John Davison Rockefeller was born on July 8th, 1839 in Richford, New York. He was the second born of six children in the family. His father, William Avery Rockefeller, was an entrepreneur of his own. He claimed to have the ability to cure patients with cancer and charged up to $25 per treatment. His mother was a very religious and well-organized woman. Growing up Rockefeller started his entrepreneurship career early by selling candy and doing jobs for his neighbors. Little did anyone know this young man would go on to be arguably the richest man ever.
In 1851 his family moved to Owego, where he attended Owego Academy. In 1853, they moved again to Cleveland, Ohio. Even without his father around, Rockefeller remained very determined and well organized. When he was just 16, Rockefeller began work as an office clerk for a firm specializing in grain and coal. Just four years later, as a 20 year old, Rockefeller wasn’t happy with his wages and established his own commission firm. In 1863, Rockefeller and his partners invested in a Cleveland oil refinery. This was the beginning of a dominant oil career for the young Rockefeller.
In 1864, Rockefeller married a woman by the name of Laura Spelman. She was born and raised in Ohio. Her father was an abolitionist and especially active in the Underground Railroad. Together they had four daughters and one son.
In 1865, the early stages of the Standard Oil Company began to unfold. Rockefeller bought out some of the partners he had previously partnered with so he could control the oil refinery. By this time their oil refinery had grown to be one of the biggest in the Cleveland area. In 1870, Rockefeller officially formed the Standard Oil Company with a few partners. However, Rockefeller was the president and majority owner.
Standard Oil began buying out other refineries en route to their monopolization of the American oil industry. Eventually, the massive group of companies became known as simply, the Standard Oil Trust. At this point, Standard Oil was over 90% of all oil companies in the nation. In the prime of his business, he began experiencing depression and later found he had alopecia. This disease caused him to lose all of his body hair, because of this he began to wear wigs. Local doctors suggested that he not work so much. As successful as Rockefeller and his oil business were, success almost always brings envy and hate.
During this time period muckrakers were very popular. Rockefeller and his oil company was a huge target for these journalists. They loved to write about his disgusting corporate greed and disagreed with how he ran his company. These muckrakers believed that it was unjust how Rockefeller expanded. To attempt to counter this, the United Stated Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. This act prohibited trusts, such as Rockefeller’s Standard Oil business. Within just two years Standard Oil was separated into more than 30 smaller companies.