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John D. Rockefeller: The World’s First Oil Baron

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The oil industry has not got its reputation overnight but from years of relevance. In the history of America, and in extension, the world, oil and gas has been key to development and industrialization. One of the biggest stories of the industry is that of the great oil baron, John D. Rockefeller, and his Standard Oil.

As the popular series “The Men Who Built America” describes, Rockefeller is regarded as one of those regarded in America’s history as one of those who helped the nation out of the dust with his revolutionary industry. Although there existed others whose business contributed to the growth of America, the oil industry stood out.

He was an American oil industry business magnate, industrialist, and philanthropist. He is described as the wealthiest American of all time. He founded the Standard Oil Company between 1865 and 1870 focusing on oil refining, thus becoming the world’s first oil baron. Rockefeller’s innovation created more wealth for him. He delved into kerosene and gasoline as it grew in importance. He created a monopoly in the oil industry controlling an absolute majority of 90% of all oil in the United States. Rockefeller bought and controlled the pipeline industry thus controlling the transportation of crude. This gave him the advantage to buy crude at his bargain price. His business grew bigger as oil was used throughout the country as a light source until the introduction of electricity. After the invention of the automobile, the baron switched to refining oil into fuel.

Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was highly criticized by the government as well as private business owners for being a monopoly. The company was charged to court and in 1911, the Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil must be dismantled for violation of federal anti-trust laws. It was broken up into 34 separate entities which included companies that became ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation. Some of these companies still have the highest level of revenue in the world. ExxonMobil is the world’s ninth largest company by revenue today. The shares of the individual companies amounted to a higher worth than the single Standard Oil. This resulted in Rockefeller becoming the country’s first billionaire with a fortune worth nearly 2% of the national economy. His peak net worth was estimated at US$409 billion in 1913. In the same year, his personal wealth was 900 million.

Rockefeller retired fully at 63 and enjoyed the rest of his life at his estate in Westchester County, New York.

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