A: If you’re a billionaire in the 1800s then you gotta have a pretty good idea of how to make a little money. John D. Rockefeller, our answer to the billionaire in question, was originally a dealer in farm goods. Dipping into the oil business in 1863, Rockefeller founded Standard Oil seven years later. Using ruthless, competitive methods, Rockefeller made Standard Oil a monopoly, and it was then that J-Roc amassed a billion big ones.
Of course, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. To skirt anti-monopoly laws, Rockefeller had to reorganize the Standard Oil Trust and make the resulting companies appear in compliance. Eventually in 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped on the scene and declared Standard Oil to be in violation of federal law, forcing the company’s break-up. But by then, Rockefeller was at a point in his life where he desired to give back a little to the community.
Before his death at age 97, the philanthropist had given away $500 million, including $80 million to the University of Chicago, which he had helped found in 1892. With son John D. Rockefeller Jr., John Sr. also founded Rockefeller University, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Foundation. But just in case you’re wondering, Rockefeller played no part in the creation of rapper Jay-Z’s label Roc-A-Fella Records. That was established quite some time after his death.