Skip to main content


July 2024
2min read


ROCKEFELLER , family of mightiest financial magnates in the U.S. John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937), its founder, established the Standard Oil Trust ( q.v. ) which soon monopolized the petroleum industry in the United States. Through all sorts of speculative machinations J. D. Rockefeller amassed the largest fortune in the U.S. and in the whole world. In 1911 his son, John Davison, Jr. (b. 1874), took over the management of Standard Oil and divided part of the huge property among his six children. In 1954 nine Rockefellers shared in the management of forty of the largest concerns, as well as of scientific organizations, universities (Chicago, Princeton), museums (Museum of Modern Art, American Museum of Natural History), etc. The Rockefeller family controls an important part of the petroleum industry in the United States (about thirty per cent of extracion and about one-half of refinement industry). It controls six of the largest companies that belong to the Standard Oil, Texas Company, and Sinclair Oil Corporation group, as well as a number of the largest plants producing chemicals, paper, tobacco; milk, electrical, and sugar industries; ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy; machine building, air transport, railways, the movie industry, etc.—in some cases together with Morgan and K’fchn, Loeb and Company ( q.v. ), and others. The Rockefeller family also controls the two largest life insurance companies (Metropolitan and Equitable); also the third largest commercial bank in the U.S., the Chase National Bank ( q.v. ) and its affiliates. In addition, a representative of the Rockefeller family is one of the managers of the second largest bank in the U.S., the National City Bank of New York ( q.v. ), but here the influence of the Morgan group predominates. In a number of other banks, life insurance companies, etc., the influence of the Rockefellers is interlocked with that of the Morgans and other monopolistic groups.

Over the two decades stretching approximately from the early thirties to the early fifties of the twentieth century, the Rockefellers expanded their position at the expense of the Morgan and other groups. Having a leading position in the petroleum industry, the Rockefeller group made extraordinary profits as a result of the development of the war economy and the increased use of petroleum as fuel and as raw material for the chemical industry.

Eight industrial companies alone (Standard Oil of New Jersey, Standard Oil of California, Standard Oil of Indiana, Socony Vacuum Oil Co., Atlantic Refining Co., Ohio Oil Co., International Paper Co., International Nickel Co. of Canada Limited) that are within the sphere of influence of the Rockefeller family increased their assets from $6.6 billion in 1946 to $12.9 billion in 1953, and their net profit after tax deductions from $0.5 to $1.34 billion. Through a number of special funds established by them as “trust funds” for science, the Rockefellers exert wide control over numerous scientific establishments in the United States and in other capitalist countries.

The Rockefeller family belongs to the top financial oligarchy in the United States; the Rockefeller group plays an important role in determining the foreign and domestic policy of the United States. In connection with its increased economic power, the Rockefeller group also increased its political influence after World War II (1939-45). Many leading posts in the Eisenhower Administration (from 1952 on) are held directly by representatives of the Rockefeller family and of groups closely connected with it.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.