it is in the marriage of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s wealth and business influence with Abby Aldrich's banking and political influence that we can best understand the world-conquering dominance of the "Brothers Generation" of the Rockefeller clan.
The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming special podcast/documentary, “The Unauthorized Biography of David Rockefeller.” The full podcast will be released on Monday, March 27th.
The Rockefeller clan has never been exactly "normal." Not since William Avery Rockefeller, John D.'s father, abandoned the Rockefeller name altogether to take on the persona of "Dr. Bill Levingston, Celebrated Cancer Specialist." The name was a ruse, of course, like everything else about William Rockefeller. He was neither a doctor nor a Levingston nor a cancer specialist (much less a celebrated one), but the name change became necessary after his years of hocking snake oil, bigamous marriage and rape finally caught up with him. An itinerant father, there was one thing that "Devil Bill," as he was known by his victims, made sure to teach the young John D. Rockefeller, future robber baron:
"I cheat my boys every chance I get," William Rockefeller once bragged to one of his confidants. "I want to make 'em sharp. I trade with the boys and skin 'em and I just beat 'em every time I can. I want to make 'em sharp."
After the service, as everyone milled about, Mr. Yordi, Grandfather's valet, gestured to me. Yordi, a dapper Swiss fellow, had been Grandfather's valet and constant companion for thirty years. I knew him well, but he had always been reserved in my presence. I went over to him, and he pulled me aside, into a deserted hallway. "You know, Mr. David," he began (from as early as I can remember, the staff always addressed us in that way, "Mr. Rockefeller" being too confusing with so many of us having that name, and first names would have been too familiar), "of all you brothers, your grandfather always thought you were the most like him." I must have looked very surprised. It was the last thing I expected him to say. "Yes," he said, "you were very much his favorite." I thanked him somewhat awkwardly, but he just waved his hand and said, "No, no, I just thought you should know." I didn't really know what to make of it. I thought it would have been Nelson, But I could pretend I wasn't pleased.
Even there, writing of the death of his own grandfather some 65 years later, David Rockefeller couldn't resist making the moment about himself and his own rightful place as successor to his grandfather's throne. If nothing else, the Rockefeller household raised the stakes of sibling rivalry to a significant degree.
But it wasn't only Rockefeller blood flowing through the veins of David and his brothers. Their mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, was the daughter of Senator Nelson Aldrich, referred to by many as "the General Manager of the Nation." As a key figure on the influential Senate Finance Committee, Aldrich oversaw the nation's currency. It was in this capacity that he presided over a secretive Jekyll Island conclave with the nation's richest and most powerful banking interests in 1910. As outlined in Century of Enslavement: The History of the Federal Reserve, it was that meeting, undertaken in complete secrecy and hidden from the public until decades after it took place, that eventually gave birth to the Federal Reserve system itself.
Indeed, it is in the marriage of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s wealth and business influence with Abby Aldrich's banking and political influence that we can best understand the world-conquering dominance of the "Brothers Generation" of the Rockefeller clan.
Their entire lives, David and his siblings were enveloped in the cocoon of wealth that came with their Rockefeller-Aldrich heritage. Never without the assistance of the army of valets, nurses, chambermaids and servants that were available to attend to their every whim, even their childhood games were played in the secure comfort of luxury. David and his brothers would roller-skate up Fifth Avenue to school every morning, closely followed by a chauffered car in case they got tired. With seemingly no irony or sense of the absurd, young David delivered Thanksgiving food baskets to poor families in Harlem as part of a school project, accompanied by a liveried chauffeur in full uniform who handed him the baskets so he could present them to the poor.
It was from within this pampered bubble of unreality that David Rockefeller began to form his understanding of the world, and his own place in it.
When he went to college, there was no question that he would attend the most elite. He studied English history and literature at Harvard, earning his bachelor's degree in 1936, began his graduate studies in economics at the London School of Economics, and in 1940 completed his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, the school his grandfather had founded. To the surprise of no one, least of all David himself, the University of Chicago Press dutifully published its founder's grandson's thesis on "Unused Resources and Economic Waste" and the young heir to the Rockefeller throne was then given a position as a secretary in New York Mayor LaGuardia's office. Pressed on the matter, LaGuardia insisted that David was just one of 60 interns working for him and was given no special treatment. He neglected to mention that this particular intern was given the use of the deputy mayor's office.
It was also no surprise that, enlisting in the Army in 1943, Rockefeller was promptly promoted to captain and assigned to military intelligence, where he drew on his family's own international network of contacts to set up a political and economic intelligence unit.
Predictably, he also used the excuse to secure business opportunities for himself. As he himself relates in his own memoirs:
Men of my generation often refer to their military service as good or bad. I had a good war. I had been confused and apprehensive at first but soon learned to adapt and then how to use my newly acquired skills effectively for the benefit of my country. I look back at the war years as an invaluable training ground and testing place for much that I would do later in my life. Among other things, I discovered the value of building contacts with well-placed individuals as a means of achieving concrete objectives. This would be the beginning of a networking process that I would follow throughout my life.
WWII had left tens of millions dead, Europe a smouldering pile of rubble, and much of the world in disarray. But it had taught David Rockefeller about networking, so it was a "good war."
Unsurprisingly, his key networking opportunity during this period came in the form of his own uncle, Winthrop Aldrich. "Uncle Winthrop," as David knew him, was his mother's beloved younger brother, and the chairman of Chase National Bank, whose largest shareholder was David's father and which was popularly known as the Rockefeller Family Bank. Winthrop, we are told, just happened to be traveling through Paris right before David was recalled to Washington and offered him a career at the bank.
Meanwhile, David's “good war”s was drawing to a close and his older brothers were busy working to secure a "permanent world capital" in New York City...
Stay tuned for the complete podcast available Monday, March 27th.