David Rockefeller passed away Monday, March 20, at the age of 101. He left behind six children, a great fortune, and a prestigious family name closely tied to the development of New York City.
Rockefeller’s grandfather, the great John D. Rockefeller, Sr., came from humble beginnings in Richford, New York. Through hard work and a keen sense for business, he got in on the ground level of the burgeoning oil industry and rode it to the top. At the end of his life, John, Sr. was the largest shareholder in many cornerstone New York institutions, including Standard Oil of New York (later ExxonMobil), Rockefeller University, and the Rockefeller Foundation. His company’s old headquarters at 26 Broadway, the Standard Oil Building, stands testament to his accomplishments.
John D. Rockefeller, Sr.’s only son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., took the family’s business interests to new heights. John, Jr. went into business with his father in the late 1800s, soon inheriting much of the family’s assets. In 1921, John, Jr. acquired substantial shares in Equitable Trust Company, which later merged with Chase National Bank, making him the largest shareholder of the world’s largest bank. In 1939, he completed construction of Rockefeller Center, which became his company’s new headquarters as well as that of NBC, Associated Press, Time Inc., and GE. John, Jr. donated historical treasures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and contemporary pieces (as well as land) to the Museum of Modern Art.
David Rockefeller was the youngest son of John, Jr. David was raised at 10 West 54th Street in Manhattan. He attended Harvard, the London School of Economics, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. In 1942, he enlisted to fight in World War II, and rose to the rank of captain before being discharged in 1945. Back in New York, he began working for Chase National Bank, where he used his New York charm to spread the bank’s holdings to 100 countries worldwide. His legacy, JPMorgan Chase, is now the largest bank in America and one of the largest banks in the world.
Countless New York institutions owe a debt to the Rockefellers, who have left their mark on this city. The skyline wouldn’t have been as bright without them.