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
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    J.D. Rockefeller: From oil baron to billionaire

    Eighty years after his death, oil baron John D. Rockefeller remains one of the great figures of Wall Street.
  2. Managing Wealth

    5 Feared Figures in Finance

    Gates, Soros, Icahn, Rockefeller and Morgan didn't make their names on Wall Street because of their kind-heartedness.
  3. Investing

    Your Standard Oil Portfolio

    Five companies remain from the Standard Oil breakup in 1911. Investors who built a portfolio around them would have crushed the market.
  4. Managing Wealth

    6 Billionaire Politicians And What They're Worth

    These businessmen have made their millions and entered the political field.
  5. Managing Wealth

    How The Rich Got Richer

    Take a look at how the world's wealthiest people increased their fortunes over the past year.
  6. Investing

    The 6 Highest Paid People On Wall Street

    Learn more about the top Wall Street investors who made their fortunes with high-stakes hedge funds.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. I'm worried about the economy and want to move my IRA funds from stocks and bonds to cash. Will I taxed for this?

    If you transfer funds from stocks and bonds to cash, the movement will not be taxable.
  2. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    Learn about how to use your IRA retirement savings to pay for your college loans, including how to avoid the 10% early withdrawal ...
  3. Can I roll a traditional IRA into a 529 college account for my grandchild?

    Not without paying taxes. The IRS considers moving money from your IRA to a 529 plan as a distribution included in your taxable ...
  4. Can I, without tax penalties, use the IRA I inherited from my father to buy a home that I will live in? He was 72 and had started taking small payouts on it.

    No penalties are incurred, but the amounts you withdraw will be treated as ordinary income (for you) and may be subject to ...
Trading Center