively low profile. Rockefeller’s preference for privacy was particularly evident in his later years when he became a prominent philanthropist. He often conducted his charitable activities discreetly, preferring not to draw attention to himself. 
  13. John D. Rockefeller was an avid reader. He was keenly interested in various subjects, including business, history, and religion. His love for reading and self-education was a notable aspect of his personality. Rockefeller believed in the value of continuous learning and personal growth. He often attributed his success, in part, to his reading habits and the knowledge he gained from books.
  14.  In his 40s, John D. Rockefeller began to experience alopecia, resulting in losing all his body hair, including his head, moustache, and body. The hair never regrew, which made him adopt a practice in the early 1900s where he started wearing a series of wigs of varying lengths, giving the illusion of hair growth. 
  15. He was a significant patron of education. Before his death, He contributed over $80 million to the University of Chicago’s creation in 1892, and he also played a pivotal role in founding the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, later renamed Rockefeller University, in New York.
  16.  Rockefeller’s only surviving grandson, David, unintentionally fulfilled his grandfather’s wish and clocked 100 years on June 12, 2015, but eventually passed on at 101; he was worth about $3.2 billion and was tagged the world’s oldest richest man). 
  17. His daily activities were monitored using a regular schedule. For example, he woke up at 7 a.m. daily and retired for the day at 9 p.m. In his later years, his diet primarily consisted of at least 75% vegetables, which he sourced from various corners of the world, including his garden. He also consumed a substantial amount of specially cultured milk.
  18. John D. Rockefeller’s philanthropic efforts were remarkable, and his donations of approximately $550 million during his lifetime significantly impacted various charitable causes and institutions.
  19.  He had hoped to be a Centenarian (100 years old) before he died, but He died in his sleep, aged 97, at his Florida residence on May 23, 1937. The cause of his death was sclerotic myocarditis.
  20.  John D. Rockefeller was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. His burial site is in the family plot, marked with a simple, unadorned headstone. Lake View Cemetery is a historic cemetery where many notable individuals are buried including other members of the Rockefeller family.

Rockefeller’s life is a testament to the power of ambition and hard work. His life and career left an indelible mark on American business, philanthropy, and industry, and his legacy continues to be felt today.


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