John D. Rockefeller

In 1863, John D. Rockefeller encouraged fellow business partner, M. B. Clark to agree to a decision which would eventually lead to the creation of the multimillion dollar company Standard Oil. The duo financed and joined with chemist Samuel Andrews in starting the oil refining business Andrews, Clark, and Co. Two years later, Rockefeller and Andrews bought out Clark's interest and became Rockefeller & Andrews. The company was just one of thirty oil refineries in Cleveland when it was first formed in 1865, but it soon became the largest through a merger with O.H. Payne, another largely successful oil refinery owner. The company went on to join with other area competitors or buy them out. With control of Cleveland's refineries, the Rockefeller & Andrews Company chartered the Standard Oil Company in 1870.

Standard Oil made Cleveland the center of American petroleum production. As a result, the city saw benefits in the form of both economics and humanitarianism. Rockefeller's company gave work to thousands, and Cleveland's wealth grew in relation to Standard Oil's expansion. Even during the Panic of 1873 Rockefeller continued to prosper. In fact, just six years later, he had control of 90 percent of America's oil. Rockefeller did not squander all of his wealth, but instead was well known for his generous but judicious charity to educational institutions, Baptist churches, the Children's Aid Society, hospitals, and the Women's Christian Temperance Movement to name only a few. Rockefeller also made several wise investments not related to oil, some of which are still visible in Cleveland. The oil tycoon was one of the large stockholders for Arcade, which opened in 1890 and still exists on Superior Avenue. On the corner of West 6th Street and West Superior Avenue stands the Rockefeller Building. The man after whom the building is named bought the Weddell House property in 1903 and turned it into the headquarters of lake interests.

John D. Rockefeller's successes and the subsequent imprints left on Cleveland because of them can be traced to three main factors. First, Rockefeller learned from childhood how to make wise business decisions. He was able to think ahead, see the success in budding industries, and use borrowing and lending to his advantage. Using these talents in his first business with M. B. Clark had given him a good reputation with Cleveland's primary lenders and helped him see the benefit of investing in oil refining. However, Rockefeller's brilliance in business may not have thrived to such a great extent had not the Civil War occurred during the inception of his career. The Civil War expedited Cleveland's economy, particularly in the steel and fabrics industries. Consequently, local bankers were able and willing to lend funds to Rockefeller for business purposes. The initial company M. B. Clark and Rockefeller formed in 1859 as produce commission merchants also saw an influx of business at wartime, and this also helped Rockefeller and Clark extend their business to oil. Third, Cleveland's excellent Lake Erie and railroad transportation made it possible for Rockefeller to easily bring in crude oil, transport his refined oil and expand Standard Oil.