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ROCKEFELLER, John Davison (1839-1937)

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ROCKEFELLER, John Davison (1839-1937), American industrialist. Rockefeller was born in Richford, N.Y., on July 8, 1839, and educated in the public schools of Cleveland, Ohio. He became a bookkeeper in Cleveland at the age of 16. In 1862 he went into business with Samuel Andrews, the inventor of an inexpensive process for the refinement of crude petroleum. After rapid expansion, the firm was superseded in 1870 by the Standard Oil Co., organized by Rockefeller, his brother William (1841-1922), and several associates. In early 1872 Rockefeller helped form the South Improvement Co., an association of the largest oil refiners in Cleveland, arranging with the railroads for substantial rebates on shipments by members of the association. The arrangement was cancelled in three months, after popular protest, but most of Rockefeller's competitors in Cleveland had already been forced to sell out to his combine. By 1878 Rockefeller had control of 90 percent of the oil refineries in the U.S. and soon afterward a virtual monopoly of the marketing facilities. In 1882 Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Trust. This, the first corporate trust, was declared an illegal monopoly and ordered dissolved by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1892, but actual dissolution was not effected until 1899. In that year, Rockefeller established the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, remaining its president until he retired in 1911. In 1911 the company was broken into separate corporations by an antitrust decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. At its peak, Rockefeller's personal fortune was estimated at almost $1 billion. The total amount of his philanthropic contributions was about $550 million. Some 80 percent of these funds was given to four charitable organizations founded by Rockefeller. These were the Rockefeller Foundation; the General Education Board; the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University); and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, established in 1918 and incorporated into the Rockefeller Foundation in 1929. Rockefeller died at Ormond Beach, Fla., May 23, 1937.

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