Rockefeller founded Standard Oil as an Ohio partnership with his brother William along with Henry Flagler, Jabez Bostwick, chemist Samuel Andrews, and a silent partner, Stephen V. Harkness. As kerosene and gasoline grew in importance, Rockefeller's wealth soared and he became the world's richest man and the first American worth more than a billion dollars. Adjusting for inflation, he is often regarded as the richest person in history.
Rockefeller spent the last 40 years of his life in retirement in his domicile in Kykuit, Westchester County, New York. His fortune was mainly used to create the modern systematic approach of targeted philanthropy. He was able to do this through the creation of foundations that had a major effect on medicine, education and scientific research. His foundations pioneered the development of medical research and were instrumental in the eradication of hookworm and yellow fever.
Rockefeller was also the founder of both the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University and funded the establishment of Central Philippine University in the Philippines. He was a devoted Northern Baptist and supported many church-based institutions. Rockefeller adhered to total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco throughout his life.
By the end of the American Civil War, Cleveland was one of the five main refining centers in the U.S. (besides Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and the region in northwestern Pennsylvania where most of the oil originated). In June 1870, Rockefeller formed Standard Oil of Ohio, which rapidly became the most profitable refiner in Ohio. Standard Oil grew to become one of the largest shippers of oil and kerosene in the country. The railroads were fighting fiercely for traffic and, in an attempt to create a cartel to control freight rates, formed the South Improvement Company in collusion with Standard and other oil men outside the main oil centers. The cartel received preferential treatment as a high-volume shipper, which included not just steep rebates of up to 50% for their product but also rebates for the shipment of competing products. Part of this scheme was the announcement of sharply increased freight charges. This touched off a firestorm of protest from independent oil well owners, including boycotts and vandalism, which eventually led to the discovery of Standard Oil's part in the deal. A major New York refiner, Charles Pratt and Company, headed by Charles Pratt and Henry H. Rogers, led the opposition to this plan, and railroads soon backed off. Pennsylvania revoked the cartel’s charter, and equal rates were restored for the time being.
Undeterred, though vilified for the first time by the press, Rockefeller continued with his self-reinforcing cycle of buying competing refiners, improving the efficiency of his operations, pressing for discounts on oil shipments, undercutting his competition, making secret deals, raising investment pools, and buying rivals out. In less than four months in 1872, in what was later known as "The Cleveland Conquest" or "The Cleveland Massacre," Standard Oil had absorbed 22 of its 26 Cleveland competitors. Eventually, even his former antagonists, Pratt and Rogers, saw the futility of continuing to compete against Standard Oil: in 1874, they made a secret agreement with their old nemesis to be acquired. Pratt and Rogers became Rockefeller's partners. Rogers, in particular, became one