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SECRET SOCIETIES THAT LEFT THEIR MARKS ON HISTORY

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Throughout history, men and women have formed secret groups, gathering behind closed doors in pursuit of shared ideals. They might have used unexpected methods to get what they wanted.

Some attempted magic, others turned to violence, and many, in fact, got caught and persecuted for the things they did. Yet still, secret societies continue to meet in private today — perhaps there’s even one in your hometown.

20. The Knights of Malta

Not every secret society is about the occult, magic, or the dark arts. The Knights of Malta — founded in the year 1048 — had noble aims from the start.

20. The Knights of Malta

Whitworth Porter/Wikimedia Commons | {{CC-PD-Mark}}

Members would take care of anyone making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, regardless of the person’s faith. The Pope ordered them to aid any Christians who needed protection along the way, too. Things have changed somewhat since 1048, though.

The Knights of Malta is still going strong today

Nowadays, the Knights of Malta have a much different focus. Its 13,500 members across 120 countries focus on charitable causes in general.

The Knights of Malta is still going strong today

Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Their motto is “Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum” — nurturing, witnessing, and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick. Considering their focus on charity, it makes sense that Nelson Mandela was once part of the organization.

19. Freemasons

So many rumors surround the Freemasons — possibly the least secret “secret society” in history. This makes sense, considering how old and storied the organization is. The Freemasons emerged in Europe in the midst of the Middle Ages, a time when craftspeople were arranged into regional guilds.

19. Freemasons

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

It wasn’t until 1717 that the Freemasons morphed into its current iteration. That’s when four branches from London joined together, and the group expanded to the rest of the continent and the Americas.

The Freemasons’ secret handshake

What started as a fraternity for craftsmen is now a bit more mysterious to non-members. The Freemasons are ostensibly about charity work and social networking. However, rumors swirl that the group is plagued with bullies, nepotism, and a refusal to change with the times.

The Freemasons' secret handshake

Gracie Films

People also suspect that the Freemasons have a secret handshake, but they won’t show it to anyone outside of their six million members. The Freemasons were given the honor of being parodied by The Simpsons in an episode that saw Homer join the “Stonecutters.”

18. The Molly Maguires

An organization made up of Irish immigrants in 19th-century America might sound innocent enough. But the Molly Maguires had sinister aims that the all-male membership carried out while dressed as women — hence the name.

18. The Molly Maguires

Tamm Productions

In the 1870s they allegedly completed their most notorious job of all: assassinating 24 foremen and supervisors working in the Pennsylvania coal mines. The subsequent investigation led to 20 suspected members of the Molly Maguires getting convicted.

The Molly Maguies came to a bloody end

The Molly Maguires supposedly had their hand in arson and threat-making as well — but it was the two dozen murders that finished the organization off. A mole infiltrated the group, leading to the arrests of the 20 suspected members.

The Molly Maguies came to a bloody end

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

All of the men received death sentences and were hanged. As time has gone on, though, some remember the Maguires positively as being dedicated to labor and unions despite their unforgivable alleged crimes.

17. The School of Night

London in the late 16th century set the scene for some of humankind’s greatest writers to create their finest works. But they didn’t spend all of their time at their desks with pens in hand. Instead, some authors gathered in the School of Night.

17. The School of Night

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It was a society that explored atheism and alchemy, all illegal subjects of conversation at the time. In fact, if you didn’t believe in God back then, you could have found yourself charged with treason.

The School of Night was once called The School of Atheism

Playwright Christopher Marlowe — the top tragedy writer of his time and an inspiration to William Shakespeare — was said to be a member of the School of Night. Other members supposedly included Sir Walter Raleigh, George Chapman, Matthew Roydon, and Thomas Harriot.

The School of Night was once called The School of Atheism

Corpus Christi College

Marlowe faced charges for writing a text deemed to be heretical, but before he could face any kind of trial, he died under suspicious circumstances in 1853. After that, no one knows what happened to the School of Night.

16. Order of the Temple of the East

The Order of the Temple of the East — or Ordo Templi Orientis — used the Freemasons as its inspiration, but it operated on a completely different belief structure. Its eventual leader was occultist Aleister Crowley, who taught members the tenets of Thelema, an ideology he created himself.

16. Order of the Temple of the East

Arnold Genthe

He incorporated mysticism, contributing to some very strange rituals performed by the society — supposedly to this day. A gathering of the Order of the Temple of the East incorporates two components — gnostic mass and magic ceremonies.

Ordo Templi Orientis

Gnostic mass mimics Catholic mass, but attendees don extravagant get-ups to worship. And then there are the rituals, which range from conjuring spirits to tantric love-making and encouraging out-of-body experiences called astral projections.

Ordo Templi Orientis

Hereward Carrington, Sylvan Muldoon

Perhaps even more surprising, the society still exists today, although the locations of their lodges remain largely unknown to non-members. The latest branch to continue Crowley’s teachings is the Caliphate O.T.O., which was incorporated in 1979.

15. The Calves’ Head Club

To understand The Calves’ Head Club, you need to brush up on English history. Here’s the basics: King Charles I married a Roman Catholic French princess in 1626, a union that angered his Protestant subjects. In response to rising opposition, he dissolved Parliament and eventually incited civil war in England.

15. The Calves’ Head Club

Anthony van Dyck/Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-Art}}

Headed up by Oliver Cromwell, Parliamentarians later defeated the monarchy and in 1648 Charles I was facing charges of treason. The following year, King Charles I was executed by beheading, and Oliver Cromwell seized power.

Games of Thrones in real life

The highly controversial Calves’ Head Club came to be after Charles I’s execution. On the anniversary of his slaying, the group gathered for a grotesque celebration of his demise. Members would first decapitate a calf — a representation of the former king — then prepare it and eat it.

Games of Thrones in real life

Gonzales Coques/Wikimedia Common | {{PD-Art}}

Their behavior was treasonous to the monarchy, which returned to power in 1659. Eventually, the Calves’ Head Club disappeared, with the last record of its existence coming in 1734 when a riot about their tasteless ways brought an end to proceedings.

14. Bilderberg Meetings

The Bilderberg Meetings started in 1954 when 11 Americans traveled to the Hotel de Bilderberg in Oosterbeek in the Netherlands. There, they met with 50 people from 11 Western European nations.

14. Bilderberg Meetings

Pvt pauline/Wikimedia Commons | {{CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED}}

Among the attendees, apparently, were a prime minister, a royal, and a one-time CIA leader. As its website describes, “The Bilderberg Meeting is a forum for informal discussions about major issues.” The meetings are exclusive, invitation-only affairs,

The Bilderberg Meetings happen every year

The latest Bilderberg Meeting took place in Lisbon, Portugal, in May 2023. The list of attendees was published on its website, and the topics discussed during the meeting included AI, banking systems, and the situation in Ukraine. But historically, the details of the meetings were kept secret from the public.

The Bilderberg Meetings happen every year

Jean Beaufort | {{CC0 Public Domain}}

Naturally, the secrecy around the meetings has made for many conspiracy theories about the organization. Some people wonder if the group gathers to plan for world domination, or even to sway the global economy.

13. Priory of Sion

The Priory of Sion — or Prieuré de Sion — is and is not a secret society. A man named Pierre Plantard founded the fraternal organization in France in 1956. The idea was that was forming a neo-chivalric order — meaning the Priory of Sion was an order of knighthood.

13. Priory of Sion

Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

So far, so normal. The problem was that Plantard claimed that the Priory of Sion was actually formed as a secret society in 1099 by a knight named Godfrey of Bouillon on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The history of the Priory of Sion was bogus

To back up that claim about a secret history, Plantard faked a bunch of documents and had them inserted into the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. He also had two encrypted medieval parchments created, complete with references to the Priory of Sion.

The history of the Priory of Sion was bogus

Columbia Pictures

The whole thing was later found to be an elaborate literary hoax, of course. You might even recognize parts of the story from Dan Brown’s famous novel, The Da Vinci Code.

12. The Rosicrucians

The abbreviated tale of the Rosicrucians goes something like this: legendary Founder Christian Rosenkreuz apparently traveled from his native Germany into the Middle East so that he — a mystical philosopher — could gain some esoteric wisdom.

12. The Rosicrucians

T. Schweighart/Wikimedia Commons

According to the story, his studies gave him a greater perspective on the natural world and the universe at large. Upon getting back home, they say, he wanted to share his wisdom with others and set up the Fraternity of the Rose Cross.

The Rosicrucians and the occult

It’s possible, however, that Christian Rosenkreuz never existed and the story is just allegorical. Still, some people were taken in by the idea of a “universal reformation of mankind” via “esoteric truths of the ancient past.” Yet rumors plagued the Rosicrucians since its foundation in the 15th century.

The Rosicrucians and the occult

Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

Many especially thought this “universal reformation” would actually be via occult methods. Conspiracy theorists have also said the Rosicrucians were behind some of history’s modern uprisings as well as the founding of other prominent secret societies.

11. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn — often shortened to just the Golden Dawn — began gathering in 19th-century London. Group members shared an interest in the occult, magic, and mysticism.

11. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Wikimedia Commons

If that sounds familiar, it’s no coincidence. Some say that Golden Dawn was the precursor to other supernatural-focused groups on this list, such as the Order of the Temple of the East.

Golden Dawn had its origins in the Freemasons

The Golden Dawn was actually founded by three Freemasons: William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell Mathers. But unlike other groups, the Golden Dawn also allowed women into their inner circle.

Golden Dawn had its origins in the Freemasons

Bettmann/Getty Images

Famous former members of the Golden Dawn include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and W. B. Yeats. And in 1937 author Israel Regardie published The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order — an influential tome that dives deep into the society’s practices.

10. Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World first cropped up on the scene in 1868. Then, just over three decades later, a pair of African-American men weren’t permitted entry into the club’s ranks — and decided to form a splinter group.

10. Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World

Local History Announcements

B. F. Howard and Arthur J. Riggs formed the fittingly titled Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World in 1897. The group is still going to this day.

Moving into the modern world

The founders of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World ended up creating a club that would become central within Black communities during segregation. It was, apparently, one of the only places where African Americans could gather.

Moving into the modern world

Antler Guard

As society started to integrate, however, the order’s influence faded. But they still fund scholarships, participate in parades, and host community events today. The fact that the fraternal order has a website also suggests they’re not really a secret society, either.

9. The Black Hand

History buffs may be familiar with the work of the Black Hand. In the early 20th century, this revolutionary group hoped to bring together the Slavic people into a single country.

9. The Black Hand

via Wikimedia Commons

To do this, they’d need to break Serbia free from the rule of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which had earlier taken control of the small country by annexation. The official name of the group was Unification or Death.

Unification or Death

The Black Hand decided to free Serbia from Austria-Hungary through military campaigns, but they didn’t plan for the conflict they would arguably create. Their plan was supposedly to assassinate Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand — which Gavrilo Princip did in 1914.

Unification or Death

Bettmann/Getty Images

Right away, the monarchy declared war on Serbia, but each country’s allies decided to join in, and this inter-country war soon became World War I. Because of its alleged connection to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Black Hand may have caused that war.

8. Order of Gimghoul

Peter Droomgole, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student in the mid-19th century, inadvertently inspired the start of a very creepy on-campus society. He vanished from campus in 1833, and legend has it that he died after losing a duel.

8. Order of Gimghoul

Wikimedia Commons

Not only that but his body is said to be entombed on the school grounds. Robert Worth Bingham, Shepard Bryan, William W. Davies, Edward Wray Martin, and Andrew Henry Patterson started the secret society in 1889.

Peter Dromgoole lives on

In the student’s honor, this secret society was first called the Order of Droomgole, but changed the last part to Gimghoul “in accord with midnight and graves and weirdness.” The group supposedly meets on campus at a very creepy, enshrouded castle.

Peter Dromgoole lives on

THE evil fluffyface

Photo evidence of their activities seems to show satanic references, making them even more off-putting. The castle allegedly sits close to Peter Dromgoole’s final resting place — and his ghost supposedly haunts it.

7. Skull and Bones

It’s no secret that some of the brightest minds in the country end up studying at Ivy League institutions. And Yale University just so happens to be one of the most selective — with an acceptance rate of just 4.46 percent in 2022.

7. Skull and Bones

Pictures of Yale clubs and societies (RU 692). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Therefore, the amount of brilliance packed into the school’s secret Skull and Bones society should be enough to scare the rest of us. Other names for the group include The Order, Order 322, and The Brotherhood of Death.

Bonesmen in the Tomb

No one outside of Skull and Bones really knows the purpose of this society, but there are plenty of theories. Some say that the Bonesmen — who have gone on to become Supreme Court justices, CEOs, and presidents — might influence the CIA or strive for global control.

Bonesmen in the Tomb

Universal Pictures

Making things even creepier, the group meets in a building called the Tomb, a building without windows. This group is now possibly the least-secret secret society as it has been popularized in movies such as The Skulls and The Great Gatsby and TV shows such as The Simpsons.

6. The Grand Orange Lodge

The Grand Orange Lodge drew its name from William of Orange, the Protestant king who defeated the Catholic King James II and took over as ruler of Scotland, England, and Ireland in 1689. Almost 200 years later, the Northern Irish Protestants still revered Orange’s leadership.

6. The Grand Orange Lodge

Godfrey Kneller

So, they formed the Lodge to better protect their fellow worshippers. Its full name is the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland or the Loyal Orange Institution of Scotland. They are still going strong after forming in 1798.

The Grand Orange Lodge marches on

Had Lord Lieutenant of Ireland George William Frederick Villiers not supported the group, the Grand Orange Lodge’s aims might have flown under the radar. Ireland had always been a Catholic stronghold, so having a leader support a Protestant society ruffled some serious feathers.

The Grand Orange Lodge marches on

Ross Goodman/Flickr

These days, the Order is most visible during its yearly marches. The largest of these gatherings usually occurs on July 12, as “The Twelfth” is an Ulster Protestant day of celebrations.

5. Veiled Prophet Organization

A long time ago, business executive and one-time Confederate soldier Charles Slayback had an idea. In 1878 he gathered fellow St. Louis businessmen to build his own secret society. He wanted his city to have a festival like New Orleans did with Mardi Gras.

5. Veiled Prophet Organization

Missouri Historical Society

They just needed a reason to party — and the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan could be a reason for a celebration. This was a mystic based out of St. Louis — or, at least, that’s what Slayback decided to tell people.

The Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball

In reality, the Veiled Prophet story was just meant to be an excuse to celebrate — and to mask negative social realities. At the time, laborers demanded socioeconomic equality and fair working conditions.

The Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball

Harpers Weekly/Wikipedia

So the citywide gathering would perhaps appease them while exalting the elite’s way of life. The first Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball took place in 1878. Perhaps surprisingly, the Veiled Prophet Organization still has parties to this day.

4. The Hashshashin

In the 13th century, a small group of Shia Muslims split from a larger group of their religion’s practitioners because they wanted to create a utopian state. Yet they didn’t have the manpower to make their vision a reality.

4. The Hashshashin

New Regency Productions

So the secret society had to use much more shocking methods to get what they wanted. There is a reason why this group is otherwise known as the Order of Assassins or just the Assassins.

The Order of Assassins

The Hashashin made a name for themselves by staging political assassinations as well as by sending spies over enemy lines. But these operatives had great discretion — enemies would wake up with daggers on their pillows and notes warning them of impending death.

The Order of Assassins

New Regency Productions

Eventually, though, the group was squashed by the Mongols. This group has naturally inspired plenty of popular culture figures and stories, including Assassin’s Creed, Angels and Demons, and the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones.

3. Knights Templar

Things started out well for the Knights Templar. They had a simple mission when founded in the 12th century — to protect Christians as they traveled to the Holy Land. Templar Enlistees had to vow to a chaste lifestyle, which meant they couldn’t swear, gamble, or drink.

3. Knights Templar

Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps this left their heads clear enough to come up with a more lucrative idea. The Knights opened a bank where people could deposit money at home and take it out when they arrived at their pilgrimage destination.

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon

Once the Crusades ended, the Knights Templar decided to set up in Paris and make their banking business the main focus of their operation. However, they made the mistake of denying King Philip IV of France a loan.

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon

C. Balossini/De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images

He then had some society members arrested and tortured. The Knights began making false confessions, implicating themselves in depraved acts. So, the French monarch had dozens burned to death for their supposed wrongdoings.

2. The Knights of the Golden Circle

The Knights of the Golden Circle first formed in 1854 because they wanted the United States to take over the West Indies and Mexico. This would then make the slave states stronger against any threats from the North.

2. The Knights of the Golden Circle

Harpers Weekly

However, the Civil War kicked off in 1861, and the society’s members switched gears. They sided with the Confederacy, so they started organizing themselves into guerrilla armies and ambushing Union soldiers.

The Golden Circle

Interestingly enough, the Knights of the Golden Circle had a bigger impact in Union states, where people pointed the finger at anyone who seemed to sympathize with the South. Even President Franklin Pierce faced accusations of being a secret member of the organization.

The Golden Circle

Mathew Brady

Despite everything, though, none of the Knights’ aims ever came to fruition. Their main objective was to see in the formation of a new country, known as the Golden Circle.

1. The Illuminati

The Illuminati formed on May 1, 1776, bringing together the era’s most forward-thinking politicians and intellectuals. Unlike many other secret societies on this list, though, the Illuminati didn’t require its members to believe in any sort of deity.

1. The Illuminati

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This made it a popular society among non-believers. Their inclusion made people wonder if the group actually formed to get rid of religious organizations. The group claimed, “The order of the day is to put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them.”

The Illuminati was outlawed

The Illuminati was eventually outlawed, and it subsequently crumbled internally when a new leader had to replace its founder, Adam Weishaupt. But some believe that the society didn’t actually collapse in the late 1700s.

The Illuminati was outlawed

knollzw

Instead, they believe the Illuminati still operates — and controls all of the governments dotted around the globe. According to this conspiracy theory, the Illuminati now goes by the name of the New World Order.

This article was originally published on WMoneyVersed

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History

SPONTANEOUS CHRISTMAS TRUCE THAT TEMPORARILY HALTED WORLD WAR

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(Image credit: Alamy)

Spontaneous Christmas truce that temporarily halted world war : ‘The war, for that moment, came to a standstill’

During the bleak winter of 1914, amid the mud, blood and chaos of World War One, an extraordinary series of ceasefires spontaneously occurred along the Western Front. In the 1960s the BBC spoke to some of the men who, over that exceptional Christmas period, decided to lay down their arms.

On Christmas Eve 1914, Rifleman Graham Williams, of the 5th London Rifle Brigade, stood out on sentry duty staring out anxiously across the wasteland of no man’s land to the German trenches. He had already endured months of the brutal violence, bloodshed, and destruction that would come to characterize World War One when something remarkable happened.
“All of a sudden, lights appeared along the German trench. And I thought this was a funny thing. And then the Germans started singing ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’. And I woke up, and all the sentries did the same thing, all woke up the other people to come along and see this and what the Earth is going on,” he recalled, in the BBC radio show Witness History.

The voices carried across the desolation of no man’s land, familiar songs bridging the barrier of language, a musical reminder of a shared humanity. “They finished their carol and we applauded them and we thought we should retaliate in some way. So, we replied with The First Noel.”

It is hard to pinpoint the exact origins of the 1914 Christmas Truce. It seemed to emerge spontaneously in multiple locations along the Western Front. There wasn’t one uniform Christmas Truce but rather several localized events. For some soldiers in trenches, it lasted a couple of hours, in some areas until Boxing Day, and even in isolated pockets to the New Year. While in some parts of the Western Front, it didn’t happen at all. Some 77 British soldiers were still killed in fighting on Christmas Day 1914.

For Col Scott Shepherd, then a junior officer, fighting near the town of Armentières in northern France, it seemed to begin almost by accident. At dawn on Christmas morning, no man’s land was covered in a heavy fog. “The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see your hand in front of you,” he recalled when he returned to the battlefield with the BBC in 1968.

The decision was made to take advantage of the cover provided by the weather to repair their crumbling trenches. But as the soldiers worked filling sandbags and trying to restore the trench parapet, the fog suddenly began to dissipate.

“It lifted astoundingly quickly. And along that line we were suddenly able to see Germans doing exactly the same thing all out in the open. And we just looked at each other for some time and then one or two soldiers went towards them. They met, they shook hands, they swapped cigarettes. They got talking. The war, for that moment, came to a standstill.”

General Walter Congreve, who led the Rifles Brigade, wrote to his wife on Christmas Day, describing the ceasefire as “an extraordinary state of affairs”. Because the trenches were so close, soldiers were able to shout greetings to each other, initiating conversations. “A German shouted out that they wanted a day’s truce and would one come out if he did,” wrote the general. “Very cautiously one of our men lifted himself above the parapet and saw a German doing the same. Both got out, then more… they have been walking about together all day giving each other cigars and singing songs.”

The ceasefires allowed soldiers some respite to recover their dead from no man’s land and give proper burial to fallen comrades. Men who just hours earlier had been trying to kill each other exchanged cigarettes, food and souvenirs from home. There are even reports of impromptu games of football breaking out, with soldiers having a kick about in barren space between the opposing trenches. Col Johannes Niemann, a second lieutenant with the 33rd Saxon Regiment, was one of the soldiers who took part.

“Suddenly a Tommy came with a football… And then began a football match. We marked our goals with our caps. Tommy did also. And we had much kicking. And then, after all, the Germans won the football game 3-2.”

The war resumes

Nothing like this truce would happen again during World War One. Military leaders, who had been caught by surprise by the ceasefires and the unexpected camaraderie that flourished during them, feared they would erode their troops’ willingness to fight, and would undermine the war effort.

On both sides there were orders issued to stop “fraternisation with the enemy” with threats of court marshals. Officers were told to open fire on enemy soldiers who approached the trench and gradually shots began to ring out again along the line. The war resumed its brutality, and as its relentless horrors escalated, the bitterness between opposing nations deepened. The following Christmas, machine gun barrages were deliberately timed to drown out any sound of carol singing to prevent spontaneous truces happening again.

For a brief moment, soldiers on different sides saw each other as fathers, brothers and sons who just longed to go home and return to loved ones

The 1914 Christmas Truce may not have ultimately altered the course of the war, but as historian Dan Snow says in the BBC podcast Voices of the First World War, the fact that it happened at all is miraculous. “The truce was a brief tantalising flash of individual humanity, in a war of bureaucracies, machines and high explosives.”

And it had a profound effect on the men, such as Col Scott Shepherd, who experienced it. For a brief moment, soldiers on different sides saw each other as fathers, brothers and sons who just longed to go home and return to loved ones, rather than as faceless enemies to be killed.

“Several of them spoke English. They rather expressed their dislike… for the whole war in fact. They weren’t aggressive at all. Some of them said they had been to London, been to England, in fact, they gave every indication of being glad to meet us,” he said.

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History

THE BEER FLOOD THAT KILLED MANY IN THE STREET OF LONDON

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While the concept of a flood of beer filling the streets of your city does not sound frightening at first, the London Beer Flood of 1814 was a terrifying disaster that took eight people’s lives.

The streets of London and many other cities during this period were narrow and cramped. Many people also lived below the street level, which means that during the beer flood, their homes filled with beer in a matter of minutes.

The London Beer Flood of 1814 led to reforming some safety considerations in the beer brewing process. It is considered one of the first positive responses related to public safety by the industry as a whole.

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The magnitude of the flood itself is a bit staggering, and the disaster served as a cautionary tale since it occurred.

What Led to the Beer Flood?

The Horse Shoe Brewery was located at the corner of Great Russell Street and Tottenham Court Road. In 1810, the brewery had installed a 22-foot-high wooden fermentation tank to brew porter.

The vat was held together with iron rings and held approximately enough to fill 3,500 barrels of brown porter ale.

On October 17th, 1814, one of the iron rings of the vat failed. This was discovered, but there was no immediate solution to the problem.

Often the rings on beer vats slipped, and there was usually no need to fix the issue quickly. The storehouse clerk, George Crick, even noted that one of the rings had slipped and told someone to deal with it later. Everyone went about their business for an hour or so without worrying about the slipped ring since this event was so common.

Crick was standing on a platform thirty feet above the vat an hour later when the entire tank ruptured. Three hundred twenty thousand gallons of beer flooded the factory and smashed through the wall at the back of the yard.

The beer rush also pulled the stopcock from a neighboring vat, causing this even more beer to be released as well. The flood of beer rushed into St. Giles Rookery, which was, at the time, a London slum full of the poor and the needy. The wave of beer was not only hot and smelly, but it was also fourteen or fifteen feet high.

The beer flood rushed through the area, reaching George and New Street within minutes. Residents on the street were swept along by the force of the beer tsunami. Beer flooded into the basements of tenement buildings, taking the lives of Mary Banfield and her four-year-old daughter Hannah who had just sat down to tea.

An Irish wake for a two-year-old boy was being held nearby, and the flood of beer took Anne Saville’s and four mourners’ lives in their basement tenement.

The beer wave grievously damaged the Tavistock Arms pub, and teenage servant Eleanor Cooper who was washing pots in its yard, lost her life after the beer knocked a nearby wall on top of her. The brewery workers all survived, but many were severely injured.

It was rumored that people in the streets who were not injured or swept away by the flood ran about gathering the beer in whatever containers they could lay hands on and drinking it.

There are unconfirmed reports of people dying of alcohol poisoning related to the frenzy of beer drinking, but this is likely apocryphal information.

The press was no friend to the large Irish population living in the rookery area at the time, and if there had been generalized revelry, it would have been reported about in the most negative of lights.

As there is no report of any type of drunken behavior in the papers, likely, all of these stories are merely tall tales that were added to accounts of the event later.

Watchmen for the area decided to start charging a penny or two to allow people to see the disaster scene, and a stream of Londoners came by over the next few days to pay their respects and gawk at the remnants of the beer tsunami.

The pennies and shillings that were collected for the right to look at the carnage were used to pay for the funerals of those who lost their lives in the flood.

Investigation Into the Flood

The Morning Post reported that the beer flood was “one of the most melancholy accidents we ever remember.”

People who had wandered the streets listening at the windows and doors of basement lodgings, pleading with those who were rushing through the waist-high flood to be quiet so they could listen for the sounds of people trapped in their homes, no doubt hoped for some form of legal action to be taken against the brewery.

A jury was convened to investigate the accident two days later. While there might have been no such attention to a significant industrial accident of this nature in previous times, the times were slowly changing. It likely helped that many young people had lost their lives in the Beer Flood, making the case more pitiable.

The jury looked at the information presented and listened to the testimony of Crick and others who had witnessed the entire incident.

After seeing the site of the tragedy and reviewing the information that had been collected for the investigation, the Beer Flood was ruled an “Act of God.”

As a result, the brewery did not have to pay damages to the victims and was given a waiver from the British Parliament for the excise tax it had lost.

The flood cost the brewery about £23,000. This would be about £1.5 million today. The government’s reprieve regarding the excise tax and compensation that was granted for the lost beer helped save the company.

No such considerations were given to those who had lost their loved ones due to the flood. However, the use of wooden vats in brewing beer was phased out across England’s beer brewing industry within a few years.

Lined concrete vats replaced wooden ones, making the brewing industry slightly safer.

The area where the flood had taken place stank of beer for months after the incident, and cleaning up the mess took weeks. The flood events were largely forgotten by everyone except those who lived in St. Giles Rookery and those who had lost loved ones when the beer wave flooded their part of London.

The casual disregard for the lives of the poor displayed by the Great Beer Flood of 1814 indicates a social attitude that would continue until the 1960s in England.

The Legacy of the Beer Flood of 1814
The brewery did go back into production after the flood, but it closed in 1921. The brewery site has since become The Dominion Theater, which still stands at the location today. Sadly for those who suffered greatly or lost their lives due to the Great Beer Flood of 1814, there is no official memorial or observance for the day of the disaster.

Much like the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 in Boston, this event has faded from everyone’s minds over time.

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The Holborn Whippet, however, which is a local pub in the area of the flood, does brew an anniversary ale each year to help commemorate the event. But, unfortunately, the tendency of industry to want to sweep these kinds of disasters under the rug has led to many such landmark events being largely forgotten by the public.

The social impact of the unbridled greed, or at best, casual indifference, that many industrialists and businesses showed toward the people who worked for them or lived near their industrial properties cannot be overstated.

The Great Beer Flood of 1814 is just one of many examples of the callous indifference of business owners toward the lives of those they considered their inferiors.

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History

LEGENDARY ROCKEFELLERS SHAPERS OF MODERN AMERICAN ECONOMY

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The Rockefeller name has become synonymous with money, symbolized by the richest individual in history, John D. Rockefeller, who left a staggering net worth of $1.4 billion. Yet, beneath this wealth lies a history of tragedy and controversy. Let’s delve into the captivating saga of the legendary Rockefellers, the shapers of the modern American economy.

A Fine Father Figure

Born in 1810, William A. Rockefeller, father to John D. Rockefeller, was a man of meager means. Though he was savvy, his dishonorable business practices and subsequent bad reputation caused the family to struggle financially.

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Without a real trade, William Rockefeller posed as a traveling salesman, pretending to be afflicted by various ailments to sell fake “miracle remedies.” Known as “Devil Bill,” he adopted the alias Dr. William Livingston, supposedly an expert in ear and eye ailments. He duped his wife into hiring a housekeeper, who was secretly his mistress, and they had two illegitimate children while living together.

A Billionaire Is Born

While living in Richford, New York, William and his wife welcomed their son, John D. Rockefeller to the world on July 8, 1839. This was the couples’ second child, as their daughter, Lucy, was born just one year prior. By this time, William was surrounded by a multitude of unfavorable rumors stating that he was a thief, a crook, and a gambler. The family had no choice but to move.

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They moved from place to place, each time having to uproot once again due to William’s scandalous lifestyle. Finally in 1853, when John was 14 years old, the family was able to settle in Strongsville, Ohio so he could attend and graduate from high school. He attended the first free public high school in Cleveland.

An Ambitious Fellow

The second of six children with a father who could not hold down a job, John showed just how ambitious and industrious he was when he became a teenager. After trying his hand at selling fruits and vegetables, he landed his first official job as an assistant bookkeeper for Hewitt & Tuttle at the young age of 16. 

circa 1930:  American oil magnate and philanthropist, John Davidson Rockefeller (1839 - 1937) at work in his study.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Hulton Archive/GettyImages

After four years, John D. Rockefeller saved $2,000 and partnered with Maurice B. Clark to start a commission merchant company specializing in grains, hay, and meat, which made $450,000 in its first year. At age 20, he formed a produce business partnership, earning $250,000, and then entered the oil business by founding Andrews, Clark & Co in 1867.

Perks of Being Rich

During the Civil War, men of all ages were called upon to fight for both the Union and the Confederate Army. Though John D. Rockefeller was a firm-standing abolitionist, he had absolutely no desire to go to the front lines. In an effort to exonerate himself from active duty, he requested an exemption from enlistment, stating that he was the sole provider for his family.

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John D. Rockefeller Jr. chose not to enlist during World War I but actively engaged in a lot of charity. Collaborating with the War Department and organizations like the Red Cross, he provided financial aid and resources for the U.S. military and the war campaign. Furthermore, he supported war bond campaigns and assisted the war-related initiatives of the Rockefeller Foundation, particularly in fields such as public health and medical research. His dedication to the war effort was evident, despite his absence from military service.

Right Place, Right Time

During the Civil War’s final stages, Cleveland was a crucial logistics center. But, because oil production in Pennsylvania was booming, John D. Rockefeller cashed out his produce partnership shares and, in 1863, started an oil refinery near Pittsburgh. Thanks to the oil rush, his refinery quickly became the biggest in the area within just two years.

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John D. Rockefeller recognized the immense potential in the oil industry due to his rapid success. In 1870, he and his partners founded the Standard Oil Company, using $1 million from his Pennsylvania refinery as startup capital. Rockefeller’s talent for efficient operations, combined with a booming economy, led to steady profit growth from the company’s inception. His initial triumph, along with substantial earnings, fueled his ambition to implement a takeover strategy that would later become a contentious and pivotal chapter in history.

Partnerships Alleviate Competition

Within just two years, Standard Oil had expanded significantly, controlling the majority of refineries throughout the Cleveland area. In order to alleviate any potential competition and to control the transport of his oil, John D. Rockefeller knew that he had to forge a partnership with the railroad companies as well as purchase additional pipelines and oil terminals.

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He began purchasing land to prevent rival companies from starting their own private transportation system. In doing so, Standard Oil substantially tightened their grasp on the industry resulting in little to no competition whatsoever.

Scandalous Scheme Leads to a Massacre

In 1871, John D. Rockefeller, along with multiple railroad lines, founded the Southern Improvement Company. In writing, the company’s intention was to alleviate the competitive rate wars that existed between the rail lines and evenly distribute the oil traffic between the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Erie Railroad, and the New York Railroad as well as limit the amount of oil produced.

The construction of the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba Railway in Montana Territory in 1887. In 1890 it became the Great Northern Railway. (Photo by © Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Minnesota Historical Society/GettyImages

In all actuality, the Southern Improvement Company turned out to be a scheme that brought unwanted attention from the government due to the scandalous relationships formed between the railroads and big business, aka John D. Rockefeller. Throughout the company’s existence which only lasted one year, John D. Rockefeller was able to swoop in and purchase 22 of the 26 refineries in Cleveland due to their lack of transportation. These acquisitions would later become known as “The Cleveland Massacre”. 

Keep Your Friends Close, Your Enemies Closer

By 1879, John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men in the United States and controlled nearly 90% of the country’s refineries. With a goal to control the oil industry throughout the US and the world, his savvy and somewhat questionable tactics at times terrorized his competitors and betrayed his alliances.

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In his early career, John D. Rockefeller teamed up with railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. To benefit both, Rockefeller granted Vanderbilt exclusive shipping rights at a lower rate. However, as Standard Oil surged in growth, Vanderbilt’s request to renegotiate pricing came too late. Rockefeller had already invested in his own pipeline, leaving Vanderbilt without profit. The transportation mogul passed away just a few years later.

The Big Apple

While the city of Cleveland had served him well, in 1883 John D. Rockefeller decided it was time to take on the Big Apple. He moved his family to New York and began construction on the Standard Oil Building. The chosen site was at 26 Broadway, the same location as the former home of the head of the U.S. Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York, USA, circa 1900. Cable-stayed/suspension bridge over the East River. Started in 1869, it is one of the oldest road bridges in the United States. From Scenic Marvels of the New World edited by Prof. Geo.R. Cromwell. [C.N.Greig & Co., circa 1900]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images)
Print Collector/GettyImages

The original structure was nine stories tall but after several renovations and expansions, it is now 31 stories and has become one of New York City’s official landmarks. Though the Rockefeller family sold the building in the 1920s, it is still known to this day as The Standard Oil Building.

A Battle With Congress

John D. Rockefeller’s rise to power did not go unnoticed. By the late 1880s, his wealth as well as his questionable business practices caught the eye of some members of the United States Congress. By creating numerous divisions of his company under the Standard Oil umbrella, John D. Rockefeller had come to monopolize multiple markets.

The Cabildo (Supreme Court), New Orleans, La., circa 1900. The Cabildo, designed by Gilberto Guillemard and built in 1799, was the seat of Spanish colonial city hall. Creator: Unknown. (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)
Heritage Images/GettyImages

Congress, driven by concerns over monopolies’ negative impact on American capitalism, enacted the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 to outlaw monopolizing commerce in the United States. A mere two years later, the Ohio Supreme Court found Standard Oil in violation of this law. Consequently, John D. Rockefeller was compelled to dissolve the company and bring in new management for all his subsidiaries.

Find a Workaround

Even with Congress breathing down his neck, John D. Rockefeller refused to relinquish power. In an attempt to show that he was being compliant with the Sherman Act, he created a board to make it appear as though there were additional shareholders and decision-makers. Unbeknownst to Congress, the company’s hierarchy was still intact with all of the inner workings of each division being handled by a board led by John himself. 

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Rockefeller seemed to have found a workaround. He continued running things under the guise of a board for nine years but perhaps became too confident. In a bold move, he once again compiled each of his companies into one holding group causing Congress to intervene and force the company to dissolve once more.

Stress or Not?

Having every business transaction scrutinized by Congress could cause any tycoon to suffer from stress. Rockefeller was no different. He endured many stress-related symptoms including moderate depression, digestive issues, and hair loss after his tussle with the government.

1923:  The millionaire John D Rockefeller (1839 - 1937) on his 84th birthday.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Topical Press Agency/GettyImages

While the depression and digestive troubles were truly the results of his anxiety, his hair loss was not. When he was in his 50s, John D. Rockefeller was diagnosed with alopecia, a disease that causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles, causing extreme hair loss. After going bald and losing his eyebrows, Rockefeller invested in wigs of different lengths to appear as though he was getting haircuts.

A Charitable Man

While John D. Rockefeller may seem like a self-serving man consumed by greed, in all actuality, he was quite charitable and kind. Even though he was one of the richest men in the world, he never forgot what it was like to struggle to feed his family. Because of this, he wanted to share the wealth.

US industrialist and philanthropist John Davison Rockefeller (1839 - 1937) (centre), in conversation with fellow businessmen, ignores an old beggar
Hulton Archive/GettyImages

No matter where he was going, John D. Rockefeller would carry on his person a bag of dimes which he would happily hand out to anyone he met. He was not concerned about their social status nor their financial status as he gave dimes to children as well as fellow millionaires such as Samuel Firestone of Firestone Tires. It is estimated that in total, he handed out over $35,000 worth of dimes in his lifetime. 

See a Problem? Fix It

In the early 20th century, the Rockefeller family dedicated their time and efforts to philanthropy, so when they discovered that 40% of all Southerners had become infected by hookworms, they quickly came to their aid. Hookworm is a parasite that causes those infected to suffer from anemia and exhaustion as well as stunted growth so the long-lasting effects could have been extraordinary.

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In 1910, in an effort to combat the outbreak of infections, John D. Rockefeller donated $1 million to the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission to map high-risk areas, treat those who were infected, and improve sanitation efforts in the communities. Since his intervention, hookworm has remained under control and can only be found in very rural areas of the Deep South.

Behind Every Great Man….

John D. Rockefeller, though having a brilliant mind for business, could not have become as successful as he was without the support and advice from his wife, Laura Spelman. Married in 1864, Spelman was also a philanthropist as well as an abolitionist who was passionate about higher education for women.

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In 1882, the wealthy couple began donating ample amounts of money to an Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, a college that was founded to educate black women during a period in history when other institutions forbade them from entering their grounds. After two years of hefty donations, the college changed its name to Spelman College in honor of Laura Spelman and her generosity.

Two Fine Institutions

While John D. Rockefeller is largely known for his role in creating a flourishing American economy, it should also be mentioned that because of his philanthropic work and generous charitable donations, The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and the University of Chicago were both founded.

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In 1890, he donated $600,000 to assist in funding the establishment of the University of Chicago, whose iconic chapel bears his name. In 1901, John D. Rockefeller founded The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in an attempt to encourage the study of diseases so that they may be prevented. Since its inception, scientists and medical staff have transformed biochemistry and medical treatments for numerous afflictions affecting people around the world.

Ahead of His Time

In an effort to support secondary and higher education in the United States regardless of race, sex, or creed, John D. Rockefeller established the General Education Board in 1902. Their goal was to promote education for all, at all levels, including the meagerly funded black schools in the South.

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He went one step further in 1913 when he created the Rockefeller Foundation to “promote the wellbeing of mankind throughout the world”. Since its inception, it has not failed to reach its goal. With millions upon millions of dollars donated, the foundation has improved public health, promoted education, and enhanced the arts as well as scientific and medical advancements.

The Philanthropy Started Young

While John D. Rockefeller has oftentimes been criticized for his less-than-conventional business practices and rumored misgivings, his charitable nature cannot be disputed. Since a child, he was convinced that a man of means has a duty to help others, so much so that he began donating his own funds ever since he received his very first paycheck as a teenager.

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As a teenager, each time he received a paycheck, he would donate a portion of it to his local Baptist church, the African-American church, and the Sunday School. Throughout his life, he firmly believed that “the rich man shouldn’t die rich, the rich man should die having done good things with the wealth that he has created”.

A Quiet Stance

While John D. Rockefeller rarely hid his social stances, when it came to his support of Prohibition, his participation was done so behind closed doors. Perhaps he opposed the use of alcohol because of his father’s drunken antics or he was standing in solidarity with his wife, Laura, who was the founding member of the Women’s Christian Temperance is up for debate.

(Original Caption) Barrels of beer emptied into the sewer by authorities during prohibition. Undated photograph. BPA2# 4180 (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
George Rinhart/GettyImages

Either way, it was his huge donation that the WCTU used to pass the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act. Many speculated later that he funded Prohibition for his own financial gain, however, the fact that he never drank a lick of alcohol nor smoked an ounce of tobacco suggests that he considered both to hold no value.

A Life Worth a Biography

Because of his unprecedented success and charitable donations, the Rockefellers authorized a biography to be written about the patriarch in the 1930s. At the time, they asked the future Prime Minister and successful writer, Winston Churchill, to author it. Churchill reluctantly agreed but requested that the family extend him a $250,000 advance on the project. 

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Whether they were offended or not, the family respectfully declined and hired a Colombia University historian named Allan Nevins to do the honors instead. Certainly, they are one of the wealthiest families in the world and could have afforded the advance, however, they are also financially savvy and $250,000 was too steep a price tag.

The Death of a Tycoon

John D. Rockefeller lived a full life, dying of atherosclerosis in 1934 just two months shy of his 98th birthday. Because of his longevity, he actually outlived his life insurance policy earning him an additional $5 million dollars from his payout.

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Upon his death in 1934, Rockefeller was worth an estimated $1.4 billion. While that in itself is astounding, the fact that he maintained that level of wealth throughout his life is a testament to his intelligence and work ethic. Granted the billionaires of today may be worth more than John D. Rockefeller when he passed, however, that comparison is based on actual dollars as opposed to the percentage of the national GDP. For example, in 2019 Jeff Bezos was worth 0.006% of the total GDP whereas Rockefeller was worth an incredible 2%.

A Chip Off the Old Block

John D. Rockefeller and Laura Spelman had five children together, four daughters and one son. Their youngest, John Jr. was born on January 29, 1874, and grew up idolizing his father though he was relatively unphased by his immense wealth.

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Fueled by the desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, John Jr. joined him as a director at Standard Oil headquarters after graduating from Brown University. At the time, the company was in disarray due to the consequences of the Sherman Act, and the chaotic restabilizing left John Jr. feeling dissatisfied and yearning for a change of scenery. He made the decision to leave Standard Oil in order to focus his energy on real estate and philanthropy instead.

A Miner Dilemma

By 1913, John Jr. was a 40% shareholder and sat on the board of a Rockefeller-owned company called Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I). In September of that year, 11,000 coal miners working for CF&I went on strike to protest unfair wages, dangerous working conditions, and mistreatment from their employer. The company responded by evicting the miners and their families from the homes, leaving them to live in tents throughout the winter while continuing to strike.

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In an attempt to intimidate the miners into forfeiting the strike, the Rockefeller-owned CF&I requested the National Guard to descend upon them in their tent colony near Ludlow, CO. Sadly, the miners had no defense against the guardsmen who began randomly shooting those trying to flee. At least 20 men, women, and children were killed that day.

A Much Needed Change

Because of his affiliation with CF&I, John Jr. was targeted with much of the blame regarding the tragedy that occurred in Ludlow. The heir to the Rockefeller fortune was summoned to testify in front of the Commission on Industrial Relations and afterward, attempted to make amends by visiting the miners and their families in person to address their grievances.

Low angle view of the RCA Building (later the GE Building) at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in the Rockefeller complex, New York, New York, April 1938. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Hulton Archive/GettyImages

The scandalous affair prompted John Jr. to pour himself into his philanthropic work in an attempt to rebuild his reputation through charitable contributions. He left the industrial industry altogether and, instead, invested in real estate. He donated the land that would become the site for the United Nations headquarters, created the famous Rockefeller Center, and devoted his time to restoring Colonial Williamsburg.

A Strong Family Bond

By 1930, John Jr. had become a majority stockholder in Chase Bank, restored Colonial Williamsburg, constructed Rockefeller Center, donated land for the United Nations headquarters, purchased land that would become Grand Teton State Park, and along with his wife, opened the Museum of Modern Art. 

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While all of these incredibly generous accomplishments certainly made an imprint on the world, his most important contribution was his children. His oldest, Abby Rockefeller, dedicated herself to philanthropic work and preferred anonymity. Her five brothers, however, quickly made favorable reputations for themselves throughout the realms of politics, business, and philanthropy.

John III

John Jr.’s namesake and the eldest of the five boys was John III. After graduating with honors from Princeton University, he embarked on a trip around the world which would become the inspiration for his future endeavors. He devoted himself to philanthropy as well as foreign affairs. Inspired by his love for the Asian countries, he created the Asia Society, reconstituted the Japan Society, and founded the Council on Economic and Cultural Affairs.

John Davison Rockefeller III (1906-1978) reads a paper. Rockefeller was the grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., the philanthropist and industrialist. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Historical/GettyImages

John III also created the Population Council to address the worldwide issue of overpopulation, the first organization to do so. As a means to support performing arts, he created the iconic Lincoln Center in Manhattan. In his lifetime he was also responsible for founding and funding multiple NGOs prior to his fatal car crash in 1978.

Nelson

Nelson Rockefeller was motivated from childhood to do great things, claiming to his father that he would one day become President of the United States when he was just a boy. Though his father tried to instill in him the values of humility and modesty, his motivation made him the most high-profile of John Jr.’s children. 

While his career started out in the banking industry with Chase Manhattan, he went on to head up the development of Rockefeller Center during a period of economic decline. Still chasing his childhood dream, Nelson entered into politics, winning the election for Governor of New York in 1953. He served an impressive four terms as Governor prior to becoming the Vice President of the United States under President Gerald Ford between 1974 and 1977.

circa 1958:  American Republican politician and Governor of New York State, Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979).  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Keystone/GettyImages

A Scandalous Death

After serving as the 49th Governor of New York for 14 years, Nelson Rockefeller became the Vice President of the United States despite his rather unorthodox reputation with women. During a period of time when divorce was considered taboo, Nelson ended his marriage to his first wife in 1963. That same year, he married his second wife who was 18 years his junior.

American businessman and politician Nelson Rockefeller (1908 - 1979), 49th Governor of New York, with his wife, American philanthropist Happy Rockefeller (1926 - 2015) in London, UK, 26th September 1963. (Photo by Harry Benson/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Harry Benson/GettyImages

Because of his somewhat scandalous divorce, his new marriage to a younger woman, and his rumored extramarital affairs, Nelson was labeled a womanizer throughout his political career. It seems he carried that label to his death. In 1979, Nelson died of a heart attack. The initial reports from the media stated that he died at his desk, however, they soon issued a correction stating that he was found dead at the home of a 25-year-old aide with whom he was having an affair. While his wife contested the report, his aide confirmed it was true.

Laurance

Out of all of John Jr.’s children, Laurance was the visionary. He made a huge impact on the Big Apple as a venture capitalist on Wall Street. During his career on the New York Stock Exchange, he demonstrated his rare talent and a keen sense of knowing what would be successful and what would fail. 

Washington, DC. 12-6-1992 Laurance Rockefeller and wife Mary arive at the White House to attend the State Dinner for the Kennedy Centers Honors. Laurance Spelman Rockefeller an American philanthropist, businessman, financier, and major conservationist. He was a prominent third-generation member of the Rockefeller family, being the fourth child of John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. and Abigail Greene
Mark Reinstein/GettyImages

Laurance was a start-up’s dream as he invested in hundreds of them ranging from biotechnology to electronics to computers to aviation. His early investments in Apple and Intel alone are prime examples of his prowess in the trade. In addition to his Wall Street success, Laurance was also a dedicated environmentalist who was instrumental in numerous conservation efforts as well as establishing multiple national parks throughout the United States.

Winthrop

Winthrop Rockefeller was a humble and modest man who did not want to rely on his family’s clout and wealth to ease into a career. Instead, he went to the root of the family business and started out as an apprentice working in the oil fields. 

Winthrop Rockefeller, son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was an American governor and philanthropist. He served as a director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and was a Republican governor of Arkansas from 1967-1971. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Historical/GettyImages

At the end of the Second World War, in an effort to encourage cultural and economic change in the South, Winthrop went into politics serving as the Governor of Arkansas from 1967 to 1971. While some of his cultural changes were unwelcome in the South, such as integrating the schools, he became well respected for his additional reforms such as the state’s first minimum wage, the freedom of information law, and stricter insurance legislation.

David

The baby of the family, David, also became a powerful figure in the New York Stock Exchange after graduating from the London School of Economics and gaining a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

David Rockefeller (Photo by Shepard Sherbell/Corbis via Getty Images)
Shepard Sherbell/GettyImages

He dabbled in the political arena when he landed a job writing letters for the Mayor of New York, however, his political aspirations expired due to the Second World War. Instead of using his family name and wealth to avoid enlisting, David entered into the US Army as a private and soon rose to the rank of Captain during his service. He served in North Africa and France, establishing political and economic intelligence units, and then served as the assistant military attache at the American Embassy in Paris.

Post-War Career Change

When David returned from the war, he made a career change by joining Chase Manhattan Bank, a company his family had been tied to for generations. Because his uncle, Winthrop Aldrich, was chairman of the bank and his father and grandfather were its main shareholders, it was assumed by the employees that David was a spoiled child riding on his family’s coattails.

NEW YORK - MARCH 14:  David Rockefeller poses for photo in his office in the Rockefeller building on March 14, 2006 in New York City. David Rockefeller is last living  grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon who founded the family
Jean-Christian Bourcart/GettyImages

That assumption did not last long though, as he proved himself quite quickly to be a hard-working, everyday guy. He rode the subway to work with his peers, comprehensively learned the business, and pulled his weight with tasks at hand. Because of his hard work and dedication, he was promoted to co-CEO in 1960 and then CEO in 1969.

Chase Manhattan Expansion

As CEO, David concentrated his efforts on utilizing his worldwide contacts to increase the bank’s foreign presence. He expanded the foreign branches from 11 to 73, making Chase Bank the first stateside institution to open branches in both China and Russia.

397065 01: Laurence and David Rockefeller attend the New York Landmarks Conservancy Gala November 5, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Platzer/Getty Images)
Robin Platzer/Twin Images/GettyImages

With his global presence secured, David began to make internal changes in the company. He established its first human resources department as well as its planning and marketing departments alongside manager, Peter Drucker. David worked diligently to improve Chase Manhattan as well as the banking sector until he retired in 1981. When comparing the company’s worth from the time he started his career in 1946 to the time he retired in 1981, it was noted that Chase Manhattan went from a $4.8bn institution to a $76.2bn institution.

Passed Away

David Rockefeller died at the astounding age of 101! He died in his sleep at his New York home in March 2017. A year before, on his 100 birthday, he donated 1000 acres to the state of Maine.

Portrait of banker David Rockefeller, Chairman of the Chase Manhattan Corporation, circa 1965. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Keystone/GettyImages

His most famous quote was: “American capitalism has brought more benefits to more people than any other system in any part of the world at any time in history. The problem is to see that the system is run as efficiently and as honestly as it can be.”

A Coup for Humanity

During World War I, the Rockefeller Foundation offered help to what was presented as a “Public Health Movement” in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Unbeknownst to them, the movement was actually geared towards exterminating the poor, the disabled, and those of mixed African descent.

29th August 1962:  Senhor Joao Goulart, the vice-president of Brazil, having travelled from Singapore and believed to be en route for London. This follows the resignation of Brazil
Keystone/GettyImages

When David Rockefeller was employed at Chase Manhattan Bank in the 1960s, he publicly declared João Goulart, Brazil’s leader at the time, as an unacceptable candidate for dealings with the US banking system. In 1962, he convinced the Rockefeller Group to invest $12 million into the Brazilian elections in an effort to support the anti-communist candidates which consequently backed the coup that removed Goulart from office.

A Tragedy Takes Three Lives

While it may seem that the Rockefeller family has been bombarded with only good fortune, in fact, they have faced their fair share of tragedy as well. The first occurred in 1951 when the great-niece of John D. Rockefeller, Winifred Emeny, killed her two children as well as herself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

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A popular socialite in Greenwich. CT, Emeny shocked the community and her family with her actions on March 15, 1951. She placed her daughters, Josephine, age six, and Winifred, age 12, in the backseat of one of her cars, sealed up the garage doors, and started the engines of both vehicles. She then lay on the cement floor in between both cars and died. The family maid discovered all three bodies and contacted the authorities.

A Tragic Disappearance

On November 19, 1961, the fifth son of Nelson Rockefeller, Michael, disappeared after his catamaran tipped over off the coast of New Guinea. The 23-year-old photographer was working as a trustee for the Museum of Primitive Art and had made the trip in search of indigenous art. When the catamaran capsized, Michael volunteered to attempt to swim to shore in search of help for his fellow passengers. Sadly, he was never seen again.

Michael Rockefeller (1938 - 1961?), who disappeared during an expedition to New Guinea in 1961. He was the youngest son of New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. (Photo by T. Nielsen/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Keystone/GettyImages

While his death is officially listed as drowning, the actual events remain a mystery. Some have suggested that he could have been attacked by a shark or a crocodile while others suspect a much darker fate. In the region where the accident occurred, there are multiple small islands that are home to indigenous, cannibalistic tribes who are fiercely territorial. A month after his disappearance, a Dutch priest who is allowed on the islands questioned the men from the Otsjanep tribe to see if they had seen Michael. They readily admitted that they had killed and eaten a man matching his description.

A Tragic Car Crash

The namesake of his father and grandfather, John D. Rockefeller III was tragically killed in a head-on collision in Mt. Pleasant, NY on July 10, 1978. At the time of his death, the 72-year-old philanthropist was the oldest living Rockefeller left in the family. The accident occurred just 12 miles north of the family’s sprawling estate, Kykuit.

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John D. Rockefeller III was being driven by his secretary when a 16-year-old driver strayed from his lane on a blind curve and hit their car head-on. Both Mr. Rockefeller and the young driver perished in the accident. The secretary luckily survived.

A Tragic Plane Crash

Son of the billionaire banker, David Rockefeller, Dr. Richard Rockefeller chose the path of philanthropy instead of business. A physician by trade, he served as chairman of the United States Advisory Board of Doctors Without Borders and dedicated his later life to establishing worldwide methods of treatment for those suffering from PTSD.

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On June 12, 2014, after visiting the family estate for his father’s 99th birthday, the experienced pilot took off from Westchester County Airport departing the runway in a dense fog and light rain. Within ten minutes, the ground crew had lost contact with him and notified authorities. They found the plane crashed less than one mile from the airport. He was just 65 years old.

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