The First Billionaire, How He Became A Billionaire, Net Worth

Joseph Kanu
Joseph Kanu  - Content Writer, Editor and Blogger February 11, 2023
Updated 2023/02/11 at 7:50 PM
The First Billionaire
The First Billionaire

We guess you’re searching for the first billionaire, you don’t need to search any further!

Did you know according to American business magazine; Forbes, oil magnate John D. Rockefeller was in in 1916 confirmed as the first dollar billionaire in the world?

Following your search for the first billionaire, this article presents you with exactly the first billionaire, his biography, how he became a billionaire and what exactly his net worth is, and in addition we would tell you briefly about the Strike of 1913 to 1914 and The Ludlow Massacre since it concerns the Rockefellers.


Popular Name:John D. Rockefeller
Real Name:John Davison Rockefeller Sr.
Birth Date:July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937
Birth Place:Richford, New York
Age:98 years old (at the time of his death)
Marital Status:Was Married
Spouse(s):Laura Spelman Rockefeller
Children:John D. Rockefeller Jr.
Profession:Oil Business Magnate, Philanthropist
Years active:N/A
Net Worth:$400 Billion
Last Updated:2023

Before we go further into taking about the first billionaire, it is important we know who a billionaire is.

In a simple term, a billionaire is one who has a net worth of not less than a billion (1,000,000,000) units of  currency be it dollars, euros, pound sterling or any currency at all.

As earlier mentioned, oil magnate John D. Rockefeller was the first billionaire in the world, and as such, this article is going to be discussing extensively John D. Rockefeller, how he made his billions, what exactly his net worth is.

John D. Rockefeller’s Biography

John Davison Rockefeller Sr popularly known as John D. Rockefeller -was an American business magnate and philanthropist who was born on July 8th,1839  and died on May 23rd, 1937 at  the age of 98.

His father was William A. Rockefeller Sr. and his mother was Eliza Davison. While he was alive, Rockefeller was  generally considered the wealthiest American of all time and as well the richest person in modern history.

John D Rockefeller was born in Upstate New York, he became an assistant bookkeeper at age while he was 16 years old and at the age of 20, he had  ventured into several business partnerships with a major focus on  his oil refining business.

John D. Rockefeller was  a staunch Northern Baptist and as a result, he supported and funded  many church-based institutions, avoided the intake of  alcohol and tobacco even till his death.

John D. Rockefeller’s First Job As An Assistant Bookkeeper

In 1855, at the age of 16, John D. Rockefeller got his first job as an assistant bookkeeper. He worked for a small produce commission firm in Cleveland called Hewitt & Tuttle.

Rockefeller worked long hours and in good spirit, and thereafter he recalled, in all the methods and systems of the office, and was majorly adept at calculating transportation costs, which laid a good foundation for his later career.

John D. Rockefeller earned $16 monthly for his three-month apprenticeship, and during his first year, he received $31 monthly, which was later increased to $50 monthly.

Interestingly, Rockefeller’s final year fetched him $58 monthly

John D Rockefeller’s Oil Business

In 1870, John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company, he ran it until 1897 and even after then, he remained the company’s largest shareholder.

John D. Rockefeller’s wealth grew by a wide margin as kerosene and gasoline became more important, and as a result of that, he emerged as the richest person in the country, taking control of 90% of all oil in the U.S. at his peak.

People made use of oil throughout the country as a source of light until electricity was introduced, thereafter, oil was used as fuel after the invention of the automobiles.

John D. Rockefeller gained great influence over the railroad industry which conveyed his oil all over the country. Rockefeller’s oil refining company; Standard Oil was the first great business trust in the U.S.

There were so many events that took place, however, after all that happened, it was realized that the individual segments of Standard Oil were worth more than the company as a whole.

John D. Rockefeller’s owned shares in standard Oil was worth even more than Standard Oil itself, as a result of that he emerged as the first billionaire in the United States, with a net worth of almost 2% of the U.S. economy.

As of 1913, John D Rockefeller’s personal wealth was estimated in at nine hundred million US Dollars ($900,000,000) which was almost 3% of the United States’ GDP of $39.1 billion the year.

John D. Rockefeller’s Philanthropic Activities

During Rockefeller’s  last 40 years of his life in retirement at Kykuit, in his estate in Westchester County, New York, he was bent on working out  the structure of modern philanthropy, alongside other key industrialists like steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

He spent his money on creating the modern systematic approach of targeted philanthropy through the setting up of foundations that had a strong effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.

Those various foundations initiated developments in medical research and played some key roles in the near-eradication of hookworm, and yellow fever in the U.S.

John D. Rockefeller also founded the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University and as well sponsored the establishment of Central Philippine University in the Philippines.

Business Partnerships

In 1859, John D. Rockefeller went into the produce commission business alongside a partner, Maurice B. Clark, and they raised $4,000 in capital.

Maurice B. Clark came up with the idea of the partnership and offered $2,000 towards the goal. John D. Rockefeller had just $800 saved up at the time so he borrowed $1,000 from his father, “Big Bill” Rockefeller, at 10 percent interest.

 Rockefeller’s business career thrived, he made money every year of his career, and he and his partner in their first and second years of business,  netted $4,400 and $17,000 worth of profit, respectively.

 In 1866, William Rockefeller Jr., John D. Rockefeller’s brother, built another refinery in Cleveland and brought John into the partnership, and in 1867, Henry Morrison Flagler became a partner, and the firm of Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler was established.

John D. Rockefeller went on with the practices of borrowing and reinvesting profits, controlling costs, and using refineries’ waste, the company owned two Cleveland refineries and a marketing subsidiary in New York by 1868.

The company was the largest oil refinery not just in the United States but in the world. The firm; Interestingly, the firm; “Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler” was the predecessor of the Standard Oil Company.

Colorado Fuel and Iron

In 1902, John Cleveland Osgood faced cash flow problems, and turned to George Jay Gould, a principal stockholder of the Denver and Rio Grande, for a loan.

George Jay Gould, through Frederick Taylor Gates, John D. Rockefeller’s financial adviser, brought in Rockefeller  to help finance the loan.

An analysis of the company’s operations by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. showed a need for substantially more funds which were made available in exchange for  the acquisition of CF&I’s subsidiaries.

The subsidiaries were the Colorado and Wyoming Railway Company, the Crystal River Railroad Company, and likely the Rocky Mountain Coal and Iron Company.

Control of the company was passed from the Iowa Group to  George Jay Gould and John D. Rockefeller interests in 1903 with Gould in control and Rockefeller and Gates as minority interests representatives.

John Cleveland Osgood exited the company in 1904 and channelled all his efforts to the handling of competing coal and coke operations.

 Strike of 1913 to 1914 and The Ludlow Massacre

The  September 1913 strike called in by the United Mine Workers was as a result of  union representation issue, and was against coal mine operators in Huerfano and Las Animas counties of southern Colorado, where the majority of CF&I’s coal and coke production took place.

The coal mine operators association and its steering committee which included Welborn, president of CF&I, a spokesman for the coal operators fought the strike with all available strength.

 John D. Rockefeller’s operative, Lamont Montgomery Bowers,was in the background. Just a few miners belonged to the union and took part  in the strike call, but the majority participated in it. 

Strikebreakers often were threatened and attacked, both parties purchased sophisticated arms and ammunition, and striking miners were compelled to leave their homes in company towns and live in tent cities built by the union, like the tent city at Ludlow, a railway stop north of Trinidad.

Some miners got back to work being protected by the National Guard, and some strikebreakers imported from the eastern coalfields, joined them as Guard troops protecting their movements.

A major part of the troops were withdrawn in February 1914, however, a large contingent remained at Ludlow, and in April 1914, a general fire-fight happened between strikers and troops, being antagonized by the troops and mine guards.

The camp was burnt, and 15 women and children who hid in tents at the camp, burnt to death, costs to both mine operators and the union were high, and the incident dragged unwanted national attention to Colorado.

As a result of the reduced demand for coal, coming from an economic downturn, several of CF&I’s coal mines failed to reopen and many workers were thrown out of work.

The union was forced to end the strike benefits in February 1915, there was destitution in the coalfields, and with the help of donations from the Rockefeller Foundation, relief programs were put in place by the Colorado Committee on Unemployment and Relief.

The casualties at Ludlow set up a public opinion against the Rockefellers and the coal industry., and the United States Commission on Industrial Relations conducted hearings, and singled out John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Rockefellers’ relationship with Bowers for special attention.

John D. Rockefeller’s Net Worth

At the time of his death, John D. Rockefeller had saved up a whooping four hundred billion US Dollars ($400,000,000,000).


Following your search for the first billionaire, we been able to tell you who a billionaire is, who exactly the first billionaire is, how he made his billions, and exactly how much his net worth is.  

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