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How John D. Rockefeller Learned Character

by Ron Kurtus (26 January 2013)

John D. Rockefeller (1839 - 1937) was once the world's richest man, through his control of the oil industry. He was also despised in the United States, because of his business practices, even though he gave millions of dollars to charities.

Rockefeller's character traits were learned from his parents. However, his talents and nature also contributed to his success.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Mother's character traits

John's mother was a serious woman, who was a hard worker and devout Baptist. She did not believe in smoking or drinking. She was the opposite of her husband and kept her feelings to herself.

Father's character traits

John's father, "Big Bill" Rockefeller, was a con-man who sold healing potions to gullible people. He was also sometimes a businessman, but his main interest was in putting on a show. He was basically dishonest and would even cheat his own sons as a way to teach them not to trust anyone, even family members.

John's character

Rockefeller had a nature of being very ambitious. He was obedient to both his mother and father. However, since his father often did not support the family, John wanted to make sure his mother was never in need and would work hard to support her.

John was extremely hard working and conscientious. He did not drink or smoke and attended church regularly. He also helped those in need.

Once he got into the oil refining business, he would take every opportunity to squeeze out smaller companies. His ruthless business practices brought about much resentment toward him. He apparently showed little concern toward those he drove out of business.

At the same time, he was active in social causes, helping those less fortunate. But he avoided seeking credit for his philanthropy.


Rockefeller's work ethic reflected what his mother had taught him. His generosity toward social causes also was learned from his mother.

Rockefeller's character in business practices was learned from his father. He took advantage of those less capable as him. This was similar to how his father took advantage of gullible farmers.

Take the best traits of your parents

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