John D Rockerfeller: the Original Rober Barron

 

In the modern world, one country has been the most powerful and most dominating country in the world- the United States of America. Ever since its inception in 1839, the country has been the paradise for freedom, inspiring the French Revolutionaries to build their ideals of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” decades later. However, it was only in the early 1900s that the concept of the “American Dream” was born. This was due to 5 key personalities who built the country into the superpower it is today. One of them off course is John Davison Rockefeller, the richest human being to ever live on this planet. Till today, the way he accumulated enough wealth to engrave his family to be one of the richest families in the modern world is absolutely unknown and attracts people to examine his life and the methods he employed to achieve this, like moths are attracted to light.  

What is the most surprising about him is the fact that he was born into a rather unconventionally large family that lived on the fringes of society in terms of wealth. Second eldest of 6 children, Rockerfeller inherited a strong Scottish descent from his mother, who was of Scottish-Irish descent. As for his father who held a strong English-German most people, alluding to his thrifty nature and his predominant occupation of a con artist, often referred to descent, as “Devil Bill”. His secondary profession was of a travelling salesman who identified himself as a “botanic physician” and sold elixirs. Strong parallels can be drawn between him and Arthur Miller’s protagonist, Willy, in his play, ‘A Death of A Salesman’ where, Willy Loman is a man who is dying of Alzheimer’s, slowly, day by day, as his brain rots as each minute passes by and finally, he does commit suicide at the end of the play. He is unable to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer a salesman and the fact that times have changed and only those who are able to adapt to the changing times actually survive. The rest, simply fade away, just as the dying profession of the travelling salesmen are.  Willy too, like Bill was a travelling salesman who spent much of his time away from home and was, like Bill, unfaithful to his wife. The difference between the two is that Bill was a con man and was far more unfaithful to his wife than Willy ever was. As a result of all of this, both their children grow up mostly disconnected from their fathers. As a result of this, they were much closer to their mothers. Thus, John grew up very closely connected to his mother a homemaker and devout Baptist struggled to maintain a semblance of stability at home, as Bill was frequently gone for extended periods. She also put up with his philandering and his double life, which included bigamy. Willy Loman’s wife, Linda Lowman too serves this purpose. Living in a delusional world, she refuses to accept that her husband is slowly falling prey to his condition of Alzheimer’s and lives to portray the ‘perfect’ family that she strives to maintain, regardless of what is happening in reality. Thus, a strong parallel is seen between her and Eliza Davison, Rockerfeller’s mother.

Thrifty by nature and necessity, she taught her son “wilful waste makes woeful want.” As a child, he earned his money by completing his chores and then, earned more through completing a various array of odd jobs ranging from selling potatoes to raising turkeys and eventually to lending small sums of money to neighbours. Despite his rather estranged relation with his father, his advice to “trade dishes for platters” served as a major influence in his business career, where, he was encouraged to always get the better half of the deal and to scout for it every opportunity he got.  In spite of his father’s absences and frequent family moves, young John was a well-behaved, serious, and studious boy. His contemporaries described him as reserved, earnest, religious, methodical, and discreet. He was an excellent debater and expressed himself precisely. He also had a deep love of music and dreamed of it as a possible career. Early on, he displayed an excellent mind for numbers and detailed accounting. Most would simply turn the pages and discard this information, classifying this to be rather trivial. However, that is anything but the case. The truth is, John Davidson Rockerfeller suffered from an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that has its roots embedded in his childhood.

“An obsessive-compulsive is one who is driven to an act or acts, generally being asocial, by his own fixations but by nature of his peculiar psyche must balance these actions with others more socially acceptable.”

One of the main instances was when he took up bookkeeping, working for a small produce commission firm called Hewitt & Tuttle, at the age of sixteen. He was an assistant bookkeeper and the fact that this was his first legitimate job is incredibly significant. According to the book, ‘Neuroses, Behavior Disorders, and Perversions0’ by Franz Alexander and Louis B. Shapiro, common characteristics of OCD are described as:

“Full blown cases of obsessive-compulsive states present a dynamic equilibrium in which obsessive preoccupation with ego-alien fantasies… are precariously balanced by rituals representing an exaggeration of social standards, such as cleanliness, punctuality, consideration for others he dynamic formula is similar to bookkeeping in which on the one side of ledger are the asocial tendencies which the patient tries to balance precisely on the other side with moralistic and social attitudes… Every asocial move must be undone by an opposing one….”

As a child, it became apparent that Rockerfeller was unlike most children. For example, he refused to play with other children unless he could choose the game himself and was often described to be “thinking” as a child. He married Laura Spelman, who is often described to be strikingly similar to his own mother, who he was raised by predominantly.

Rockerfeller started business by borrowing $1000 from his father at a 10% interest rate, which at the time was well above the interest rates, indicating that his own father loan sharked him. However, his influence was not all rotten. Apparently ‘disturbed’ by his childhood, Rockerfeller absorbed his father’s cut-throat business tactics. After dropping out of high school and serving a clerical apprenticeship, Rockefeller went into business, forming a produce house with one partner and $4,000 of capital between them. In its first year its gross income was $450,000, with a net income of $4,400- better than one hundred percent return. This was after dropping out of high school and pursuing a whole year of clerical internships, and finally entered the world of business, where he would remain for the rest of his life. This was the first of many incidents which made his way of making money seem almost effortless, a captivating allure for most of the world.

Rockerfeller purchased his first refinery, ridding on the Civil War boom the country still experienced and then, he soon gave up the original partnership to focus on the oil business. In 1870, with a capital of better than one million dollars, Rockefeller reformed his company as the Standard Oil Company of Ohio. In order to save money, he came up with the idea of controlling even the smallest details of the means of production, even if it meant making his own barrels. However, like every successful business of the time, Rockerfeller was involved in a fair amount of illegal activities. For example, Rockefeller encouraged illegal railroad rebates and even invented a few new ones such as the “drawback”, a variation on the kickback. It is at this time that his obsessive-compulsive nature truly becomes visible. An adamant churchgoer, he strongly disapproved of: smoking, drinking, card playing, dancing, merriment, “wenching”, theatre going, concert going, banqueting, idling, socializing in general and “good fellowship”. He took no vacations, no time off. He did nothing in his small amount of free time except go to church two or three times a week. In other words, he was absolutely addicted to his work. As for going almost obsessively to church, one aspect was because he truly was that religious. The other is the fact that this is one of those ‘rituals’ described by Franz Alexander and Louis B. Shapiro that represent an ‘exaggeration of social standards’ commonly seen in OCD patients, where, they balance their asocial acts with acts accepted by the social convention and in Rockerfeller’s case, it was also used to present a façade of deep morality to both himself and others. 

In the anti-corporation hue and cry of the late 1800’s and early twentieth century, Rockefeller was assaulted by the courts in an attempt to reduce his virtual monopoly. In 1892 he was ordered to dissolve his trust, one of his inventions which allowed him control over a number of subsidiary companies. He simply placed relatives and friends at the helms of the newly-freed subsidiaries. In 1906 Standard Oil’s railroad rebate schemes were discovered and the company was fined $29.2 million. The judge, luckily for Rockefeller, had made an incompetent decision (his fine was too high by at least an order of magnitude) and the decision was reversed in a higher court. Standard Oil paid nothing. In the year following the 1892 decision, Rockefeller donated over $1.5 million to charities. While he had been donating money since his teenage years, this amount was three times as large as any sum he had ever donated in one year. In 1907, after the second major court case, he donated over $39 million. This was also the largest amount he had ever donated, by a large margin. We can say with some assurance that these hefty donations were a result of Rockefeller’s obsessive-compulsive disorder; he was simply balancing the guilt he felt from his business practices with philanthropy.

Despite everything, the main question is that how much did his OCD actually influence his success? The main fact remains, John D Rockerfeller was a financial genius with or without OCD. However, his condition compelled him into making more wealth It would probably be safe to say, at the very least, that any fortune generated by illegal activities after the mid 1890’s was the result of his obsessive-compulsive complex; perhaps his obsession for money spurred him on from his very first business venture through the last days of Standard Oil. Too few records exist of Standard Oil and Rockefeller for us to be sure at what point Rockefeller’s obsessive-compulsive disorder became the dominant force.   John D. Rockefeller is, by all historical accounts, a clear-cut case of an obsessive-compulsive, one who commits asocial acts and feels a need to balance these actions with more socially becoming conduct. The origins of Rockefeller’s disorder appear to have occurred in his childhood; the obsessive-compulsive syndrome that resulted was probably responsible for most of his financial ambition and subsequent success.

Nazlanmack

“Time is a social construct”

Such adult words, spoken at years of awkward adolescence, read from textbooks scarred with the marks of blue and black pens and Technicolor highlighters.

Or maybe, they were words that were absorbed by the sponge-like mind, spoken and forgotten, then repeated as a parrot does.

The meaning is forgotten, or maybe unknown from the very beginning.

You were there and so was I.

The Conveyers of Death

The idea of death as such has always fascinated humanity, just as much as the fascination of figuring out how life in general began. Thus, we look to mythology- the Gods- Greek, Egyptian, Nordic, Celtic, Hindu, and Buddhist anyone who can possibly explain this to us. In older religions and cultures such as Nordic, Egyptian and Hinduism, the idea of afterlife is quite prominent. This, in my opinion, is the human inability to accept death as a final sentence. After all, death is the realm of darkness and it is human nature to be afraid of the unknown. Life symbolizes the light and even in death, if the torch of afterlife still shines bright, death as a concept is much sweeter to look at.

As I stated before, it is the older religions and cultures that give the prominence to afterlife very boldly. The modern religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam accept the finality of death as it is given in their respective religious texts. In Hinduism, the cycle of afterlife states that after one human life ends, the spirit is a slave to the vicious cycle of fate where it will be reincarnated into another life.

In Celtic mythology, the dullahan is a headless rider who carries his or her head under one arm. The head’s eye’s are often small, almost fly-like, black in color, ready to fly out of the head while the mouth is stretched in a hideous grin, stretching to both sides of the head. The color of the head seemingly matches the color of moldy cheese. The dullahan uses the spine of a human corpse for a whip, and their wagon is adorned with funereal objects. For example, the candles in skulls to light the way, the spokes of the wheels are made from thigh bones, the wagon’s covering made from a worm-chewed pall or dried human skin are the decorations and the very basic materials used to create their wagons. The time and place the dullahan stops riding, is often where the person dies. If the dullahan speaks the name of the person, that person often dies right at the moment. Thus, they are not allowed to speak more than once on every journey. The Silence and the darkness of the night is their realm. Dullahans do not appreciate being watched on their errands. For this reason, if a careless person does happen to open the door when they are ridding, the person is drenched with a bucket of blood, marking them to be the next victims of the dullahan. However, they are known to whip their witness’ eyes out as well. However, like any beings, dullahans too hold fear of some object in the universe. That one object happens to be gold- a single gold pin can drive away a dullahan.

This is the basis of the popular European folktale of the ‘headless horseman’. In Brother’s Grim’s German fairytales, the headless horseman is seen to be spotted in two fairytales. In one, a woman from Dresden in Eastern Germany goes out early Sunday morning to pick acorns to a place called ‘Lost Waters’, when she hears a hunting horn. When she hears it again, she turns around she sees a headless man in a long grey coat sitting on a grey horse. In the second one set in set in Braunschweig, the headless horseman is referred to as ‘the wild huntseman’ who blows a horn to warn hunters not to ride the next day, because they will meet with an accident. In American culture, the headless horseman is a fictional character in the American author Washington Irving’s short story, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ from Irving’s collection of short stories entitled (Wikepedia)., The legend of the Headless Horseman begins in Sleepy Hollow, New York, during the American Revolutionary War. Traditional folklore holds that the Horseman was a Hessian artilleryman who was killed during the Battle of White Plains in 1776. He was decapitated by an American cannonball, and the shattered remains of his head were left on the battlefield while his comrades hastily carried his body away. Eventually they buried him in the graveyard of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, from which each night he rises as a malevolent ghost, furiously seeking his lost head.

Nevertheless, they are considered to be manifestations of the Grim Reaper himself. In Emily Dickinson’s ‘Because I could Not Stop for Death’, death could be seen as a different persona of a dullahan or the headless rider. This can be inferred from the first stanza of the poem:

“Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.”

The fact that death visits her in a carriage, it can be an altered form of the Headless Horseman as ‘death’ in the poem is not headless, where as the traditional form of the Headless Horseman is headless.

In Nordic culture as well, the idea of entities carrying souls to the afterlife is very prominent. It is here that the concept of the Valkyrie shines. The name Valkyrie, very literally translates to ‘chooser of the slain’ in Old Norse. They basically comprise of a host of female figures who roam the battlefield, choosing who may live and who may die. Out of half who do die, are guided to Valhalla, the afterlife. The Valhalla was basically a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those who die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half went to the goddess Freyja’s field Fólkvangr. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who had died in combat known as Einherjar. Frejya was the Nordic Goddess of earth, fertility, sexuality, love, beauty, war and death. Her afterlife, the Fólkvangr, which literally translates to ‘army field’ or ‘people field’, is a meadow or a field ruled over by the goddess Freyja. Thus, it is the Valhalla that is considered to be the absolute afterlife. She technically was the leader of the Valkyrie. It is her title as ‘Valfreyja ‘, which in Old Norse literally translates to ‘Mistress of the Chosen’, which indicates that she is the leader of the Valkyrie. This is attested in several poems of the Poetic Edda (Poetic Eda), which has, in the 19th century, become one of the most powerful influences on Scandinavian Literature.

As Christianity conquered Europe, the domestic culture and religion such as Paganism and Nordic, Greek and Celtic culture was dethroned. Gods and Goddesses such as Hecate and Frejya were demonized and forced to fall from their original grace. Associated with the underworld and death, they were falsely accused of the worship of Satan. The reason as to why this was done was because religion was and is one of the most integral parts of society. Religion has always held a society together like glue. Spirituality and the belief in a higher power have always been present since the birth of humanity. Religion has always been used to explain the unexplainable, such as natural disasters. Religion has been used to shed light on the darkness of the unknown. They moved to place a human face on the unknown Gods, that began as animal spirits and nature as a human face established a form of connection with those who worshiped it. Thus, when the domestic mythology was connected to the worship of Satan, the people, bullied into believing it through conquered land and blood and soon enough, the domestic culture and mythology was forgotten, associated with the worship of the devil and locked away until it was revived again in the modern world.

Elizabeth Báthory: The Blood Countess

In 1545, Hungarian society was transfixed in a period of constant war and revolution- constantly at war with the Ottoman Empire on its borders with Transylvania. At the same time, rumors began to spread of the merging of Hungary into the Holy Roman Empire. The society was a war-obsessed society to say the least. It was a society that glorified the warrior and created him to be the ideal standard of manhood. It was a society in which, one’s manhood could only be tested and proved on the battlefield and nowhere else, mirroring the beliefs of several war lords, warriors and people of the times.

This can be seen through works of great literary personas such as Shakespeare through his play ‘Coriolanus’, where, he expresses the general trend of the time-the trend of war being the only noble test of manhood. For this reason, being a warrior was a great symbol of pride and a great social booster. However, for the women, who could not work and had almost non-existent rights of feminist equality with the men of their times, the only way to climb the social ladder was though the profession of the men in their family and their husbands. In medieval Hungary, two families ruled the country and the society since its very formation. The House of Báthory was one of these families. Their name comes from the Hungarian word that very literally in Hungarian translates to ‘brave’ was a war-obsessed noble family who held high military, administrative and ecclesiastical positions in the Kingdom of Hungary and ruled over Transylvania in particular. As for the Nádasdy Family, it was the only equal in terms of social status to the Bathory Family and thus, it was only expected when the engagement of Elizabeth Bathory and Ferenc Nádasdy- both teenagers at the time. At the age of 15, she was married to him and she was plucked out of the socially exciting society of Vienna and was forced to live in Transylvania’s barren and isolated kingdom, cut off literally from the rest of the world. Both families had one practice in common- interbreeding. Possibly to keep the wealth and influence within the family, this practice was continued, a rather common practice with nobility and monarchy throughout time. The product of this was rather malicious personalities that would be considered in modern pop culture as ‘evil genius’ forming in both families. Elizabeth Báthory and her husband were both products of this.

Married at the young age of 15, she was determined to be a ‘good’ wife and woman to society. However, this resulted in her giving up her education and social life all together. After all, Transylvania was literally cut off from the word and through her wedding, she owned Transylvania in entirety and her family at the time, owned more land than the king of Hungary himself. At first, she had a rather fair reputation- providing a medical service to the villages in her territory and often carrying out negotiations with the Turks when people of her villages were harmed. Instances have been recorded when she negotiated on the behalf of a family in one of her villages where one of the girls was kidnapped and raped by Turkish soldiers. This shows how highly she was educated at the time and for this reason, she is often considered to be one of the most influential women of her times. As for her husband, he was often considered to be one of the greatest warriors of his time, often spending 10-11 months in a stretch away from home. Almost instantly after their wedding, he left to Vienna to pursue his education whereas; she was left in Transylvania, cut off from her social circles.

Despite all of this, she was considered to be a devoted wife and a good mother. Before their wedding, around the age of 14, Elizabeth became the mother of an illegitimate daughter- Anastasia, through a manservant. When her husband did find out, the servant was promptly killed and as for Anastasia, she was given to peasants to raise in the countryside, away from the family. However, she would be allowed to adopt the name. This was the first and the last time she was ever unfaithful to her husband.

After a few years of executing her social responsibility, like any other person, Elizabeth began to grow bored of her lifestyle. Disconnected from her social society, she felt isolated from the world. While they were several villages that she did own, none of those people were of the same social status as she was. After all, under the feudal laws of that time, she owned them. Thus, she was lonely and bored out of her mind; she began her illustrious streak of torture that she would be infamous in history for. It is unclear as to who exactly prompted her into this. Some claim that it was her aunt who suggested this to her as an amusing recreational activity. However, some claim that it was because of her husband. Known quite well for his cruelty both in and outside the battlefield, he had quite a reputation. Thus, it was not long before both husband and wife began these practices.

Their preferences were young virgin girls of the villages they owned and eventually, the student surpassed the master. At first, this was a simple means of amusement. She would recruit her maids from the neighboring villages, luring the young girls in with the promise of teaching them the ways and mannerisms of the Court. After all, she was famous for having a rather sophisticated and impressive court in her favorite castle in Cachtice. It was thus, not surprising that so many girls did come. She would torture them, often beating the girls down to bloody pulps. Her husband’s methods often included soaking the servant girl in honey and forcing her to stand outside naked to be stung by bees and wasps. Another favorite of her methods was one that she inherited from her husband- star kicking. Strips of paper would be soaked in oil and placed between the toes of the servant girl. They would then be lit. Out of pain, the servant girl would kick violently and she would see stars in her eyes because of the unbearable amount of pain. She was a cruel mistress as well. Supervising the work of her servants on a daily and personal basis, she would tolerate nothing but absolute perfection. Records do show that she was rather cruel to her servants. If a servant did not iron her clothes to her liking, she would stamp their face with the heated iron, scaring them for life. Because of the magnitude of servants, her role has often been considered to that of a CEO of a multinational company- that would be her position in the modern world. Off course, she would not be allowed to be this harsh. But at that time, laws did not protect the peasants. They were viewed as discarded property. Thus, they had little or no rights. No one could protest against her and no one could supervise her. Thus, she is infamous in history, not because she tortured her servants. She is infamous because she tortured them to an extent no one else ever dared to do.

After her husband’s death, her reasons for torture changed. She soon became very concerned with her physical appearance. She would often bathe in blood; drink it straight from the veins of the girl if the servant was beautiful as well. Although, there is not enough documented evidence to actually prove this. Nevertheless, she became very concerned with her physical appearance and would do anything and everything to protect it. Moreover, with the death of her husband, she had almost no one else to turn to anyway. In an already lonely life, she was abandoned yet again. For this reason, it is often suggested that she wanted to be caught. As the Christmas season of (crime library) 1609 approached, she was already a great suspect. Four bodies had been thrown off the balconies of her castle and villagers had noticed. This is what ultimately sparked off the investigations into her crimes. Off course, it was mainly because of the letters of the Lutheran Minister István Magyari addressed to her, regarding her crimes. This shows clearly how bad the situation was already. After all, for a Lutheran minister to actually compose a letter accusing her of her harsh attitude towards her servants, the situation must have been absolutely horrid.

However, for a woman who had survived her entire life, torturing peasants and had escaped it, it made absolutely no sense for her to simply become careless. In my personal opinion, she was simply bored with her life. Her children had left her- married and living their own lives. Her family and her social circle were absolutely out of her reach. Moreover, she was suffering from a personal age crisis. She simply could not accept growing older and this is quite obvious from the way she was willing to do almost anything and everything to maintain her youth. The rumors of her bathing and drinking blood also gave birth to the common misconception of her being the first Vampire. This would later be one of the reasons as to why she was nicknamed the ‘Tigress of Cachtice – one of the many nicknames she would acquire over time.

She was tried and put under house arrest. She was never tried publically because of the sheer influence of her family. . Through her mother, Elizabeth was the cousin of the Hungarian noble Stefan Báthory, King of Poland and Duke of Transylvania. For this reason, she was never publically tried, nor was she publically executed. Instead, she was simply placed under house arrest in her castle in Cachtice, where she would spend the next four years, until her death. However, even by being sentenced to house arrest, she was confined to a single room in the vast castle. By this time, through several witnesses, survivors and detailed journals of her torture practices, about 600 cases had been documented and confirmed. Elizabeth Báthory, therefore, earned the title of the ‘most dangerous woman in history’ as she was now responsible for the death of 600 virgin peasant girls, all with the aid of 4 servants. On August 21, 1614, she was found dead in her room. Found by a guard when he was delivering her food, it is unclear exactly when she died. Plates of untouched food remained in her room, suggesting that she starved herself to death.

Much of her life still remains a mystery. The largest source of information about her comes from the national archives of Hungary and because of this, several inaccuracies are present. One of the greatest inaccuracies is of the very crime she was accused of. At the time she was alive, she was often considered to be one of the most influential women in the kingdom because of her education. At a young age, she learned to fluently speak Latin, Greek and German. Although it is a rather unpopular view, some people do believe that she was the victim of conspiracy theories. László Nagy, one of the supporters of this view, argues that at the proceedings were largely politically motivated. The theory is consistent with Hungarian history at that time, which included religious and political conflict, especially relating to the wars with the Ottoman Empire, the spread of Protestantism and the extension of Habsburg power over Hungary. As a Protestant, it was a clear threat to even have her alive and thus, she had to be removed and the best way to reduce her influence would be to absolutely demonize her. The fact that Báthory herself was never put to death, despite the personal requests of King Matthias of Hungary simply strengthens these theories. After all, her husband had been for almost 10 years at the time. She was technically richer than the king himself- owning far more land than he ever did. Thus, her death would benefit him and it did. The moment she was arrested, her children were exiled from Hungary and her land was confiscated, supporting further this theory.

However, few do believe her to be absolutely innocent. This, in my opinion is not possible as over 300 witnesses and survivors did testify, at the rate of 35 per day at the testimonies of her accomplices. Moreover, the corpses of dead girls strewn inside and around the castle would also have to be discounted. Thus, her absolute innocence is impossible to establish. However, few do dare to view her as a feminist as she was one of the few influential women of her times. Off course, she was not the only one- Queen Elizabeth I, after all was her contemporary. Never the less, she had significant political influence, even as a women that would be a significant threat to more the men of her times as she was one of the richest and most well educated women of her time.

Personally, I believe that she was guilty of her crimes. However, it was not her singular fault. The social trend was the abuse of the peasants. She would also treat the nobles below her rank with absolute indifference, indicating how classist Hungarian society really was at the time. Other land owners off course, did torture their employees, as did she. However, she was scrutinized for the extent of her torture. It was prompted by her family, her husband and her society in general but reached the absolute panicle after the death of her husband. This was when the torture was the worst, suggesting her sheer loneliness and her struggle to actually reconnect with society. She was a heartbroken woman and although that hardly pardons her sins, it prompted it. She longed for attention, which she lacked from her family and her husband due to his continuous absence and sought to replace it through recreations such as the torture of her servants. It is all this that earned her the nickname of ‘Countess Dracula’ and eventually would be one of Bram Stoker’s inspirations for his book, ‘Dracula’.