John D.'s only son, Junior, faced an almost impossible task, says biographer Ron Chernow: "He had to figure out a way to change the image of this family without openly repudiating the father he loved." The struggle took its toll. Junior suffered from incapacitating headaches and was forced to take rest cures to relieve the strain. In his quest for redemption and respectability, Junior would give away hundreds of millions of dollars, and would demand impeccable behavior from his children." John D. was raised in a strict, but loving family. The furishings in the house were very simple in line with their parents decision to raise the children plainly. This was in stark contrast to the platial grounds. John Jr. and the other children were raised as if they were from a family of limited income. John D. Jr. was dressed very plainly as a boy. Available sources provide some conflicting information about his clothes which we have not yet been able to resolve. I know little aboyt John Jr's education. He appears to have primmarily been educated by tutors with his sisters. He enters Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1893. He was intently consciencious. He memded his own clothes and continue keeping a leger of all his expenses. He began to relack, attended the theater and football games and to his mother's displeasure, learned to dance. John D. Jr. mairred Abby Aldrich (187?-1948) in 1901. John D. Jr tells his new bride that she will have to keep a ledger. She tells him, 'No I won't!' She was a duitful wife and mother. And the two deeply cared for each other. She in many ways helped the children to understand their strict and formal father. John D. Jr. never played with the children like his father had played with him as a child. Later she was to develop an interest in modern art in which her husband disapproved. John D., Jr and Abby had six children.
Junior's parents could not be two more differebnt people. His father was the world's first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller Sr. He at one time held 90 percent of the world's oil refineries, 90 percent of the marketing of oil, and a third of all the oil wells. Working methodically and secretly, he did more than transform a single industry. When he formed his feared monopoly, Standard Oil, in 1870 he changed forever the way America did business. Because of the ruthless war he waged to crush his competitors, Rockefeller was to many Americans the embodiment of an unjust and cruel economic system. Yet he lived a quiet and virtuous life.
Junior's mother was Laura Celestia ("Cettie") Spelman. They married during 1864 in a small, private ceremony, following a 9-year courtship. The two reportedly courted by going over his ledgers. She was in his highschool class, in fact the validictorian. She was an early feminist.
John D. was raised in a strict, but loving family. The furishings in the house were very simple in line with their parents decision to raise the children plainly. This was in stark contrast to the platial grounds. John Jr. and the other children were raised as if they were from a family of limited income. The family rarely visited and the children did not have childhood friends or schoolmates. A photograph shows John D. Jr. with his only boyhood playmate Harry
Moore, the son of the housekeeper at Forrest Hill.. John D. looks to be about 10-11 years old her so the photograph would havebben taken about 1884-85. The picture dates from a
year or so later (circa 1880 or 1881) whenb John D. Jr. was about seven and a
half. Again John D. Jr. wears a knee pants suit with an Eton collar and long
black stockings. Notice his leather boots (they come up well above his
ankles) and the straw summer hat with a band around it. Harry, his friend, is
somewhat older and wears long trousers and a felt hat pushed boyishly to the
back of his head. His mother is reported to have been pleased when the boy confided to her what he wanted for Christnmas one year--so it could be denied him. He is made to keep a ledger of his expenditures. John Jr. was to try this appraoch on his children with less success. The limited allowances as a child contrast with John Jr. later life when his father transferred great quantities of wealth to his son. In one letter to John Jr., for example, he says I have transferred 65 million dollars worth of railroad stock to your account. At age 13 in 1887, John D. Rockefeller Jr. suffers a nervous collapse due to "overwork." He spends the winter at the family's country house, healing through hard physical work.
John D. Jr. was dressed very plainly as a boy. Available sources provide some conflicting information about his clothes which we have noit yet been able to resolve. A biography of Rockefeller reports that he wore dresses as was the custom of the day. He apparently wore them longer than many boys of his era who were mostly breeched by 5 or 6 years of age. In fact he wore the hand-me-downs dresses of his older sisters until he was 8 years old. Here mother had plenty of handme-downs to choose from because there were three older sisters. A PBS biography showed several images of John Jr. wearing dresses and petticoats, although HBC has not yet been able to acquire any of these images. He wore short hair parted on the side. Presumably he was brreched at age 8, probably on his birthday but we are not positive about this. We do not have any images of John D. in dresses to confirm this. The earliest photograph we have is the one seen here (figure 1). He looks to be about 8 years old, perhaps a little older. He is wearing kneepants and long stockings. Other images show him wearing a large floppy bow with his suits, but I have not noted lace collars or fancy velvet suits in the images I have seen of him. Neither have I seen him in sailor suits. It looks like for a while at about 11 or 12 he wore both long pants and kneepants.
I know little aboyt John Jr's education. He appears to have primmarily been educated by tutors with his sisters. He enters Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1893. He was intently consciencious. He memded his own clothes and continue keeping a leger of all his expenses. He began to relack, attended the theater and football games and to his mother's displeasure, learned to dance.
John D. Jr. mairred Abby Aldrich (187?-1948) in 1901. John D. Jr tells his new bride that she will have to keep a ledger. She tells him, "No I won't!" She was a duitful wife and mother. And the two deeply cared for each other. She in many ways helped the children to understand their strict and formal father. John D. Jr. never played with the children like his father had played with him as a child. Later she was to develop an interest in modern art in which her husband disapproved.
John D., Jr and Abby had six children. Abby was the oldest child and only girl. She was called "Babs" within the family and dubbed "the richest of all babies" in the press. She was in many ways the most rebellious of the children at the least willing to become involved in charitable work. Eventually shwas deeply involved in cancer research. John D. III was the most dutiful of all the children. He carefully kept the traditional ledger. He was groomed to work at his father sise, but was shy and introverted. In many ways he was replaced by Nelson's as his father's right hand. John D. III became a philanthropist and a valued expert on Asian affairs. Nelson was born on his grandfather's birthday. Nelson was the natural leader among the children with a winning personality. Nelson was four times governor of New York and vice president of the United States. He was eventually rejected by the Republican Party as it turned to the right in the 1960s. Laurance became a leading venture capitalist and conservationist. Winthrop was often the odd man out. He was teased by his older brothers, especilly John D. and Nelson. He took up cattle ranching in Arkansas and was elected governor. David became president of the Chase Manhattan Bank, was a leading figure in international finance.
The children are raised in isolation on the Pocantico estate where their father had supervised the construction of Kykuit for his father.
When he died at age 86, Junior left his six children and 22 grandchildren an invaluable
inheritance: a name which stood not for corporate greed, but for "the well-being of mankind." Junior had lived to see his final vindication, the election of his son, Nelson, as governor of New York in 1958. "It was a sign that the people of the United States had in fact fully accepted the Rockefellers in spite of the early history of the family," says Nelson's son, Steven. "Nelson had done something that no other Rockefeller had ever done," says his biographer, Joseph Persico. "He had won the affirmation of the people."
The boys when young wore a variety of juvenile outfits and Fauntleroy suits. They were not dressed extravagently. The children's clothes were a good reflection of how affluent families dressed their children at the time. Their mother appeared believed in age grading. There were definite age stages in how the children were dressed. When older they wore suits with Eton collars. First with short and then long pants. The boys seem to have worn juvenile white suits and then at about 4 years old wore Fauntleroy suits with lace collars until about 6 or 7 years of age. Several photographs show the boys in identical Eton suits and the youngerr boys in the juvenile suits and Fauntleroy suits. While at their Kenicott estate they often wore dark-colored play suits with above the knee knickers and long stocks with they often rolled down to kneesocks. Often all the boys were dressed in these identical outfits which were worn with Scout-like neckerchiefs
It was a time of turmoil for the nation and for the Rockefellers. John D.'s grandchildren were caught up in the upheaval--civil rights, the women's movement, the war in Vietnam. "The
Cousins found that they could no longer accept uncritically the role of being Rockefellers," says Steven. "You had to question the history of the family and your own identity."
Wanting little to do with a fortune they saw as tainted, some of the Cousins joined the assault of the left against the Rockefellers. In 1976 the Cousins collaborated with the editors of the leading radical journal, Ramparts, in a tell-all book that described the Rockefeller family as "having an abundance of everything except feelings." The book's publication caused a deep rift in the family. "My father's generation was quite understandably very upset that their dirty laundry was being aired in public," says Peggy
Dulany, a daughter of David Rockefeller. Abby, Winthrop, John, and Nelson had died by the end of the 1970's--Nelson under scandalous circumstances. Their deaths brought the family back together. "We came to realize that the real problem was the integration of power and goodness," says Steven. "And that if the family was going to continue to work together, philanthropic commitments and values would be at the center." In a society that has more millionaires--even billionaires--than ever, the story of the Rockefellers is both a cautionary tale and an exemplary one.
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