Who Was the Richest American in History?

A portrait of John D. Rockefeller. Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com.
A portrait of John D. Rockefeller. Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com.

John Davidson Rockefeller is widely considered to be the all-time wealthiest man in the history of America. This man had wealth currently valued at $253 billion. He was a shrewd businessman whose wealth came from the oil industry and the large companies that he owned.

Comparatively, the current richest person in America is Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon with a net worth of $107.8 billion. According to Forbes’ magazine, the first three richest men alive on earth today are Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet.

Rockefeller’s Early Life and Education

The birth of John Rockefeller took place in Richford, New York on July 8th, 1839. His parents were Eliza and William. His father was a salesman who traveled widely. Rockefeller had five siblings with him being the oldest son. He grew up in his birth town until 1853 when the family migrated to Cleveland, Ohio. It is in this town that Rockefeller went to high school with his strengths being debate, math, and music. Although he had hoped to go to college, he could not attend one because his father needed financial assistance in raising the family. Therefore, he took a bookkeeping course at a local college and proceeded to look for a job.  Rockefeller’s career started when he got a bookkeeping job at 16 years of age.

Rockefeller’s Business Acumen

As Rockefeller worked as a bookkeeper, he learned so many business principles that would later help him in running his own business. He got money enough to support his family and also save. In 1959, Rockefeller teamed up with his friend Maurice Clark to start a company. After a while, they shifted to an oil refinery that was used to produce kerosene used to light lamps. Previously, the lamps utilized whale oil which was quite expensive and cost whales their lives. As the business kept growing and making profits Rockefeller bought out Clark. In 1870, Rockefeller formed another company called standard Oil in 1870 which grew into the largest and only oil refinery company in the US. The US government split the company in 1911 due to accusations of price-fixing resulting in the creation of companies such as Chevron, Conoco Phillips, and ExxonMobil. These companies still rank among the world’s largest business organizations. These accusations resulted in the anti-monopoly laws applicable to US businesses today. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire in 1916 due to his large business operations.

Death and Legacy

Unlike some wealthy people who amass wealth for their own interests only, Rockefeller was one of the greatest philosophers of his time. He founded many learning institutions and supported charity work, medical research, arts, and science. Among his legacies was the founding of the Rockefeller Foundation and about $2 billion support to the University of Chicago. Another one of his greatest achievements is said to be his family which is ranked by Forbes’ among the wealthiest families in the world with a net worth of $10 billion. Rockefeller married Celestia Spelman with whom he had 5 children. He died at age 97 from arteriosclerosis at Ormond Beach, Florida on May 23, 1937.


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