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esides all the calamities that are taking place currently, we have a new cybernetic “gold rush” where young people want to get super rich from rags to riches. Many of their hopes and dreams are crafted and shattered by lucky influencers who were either born in wealth or stumbled upon wealth out of pure luck. I am not saying that this is the case with everyone rich person on social media, but in most cases, we all know how it goes.

There is a debate about whom the richest person on earth within this century is, between Elon Musk ($147.3 billion net worth)Jeff Bezos ($186 billion net worth), and the present richest person in the world Bernard Arnault ($187 billion net worth). However, none of these people were the first to become billionaires in modern times.

The first person who came quite close to becoming the world’s first billionaire was William Avery Rockefeller, John’s father, who was an international scammer selling plants that he would advertise as the cure for any illness within the early 19th century.

The birth of the world’s first billionaire

John D. Rockefeller was born on the 8th of June, 1939 in Richford New York, and the son of William Very Rockefeller and Eliza Davison. His mother was very religious and dedicated to raising her 6 children (including John) to become better than their father.

From a very young age, John presented the mindset of an entrepreneur by selling candy to children and raising the price by 10 or 20 times the price he would buy them for. Selling candy to children can be good business as they would always demand candy, but selling candy to rich children that have “endless” resources is a businessman’s dream.

At the age of 14, he and his family moved to Cleveland where he enrolled in Central High School and then E.G. Folsom’s Commerical College. Rockefeller was attracted by accounting and that is the reason why his first job was working as the assistant of an accountant at a firm named Hewitt &Tuttle.

A young Businessman

John D. Rockefeller in his early 30s (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In 1859 he managed to raise a capital of $4000 (worth $135,485 today taking into consideration inflation) which he invested towards opening a company with his good friend and business partner Maurice B. Clark. The company was selling products in high demand around the United States and was making a fairly good profit for the time, but not enough for Rockefeller.

In 1863, a big opportunity was discovered by Rockefeller within the petrol market. That is why he gave up on his company and opened a new petrol refinery with Clark and a few other business partners. The refinery was named Clark &Rockefeller.

Clark and Rockefeller refinery in 1867 (Source: ClevelandHistorical)

What was special about this opportunity is refining whale oil which was used as fuel in the late 19th century. At the time, due to its high demand, Rockefeller took the market by storm, ending up making billions off whale oil. This was until 1865 when the American Civil War ended and petrol became scarce around the United States. This was perfect as Rockefeller already had a refinery.

Reinvesting all the profits made from selling refined whale oil, Rockefeller upgraded the refinery, making it the biggest petrol refinery in the world during the 19th century. In 1870 he founded the Standard Oil company and in 1872 he created the National Refinery Association, creating a monopoly within the petrol industry during the 19th century and setting the stones of today’s modern petrol industry.

No mercy for Competitors

Rockefeller had connections all around the world, this allowed him to close some contracts with industrial shipping companies around the world, which allowed his company to transport petrol at a lower rate than the average market price, destroying his competition in a long term.

From today’s ethical business standards, Rockefeller was very far from being ethical within a competitive market, but when we are talking about billions, ethics have no room. He would find ways to make his competitors go bankrupt, either by seeing them for some reason or forcing them off the market with very small prices.

Another tactic he would use with the smaller competitors is to buy them out. In fact, he used to purchase the companies that he drove towards bankruptcy at a very small price to assure a monopoly within the market. In 1870, Rockefeller was refining 90% of the petrol sold in the United States.

A Philanthropic Magnate

John D. Rockefeller with his children and grandchildren (Source: Historic Hudson Valley)

In 1937 when Rockefeller died from natural causes, his wealth reached 1.4 billion dollars, and if we take into consideration inflation, today that would be worth around 420 billion dollars, making him the richest person in modern history.

Having so much money and seeing that he is near the end of his life, he felt that it was time to give back to the community, therefore he created the famously known Rockefeller foundation which is still to this day the most important philanthropic institution in the world. This institution had financed various projects, raising hospitals and schools.

One of the most important projects is the University of Chicago as well as Rockefeller University. John D. Rockefeller died at the age of 97, living a chunk of his wealth to be distributed to his wife Laura Spelman and to his five daughters and son equally. It is said that most of his wealth went into the Rockefeller Foundation.

The moral of the story is that people like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk still have a long way to go until they reach the true meaning of the wealthiest people to have walked on this earth. At the end of the day, wealth comes at a high cost, and that cost is the time invested which can never be bought back… Such wealth takes decades of dedication until reaching a point where money is made during your sleep. And as Rockefeller had thought us all, in the end, it all stays here on earth whilst we depart to the next phase, whichever it may be.

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