Money Talks: How the Rockefellers Redefined America

Jeremi Suri – University of Texas

This lecture will examine the rise of the Rockefeller family and its role in shaping modern America. We will explore the creation of the oil industry, the flowering of twentieth century philanthropy, and the emergence of Rockefeller influence in politics and banking.

John David Rockefeller became the richest man in American in the late nineteenth century, and he created the largest monopoly in the nation, with a virtual stranglehold on the national economy. He combined his wealth with a strong religious sensibility which influenced his public persona and the future activities of his sons, all of whom became major political, business, and philanthropic actors in twentieth-century America. More than any other family, the Rockefellers defined America’s growing global and economic power in the twentieth century.


Discussion Questions:

1. How did John D. Rockefeller, Sr. reconcile his wealth with his religious convictions?

2. Was the break-up of Standard Oil good for the American economy?

3. Would Nelson Rockefeller have been a great president?

4. What is the Rockefeller legacy today?