Who was the World’s First Billionaire

John D. Rockefeller was a man of extremes. Some people saw him as a philanthropist, while others thought he was just a greedy corporatist.

Sometimes, he was seen as a free thinker, while in other situations, he appeared as a rigid thinker. What remains throughout history is that John D. Rockefeller was the world’s first billionaire.


His history and background remain intriguing for many people. Let’s find out the story behind the world’s first billionaire!

Who was the World's First Billionaire 1

World’s First Billionaire History

John Davison Rockefeller was an American industrialist, a true businessman, and remained in history as the founder of the Standard Oil Company, which enabled him to become the first billionaire in history in 1916.

He was the second child of William and Eliza Rockefeller and was born in Richford, New York, in 1839. Some stories say that the young John D. Rockefeller stated that all he wanted in life was to live 100 years and earn $100,000.


He almost managed to check both his desires in life, but, unluckily for him, he died about two years before turning 100. Fortunately for John D. Rockefeller, he made his $100,000 and managed to become the world’s first billionaire.

How His Empire Started

Rockefeller worked as a bookkeeper for an Ohio-based small company. Not much later, he founded his first enterprise 1859, along with a business partner, Maurice Clark. John D. financed the business with $1,000 of his money. Also in 1859, the first oil well was bored, and Rockefeller sensed an opportunity in the emerging industry.

In only 4 years, in 1963, Rockefeller and Clark debuted in the oil industry. In 1970, John D. Rockefeller established the Standard Oil Company. The trust bought refineries in New York and Ohio, and soon, revenues began to rise.


About 12 years later, all the company’s properties united in the so-called Standard Oil Trust. The trust became one of the world’s largest multinational companies.

Via underpricing and some unreliable strategies, Standard Oil controlled 90% of the oil production in the United States and 85% of the whole sales by 1904. That brings us to the 1911’s Government action against the company.

In those days, the US Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil was a monopoly and thus in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Consequently, the Standard Oil Trust separated into several companies, which paved the way for John D. Rockefeller’s road to becoming the world’s first billionaire. Among those small companies were ExxonMobil and Chevron, which are also functioning today.

At the moment, Rockefeller wasn’t anymore in front of Standard Oil, as he held only 25% of the shares. But, upon the separation, his shares were split into the resulting companies. That led to a significant growth in value. The shares grew so much that, in 1916, John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire.

Greedy Corporate Or Misunderstood Philanthropist?

Even though he was seen as a greedy corporatist with an ego-centric behavior, he was also a philanthropist. He founded the University of Chicago, the Central Philippine University, the General Education Board, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Institute for Medical Research.

The fortune of John D. Rockefeller was astonishing. Rockefeller’s fortune would have summed up at $418 billion in 2019 US Dollar (inflation-adjusted) in 1913. Also, John D.’s wealth represented about 2% of the US economy and about 1/50th of the GDP.

In his last years of life, John D. Rockefeller, the world’s first billionaire, spent time with his children and grandchildren and made several donations. He also focused more on his hobbies, such as golf, gardening, and landscaping.

He died on May 23rd, 1937, at almost 98 years old. John D. Rockefeller is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, between his mother and his wife.


Since he was young, John D. Rockefeller had big dreams and plans for his life. He took the opportunity to enter the emerging oil industry and made a fortune out of it. The path to becoming the world’s first billionaire wasn’t an easy one for John D., but he managed to achieve that title in 1916.

Even though many Americans accused Rockefeller of unfair practices in business, John D. was also a philanthropist and contributed to education, medicine, and the scientific field. He spent his last years with his family and focusing on his hobbies but also donating his fortune to greater causes.

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