Compilation | February 2007 (Revised March 2012)

John D. Rockefeller and the Creation of Standard Oil

by Nancy F. Koehn and Katherine Miller


Reconstructs the entrepreneurial journey of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and one of the most famous business figures in history. Traces his early career as a retailer in Cleveland through his decision to enter the oil industry in the early 1860s to his creation of Standard Oil. Pays particular attention to the critical decades of the 1870s and 1880s when Standard Oil and the larger oil business were growing at white-hot speed. Told through the words of both scholars and first-hand participants, examines Rockefeller's (controversial) strategy for securing and maintaining Standard Oil's market dominance, his organizational innovations within the company, and his responses to a myriad of competitive threats. Also, provides a close look at Rockefeller's life outside his office, including his role as a husband and father. Closes with a contemporary analysis of the ethics of Rockefeller's actions.

Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Ethics; Business History; Innovation and Invention; Growth and Development Strategy; Personal Development and Career; Competitive Strategy; Energy Industry;


Koehn, Nancy F., and Katherine Miller. "John D. Rockefeller and the Creation of Standard Oil." Harvard Business School Compilation 807-110, February 2007. (Revised March 2012.)