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The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty Hardcover – 1991
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John (the first) started out in the oil business at the time of the American Civil War. In that period oil was found in the American Northeast - Pennsylvania and Ohio. After that, the money just kept rolling in. The authors' expose, to a degree, the hypocrisy of the Rockefeller philanthropies. The Ludlow incident in Colorado at the turn of the century did much to tarnish the image of the Rockefeller name. The Ludlow incident involved the exploitation of underpaid miners in Colorado who went on strike, and subsequently were threatened and finally killed by goons. All of this happened with the encouragement of the Rockefeller family, who took a very dim view of workers rights.
At this stage, the second John Rockefeller (the only son of the first John Rockefeller) became more humanitarian and liberal in outlook. He hired Mackenzie King (who later became a long-reigning Prime Minister of Canada) to commence a publicity campaign to enhance the perception of the many Rockefeller enterprises to a more benevolent image. Mackenzie King also advised John on how to deal more effectively with the Ludlow incident, pressuring him to be more forthright on the actual events.
This transition of the Rockefeller aura was accomplished during the 1920's and 1930's when huge donations were made. In some ways the authors overlook the tremendous impact and scope of this philanthropic work. Money went to renovate Chateau Versailles in France, and some endowments even found their way to the Kinsey Institute. Also the Spelman College in Atlanta, which Martin Luther King Jr. attended, received grants. Eventually over time, the Rockefeller's became more cognisant of the rights of workers.
Also during the 1920's and 1930's the family moved from the management of corporations to finance and philanthropy. They needed a full time staff to manage and invest all their money. As the authors' make evident those investments spread the tentacles of the Rockefeller's ever further - making it multi-national in scope.
The foundations and money have become more diluted - John the second had five sons (a patriarchal family indeed!). Nelson's political aspirations and his multiple terms as Governor of New York State were viewed with antipathy by his siblings and father. The clan, up to that point, had been very private and used their fortune to guard, conceal and protect. The family was not given to emotional displays - their behavior approached the Victorian era. Nelson's bid for political power forced public disclosures of the family and their money.
The concluding chapters on the fourth generation are rather poignant. They truly did not know how to cope with their inheritance and didn't even know the extent of it. Many spent years in therapy and/or some form of rebellion against their wealth.