1. John D. Rockefeller: Introduction
  2. John D. Rockefeller: Early Life and Education
  3. John D. Rockefeller: Success Story
  4. John D. Rockefeller: Net Worth
  5. John D. Rockefeller: Famous or Infamous
  6. John D. Rockefeller: Most Influential Quotes

He made much more than $100,000. Despite having given away a sizeable portion of his income from the time he was making 50 cents a day, he accumulated a fortune that makes him unequivocally the richest American ever to live, and one of the richest people in world history. (For more, see: Who Is the Richest Person Ever?)

Ironically, the event that made him the most money was not his building of the Standard Oil monopoly, but its breakup. He was aware that, despite his focus on efficiency, the trust was by nature too big and complex to generate optimal profits. In addition, until his retirement, the company had kept kerosene prices low in order to benefit the public. 

When news of the Supreme Court’s ruling reached Rockefeller in 1911, he was out golfing a Catholic priest. He told the priest to buy Standard Oil stock, and the breakup did, in fact, increase the profitability of the whole dramatically. He was commonly referred to as “the world’s only billionaire,” although his son denied he made that much. The New York Times’ obituary would estimate that he had accumulated $1.5 billion in wealth by 1918 and given a third of that away. (For related reading, see: The 5 Most Feared Figures in Finance.)

To put that figure in context, Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther estimated that Rockefeller’s fortune would have been worth $192 billion as a share of gross national product (GNP) in 2007. None of the other robber barons came close, nor did the mercantilists who preceded them, or the current crop of the fabulously wealthy.

For those who might wonder how any one person can accumulate this much wealth, Rockefeller has your answer: “God gave me my money.”


John D. Rockefeller: Famous or Infamous
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