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William Rockefeller


William Rockefeller

William Avery Rockefeller, Jr.
Born (1841-05-31)May 31, 1841
Richford, New York,
Died June 24, 1922(1922-06-24) (aged 81)
Tarrytown, New York
Cause of death pneumonia
Resting place Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York
Occupation financier, businessman, Standard Oil
Religion Baptist
Spouse(s) Almira Geraldine Goodsell
(m. 1864—1920; her death)
Relatives See Rockefeller family

William Avery Rockefeller, Jr. (May 31, 1841 – June 24, 1922) was an American businessman and financier. He was a co-founder of Standard Oil along with his older brother John Davison Rockefeller (1839–1937). He was also a prominent member of the Rockefeller family.


  • Early years 1
  • Business career 2
  • Home and family 3
  • Children 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early years

William Jr. was born in Richford, New York. He was the middle son of con artist William Avery Rockefeller Sr. (1810—1906) and Eliza Davison (1813—1889). In addition to elder brother John, William Jr.'s siblings were Lucy (1838—1878), Mary (1843—1925), and twins Franklin (Frank) (1845—1917) and Frances (1845—1847). He also had two elder half-sisters, Clorinda (c. 1838—?, died young) and Cornelia (c. 1840—?), through his father's affairs with mistress and housekeeper Nancy Brown.[1] In 1853 his family moved to Strongsville, Ohio. As a young pupil in public school, he was inspired and motivated by his teacher-mentor, Rufus Osgood Mason, whom Rockefeller later named "A Rockefeller Patron".

Business career

In 1865, he entered the oil business by starting a refinery. In 1867, his older brother John's partnership of Rockefeller & Andrews absorbed this refinery. In 1870, that company became Standard Oil.

Rockefeller was very adept in business matters. He served as the company's New York representative until 1911 when Standard Oil of New Jersey was split up by the United States Supreme Court. He also had interests in copper, railways, and public utilities, and built up the National City Bank of New York, now part of Citigroup.

In the late 1890s, Rockefeller joined fellow Standard Oil principal paper organization known as the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company, with their own clerks as dummy directors, saying the company was worth $75 million.

They then had the Amalgamated Copper Company buy Anaconda from them for $75 million in capital stock, which was conveniently printed for the purpose. Then, they borrowed $39 million from the bank using Amalgamated Copper as collateral. They paid back Daly for Anaconda and sold $75 million worth of stock in Amalgamated Copper to the public. They paid back the bank's $39 million and had a profit of $36 million in cash.

With help from banker John Dennis Ryan, Amalgamated acquired two large competitors, and soon controlled all the mines of Butte, Montana, later becoming Anaconda Copper Company, fourth largest company in the world by the late 1920s.

Home and family

In 1886, Rockefeller bought property along the Hudson River from General Lloyd Aspinwall, and turned it into a mansion named "Rockwood Hall". The property was subsequently located within the Rockefeller family estate of "Pocantico", in Westchester County, New York (see Kykuit).

Rockwood - William Rockefeller home in Tarrytown, NY
Rockefeller's Indian Mound Cottage on Jekyll Island.

Rockefeller married Almira Geraldine Goodsell (March 19, 1844 — January 17, 1920) on May 25, 1864 in Fairfield, Connecticut.[2] Almira's sister Esther Judson Goodsell was married to listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Rockefeller Cottage.

The mausoleum of William Rockefeller in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

William Rockefeller, Jr. died of pneumonia on June 24, 1922 in Tarrytown, New York. He had caught a cold during a car trip he took along with brother John and nephew John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to visit his childhood home in Richford, New York.[4] He was interred in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

The New York Times, in discussing a trust he set up for his born and yet-to-be born great-grandchildren, stated that Rockefeller "left a gross estate of $102,000,000 which was reduced to $50,000,000 principally by $30,000,000 of debts and $18,600,000 of inheritance and estate taxes."[5]


  1. Lewis Edward Rockefeller (March 2, 1865 — August 3, 1866)
  2. Emma Rockefeller (June 8, 1868 — August 11, 1934) married Dr. David Hunter McAlpin
  3. William Goodsell Rockefeller (May 21, 1870 — November 30, 1922) married Sarah Elizabeth "Elsie" Stillman
  4. John Davison Rockefeller II (March 8, 1872 — 1877)
  5. Percy Avery Rockefeller (February 27, 1878 — September 25, 1934) married Isabel Goodrich Stillman
  6. Ethel Geraldine Rockefeller (April 3, 1882 — August 13, 1973) married Marcellus Hartley Dodge Sr.


  1. ^ Chernow, Ron (1998). "The Flimflam Man". New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Almira Geraldine Goodsell". Retrieved September 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Jekyll Island". The Golden Crescent. National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-09-31. 
  4. ^ "William Rockefeller Dies At Home; Cold Contracted In Rain Fatal".  
  5. ^ New York Times, August 5, 1937, page 1 "Estate of William Rockefeller Increasing $1,000,000 a Year"

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • William Rockefeller Archives
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