For a long time, the American Dream has been widely accepted as an ideology in the United States. It promotes a wide range of values under which the liberties people possess imply the possibility of achievement, which is realized by hard work in a society with few barriers. According to James Truslow Adams, it is the idea of a place where life is richer, more successful, and happier for all, with an opportunity available to everyone based on their ability or achievement (Gibson 3). One’s capacity, not one birth or rank, determines one’s prosperity (Kraus et al.). Nevertheless, material gains are still encompassed in the dream since one is equipped to grow to their fullest development without any inhibitions such as social class (Gibson 3). John D. Rockefeller is one of the Americans that are an embodiment of this dream. He capitalized on the system characterized by a free and capitalist market (Flynn 27). Rockefeller managed to emerge as one of the leading wealthiest men at the time by building a powerful oil empire. Through a careful study of Rockefeller’s rise to success, it becomes clear on how the principles of the American Dream can aid any person to realize optimal development.
The period between 1872 and 1914 saw Rockefeller’s name being the most vilified across the nation. It is because it was linked to greed, corruption, hypocrisy, and cruelty (Flynn 3). It was rare to find someone saying words that portrayed the man in a good light. However, with time, this hatred waned, and Rockefeller transformed into a saint in the public domain. Rockefeller’s redemption was as extreme as his damnation. Both phases of Rockefeller’s career illustrate how propaganda was employed. While he was the most hated man across America, the propaganda was not evident even though it was excessive and sustained. It is because it did not originate from one central entity, but it came from thousands of little and inept business persons that had selfish interests in doing so (Flynn 4). They were clinging to the unworkable and traditional tactics in addition to having influence with political leaders, the press, and all agencies that fueled opinion. His image got better when such instruments of creating and spreading opinion changed hands. In this way, it was possible to make him a saint.
John Davidson Rockefeller was the second born in a humble household with Eliza and William as his parents. He was born in July 1839. Rockefeller was mainly raised by his mother since his father was mostly away on ventures that were not known to them. William’s absence resulted in the mother practicing economy on almost everything, something that John witnessed. At the time, America was also adopting a laissez-faire economic life whereby its development was left unhampered (Flynn 23). The free competition was the only regulating factor since every person used their core advantage to gain optimal growth. At ten years, John learned about interest. He had a little blue bowl, which he saved the shillings he made mainly from selling turkeys. One day in 1949, Rockefeller was informed of a farmer’s intention to be lent $50, which would accrue seven percent interest (Flynn 42). A year later he was paid back the money plus the interest. The notion of money working for him was cultivated in his mind. Also, he never played games haphazardly, but he was patient and calculated his moves strategically. Rockefeller went on to adopt this need to plan things as he built his empire.
John’s first job was that of a bookkeeper at Hewitt and Tuttle’s office. He progressively assumed several jobs around the docks and became known for his thrift, prudence, and reliability (Flynn 42). In 1858, with a friend, Maurice Clark, they formed Clark and Rockefeller, Produce and Commission. When the business experienced a financial crisis, John went to the firm’s banker, Truman Handy, and requested $2000 as a loan, which was promptly awarded upon presenting warehouse receipts (Flynn 69). This experience turned him into an inveterate borrower. Also, he tried to solicit business even outside town, where he learned that large-scale enterprises are cheaper to operate (Flynn 69). Concurrently, Edwin Drake had used the drill tactic to acquire significant amounts of oil, which created massive excitement. Soon, Cleveland businessmen decided to send one of them to investigate. Rockefeller was given this task since he would not be blinded by the prevailing excitement (Flynn 93).
Rockefeller’s keen eye allowed him to see that the oil industry comprised three primary sectors, which are production, refining, and transportation (Flynn 97). There was money in refining, but he found the production side to be characterized by disorder and uncertainty. The conclusion of this expedition was that the oil business was not worth investing in unless the supply was established to be constant. Rockefeller only got into the oil industry after extensive beseeching from Samuel Andrews, who had a small refinery, and needed the investment to expand, and with his partner, they invested into a firm that was named Clark and Andrews. The war which had brought him much success in the produce industry was about to end. Also, the oil industry was showing great promise, and John began making steps to devote all his efforts to oil. He sold his produce stake to Clark and bought the latter’s stake in the oil business thus allowing the formation of Rockefeller and Andrews (Flynn 125). He went on a mission to organize his business and eradicate the disorder that had been brought about by free competition.
After contemplation, he concluded that competition was convoluted by a new flood of raw materials and a growth of the markets (Flynn 126). Rockefeller decided to adopt two strategies. Firstly, he directed his attention to little details tactic, which entailed a ruthless economy through tightly coordinated and improved processes. Secondly, he noted that the oil industry’s export side was growing dramatically while very little oil was shipped from Cleveland. With his brother William, they formed William Rockefeller and Company. By 1870, the partners agreed to incorporate it into the Standard Oil Company after the business had grown into an imposing size. Soon, he desired to eliminate his competitors, and he set up a monopoly of oil refining in Cleveland by buying some of them while forming alliances with others.
In conclusion, a careful study of Rockefeller’s life is instrumental in showing how he realized the American Dream. Even though he was from a humble upbringing, he employed the abilities he had been accruing over the years to achieve optimal development. He started off as a bookkeeper, and through his strengths, he became a produce merchant. Rockefeller became a success in this industry, and soon he ventured into the oil industry. He managed to create a significant corporation, Standard Oil, which is one of the most prosperous companies the nation has ever had. Therefore, Rockefeller is an exemplary embodiment of how one can rise to success.
Flynn, John T. God’s gold: The story of Rockefeller and his times. Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1932.
Gibson, Jason M. The American Dream: A place of my own, a place to call home. Diss. The Florida State University, 2013.
Hedhili, Soumaya Nadia. From Pure Values to Corruption: The Death of the American Dream A Study of the Process in American Literature. MS thesis. 2016.
Kraus, Michael W., et al. “Opinion | American Dream? Or Mirage?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 May 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/05/03/opinion/sunday/american-dream-or-mirage.html.