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The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age

John D. Rockefeller in The Gilded Age

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) was a Gilded Age industrialist and the founder of Standard Oil. Born in New York, he was trained as a bookkeeper but entered the oil business shortly after the discovery of oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859. In 1869, he formed the Standard Oil Company; within fifteen years, Standard Oil had acquired near-monopoly control over the American petroleum industry, refining 90% of the nation's oil.

Rockefeller's strategy of establishing a virtual monopoly over one aspect of the production process—in his case oil refining—was labeled horizontal integration. To eliminate his competitors, Rockefeller used his firm's superior size to negotiate preferential rates from the railroads that transported both his and his competitors' oil, making it nearly impossible for his competitors to stay in business.

Due to its controversial monopolistic control over the oil industry, Standard Oil faced a series of It was declared illegal by the state supreme court of Ohio in 1892 and dissolved in 1899. It was then reorganized as a holding company, the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. But the United States Supreme Court ruled that this also constituted an illegal monopoly and ordered the company dissolved in 1911.

By this point, John D. Rockefeller had largely retired from active management of the company. With personal assets estimated at a billion dollars, he supported several philanthropies including the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Various Rockefeller-funded charities continue to make important contributions in the philanthropic field even today.

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