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John D. Rockefeller, Jr. : biography

January 29, 1874 - May 11, 1960

John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. (January 29, 1874 – May 11, 1960) was a major philanthropist and a pivotal member of the prominent Rockefeller family. He was the sole son among the five children of businessman and Standard Oil industrialist John D. Rockefeller and the father of the five famous Rockefeller brothers. In biographies, he was invariably referred to as "Junior" to distinguish him from his father, known as "Senior".

Philanthropy and social causes

In a celebrated letter to Nicholas Murray Butler in June, 1932, subsequently printed on the front page of The New York Times, Rockefeller, Jr., a lifelong teetotaler, argued against the continuation of the Eighteenth Amendment on the principal grounds of an increase in disrespect for the law. This letter became an important event in pushing the nation to repeal Prohibition.Letter on Prohibition - see Daniel Okrent, Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, New York: Viking Press, 2003. (pp.246/7).

However, Rockefeller, Jr. is most remembered for his philanthropy, giving over $537 million to myriad causes over his lifetime. He created the Sealantic Fund in 1938 to channel gifts to his favorite causes; previously his main philanthropic organization had been the Davison Fund. He had become the Rockefeller Foundation's inaugural president in May, 1913 and proceeded to dramatically expand the scope of this institution, founded by his father. Later he would become involved in other organizations set up by Senior, the Rockefeller University and the International Education Board.

In the social sciences, he founded the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial in 1918, which was subsequently folded into the Rockefeller Foundation in 1929.Laura Spelman Memorial - see Chernow, op.cit. (p.596) A committed internationalist, he financially supported programs of the League of Nations and crucially funded the formation and ongoing expenses of the Council on Foreign Relations and its initial headquarters building, in New York in 1921.Funding of the CFR and other international institutions - Ibid., (p.638); John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson, The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988. (p.156)

In 1900, after he had earlier (1896) persuaded his father to support nascent cancer research, Rockefeller money built a medical laboratory on the campus of Cornell Medical Center. This subsequently became Memorial Hospital, which decades later became the world-renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

He established the Bureau of Social Hygiene in 1913, a major initiative that investigated such social issues as prostitution and venereal disease, as well as studies in police administration and support for birth control clinics and research. In 1924, at the instigation of his wife, he provided crucial funding for Margaret Sanger (who ironically had previously been an opponent of his because of his mistreatment of workers) in her work on birth control and involvement in population issues.The Bureau of Social Hygiene and social issues; funding for Margaret Sanger - see Harr & Johnson, op.cit. (pp.113-15, 191, 461-2) He donated five thousand dollars to her American Birth Control League in 1924 and a second time in 1925.Katz, Esther Sanger, Margaret The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger Volume 1: The Woman Rebel University of Illinois Press 2003 page 430

In the arts, he gave extensive property he owned on West Fifty-fourth Street for the site of the Museum of Modern Art, which had been co-founded by his wife in 1929.

In 1925, he purchased the George Grey Barnard collection of medieval art and cloister fragments for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also purchased land north of the original site, now Fort Tryon Park, for a new building, The Cloisters.

In November, 1926, Rockefeller came to the College of William and Mary for the dedication of an auditorium built in memory of the organizers of Phi Beta Kappa, the honorary scholastic fraternity founded in Williamsburg in 1776. Rockefeller was a member of the society and had helped pay for the auditorium. He had visited Williamsburg the previous March, when the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin escorted him — along with his wife Abby, and their sons, David, Laurance, and Winthrop — on a quick tour of the city. The upshot of his visit was that he approved the plans already developed by Goodwin and launched the massive historical restoration of Colonial Williamsburg on November 22, 1927. Amongst many other buildings restored through his largesse was The College of William & Mary's Wren Building.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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