John D. Rockefeller

American business magnate and philanthropist (1839–1937)

John Davison Rockefeller (8 July 183923 May 1937) was an American business tycoon, industrialist, and book-keeper, most famous for his role in the early petroleum-industry and the founding of Standard Oil. Measured in today's dollars, Rockefeller is the richest person in the history of mankind. He was also the first billionaire (in US dollars) in history. With his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his advisor Frederick Taylor Gates, he established the Rockefeller Foundation, "to promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world."

Try to turn every disaster into an opportunity.


I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money's sake.
The most important thing for a young man is to establish a credit — a reputation, character.
God gave me my money.
I believe the power to make money is a gift of God … to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind.
If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.
  • The impression was gaining ground with me that it was a good thing to let the money be my slave and not make myself a slave to money.
  • “We must ever remember we are refining oil for the poor man and he must have it cheap and good.”
  • I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.
    • As quoted in How They Succeeded (1901) by Orison Swett Marden
  • It is wrong to assume that men of immense wealth are always happy.
    • Attributed as a statement to his Bible class (1 April 1905) in "The Loneliness of John D. Rockefeller", Current Literature (November 1906) vol. 41 no. 5,
  • I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money's sake.
    • Random Reminiscences of Men and Events (1906)
  • Do you know the only thing that gives me pleasure? It's to see my dividends coming in.
    • Remark to a neighbor, quoted by John Lewis in Cosmopolitan (1908)
  • God gave me my money.
    • Women's Home Companion (1915), quoted in God's Gold (1932) by John T. Flynn
  • The most important thing for a young man is to establish a credit — a reputation, character.
    • The Men Who Are Making America (1918) by Bertie Charles Forbes
  • I was early taught to work as well as play,
    My life has been one long, happy holiday;
    Full of work and full of play —
    I dropped the worry on the way —
    And God was good to me every day.
    • Verses written on his eighty-sixth birthday (8 July 1925) [2]
  • I believe it is a religious duty to get all the money you can, fairly and honestly; to keep all you can, and to give away all you can.
    • TIME Magazine (21. May 1928) [3]
  • I believe the power to make money is a gift of God … to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience.
    • Interview with William Hoster, quoted in God's Gold (1932) by John T. Flynn
  • The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee, and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.
    • Attributed in How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937) by Dale Carnegie
  • Try to turn every disaster into an opportunity.
    • Attributed in The Rockefellers (1976) by Peter Collier and David Horowitz
  • If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.
    • As quoted in Steps to the Top (1985) by Zig Ziglar, p. 16
  • The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets.
    • Attributed in The Fourth — And by Far the Most Recent 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1990) by Robert Byrne; attributed elsewhere to Nathan M. Rothschild
  • If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.
    • As quoted in Complete Speaker's and Toastmaster's Library (1992) edited by Jacob Morton Braude and Glenn Van Ekeren
  • Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.
    • As quoted in The Forbes Book of Business Quotations (2007) edited by Ted Goodman, p. 175
  • I would rather hire a man with enthusiasm, than a man who knows everything.
    • As quoted in Classic Wisdom for the Professional Life (2010) by Bryan Curtis, p. 75
  • The day of combination is here to stay. Individualism has gone, never to return.
    • John D. Rockefeller, age 41, in 1880 — Allan Nevins, John D. Rockefeller (New York: Scribner, 1959), I:622.


  • I have ways of making money that you know nothing of.
    • As quoted by Isaac Hewitt (1879) in testimony to the New York Assembly. Rockefeller doubted that he said this, according to John D. : The Founding Father of the Rockefellers (1980) by David Freeman Hawke; this is reminiscent of the remark attributed to Jesus in John 4:32: "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." (KJV)/"I have food to eat that you know nothing about." (NIV)
  • Good management consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.
    • As quoted in The Harper Book of Quotations (1993) by Robert I. Fitzhenry, p. 71; the earliest published occurrence of such remarks yet located were those of Jim Low in "The Human in Public Relations" a diner address in Proceedings, Seventh Annual Meeting of the Agricultural Research Institute, October 13-14, 1958, Washington, Pt. 3, p. 83
  • I don't want a nation of thinkers, I want a nation of workers.
    • Attributed by Jim Marrs in the William Lewis film One Nation Under Siege (2008); no published occurrence of this has been located prior to The Trillion-Dollar Conspiracy : How the New World Order, Man-Made Diseases, and Zombie Banks Are Destroying America (2010) by Jim Marrs
  • Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great
    • Earliest citation found in Google Books is from 1993, where it is attributed to country-music singer Kenny Rogers. Not found attributed to Rockefeller until 2006.


  • The only question with wealth is, what do you do with it?
    • Though attributed to John D. Rockefeller, Sr. in I Want to Make Money in the Stock Market : Learn to Begin Investing Without Losing Your Life Savings (2006) by Chris M. Hart, p. 169; this is clearly a statement of his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., as quoted in John D. Rockefeller, Jr: A Portrait (1956) by Raymond Blaine Fosdick, p. 189: The only question with wealth is what to do with it. It can be used for evil purposes or it can be an instrumentality for constructive social living.

Quotes about Rockefeller

  • Competition was natural enough at one time, but do you think you are competing today? Many of you think you are. Against whom? Against Rockefeller? About as I would if I had a wheelbarrow and competed with the Santa Fe from here to Kansas City.
  • If you could get along without King George, you can get along without King John Rockefeller. Political liberty without economic freedom is a myth. Political liberty is rooted in economic freedom. The man who controls and owns the means that sustain my life, owns and controls me.
    • Eugene V. Debs, "It Ought Not Be Difficult to Decide" (October 17, 1904)
  • Even the Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune on oil, has begun divesting from fossil fuel companies. Stephen Heintz, an heir of Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, said, "We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy."
    • Amy Goodman Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America (2017) p 234
  • Of course John D. Rockefeller does not realize the fact, but it is true nevertheless that the Hookworm Commission he is supporting in the South is doing more for the revolutionary awakening in Dixie than anything else.
  • I took responsibility early and, like my parents, I was serious.
  • My mother and father raised but one question: Is it right, is it duty?
    • John D. Rockefeller, Jr., as quoted in The Rich Man and the Kingdom : John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the Protestant establishment (1995) by Albert F. Schenkel, p. 13
  • It is a common myth within capitalist thought that the individual through drive and hard work can become a capitalist. In the U.S.A., it is usual to refer to an individual like John D. Rockefeller, Sr., as someone who rose "from rags to riches." To complete the moral of the Rockefeller success story, it would be necessary to fill in the details on all the millions of people who had to be exploited in order for one man to become a multimillionaire. The acquisition of wealth is not due to hard work alone, or the Africans working as slaves in America and the West Indies would have been the wealthiest group in the world. The individualism of the capitalist must be seen against the hard and unrewarded work of the masses.
  • What J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller were to the Age of Robber Barons, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett, as well as digital moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are to the contemporary age of the rule of the 1%. Then as now, the super-rich used governments to write laws and rules to allow them to accumulate unlimited wealth; then as now, creating monopolies by enclosing the commons and killing competition is the strategy for becoming the 1%.
    • Vandana Shiva Oneness vs. the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom (2018)
  • Each generation repeats its leaders. Each sees men endowed with superior inventiveness, energy, and genius for business, inspired by love of power and possession, launch selfish schemes-Carnegies, Rockefellers, Goulds… Each generation has had its Henry George, its Bellamy, its Bryan, intent on persuading mankind that he had found the way, could lead men to the good life. In each generation employer and employee have faced the decision-war or cooperation.
  • When he rose to speak, the impression of power that the first look at him had given increased, and the impression of age passed. I expected a quavering voice, but the voice was not even old, if a little fatigued, a little thin. It was clear and utterly sincere. He meant what he was saying. He was on his own ground talking about dividends, dividends of righteousness. "If you would take something out," he said, clenching the hand of his outstretched right arm, "you must put something in"-emphasizing "put something in" with a long outstretched forefinger.
  • My two hours' study of Mr. Rockefeller aroused a feeling I had not expected, which time has intensified. I was sorry for him. I know no companion so terrible as fear. Mr. Rockefeller, for all the conscious power written in face and voice and figure, was afraid, I told myself, afraid of his own kind. My friend Lewis Emery, Jr., priding himself on being a victim, was free and happy. Not gold enough in the world to tempt him to exchange his love of defiance for a power which carried with it a head as uneasy as that on Mr. Rockefeller's shoulders.
  • To a mutual friend who had told him the articles should be answered Mr. Rockefeller was said to have replied: "Not a word. Not a word about that misguided woman." To another who asked him about my charges he was reported as answering: "All without foundation.
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