“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” – John D. Rockefeller

1. The bibliographic basics of the book –
The book is titled John D. Rockefeller: A Portrait in Oils. The author’s name is John K. Winkler. The original publisher is New York: The Vanguard Press (1929), but the newest publisher is Cosimo, Inc. (2007). The ISBN identification number is 9781602069688. There is no author website but both publishers have their own website: http://www.vanguardpressbooks.com/home.php and http://www.cosimobooks.com/. Another basic bibliographic basic of the book includes a length of 260 pages.

2. What is the book about? –
The book John D. Rockefeller: A Portrait in Oils illustrates the “rare and astonishing personality” (Author’s notes) of John D. Rockefeller, one of the most memorable entrepreneurs in American business history as the co-founder of the Standard Oil Company. This book focuses on John D. Rockefeller’s more popular experiences as well as the lesser known, behind the scenes ones which made up Mr. Rockefeller. It portrays what life was like for John D., from his meager beginnings before his young self first struck oil, to when he eventually created an oil empire with his Standard Oil Company, and even touches up on what life was like for Rockefeller at ninety years old. The book John D. Rockefeller: A Portrait in Oils centers around the experiences of arguably the most successful businessman in American history and the impact his Standard Oil company had on the economy.

3. What are the main points or arguments the author is trying to make? 
For this section, I would like to headline each chapter and summarize the author’s main points:
I. A Strange Pilgrim and His Son:

  • His nickname was Doc Rockefeller (or Bill) and he always had a natural fascination with making money. The author mentions the fact that “Doc would be found glued to the greenbacks” (Winkler, pg. 13).
  • Rockefeller was known as a charismatic individual who had “no weakness for alcohol” (Winkler, pg. 13). Due to Rockefeller’s strong religious beliefs, he is known for not drinking alcohol.
  • John D. learned his business mentality from his father, William Rockefeller, Sr. For example, William required his son to pay board and also highly valued the dollar.
  • The author alludes to John’s disease, alopecia, which “swept away his hair” (Winkler, pg. 21).
  • The main theme of this chapter is Rockefeller’s freakish desire to make money.
  • While he may have not been the most brilliant student in his class adademically, he was a business genius from the start.

II. A Pious Youth Gets a Flying Start:

  • John D. was not like his peers in the sense that he wasn’t much of a partier. “Nights, while roisterers were rolling the bones or bidding up a pair of jack, John was quietly at work on the church accounts, adding, subtracting, balancing” (Winkler, pg. 35).
  • Rockefeller was extremely frugal because he “squeezed every cent and saved the cent” (Winkler, pg. 40).
  • John was not a part of the Civil War. Instead, he focused on establishing himself as a businessman and did just that.

III. A Godly Young Man Strikes Oil:

  • Again, Rockefeller was a huge worshipper and man of God. “On his frequent trips to the Oil Regions, Rockefeller worshipped often at the first church built in Petroleum Centre” (Winkler, pg. 62).
  • “Oil became Rockefeller’s hobby, then his passion” (Winkler, pg. 64). As John’s oil business became more lucrative, he focused less on his commission business and in turn his passion for oil continued to grow.
  • Standard Oil Company launched with the main strategy of shutting down other refineries.

IV. A Refiner Marches Toward Monopoly:

  • “By the close of 1869, Rockefeller, Andrews, and Flagler (his partners) had outstripped all competition in Cleveland” (Winkler, pg. 84). This perfectly portrays Standard Oil’s strategy of driving out all other competition and taking control of the oil industry.
  • “Rockefeller was more than methodical” (Winkler, pg. 94). John D. Rockefeller reminds me of Frank Underwood in the show House of Cards because they both plan out their every move and are always a step ahead of their competitors.

V. A Business Genius Makes the World Pay Tribute:

  • Rockefeller “had snuffed out or absorbed most of the independent refineries of the country” (Winkler, pg. 102-103). Rockefeller truly was a business genius and didn’t care what he had to do in order to get his Standard Oil Company to the top.
  • Standard Oil didn’t have the best reputation. The company faced numerous civil investigations concerning Rockefeller’s and other executives’ shady business practices. The company was described as “a mysterious organization” (Winkler, pg. 125).

 

VI. The Malevolent Trust—Raking In a Billion:

  • In order to stay in power, Rockefeller raised and lowered the prices of his oil in various regions at will. In doing so he pushed competitors out of the region.
  • The price would be mysteriously raised in places where there was no competition; lowered, sometimes below the cost of production, when there were competitors” (Winkler, pg. 138)

 

VII. The Benevolent Trust—Ladling Out the Billion:

  • It was discovered that John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company had illegally seized oil and gained large profits from it.

 

VIII. John D., Jr., A Character Sketch:

  • Remembered as an individual “who did not smoke, drink, chew nor gamble, wore shiny suits, and was faithful in his studies” (Winkler, pg. 191).
  • John D. Rockefeller was destined to be a businessman and wanted to be successful without any distractions.

 

IX. John D., III, The Clan’s Future Chieftain, an Intimate Portrait:

  • John D., III, Rockefeller’s grandson, was projected to become the next “leading figure in America’s eleven-billion-dollar oil industry” at the Standard Oil Company (Winkler, pg. 211).

X. John D., at Ninety

  • In his later years, he was an avid golfer after retiring from day-to-day operations of Standard Oil in the mid-1890s.
  • Rockefeller donated more than half a billion dollars to various educational, religious, and scientific causes.
  • John D. Rockefeller lived to be 97 years old; just three years shy of his goal age of 100.

4. What facts or insights did you learn?

  • John D. Rockefeller had “an income of about a million dollars a week” (Winkler, pg. 37), which is especially impressive when you take inflation into account.
  • John D. Rockefeller’s assets equaled 1.5% of America’s total economic output when he died.

5. Describe/summarize a current news article/essay/story/blog post you’ve found on the Web.
Source: http://www.valuewalk.com/2015/10/saudi-arabia-oil-monopoly/
In this article, titled Saudi Arabia Oil Monopoly: Could Russia and Iran End it?, some believe there’s a chance Saudi Arabia’s oil monopoly in Asia will come to an end, thanks to “Russia’s strategy” and “Iran’s re-entry in the oil market” (Cabural). The fact is, Saudi Arabia is powerful when it comes to the oil industry. However, as strong as their monopoly is in Asia, Russia has surprisingly surpassed Saudi Arabia as China’s largest oil supplier. A statistic to back this up: “In May, Russia supplied 3.92 million metric tons of oil to China, surpassing Saudi Arabia, which sold 3.05 million metric tons of oil” (Cabural). Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, has been attempting to lessen China’s reliance on Saudi Arabia’s oil by going after OPEC and forming an alliance with Venezuela. Iran’s re-entry into the market also affects Saudi Arabia’s oil monopoly by regaining traditional oil buyers.

6. What’s the connection between the what you read in your book and what the current article/story/essay says?
The connection between this article and the book I read is the similarities between Saudi Arabia and the Standard Oil Company as they are both monopolies in the oil industry. Thanks to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company and their monopolistic control in the oil industry, anti-trust laws such as the Sherman Antitrust Act were put in place. This makes running a monopoly in today’s America impossible. Obviously, antitrust laws have not been set in Saudi Arabia and allow their control in the oil industry to continue.

7. The Men Who Built America: John D. Rockefeller