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John D. Rockefeller: Topics in Chronicling America

John D. Rockefeller Sr. was a business magnate. He is widely considered the richest person in modern history. This guide provides access to materials related to “John D. Rockefeller” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


A comparison sketch of John Rockefeller's annual income. March 3, 1905. The True Northerner (Paw Paw, MI), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

“The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest,” John D. Rockefeller once claimed. Rockefeller is widely considered the wealthiest American in history, the country’s first billionaire. His fortune primarily came from his firm, Standard Oil Company, which grew to dominate the oil industry and become the first great American business trust. Through Standard Oil, Rockefeller controlled ninety percent of all oil in the United States, making him one of the most powerful businessmen in American history. After retiring from daily operations of Standard Oil at age fifty-six, Rockefeller became one of the most respected philanthropists in history. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


June 27, 1891 John D. Rockefeller is reported to be the wealthiest man in America with about $150,000,000 and an income of $25,000 per day.
August 2, 1896 An article documents Rockefeller’s life and his rise to wealth, from poverty to possessing millions of dollars.
April 1902 John D. Rockefeller donates $250,000 to Barnard College, showing his dedication to education.
May 1903 John D. Rockefeller is on track to become a billionaire, with millions of dollars coming from oil profits.
March 1905 The government orders an investigation into Standard Oil Trust.
July 1, 1905 John D. Rockefeller announces a donation of ten million dollars for higher education in the United States.
April 6, 1909 The government’s three-year war to dissolve the Standard Oil Company reaches its final chapter, as final arguments are presented before the judges.
October 3, 1914 An article describes the Rockefeller’s 50th wedding anniversary, and offers a glimpse into the life of the 75-year old wife of the oil king.
December 24, 1914 John D. Rockefeller is criticized for donating generously to education, but mistreating the miners working for Standard Oil Company.
September 1, 1915 It is revealed that miners are trying to get a criminal prosecution of Rockefeller for the death of more than 40 strikers in the recent coal strikes.