Synopsis by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
Part one of American Experience: The Rockefellers chronicles the rise of John D. Rockefeller from the son of a gambler to the owner of Standard Oil. Born in 1839, Rockefeller gained his mother's prudent disposition, but learned about the value of money from his unreliable father, nicknamed "Devil Bill." When oil was discovered in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800s, the young commodities trader decided to make money by refining it. At 25, he owned one of the largest oil refineries in the world; at 30, he founded Standard Oil. Rockefeller married the progressive-minded Laura Spellman in 1864 and they raised four children on their country estate on Cleveland's millionaire's row. By 1880, Standard Oil controlled 90% of the world's oil refineries while the Rockefeller fortune grew to over a billion dollars. In 1902, however, Ida Tarbell published an expose in McClure's on the predatory practices Rockefeller had utilized against competitors. John Rockefeller Jr. faced even more intense criticism following the deadly coal strike at a family-owned mine in Ludlow, CO, in 1913.
billionaire, influence, wealth, America, empire, oil, family, social-change