Dear Father/Dear Son: Correspondence of John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Dear Father/Dear Son: Correspondence of John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Dear Father/Dear Son: Correspondence of John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Dear Father/Dear Son: Correspondence of John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.


Many biographies of John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. have been compiled- some have used bits of the original correspondence presented here and tried to show opposing interests between John D. Rockefeller and his son. Still others were written without correspondence at all. This collection of never-before-published letters traces the history of the transfer of the Rockefeller fortune over the course of fifty years. It illustrates how the endowment was bestowed from Senior to Junior with respect, sound advice, and with a mutual trust between father and son. The letters also reveal far more than the business side of entrusting the Rockefeller fortune to the younger generation. The misives are filled with news of family matters and personal wishes constituting a record of the Rockefeller family values which, in turn, sponsored the philantrophies of Junior. Outlined in these letters is the conception for the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and the General Education Board. Later would follow the realization of the Fort Tryon Park, the Rockefeller Center, Riverside Church, and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. Junior's holdings peaked in 1928 at 5 million and his dedication to public parks, and institutions around the world absorbed a considerable portion of his wealth. Ernst's introduction reflects on five themes which run continuously throughout the letters: the respect and love among the members of the family, a father's precautions to his maturing son, the son's willingness to accept his father's precepts and examples, the son's conscious assumption of the responsibilities of the bequeathed fortune, and overriding faith in a benevolent God. These themes continually come together to form the outline of a philosophy of life behind the Rockefeller legacy, as when Senior writes: "I am indeed blessed beyond measure in having a son whom I can trust to do this most particular and most important work. Go carefully. Be conservative. Be sure you are right- and then do not be afraid to give out, as your heart prompts you, and as the Lord inspires you."


What did it mean to be [rich as Rockefeller]?

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., believed that every right implied a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty. How he shared these ideals with his father is revealed in this short compilation of letters they exchanged over 50 years.

Historians, journalists, and other commentators have offered differing interpretations of what it meant to be a Rockefeller. There were over 200 magazine articles and more than 60 books written on this father and son between 1896 and 1990. Some had access to this correspondence, others did not. Among those who did not were Ida Tarbell, who published her works on John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company in 1904 and 1905; Henry Demarest Lloyd, who published in 1894; and Matthew Josephson, who published in 1934 and 1938.

Allan Nevins was the first to have access to these letters. He and his researcher read over 1,000 letters which had been selected from the family files by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Nevins quoted key sections of the letters as he developed his 1940 vision of Rockefeller in the heroic age of American enterprise. Most of the same quotes appear in his revised 1953 version of the biography of Rockefeller, industrialist and philanthropist.

Raymond B. Fosdick's biography of Rockefeller Junior, published in 1956, was the second study based extensively on the same 1,000 letters. These letters, removed from their original places in the files and organized chronologically, constitute a separate file series in the family archives at the Rockefeller Archive Center.

These biographies provided other authors secondary access to this series. The letters have been quoted to support the differing views of the several authors. Grace Goulder, concentrating on Rockefeller Senior as a citizen of Cleveland, found a rich vein of early Cleveland history. Alvin Moscow traced the thread of stewardship and philanthropy into the third generation from . . .

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